Eating well during self isolation
If you are self-isolating, and have to stay indoors, it can be overwhelming and you may feel claustrophobic.
You may not be able to be as active as you normally are, and this can affect our physical health, as well as mental wellbeing. While self-isolating, many people have found that their diet has changed for various reasons - having a different routine, boredom, low mood, feeling stressed or anxious, lack of social contacts or lack of ready access to a variety of foods.
Some people may eat more while self-isolating and some may eat less. It is easy to turn to more convenience or comfort foods which may be of lower nutritional content than your normal diet.
Although there is no way to quickly boost your immune system, a healthy balanced diet is important as it promote a good immune functioning and mood. A healthy balanced diet is described in the Eatwell Guide.
The Eatwell Guide
The guide divides the foods we eat and drink into 5 main food groups, giving the suggested proportions from each group which should be taken to achieve a healthy balanced diet. Particular things to consider while self isolating are:
- 5 portions (handfuls) of fruit and vegetables a day (fresh, frozen, tinned, dried and juiced varieties all count towards a healthy diet). There are a great source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre that help to protect your body from disease.
- Wholegrain carbohydrates are a great source of fibre, B vitamins, folic acid, antioxidants and micronutrients. These are our energy foods, so if we aren’t exercising as much as we normally would, taking care of our portion sizes would be useful to maintain our weight.
- Nuts and seeds are a good source of protein and healthy fats and are good alternatives or additions to your diet. Canned or dried beans, lentils and chickpeas are good to have as a standby.
A great deal has been reported in the media about Vitamin D and the potential for giving some protection against Covid-19. Most of the Vitamin D our body needs is made by the action of sunlight on the skin. Very little is available through diet as only some foods contain Vitamin D (mainly oily fish, eggs, some fortified breakfast cereals, mushrooms, evaporated milk, dried milk powder and fortified margarine).
While spending more time indoors, with shorter daylight hours, you may want to eat more of these foods or consider a Vitamin D supplement. You can read the NHS advice on this.
Make sure you drink plenty of fluid as this is also important, aiming for 6-8 cups or glasses a day.
A bit of planning while self isolating can help you to have a healthy diet:
- Stick to a routine and aim to have regular, relaxed mealtimes.
- Menu planning - plan out your meals for the week, this will give you an overview of the balance of your diet.
- Try and incorporate a good balance of the important food groups, using the Eatwell Guide and including 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day - fresh, tinned, frozen or dried.
- Shopping - whether you are ordering an online delivery or getting your shopping delivered by someone else, use your menu plan to help you write a shopping list. This will help you to make sure you get all the ingredients you need to cook the meals you have planned.
- Snacking - try to keep to the routine of 3 regular meals a day as it is easy to miss meals if you are snacking regularly. Snacking on foods which are high in fat and sugar can affect your mood and weight and may not add much value to a healthy diet. Take care if you are trying to manage your weight and try to have fruit in between meals. However, if you are trying to put on weight some healthy snacks may be important to include.
- Try out your cooking skills - we often do not get to spend time cooking meals in the kitchen so this may be a good opportunity to try out new recipes and skills. Start simple and make dishes you know you will enjoy
Further information and tips are included in the following links:
Diane Spalding is a part time lecturer and is the Admissions Tutor for the PG Dietetics course and the MSc Clinical Nutrition. She is a Registered Dietitian and a Fellow of the British Dietetic Association and has worked for many years in the NHS in senior leadership roles and also at a national level at the Dept of Health as the Dietetics Officer.