Overview

Eating well and staying active during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is important for our physical and mental and wellbeing.

Our daily routines have been altered and our eating habits may have changed but making a plan and being prepared can help.

The extra time spent indoors is a good chance to try new foods and recipes or get other family members involved in preparing and cooking meals.

It can be an enjoyable way to pass the time, try something new and, for some, learn a new skill.

Eat well

Eating a healthy, balanced diet , with a variety of different foods, will ensure you get all the essential nutrients and energy you need through the day.

To maintain physical distancing and help stop Coronavirus we’re being advised to stay at home, so time outside is limited.

This means you may not be getting enough vitamin D from sunshine exposure.

As it's difficult to get enough from food alone, consider taking a daily 10 microgram supplement of vitamin D. This is especially important for people who are indoors all the time.

Make a plan, feel prepared

You may be experiencing a number of changes in the way you buy or get access to food right now.

Planning meals and snacks and writing a shopping list is a good way to make sure you get everything you need and will also help limit your time at the shops.

Supermarkets and other food shops have enough stock for everyone if we shop sensibly.

Making sure you only buy what you need helps avoid food going to waste. Remember you can often freeze leftovers for another meal.

Eat to feel fuller for longer

Basing our meals around starchy foods such as pasta, rice and potatoes is a good way to keep us feeling fuller for longer.

For many of us, our shopping routines have had to change. We may be buying food from different retailers, need to change brands or buy items slightly different from our regular purchases where access to some varieties of certain foods might be limited right now.

Try something different

This may be a good time to try something new, for example mixing some whole grain pasta with your normal variety.

Eating fruit, vegetables and pulses, such as beans and lentils, is good for your health and is another good way to keep satisfied throughout the day.

Soups can be a quick and easy lunch solution. They can be made with whatever vegetables and pulses you have available and be a good way to use up leftovers.

Pulses, including beans and lentils, can also be a good substitute for meat and can be added to soups and stews to make them go a little further.

Snack smart

You may find yourself reaching for the fridge or cupboard to look for snacks more frequently at the moment, especially if you’re feeling bored or stressed.

Try having a variety of healthy snacks to hand such as chopped fruits and vegetables, breadsticks, rice cakes and crackers.

It may be harder to get out to buy fresh fruit and vegetables right now but remember tinned or frozen fruit and vegetables are just as good.

Be alcohol aware

Like snacking, you might find that you may be drinking alcohol more often just now, particularly when you feel stressed.

Try to be aware of how much you’re drinking and when you do keep within the recommended limits of 14 units per week.

Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day, aiming for at least 6-8 glasses, will help keep your body hydrated.

Sometimes it’s easy to confuse hunger for thirst.

Drinking often and through the day will help prevent this.

Tap water is free and is a healthy choice for quenching your thirst at any time.

It produces no waste, has no calories and contains no sugars that can damage teeth. Having a water bottle close by that’s used during the day is a good idea.

Further information

You can get more tips about food and nutrition during self quarantine from the World Health Organisation.

Parents and carers with children and young people

For children and young people, being indoors and not being able to socialise with their friends can lead to boredom, often resulting in regular cries of ‘I’m hungry’.

Get together in the kitchen

Planning mealtimes and snacks together with children as part of your daily routine could be one way to keep them busy.

Making it fun and enjoyable will not only help pass the time but can encourage children to learn about food and cooking.

It's a great time to let young people loose in the kitchen and develop the skills they need for the future.

You could ask them to:

  • plan and prepare healthy meals
  • find new recipes for the family to enjoy
  • help with shopping lists or online shopping.

It will help them feel involved, can be a way to destress and keep them occupied.

For younger children, ParentClub have helpful suggestions on how to involve children in planning and making food.

Key workers and vulnerable groups

It’s especially important for key workers and those who have to shield from coronavirus to look after their health and wellbeing at this time.

Eating well, keeping hydrated and making a meal and shopping plan will help.

Rest, refuel and rehydrate if you are a key worker

Try to take regular breaks, where possible, away from your workplace or caring responsibilities. Frequent shorter breaks are better for reducing fatigue and stress.

Drinking water often throughout the day will help to keep you hydrated, which is especially important for people wearing PPE for long periods of time.

Eating well and as healthily as you can, will help your body cope better with the demands placed on you during busy shifts.

Focussing your meals and snacks around starchy food such as pasta, rice and potatoes and filling up on fruit and vegetables will help keep your energy levels maintained.

Where possible, set aside some time to plan your meals and shopping to help you eat healthily when you are busy.

Shielded, high risk and vulnerable groups

Help is available to get access to food if you've been identified as being in the clinically vulnerable group.

If you have someone who can help shop or deliver food to you, making a list of the things you need will help them to shop swiftly and efficiently and limit the time they are at the shops.

It might also be an idea to give them alternatives just in case what you would like isn't available.

Services to support shielded people

Basic grocery boxes can be ordered and are being distributed by two food distribution companies and local authorities via local resilience partnerships.

A priority online delivery service has also been set up with a number of the major supermarkets for those that fall within the high clinical risk group.

More information is available in the letter you received, through NHS Inform or the SMS service.

Vulnerable people can also contact their local authority helpline to get access to food.

Local convenience stores and other retailers might also be offering a delivery service to help get the items you need

Stay connected

For some of us, spending time and eating in isolation will be very different to the way we normally go about our lives.

If you can, arranging to eat at the same time as others while video chatting using an online platform such as FaceTime, Zoom or WhatsApp, can give you something to look forward to and help make it feel like you are eating socially with friends and family.

Breastfeeding

This can be a worrying time for mums who are breastfeeding or those who are pregnant and considering their options.

Breastfeeding supports your baby’s immune system and protects them from many common illnesses.

There is currently no evidence the virus can be transmitted through breast milk, so you should continue to do so.