Diabetes Dietitian Educator
These are strange times indeed. Amidst the global pandemic many are housebound. While putting home-cooked meals on the table could be challenging, these unprecedented times also act as a good opportunity to improve your diet, expand your cooking skills, or even lose a few pounds. Infact, this is an excellent time to start.
Regardless of where you are on the healthy eating journey, consider working toward a positive dietary goal while social distancing. Doing so can help improve your nutrient intake, your energy level and your mood and strengthen immunity.
Where To Start?
By stocking up properly, you can eat healthy even when indoors. Being well stocked on healthy foods is just the first step. Take an inventory of what’s there in your pantry, fridge and freezer with their best before date. Make a shopping list to fill in the gaps. Get value for your $$$ by buying healthy foods and not filling up on empty calories and processed foods.
- Stock up on non-perishables like dry beans, lentils and their flours, quinoa, farro, cracked wheat, nut butters, unsalted nuts, hummus, whole grain crackers, roasted chickpeas and edamame.
- When buying produce, buy fruits and vegetables with varying ripening time to prolong the shelf life and reduce visits to the grocery store. You could even wash, clean, dry and freeze these in small portions or buy frozen fruits and veggies and keep those handy.
- Fresh cuts of lean or extra lean meats, fish and tuna are a better option than the processed versions which are loaded with sodium and fat.
Whether you are working from home or are on a break, ensure you start your day with a wholesome, nutritious breakfast. If you start the day with nutrition in mind, you are likely to plan the rest of your meals and snacks with the same intent. This shall give structure to the diet for the rest of the day. “Structure?” Yes, you read right. Eating a well-balanced breakfast including whole grains, fruit and/or veggies, milk/alternative and a protein of choice helps keeps us away from unnecessary grazing through the day.
- Eggs and egg whites along with veggies of your choice can be tossed into an omelette or into waffles and combined with fruit, milk and whole grain bread.
- You could make a spread with avocado, herbs and spices and serve it on whole grain bread along with some Greek yogurt topped with fruits.
- You could also soak groundnuts/peanuts in some water and blend with a banana and eat it for those rushed mornings when the conference calls/ huddles are start soon
Make Plant-Based Proteins A Staple
Including plant-based proteins in your diet is an environment friendly, pocket friendly, sustainable food choice. Plant proteins are loaded with fibre important for gut health, heart, diabetes and weight. Additionally, they provide antioxidants and protective phytochemicals.
- Excellent sources of plant proteins include beans and lentils and their flours, tofu, tempeh, edadame beans.
- Beans such as kidney beans, black beans could be used to make vegetarian chilli, veggie meatballs and burgers.
- Simply, toss some in a green salad or blend chickpeas and lentils to make hummus, falafels.
- Pancakes, who doesn’t like them…try bean and lentil flours stuffed with finely chopped or shredded veggies to make savoury pancakes minus the sugary syrups that shall add inches on the waist.
- Use tofu to make a scrambler, kebabs or add to stir fries; roast chickpeas to make a heathy, crunchy snack. There is so much you can do with beans to make fun, exciting, meals and snacks.
Watch Your Portions:
Making healthy food choices doesn’t give us the permit to eat unlimited quantities. Portion control is very important. If weight loss is your goal, use this time to get a handle on your portion sizes.
Use measuring cups to portion out cooked grains, pasta, noodles and teaspoons and tablespoons for cooking oil and seeds. If you prefer using an eye-ball estimation, keep cooked grains, potatoes to your fist size; cooked meat, chicken and fish to the size of your palm and veggies filling 1/2 your plate. Consider serving your meal on a luncheon-sized plate (7 to 9 inches in diameter).
Practice Mindful Eating:
While you are at home, you may find yourself frequenting the fridge and cabinets more often - this may be out of sheer boredom or just trying to seek comfort in food. Take time to eat and enjoy your meals. Put down your cutlery between mouthfuls and chew thoroughly. Pay attention to the color, aroma, taste and texture of your food. Avoid distractions such as television, talking on the phone. Eat until you feel satisfied, not full.
Remember, food is meant to be used as fuel for our bodies. If you’re using it for any other reasons, take a step back and ask yourself, “What’s up?”
This is an excellent time to build a new routine for yourself and family around a healthy diet, that you can feel confident about maintaining when we emerge from this.