Families finding themselves cooped up indoors in response to Coronavirus could find a ‘silver lining’ in the opportunity to improve their diet.
Many households have had to rip up their usual dining plans following limited access to supermarkets and bare shelves due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
But experts also say the restrictions offer a chance to make lifestyle changes, such as reducing salt intake and increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables.
“Really get to grips with a healthy balanced diet, that is key,” said Linia Patel, a dietitian and sports nutritionist and spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association (BDA).
“There is a silver lining to this and that is nutrition, people are at home and maybe have a bit more time to do some scratch cooking.
“They can try recipes, the food will come with less salt and you can add more vegetables – focus on vegetables and fruit.”
Tips on staying healthy: Q&A
Families should make sure they keep getting their ‘sunshine vitamin’ and maintain a balanced diet during the Coronavirus ‘lockdown’.
According to nutrition experts at the British Dietetic Association (BDA), eating right is vital to maintain the body’s immune system – as well as boost mood during weeks stuck indoors.
And while ‘shielding’ measures or empty shelves may present a challenge to many, there are still plenty of alternatives households can turn to.
Q – What is vitamin D and why do I need it?
A – Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for a number of reasons, particularly at this time it helps support our immune system and boosts our mood.
Q – Where do I normally get vitamin D?
A – Vitamin D is a ‘sunshine vitamin’. Even though you find vitamin D in food, such as oily fish and eggs, you still need sunshine to convert it to the form the body uses.
Q – What should I do if I can’t go outside?
A – Take a supplement. Supplements come in different forms, either tablets, sprays or drops. Public health guidance is to take 400 international units or 10 micrograms per day.
Q – I’m struggling to get fresh fruit and vegetables right now, how else can I make sure I’m eating a balanced diet?
A – You can just look for fruit and vegetables which have been frozen, tinned or dried and look to get vitamins from those.
Q – Is there anything else I should be thinking about while I’m cooped up inside?
A – Develop a routine with your food, have your breakfast, lunch and dinner and use this opportunity to plan meals. Plan some healthy, balanced meals and cook from scratch. It might take longer, but you have that time now.
While more home cooking would be an ideal for many households, some may be daunted by the prospect of rows or empty or sparsely stacked shelves when they can make it out to shop.
But Patel recommends flexibility and urges families to take advantage of alternatives to fresh food which can still provide plenty of nutrition.
She added: “With people buying so much you may not be able to find what you want, but you can still get things frozen or in tins or jars.
“Get a variety, but don’t panic if you can’t find the one thing you really want, be resourceful.”
As well as advice to families and individuals coping with COVID-19, self-isolation and social distancing, the BDA has also urged local authorities and health and social care providers to ensure the nutritional needs of the most vulnerable are being met.
A BDA spokesman said: “It is important that councils keep pushing the message that although no food or supplement can stop you catching coronavirus, good nutrition and hydration aids the normal functioning of the immune system and that people who are nutritionally well will cope better if they do catch COVID-19.
“Older people and those vulnerable people in isolation are at higher risk of malnutrition so councils as public health bodies and social care providers need to be considering that and providing communications and support.”
Find out more at: www.bda.uk.com/resource/covid-19-corona-virus-advice-for-the-general-public.html