Maintaining healthy habits in isolation – have for most of us gone by the way side. Whether you’re in isolation, working from home, working on the front line or looking for work, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all. Times of stress can influence our behaviours, one of the more common ones being our eating habits. Most of us are spending more time at home. Being in closer proximity to the fridge and pantry may lead to a little more snacking than usual. Regular snacking is a great way to keep your hunger in check, but it’s important to make sure the snacks we are eating are nutrient rich. This is important to fuel productivity and keep our immune systems in tip top shape. Below are a few tips for maintaining healthy habits during isolation, keeping productive and fueling our bodies right.
- Have a routine and stick to it
If you are working from home, try to stick to your normal work schedule as much as you can. Start work at your usual time and avoid sleeping in too late in order to kick start your day. Take your lunch and snack breaks at usual times and clock off at your normal finish time. Dedicate one particular area of your home as your work station. Whether you have a home office or your regular dining table, you know that when you sit there, you’re getting down to business.
If you are looking for work, it is still important to keep a routine in order to maximize productivity in your day. Make a list of all the jobs/tasks you want to get done and systematically complete these, making sure to set aside lunch and snack breaks throughout the day.
- Eat regularly
Eating regularly is important to keep our hunger in check and prevent long periods without eating. Not eating for 4-5+ hours allows our hunger to build to a level where when we do eat, we are consuming excessively large portion sizes. Excessive portion sizes can not only lead to a feeling of sickness from being overfull, but can also lead to weight gain if continued in the long run. To combat this, aim to eat every 2-3 hours, having 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day.
- Take active breaks
The ability to remain physically active is challenging, due to the closure of gyms and restrictions to group fitness. However, we can still incorporate physical activity into daily life through breaking up long periods of inactivity. When setting aside breaks for yourself, incorporate an active component to these. This could be going for a walk around the block, walking up and down the stairs a few times or doing a 15 minute session of any home gym equipment you may have.
- Healthy snacks
As mentioned earlier, regular eating is important, making sure we include some snacks in between meals to keep hunger levels low and energy levels sustained throughout the day. We all know there are different types of snacks, some healthy some not so healthy. It is OK to treat yourself every now and then with chocolate, biscuits or whatever you like, but if we eat large quantities of these foods consistently, overtime weight gain will ensue. Below I’ve listed some healthy snacks that are low in calories and are packed full of nutrients.
Grains: popcorn, wholegrain crackers/rice crackers/corn thins with cheese, tomato, avocado, muesli bars (Carman’s brand are great)
Vegetables: vege sticks and hummus, dip or natural peanut butter, roasted chickpeas/fava beans snack packs, baked beans, edamame beans
Fruit: ALL fruit is great! Aim for two serves every day
Dairy and alternatives: yoghurt, coffee on lite/skim/plant based milk
Proteins: tins of tuna or salmon, nuts, boiled eggs, tofu
- Protein and vegetables with most meals
To maintain a healthy balanced diet, aim to incorporate a source of protein with all main meals and at least 2 serving of vegetables with lunch and dinner meals. This could look like eggs on wholegrain toast for breakfast, salad and meat sandwiches or wraps for lunch, and stir-fry chicken and veg for dinner. Try incorporating vegetarian sources of protein like tofu, chickpeas, 4 bean mix, lentils or falafels.
- Keep your portions in check
To prevent overeating due to boredom or long gaps between meals, make sure your portion sizes are appropriate for your level of hunger and the type of food you’re eating. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating is a great start for getting to know your portions. For example, when portioning lunch and dinner meals, aim to fill half your plate with salads or vegetables, ¼ of the plate with wholegrain high fibre carbohydrates and the last ¼ with a lean source of protein. Below is a list of appropriate portions for snack foods:
Nuts: 30g unsalted (10 walnuts, 15 cashews, 8 pecans, 15 almonds, 25 pistachios, 8 macadamias, 5 brazil or 18 hazelnuts)
Yoghurt: 200g low fat varieties
Wholegrains: 1-2 cups air popped popcorn, 2-4 vitawheats, 2 cornthins, 1-2 ryvitas
Toppings: ¼ medium avocado, 2 tsp peanut butter, 2 (40g) slices hard cheese, ½ cup (120g) ricotta cheese, 2 boiled eggs
- Check in with family and friends via social media
Just because we need to practice physical distancing doesn’t mean we need to be socially distant. Many people find stress relief from chatting to family or friends over the phone, or checking in via online platforms such as email Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Connecting with family and friends through these stressful times is good for your mental health and for theirs. Remember to ask “are you ok?”
- Keep hydrated
Keeping hydrated beneficial for staying alert, reducing fatigue, detoxification, maintaining good blood circulation and mobility in joints. Most adults need 2-3L of fluid per day, preferably sourced from water, tea, coffee or milk, and occasionally from juice and diet soft drink or cordial.
- Aim for 7-8 hours sleep each night
Maintaining adequate sleep plays a very important role in metabolism, immune function, memory, learning, repair and rejuvenation. Gaining on average between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night can assist in lowering stress, maintaining a healthy body weight, muscle coordination, strengthening your immune system and improving mental health.
- Be kind to yourself and listen to your body
Eat when you are Hungry. Rest when you are tired. Take time out to relax if you become stressed. If you are overwhelmed, take a step back. Listen to your body and what it’s trying to tell you. It is important to be kind to yourself during these times, understand what is and is not within your control. The current situation will eventually pass and the world will keep on spinning.