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How to cope during COVID

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We are currently experiencing an unprecedented pandemic, which is affecting the entire way we all live. This is a difficult time for everyone and for some it may be a cause of great stress for the foreseeable future. With children off school, rising unemployment and everything closed; everything has pretty much come to a halt.

However, we must all follow government guidelines with regards to social distancing and if we experience any of the symptoms of COVID-19 we must self-isolate.

Here I will share how to cope whilst working at home, with the children being at home, how to continue with your normal daily life (as much as possible) and tips on how to stay healthy.

Nutrition
With supermarket shelves often empty our common store cupboard ingredients are frequently out of stock as the nation is stockpiling.
Your usual non-perishable items such as tinned pulses, rice, pasta, chopped tomatoes, other tinned products, oats, dried fruit and vegetables, canned soups, long life milks, non-perishable ready meals, etc. appear to be empty on the shelves.

What can we do?
Have a look in your cupboard and fridge and see what is actually in date and what is not in date. All non-perishable foods have a longer shelf life lasting a longer time without spoiling and don’t need to be kept in the fridge.
Start using perishable and non-perishable foods which are due to go out of date where you can make a meal which you can then freeze. I am sure we all have ingredients in our store cupboard that have not been used in a while so before panicking to shop, check what you have.
If you are running low, then pop to the supermarket and pick up what is available rather than what is not, you may find alternative grains such as couscous, bulgur wheat, noodles or naan bread as an option if there is no pasta or rice available.
Readymade microwaveable pouches of couscous and rice may be available. Pick up something you have not tried before, it may be a type of pulses such as butterbeans that will be on the shelf instead of chickpeas/kidney beans.

If there are no chopped tomatoes use fresh tomatoes, tomato puree or tinned plum tomatoes.
Frozen foods – pick up some frozen vegetables and frozen fruit that are always useful to have in the freezer. Also frozen fish fillets, a packet of mince which you can freeze and also fresh fish too.
There is also tinned fruit in juice and fresh vegetables and fruit which you can cook and freeze. You may find that more fresh produce is available instead of tinned products. Potatoes, onions, root vegetables and sweet potatoes have a longer shelf life and you can buy a large pack to get you through.

Bread can be frozen, buy a large loaf and keep half in the freezer.  Pizza bases which are boxed last for longer and can be kept in your larder. You will find them near the tinned products in the supermarket.

If you stockpile too much you may feel overwhelmed with all the food and not even use all the products you have brought; so think twice before you buy. It may help to go to the supermarket during the daytime instead of the early morning rush when people are queuing.

There are no immune boosting foods that can stop us from getting COVID-19.  However, we should do all we can to boost our immune system as much as possible.  We should aim to have a healthy balanced diet with a variety of fruit and vegetables and include all food groups (include copper, folate, iron, selenium, zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D).  Stay hydrated with plenty of fluids and eat a normal balanced diet following the Eat Well Guide.

Working from home
If you are working from home follow a normal routine, take regular breaks and stretch. You may find you want to snack more so snack on foods that will keep you going and provide you some energy e.g. fruit, nuts, crackers with cheese or nut butter or a spread, vegetable sticks with a dip e.g. hummus and check if you are really hungry or distracted.

Go for a quick walk round the block after your lunch to get some fresh air, take a few deep breaths if you few stressed and adapt your working needs as required.

Self isolating/looking after children
Whilst some may be looking after their kids/home schooling don’t feel pressured to complete everything but get children doing more practical work such as gardening, baking, painting, arts and crafts. Set a timetable if you feel it may be helpful and allow them to nurture and enjoy their time at home.

For those self isolating please follow government guidelines but at the same time have a routine and try a new skill.  Phone a friend, read a book, practice mindfulness, brain training games, home workouts, sit outside in your garden, go for a walk ensuring 2m distance, watch a film, try a free online course.

Exercise
With gyms being closed and no classes on you can exercise at home and keep your body moving.
Follow an online workout from many different videos that are available on the NHS Fitness Studio website.  You can also go for a walk/run around your block keeping the social distance or if at home you can jog on the spot, skip, do star jumps, squats and use canned foods as weights to make up your own workout.  Try some mindfulness and deep breathing to stay calm and collective.
Use your garden if you have one to do some exercise.  Gardening, housework, running up and down the stairs are all movement.

Meal ideas/tips
Roast vegetables, blend them and use as a source for pasta
Bulk cook so you can freeze
Whizz up avocados to use as a pasta sauce – great creamy texture
Bake some flapjacks using oats
Use up fruit i.e ripe bananas to make a smoothie, or banana bread
Make a pizza using a ready made base, simply add tomato puree, cheese and vegetable toppings.
Use what is in your fridge and freezer rather than over stocking.
Sandwich toasties can be a great lunch option.
Stir fry, jacket potato, omelettes and wraps are quick and simple.
Make dips using vegetables and pulses e.g. chickpeas, carrots, sweet potato, butterbeans.
Make a big batch of porridge where you can top with fruits and yoghurt and keep in the fridge.
Use up your sauces and marinades to flavour and season foods.
Keep a pack of mince and frozen veg and fruit in the freezer.
Make one pot meals e.g. lentils, veg and potatoes which you can keep for a few days.
Try an ingredient you have not tried before if you can’t get any tinned products and basic food.
Wash, rinse and drain salad leaves and herbs.
Declutter your fridge and store cupboard.
Stock up on microwaveable foods/frozen ready meals in case you cannot go out.

Stay calm, don’t waste food, follow good hand hygiene and contact One You Hounslow if you want support on eating well.

Gopika Chandratheva
Nutritionist

Porridge bowl