How to avoid putting on the Covid stone

How to avoid putting on the Covid stone
Cropped shot of a woman cutting carrots on a cutting board

Clodagh Finn reckons we’ll cope better if we’re fighting fit, and found some great tips to enjoy a healthy diet in lockdown

HERE’S a statistic that might give you some food for thought. March was the busiest month for Irish grocery sales ever recorded.

The average household spent more than €120 extra in the four weeks to 22 March as shoppers — and retailers — struggled to react to the implications of the restrictions due to coronavirus.

Fresh food sales shot up by 16% while food with a longer shelf life increased by a third, according to data company Kantar. While the impulse to stockpile might have eased now, we are still clearing the shelves of flour, eggs, and sugar, as baking becomes one of the big hits of lockdown.

Little wonder, then, that we have started to talk of the ‘Covid stone’. Alongside the serious phrases we have come to know, such as “flattening the curve” and “social distancing”, the Covid stone aptly describes the likely weight gain that will come from comfort cooking, and the increased temptation to graze as we work from home.

Snacking throughout the day is very tempting, acknowledges Elizabeth O’Riordan, nutrition coach and workplace wellbeing expert.

But, she says, it is really important to eat foods that can benefit you mentally and keep you focused, particularly if you are working from home.

She recommends starting the day with porridge, as it helps mental performance. For snacks, think of those with brain-boosting ingredients such as red-skin peanuts, raw walnuts, and blueberries.

At Glenville Nutrition Ireland, director Heather Leeson says a lot of their clients are concerned about gaining weight.

“It might seem a bit trivial to talk about avoiding weight gain given the current situation, but less healthy habits become easily embedded and may be difficult to kick longer term.

“If you are gaining weight, it may also mean that less nutritious snacks are displacing the healthier foods we need now more than ever to stay healthy and well.”

Here are Heather Leeson’s tips to help keep you on track during the lockdown...

Plan your meals in advance: This is one of the tips that makes the biggest difference for people trying to eat healthily. Some people enjoy planning one week ahead, sitting down for 20 minutes at the weekend to prepare their meal plan.

This also makes shopping much easier given the current challenges getting around the shops.

Batch cook: If you can squeeze in an hour of batch cooking at the weekend that can be a real time-saver too.

If you are going to the trouble of making a soup, casserole or Bolognese, load in the veg, make a big batch, and stick some in the freezer for a night off later in the week.

Don’t keep treats in the house: If you do buy them, set yourself some limits. Store them well out of sight and out of reach, too. Behavioural research shows that if you can see the treat, you are much more likely to succumb to its charms.

Stock up on healthy snacks: Have a piece of fruit ready to go so that you can just grab it when hunger strikes.

Healthy baking: This time at home is a great opportunity to learn new cooking skills and teach them to your children. But instead of sweet treats, try a healthy baking recipe or a new healthy meal. Getting children involved in choosing and preparing meals is often an incentive for them to try new foods too.

Intermittent fasting: It is one of the most popular recent nutrition trends with reported benefits including weight loss, better heart health, improved immune health, and even a longer life. Some versions are extreme, and research on humans continues to evolve. However, most of us could benefit from intermittent fasting lite — fasting for 12 hours overnight.

“Ideally,” Heather Gleeson tells Feelgood, “that means finishing dinner by 7 or 7.30pm and not eating anything until 7.30am the next day. Some people do this naturally and, given that we should be asleep or at least in bed for a large proportion of this time, it can be a relatively easy option.

“An added benefit is that it cuts out the evening grazing in front of the TV. Give it a go, even five nights a week, and see if it helps.”

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