I'm not sure about the rest of you but I've been in the kitchen more than ever during isolation! I'm trying make healthier choices by baking my own treats rather than resorting to pre-packaged goodies. Have you noticed that you've been wanting to snack more now that you're spending a lot more time at home? Why is this??
According to clinical psychologist Christine James, many of us have lost the daily structures and limits of going to work or school and being at home means we're closer to our fridges!
"There aren't as many opportunities to distract us or keep us busy and so boredom and loneliness are real problems. Plus many have lost their jobs and are worrying about finances and health, which can lead to comfort eating." (source https://www.abc.net.au/life/how-to-stop-snacking-during-cornavirus-social-isolation/12115044)
To combat this, we often turn to eating which can be a distraction and make us feel good. Eating sugary, fatty and high carb foods can stimulate endorphins and serotonin (our feel good hormones) making us feel better with food. These cravings may often be triggered by deficiencies, such as low energy, making us want to grab the quickest available fuel source, normally in the form of high glycaemic index foods.
On a cellular level, these foods are metabolised rapidly, causing a spike in blood sugar levels and a quick burst of energy. But like anything, what goes up must come down! After the initial energy burst, our blood sugar levels drop just as rapidly leaving us standing in the pantry searching for another snack all over again! I'm sure you see the problem here......Snacking all day (especially on highly processed, sugary foods) causes blood sugar levels to fluctuate, moods to alter and energy levels to oscillate. So the goal should be to keep your blood sugar stable and avoid those drastic spikes and dips that will leave you feeling starving and sluggish.
In light of this, the Heart Foundation is urging Aussies to pay attention to their diet during this unprecedented time in isolation. They state "we're encouraging Aussies to adopt a heart healthy eating pattern by filling their plates with a good mix of veggies, fruit and wholegrains, together with some healthy proteins like fish, legumes or smaller amounts of lean chicken or eggs. If you're choosing red meat, make it lean and have less than 350g per week."
So how can you eat healthier during isolation?
When we talk about healthy eating, we don't focus on one type of food or one type of nutrient. Healthy eating relies on a combination of foods chosen regularly over time. These foods are naturally low in saturated fat, salt and added sugar. They should be rich in wholegrains, fiber, antioxidants and unsaturated fats. So how does your diet stack up?
According to data, 96 per cent of Australians say they regularly consume snack foods. The most popular snack was fruit (64%) followed by chocolate (62%) and then cheese (54%). The most common reason for snacking was to satisfy hunger between meals. The research highlihgted that Aussies propensity to snack was perpetuated by food marketing and advertising. We are a lot more inlcined to buy snack food when its on sale; in fact 45% of us do so! Do you get tempted by the cleverly placed supermarket specials?
Alarmingly, what the data did show was that many Aussies are skipping meals and choosing a snack instead. 38% of 'snackers' skip breakfast but a whopping 46% skip lunch in favour of a snack! In doing so, we are missing out on vital nutirents that we would normally get through eating three meals a day. We are then inadvertantly getting too many things we don't need (such as salt, sugar and saturated fats) in snack foods. Are you getting a wide variety of nutrients from all the food groups in your diet?
During isolation, The Heart Foundation has some great ideas about how to have a nutrient dense diet: (source https://www.thesenior.com.au/story/6702723/five-hearty-eating-tips-for-home-isolation/)
- Plan your meals ahead and shop with a list to ensure you're getting the right ingredients for a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner meals to minimise food wastage and cost.
- Frozen veggies can be just as healthy as fresh options. Canned vegetables, beans or fruit have an extra-long shelf life, so they are perfect for your pantry. When choosing canned vegetables and legumes (like beans or lentils), buy "no added salt", "low-salt" or "reduced-salt" versions and choose fruit canned in juice rather than syrup
- Heart healthy proteins like fish or seafood are an excellent source of omega-3s, which our bodies need but cannot produce. If you can't get fresh fish, choose canned salmon or tuna in spring water rather than salty brine. Or you can opt for lean chicken or eggs, but if choosing red meat, make sure it is lean and limit to one to three meals a week.
- Avoid snacking by establishing a mealtime routine to keep work and play separate. If you do snack, go for a handful of unsalted nuts, a cup of veggie sticks or a small plate of cut up fruit to curb that afternoon craving. Opt for this instead of unhealthy foods like chips, biscuits, chocolate or flavoured sugary drinks. While these unhealthy snacks can be an occasional treat, try to avoid stocking them in your pantry in the first place.
- Finally, staying at home for long periods of time is the perfect opportunity to either learn to cook or brush up on your skills.
So during this time when you're tempted by those alluring treats in your cupboard, remember to load up on nutrient dense meals that will fill you up for longer. Of course the occasional treat is fine but you may find if you don't buy them, you wont be tempted! :)