Being confined indoors for days on end, with the fridge close at hand and delivery services just a tap away, can make it very tempting to spend all day grazing on unhealthy, sugar-laden snacks. Couple this with the fact that stress and anxiety can also lead to increased cravings, and the chances of adopting bad eating habits as we self-isolate only increases.
“Now, more than ever, is the time to eat healthy,” insists Emma Sawko, co-founder of concept cafes Comptoir 102 and Wild and the Moon. “It has a huge impact on your health, your vitality, your immune system and a significant impact on your overall appearance, affecting skin, hair and nails from the inside out. Staying home is a fantastic opportunity to take care of oneself. Take this time to keep a healthy routine and boost your immune system.”
In fact, since you likely have more time to prepare fresh, nutrient-rich food, now is an ideal opportunity to overhaul your diet completely, says Cherry Ezzat, anti-ageing and functional medical practitioner at Dermalase Clinic. “Now is the best time for a sugar and junk food detox. Limiting starch and sugar will improve your immune system and your overall health.”
Create a snacking schedule
Nadine Aoun, clinical dietician at Medcare Women and Children Hospital, recommends that you create (and stick to) a set eating schedule, with specific times for snacking. Creating a meal plan for the week ahead will also make sure you have nutritious meals mapped out, and are less inclined to snack in between.
Don’t forget the most important meal of the day – it’ll set the tone for what you consume in the following hours. “Start your day with a balanced breakfast of proteins, carbs and good fats to keep you full for longer,” says Rawan Nucho, clinical dietician at Aligned Health by Right Bite.
And apply portion control to your snacks, says Nucho. “Prepare them ahead of time.”
Those cravings for a sweet treat might just be your body telling you that you’re thirsty. “Listen to your body, differentiate between hunger and boredom, and always start with a glass of water,” says Nucho.
Focus on drinking at least eight or nine glasses of water a day, and avoid flavoured drinks like juices and soft drinks, which are high in sugar and calories. “Have herbal teas instead, or homemade lemonade with artificial sweetener. Green and black teas are also two of the of most potent antioxidants in nature,” says Aoun.
Most importantly, minimise the amount of caffeine you are drinking, Aoun says. “Too much is known to cause anxiety, digestive issues and even fatigue.”
Snacks to keep close at hand
Eat nuts and seeds to get your healthy fats and essential amino acids, but keep servings to a handful a day, and only have nuts that are raw and unsalted.
Chopped veggies should be your go-to snack. Celery, carrots and cucumbers can be munched on through the day. Serve with a spoonful of hummus.
A pot of organic yoghurt topped with nuts or frozen berries makes for a tasty mid-morning pick-me-up or light breakfast option.
Snack on an apple cut into slices and dipped in organic peanut butter.
Replace crisps and biscuits with low-fat popcorn. Avoid muesli and granola bars, which masquerade as healthy options but are packed full of sugar. Instead, get your mid-afternoon boost from a rice cake topped with avocado or a slice of turkey ham, and treat yourself to the odd square of dark chocolate.
And at the end the day, unwind with a cup of herbal tea. “I love reishi or chaga infusion, along with a good read in bed,” says Sawko.
Recipes to try
Mixed berry chia smoothie
Provided by Right Bite
1 cup coconut or almond milk
1 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp Greek yoghurt
½ cup mixed berries
Method: Mix ingredients in a blender and drink immediately.
Provided by Right Bite
1 cup dates
3 tbsp natural salted or almond butter
1/4 cup dark chocolate (roughly chopped)
1 tablespoon chia or flax seeds
2/3 cup rolled oats.
Method: Combine ingredients in a blender. Shape mixture into balls and place in fridge.
Chocolate-dipped peanut butter and date energy balls
Provided by Zahra Abdalla of Zahra’s Kitchen
1 cup chopped dried figs
½ cup cashew nuts
½ cup almonds
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups dates, pitted
Method: These delicious energy balls are sweetened with dates and figs, which are packed with a wonderful nutty flavour, and they are very easy to make. I love preparing this healthy treat for my family; it is perfect for any time of the day and I usually love having them as a mid-afternoon snack with a cup of coffee.
In a food processor, pulse the dates, figs and nuts. Add the chia seeds, rolled oats and peanut butter, and pulse until combined into a dough-like consistency. Roll the mixture into 24 small balls and set aside.
Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips. Dip each ball halfway into the chocolate and place on a tray to set and refrigerate until the chocolate hardens.