As we’re nearing the end of week 8 in lockdown here in London, balancing working from home, home schooling / keeping kids entertained, trying to support vulnerable neighbours or family members and trying to keep it all together…. it’s very tempting to put healthy eating on the back burner, I admit!
When we’re stressed or scared, we naturally seek out foods rich in sugar and fat for a quick energy boost. High carbohydrate comfort foods are temporarily calming for our bodies and brains during a time of crisis.
Although may feel like a satisfying solution in the short term can grow into a bigger problem in the long run…. especially now as we have been reminded that this lockdown life will be extending into the next months on varying levels – and even after that, no one really knows how the ‘return back to normal life’ is going to happen. So we’re in this for the long haul.
Comfort eating traps us into a hard-to-break-out-of eating cycle that adds to the existing stress levels – and ultimately will make us feel even more vulnerable to anxiety and low moods. Our bodies were not designed to sustain chronic stress or to use food for comfort.
So now more than ever, its vital to focus on developing healthy eating habits to keep our immune systems strong and to improve our resilience in these emotionally challenging times…
Good news!! Maintaining healthy eating habits with non-perishable foods during lockdown is easier than you probably think. Which means that now is the perfect time to focus on cooking nutritious meals using ingredients that you can have in your freezer and cupboards…
Make use of frozen fruit and vegetables:
Many people are still surprised to learn that frozen fruit and vegetables are often more nutritious than the fresh produce you can buy. This is because frozen fruits and vegetables and picked and packed (right away) at peak ripeness, which is of course when they are at their most nutritious. Freezing fresh produce locks in vitamins and antioxidants which can otherwise be lost during transportation and storage.
Here are my few top choices when it comes to frozen fruits and vegetables:
As well as stocking up on nutritious frozen vegetables and fruits when you shop, I would recommend you freeze any vegetables that would otherwise go to waste. Your frozen vegetable scraps will make an excellent addition to soups, stews, tagine, chili, curry etc to use later.
Eat what you have in the pantry:
Including plenty of beans and pulses (dry or tinned) offers a versatile base for your meals, and everything is non-perishable. They provide a rich source of fibre, B vitamins and protein.
Here are just some of my favourite recipes that use these versatile pantry staples:
Since things such as pasta, flour and rice have been in short supply recently, it’s an excellent opportunity to experiment with other grains, such as quinoa, bulgur wheat and pearled spelt.
Keeping your pantry stocked with nut butters, such as the versatile almond butter and peanut butter means that you always have a healthy and delicious source of plantbased protein and healthy fats available. They’re easy to pair with fruits for an easy and tasty snack or make a yummy dressing / sauce for a stir fry. You can also use them in baking.
Ps. Did you know that popcorn can be a healthy snack that’s full of fibre as well as packing a great deal of nutrients such as manganese and magnesium?
Berries & dried fruit
Another great option for health boosting nutrients and colours is to stock up on dried, powdered fruits and berries. Just one teaspoon of the powder is equivalent to a handful of fresh berries. They’re also packed with nutrients, antioxidants and fibre. They are fully pantry friendly – non-perishable and practical, nutritious and versatile.
You can add the powders to cereal, yogurt, smoothies and porridge. Or use them in baking.
Just one 70g bag contains nearly a kilo of fresh berries!
What I also suggest you keep a good stash of is dried fruits in case you run out of fresh and frozen versions. They are a good source of fibre and iron. Dried fruits also help to satisfy a sweet tooth!
As one benefit from working from home for most of us is having more time to cook… It’s worth mentioning at the end that getting creative in the kitchen and becoming a real Lockdown Chef is something that will not only benefit your energy levels, your family’s wellbeing but will also save you money & resources in the long run.
As we all have more time to eat healthy in this strange new existence, yet we are expected to spend this time at home, not running to the shops or going out to socialise, it becomes more important than ever to stock up the pantry, fridge and freezer with ingredients that have a long shelf life yet are packed to the brim with nutrients that our bodies need to keep our immune system optimised and ready for action when needed.
So fill your cupboards with berry powders, brown rice, chia and hemp seeds, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils and stock your freezer with bananas, spinach/kale and peas. Even with just these basic ingredients, you can stay home and maintain a healthy diet.
Why I think the berry powders are so magnificent, especially in times like these is that they are loaded with vitamin C and A, good source of fibre and iron as well as providing some minerals such as potassium and magnesium. And not only that, but you can have access to all these benefits any time you open your cupboard – as these wonders stay fresh & vibrant in your pantry for months.
Buying fresh berries and fruits often means we end up eating them when they’re past their peak or they have been processed with chemicals to keep fresh for longer – and in both cases, we end up getting less than great value for our money. So if you can choose to seal in freshness and nutrients in a jar that provides great nutrition whenever you want it, I would!
Ensuring a sufficient intake of these important nutrients on a daily basis not only helps you have a steady flow of energy, but also keeps your immune system in great working order.
Eat the rainbow – and stay healthy!
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