“We are what we eat” is a very familiar quote, BUT there really is some truth to this phrase. I remember as a child my grandma had this slogan on her pantry wall with a backdrop photograph of a pig eating spillage out of a trough… a timely reminder of what can happen to our waistlines if we over-indulge.
There are some really great basic common-sense tips which I’ve been following since lock-down to try and not allow my waist-line to expand exponentially during this time. Here they are:
Tip One – BREAKFAST MATTERS
A healthy breakfast really is the best way to start your day. But of course what you eat for breakfast also matters.
You can go on the egg and brown bread toast option, smoked salmon on brown toast, but I recommend Oatflakes with berries – can be raspberries, cranberries, blueberries, or whatever handy fruit you can get your hands on – and add lactose-free milk to have a filling but healthy start to the day. Another advantage of oat flakes is that it is an excellent source of soluble fibre, which helps to lower total blood cholesterol by inhibiting the digestion of fat and “bad” (LDL) cholesterols. It also helps control blood sugar in those suffering from diabetes. So good news all round. Many brands of oat flakes contain Vitamin B1, magnesium and iron, all of which will set you up for the day. On the other hand, cereals which are high in sugar especially eaten with full-fat milk and a sprinkle of sugar (gasp horror) are to be avoided as they will be a sneaky source of ingesting calories and will help to rot your teeth even if they claim to represent a good start to the day.
Tip Two – Snacks are OUT!
Just out. No questions asked. It’s just NO. UNLESS they are almonds or nuts or pieces of fruit, e.g. half an apple.
“Do not eat me during lock-down snacks” include: biscuits, cakes, milk chocolate, crisps – even those crisps masquerading as healthy or low calorie ones – OUT; sausage rolls, little cocktail sausages, pork pies, scotch eggs all OUT. Why? Because we are exercising less as we are not outside as much as usual – not even walking to catch a bus or a train for most of us – and many of us are working from home. This means, trying to connect to uncooperative IT systems, which keep shutting us out, grief from over-zealous bosses, cries for extra walks from your pet, requests for home schooling from children or relations or friends’ children, non-stop feeding requests from children and pets, and generally, a lot of time spent in the near vicinity to the kitchen. Well at least more time than usual for most of us. Inevitable result: unless you have a cast-iron will – you will keep browsing for snacks, which you will ingest without even realizing it, but your body will stock up on those fats for a rainy day (or worse a sunny one). Your body won’t forget nor will your waistline… you’ll be sorry when you’re out of lock-down and the sun is shining.
Tip three – regular “measuring”
Monitor your weight by getting weighed on a daily basis. Normally I would say that daily “weighing in” isn’t a good thing to do. Our weight can fluctuate regularly, especially valid for women, whose hormones can play mean tricks on them, and getting weighed every day can become obsessive. HOWEVER, at the moment, when people are living in track-suit bottoms, or PJs and are rarely (if ever) forcing on those little boy jeans or super tight suits, there can be a sense of illusion that weight gain isn’t taking place despite the fact that we know we haven’t walked as much, worked out as much, moved as much, left our bed even apart from to reach for the remote or go pee. If you don’t have scales buy some. If that’s impossible make sure you try on your usual clothes regularly. You may be surprised… in a bad way! But keep measuring!
Tip four – love your greens
Whilst toilet paper, kitchen roll and pasta are hot commodities, which people are fighting for, stocks of vegetables do not appear to be running low – for the time being at least. And if a lack of crop pickers results in a reduced amount of fresh vegetables, frozen veg is also a good option. Green beans, broccoli, spinach, cabbage – all provide iron and roughage and all are healthy and filling sources of nutrients. Even better, they represent a low calorific intake and so your reduced exercise levels won’t be negatively impacted by consuming plenty of “good old” greens. Stir-frying vegetables and dropping in some tasty protein such as chicken which has been stir-fried separately in advance (i.e. in soy sauce) is a good way to get your greens into a tasty energy-filled lunch.
Tip five – out with the processed and in with good-old home-cooking
Any processed food that spends two to five minutes in the microwave may be a staple for some of us when we are rushed off our feet. Fair enough. Time is short… But for those of us in lock-down who no longer have to rush to work or lose time travelling, it’s time to buy fresh ingredients, use the oven (or steam oven if you’re lucky enough to have one) and put the microwave back on a top shelf. Why? Because nowadays, good hearty recipes – recommended to be eaten at lunchtime – can be easily accessed on the Internet. Jamie Oliver has many easy-to-make recipes and the health benefits of consuming this food as well as the pleasure you can gain chopping carrots, preparing food to cook in the oven, and planning a meal, means you can value that healthy meal more than food that pings in a couple of minutes. Consider it a luxury away from our usual mad-packed days. On top of that whilst microwaving does retain a good percentage of a food’s nutrients, stir frying and steaming is much better for nutrient retention. There is some contention as well that microwaving food can reduce the body’s immunity and adversely affect the blood cells, which is the last thing we want at the moment…
Tip six – go easy on portion sizes and peddle back on pasta
Normal recommended daily eating according to Public Health England’s Eatwell Guide, would include 50-60% daily energy from carbohydrates, e.g. starchy complex sources, 25-30% from fats, 10-15% protein-rich foods preferably low fat. With vastly reduced activity levels for many people at the moment, these percentages may have to be modified. I would be cautious in particular about eating too much pasta at the moment, especially if it isn’t wholegrain. Why? The tendency will be to make large portions – especially if you’ve had to fight for that last pack of treasured pasta from your supermarket shelf – and that means too many calories that won’t be expended. Whilst starchy carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy and are responsible to help maintain a stable blood glucose profile, right now the risk is too much pasta not enough movement… leading to weight gain.
Tip seven – forgo fizz and fizzy drinks and wean yourself to water
Partial to a glass of Prosecco? A fan of diet coke? Happy to consume wine on a daily basis? Now is the time to give your body a break… Yes, really a break.Fizz and fizzy drinks are all extremely rich in calories and super low in nutritional content. On the other hand, if you add 1.5 litres of water to your daily diet or more you are doing yourself a huge favour. Why? Water is of course vital to our survival – without it after just a few days we would die. But in addition water protects our joints, organs and other tissues; it suppresses the appetite and helps combat over-eating; all of our energy-releasing reactions occur in our body’s watery tissues and water transports nutrients and waste products in and out of our cells and is necessary for all digestive, absorption, circulatory and excretory functions… Still not convinced? On average 250ml of water is lost on a daily basis through breathing alone. Even more when you factor in sweating and weeing. A lack of water can lead to constipation, decreased blood flow to the skeletal muscles and reduced blood flow to the brain. If after all that water drinking you still fancy an evening tipple, why not try a glass of Campari on the rocks or vodka. Lower calories than wine or champagne, but as with all alcoholic drinks, these are nervous system depressants which reduce the body’s responses and in addition as a diuretic promote fluid loss… Why not try at least two dry days a week during lockdown?
Tip eight – love your lunch
Switch off your phones, turn off the television, try and forget a pandemic is roaming at large outside the doors of your home and try and love your lunch as a real break in the day. If you are on your own listen to some relaxing music, Pink Martini, anything vaguely chill out, Simon and Garfunkel, and if you are in company make lunch together as an occasion, to be dressed (not in PJs) and enjoy it. Why? You’ll eat more slowly if you do that and chew your food properly thereby ensuring that it is digested better. I recommend a simple protein (meat or fish), with vegetables combination and maybe add in some light cheese for calcium; there is so much to choose from if we consider that combination, it really doesn’t matter what elements you put in as long as they’re healthy. Prime sources of protein such as salmon, cod, chicken or turkey are all good. Freshly cooked vegetables such as carrots or swedes are full of nutrients. A small amount of brown bread with no butter provides vital carbs. Drink lots of water. Add some herbs to the protein and enjoy. Avoid creamy sauces, pizzas (unless thin based), high fat sauces such as ketchup which can be high in sugar, deep-fried food and no chips please. And enjoy a piece of fruit to finish off. What more can you ask for?