07 Apr 2020
Here you might expect me to talk about specific nutrients, vitamins and recommended supplements. However, I won’t be doing that. There is no quick fix to boost your immune system, so first of all the best way to stay safe, is to stay at home.
Feeling forced to stay indoors can be overwhelming and feel claustrophobic. We can’t get as much activity as we may want to, and our physical health and mental wellbeing could start to be affected. In this article I will outline hints and tips to help you eat for a healthy body and mind during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As I described, there is no quick fix to boost your immune system. However, eating a heathy balanced diet does promote good immune functioning and mood. A healthy balanced diet includes 5 portions (handfuls) of fruit and vegetables a day and good sources of protein, iron and calcium. Starchy carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, cereal), are also part of a healthy balanced diet. 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. Making sure we drink plenty of fluid is also important, we should be aiming for 1.5-2L a day. Minding our alcohol consumption is also good for body and mind.
We eat for all sorts of reasons, not just because we are hungry. When you think you want a snack have a think:
- Are you thirsty?
- Are you bored?
- Are you stressed or anxious?
- Are you sad?
Then choose what you would like to do. You may like to make a hot drink, distract yourself with household chores, or treat yourself to doing something nice like taking a bath to pick yourself up. We will be staying at home a lot over the coming weeks, so bear this in mind if you want to keep your snacking in check.
There have been concerns around being able to access a balanced diet due to shortages of foods in supermarkets, though I can reassure you supermarkets are now generally well stocked and this is being managed well. For this reason, you shouldn’t need to alter your shopping habits too much. Though a bit of planning would mean you have to go to the shops less. And this will keep you safe.
- Menu plan – plan out your meals for the week, and help see an overview of the balance of your diet.
- 5-a-day – plan in to your week how you can achieve 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. As they are rich in vitamins and minerals to support healthy immune function. Fruit and vegetables, could be fresh, tinned, frozen or dried – it all counts.
- Shopping list – using your menu plan to help you write a list. This will help you to make sure you get all the ingredients you need to cook the meals you plan to.
- Online shop – if you can, this is a great way to keep your shopping experience quick and easy. It is also a good way to keep you safe at the moment.
- Snacking – there are lots of options for healthy snacks. Stock up on these and include them in your meal plan. Snacking on foods high in fat and sugar can affect your mood, and weight. So if you are looking to manage your weight take care with these sorts of foods. Alternatively, if you need to put on weight a few more of these foods can be useful.
Take care of your body and mind at this difficult time. Eat well and stay at home.
Policy Officer for Professional Practice, British Dietetic Association
Chloe Adams is Policy Officer – Education, Practice & Policy at the BDA