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Nutrition in Lockdown

Last week myself and Cloud Twelve, did an Instagram live discussing some of the most common topics that come up regarding nutrition during this lockdown.

1. What can I eat to combat stress and anxiety?

We have a tendency to demonise stress but in reality it’s essential for us. Stress is the reason we are able to get out of bed each morning - thank you cortisol. It is also the reason why we would be able to run away from a tiger if we were in the jungle. It’s an evolutionary mechanism designed to protect the body. We start to encounter problems when the stress we experience is chronic (long-term), as opposed to acute. For example, work deadlines, unhealthy relationships, etc. When we experience stress, our body switches on our fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system) and no longer prioritises other mechanisms such as digestion, immunity, fertility, etc. That’s because if you’re running away from a tiger you’re probably not thinking of getting pregnant at the same time.

Chronic stress can cause oxidative damage, and although there is no food that will eliminate stress, there are foods and nutrients that will increase our body’s ability to become resilient.

One thing the Blue Zones have in common is the diet they follow, which is rich in the following:

Oily fish (mackerel, sardines, salmon, herring, trout), walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds.
If you’re opting for oily fish, then aim for two portions per week, otherwise have two tablespoons of nuts and seeds mentioned above everyday. To get the most out your nuts and seeds, always keep them somewhere cool so you don't damage the omega-3.

Beetroot tops, Swiss chard, kale, watercress, cabbage, rocket, parsley, thyme, coriander.
Aim to have a total of two handfuls per day to get the most out of these nutrient dense greens.

Raw almonds, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, pecans, walnuts.
These are packed with antioxidants, good fats but also vitamin E, which is particularly important for brain health.

Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, acai.
Berries are nature’s superfood packing in the most antioxidants and lucky for us, they’re almost in season too. Aim for one handful per day.

Chickpeas, beans, lentils.
Packed with fibre, these are your gut’s most loved foods. They are one of the best sources of prebiotics, which is what your microbes (aka microbiome) eat. It's their food which they turn into short-chain fatty acids that we can use.

Kefir, probiotic yogurts, kimchi, sauerkraut.
These are your probiotics and keep your gut happy, diverse and healthy. Remember, if your gut is happy, your brain is happy too.

Alongside these wonderful foods, consider replacing coffee with green tea. Green tea makes a great caffeinated alternative to coffee that is full of antioxidants. As a bonus it also has a wonderful amino acid called, L-Theanine. This amino acid can affect certain brain neurotransmitters like serotonin (aka the happy hormone) and dopamine, which influence our mood and how we respond to stress.

Consider also reducing the amount of alcohol, free sugars (added sugars) and caffeine as these can decrease your resilience to stress, affect your sleep and appetite. However, balance is key and as they say ‘the dose makes the poison’.

2. How can I avoid overeating or over-snacking?

First of all, don’t beat yourself up if some days you choose to indulge. Like we said above, balance is key and we need to feed our body and our soul. I do however have some tips to avoid making a habit of overeating.

  • Be mindful when you're eating and avoid distractions. This means, no phones, TV, computers, etc. This will not only help you to not overeat but it will help with your digestion and consequently absorption of nutrients.
  • Eat slowly and chew your food! You'd be surprised how many clients I see who simply don’t chew their food enough. There is also some evidence to suggest that oral and gastric stimulation can increase feelings of satiety, and we all know that digestion starts in the mouth.
  • Don't restrict! It’s important to have the foods you love and feed your cravings because restricting yourself will most likely lead to binge eating, which is a hard cycle to break.
  • Eat from a similar size plate every time, not from containers, cartons, etc. That way you start to get an idea of how much you have on your plate and end up eating.
  • Making sure our portions are right can also make a huge difference. Each meal has enough protein and fibre; 1/4 of your plate should be protein (animal or plant), 1/4 can be starchy carbohydrates and 1/2 your plate should be vegetables, such as dark leafy greens. Protein-rich foods tend to create a longer lasting sense of fullness and satisfaction than other foods and may also reduce the levels of ghrelin, which is the hunger-regulating hormone.
  • Drink plenty of water!! Aim for two litres of water per day, excluding teas. Start your day with a large glass of water.

3. What can I do when I don’t feel like cooking?

If you’re a parent and at home with your children, you’re probably exhausted by the amount of cooking you have to do. I know I am. I have never in my life made so many meals and done as much washing up, as I have the last few weeks. There are some simple and effective ways around this.

  • Batch cooking! The healthiest and probably cheapest way to always have a delicious and nutritious homemade meal. This doesn’t have to be a long and painful process for you, that you only do on Sundays. Every time you make a meal, make some extra and put it in the freezer. Just remember to label it - add the name and date in order to avoid surprises. All you need is some freezer space!
  • Invest in a slow cooker. I often recommend to clients to start using a slow cooker to make their life easier. Simply add all the ingredients in the pot, turn it on, set the timer and when it’s done it will turn itself off. While all this is happening, you can be sleeping, walking, exercising or doing whatever else might bring you joy.
  • I also love making soups. Once a week, I’ll take whatever vegetables I have left in my kitchen and make a soup. You can bulk it up with some beans or nuts. Soups are so nourishing and easy to make.

Other quick and easy meals include ‘homemade’ Buddha bowls. Use leftovers, add a dip you might have in your fridge like hummus, chop up an avocado and add greens like rocket. You now have a complete meal that took just a couple of minutes to assemble. If you have some time, you could also roast some vegetables and add those to your plate as well, but you will need a bit more time for your roasties.

Your food doesn’t have to look pretty or be ‘instagrammable’ but it should be delicious and nutritious. Just make sure that most of the time it’s colourful and has a good amount of protein and fibre.

Jo Sharp
Nutritional Therapist BANT, CNHC

DISCLAIMER This program is not designed to provide medical services nor is a health and nutrition consultation being provided as a substitute for a consultation, diagnosis, and treatment by a licensed primary health care professional, such as a Medical Doctor. Products or treatments recommended in this program are not intended to diagnose, prescribe, or treat symptom, defect, injury, or disease. The information contained herein is intended to inform, not provide individual medical advice or care.

Tags: Nutrition | Author: Jo Sharp, Nutritionist

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