And let’s face it, when you’re trying to juggle work commitments, running a household and keep the kids happy during one of the most challenging experiences any of us are ever likely to face, prioritising cooking can easily slip down the list. But eating healthily is more important now than ever, as we all strive to keep our immune systems in top condition and ready to fight off illness. So what can families do to boost nutrition in the time of Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Start from good foundations
Building your meals around nutrition-rich vegetables is a great place to support your immune system during the coronavirus pandemic. Dieticians Association of Australia has put together a list of articles with tips to eat healthily during COVID-19, with recommendations including:
- Eating a variety of veggies
- Include some raw veggies each week
- Use an oil-based salad dressing to boost absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
- Vary your cooking techniques
- Add veggies to stews and casseroles to boost nutrition
Blending comfort and nutrition
The good news is that as we head into cooler weather, it’s the prime time to enjoy some healthy but comforting favourites. Great ideas to keep your family fed and happy include:
- Bolognaise – grate in extra veggies to boost the nutrition on the sly
- Warming casseroles and stews
- Make up a batch of veggie-based soups for a warming lunch
- Pre-cut veggie sticks for easy, grab and go snacks from the fridge
There’s also a lot to be said for the comfort and predictability of routine during uncertain times. Aim to stick to regular mealtimes and maybe even consider packing a lunchbox for the kids to reduce mindless grazing. You might also like to think about a weekly meal plan to provide structure to the week, like meat-free Monday, taco Tuesday and freedom (from cooking) Friday with a takeaway treat.
But, go easy on the treats
One of the pitfalls of working from home is the close access to the refrigerator and pantry. If boredom strikes, or in response to anxiety, it can be easy to fall into bad habits of constant grazing and comfort eating.
It’s a good idea to stick to regular meal times and focus on preparing nutritious meals that satisfy you and leave you less likely to indulge in mindless snacking.
Using food and alcohol to self-soothe during COVID-19 is also a potential trap. As we look to manage stress levels, it’s important to be mindful about the negative health consequences of these indulgences. DrinkWise have issued a reminder about the importance of drinking in moderation and staying within Australian guidelines about alcohol consumption.
If you’re finding that you’re getting into some bad habits with using food and drinks to manage your emotions, it might be worth looking into something like meditation as an alternative approach to coping with COVID-19 and the associated stress. And if you feel like your reliance on alcohol and other drugs is becoming a problem, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation has a range of information and resources available.
What about safe food handling?
The NSW Government Food Authority says “there is no evidence to date to suggest that food is a source or route of transmission of the virus.”
Having said that, Food Standards Australia New Zealand recommends washing fresh fruit and vegetables under running water before eating just as a matter of course, but says that soap, disinfectants or detergents should not be used as they are not designed for consumption. As Australia has strict controls for meat, Food Standards Australia New Zealand says additional precautions are unlikely to be necessary beyond normal food hygiene measures. The most important thing home cooks and food businesses can do is practice good hygiene including thorough handwashing.