People eat for all sorts of reasons, not just because they are hungry- we may be thirsty, bored, stressed or even sad.
Eating a healthy diet is important during the COVID-19 pandemic as what we eat and drink can affect our body’s ability to prevent, fight and recover from infection.
While no foods or dietary supplements have been found to prevent or cure COVID-19 infection, healthy diets are important for:
- providing the energy, you need to get through the day
- supporting a healthy immune system
- reducing the likelihood of developing certain health problems, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer
- maintaining a healthy body weight
- improving the quality of your sleep
- building strong teeth and bones, and slowing bone loss (osteoporosis)
- enhancing our sense of well-being and mood.
It is vital that you avoid excessive consumption of highly processed foods, which tend to be high in fats, sugars and salt and have a negative effect on overall physical and mental health.
What is a healthy diet?
For babies: exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months, with the introduction of nutritious and safe foods to complement breastmilk from age 6 months to 2 years and beyond
For young children: a balanced diet including all food groups to promote healthy growth and development
For older people: healthy meals and adequate hydration to ensure improved and more active lives
It’s a good idea to store healthy foods in your cupboard, particularly if you are shielding or are in home isolation. For tips on what foods to keep, see the fact sheet by the British Dietetic Association.
A healthy balanced diet will also affect your sense of well-being and mood. For more information on how food affects our mood, click here.
Tips for maintaining a healthy diet
1.- Eat a variety of food, including fruits and vegetables daily
Include a mix of wholegrains like wheat, maize and rice, legumes like lentils and beans, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, with some foods from animal sources (e.g. meat, fish, eggs and milk).
Try and opt for wholegrain foods like unprocessed maize, millet, oats, wheat and brown rice when possible as they are rich in valuable fibre and can help you feel full for longer.For snacks, choose raw vegetables, fresh fruit, and unsalted nuts.
Taking care of portion sizes is also of prime importance, especially if you are not exercising as much as you normally would.
2.- Cut back on salt
Limit salt intake to 5 grams (equivalent to a teaspoon) a day. Avoid using salt when cooking and preparing foods. Limit the use of salty sauces and condiments such as soy sauce, stock or fish sauce and experiment with fresh or dried herbs and spices to add flavour.
If you use canned or dried food, choose varieties of vegetables, nuts and fruit, without added salt and sugars. Make it a habit to check the labels on food and choose products with lower sodium content.
3.- Eat moderate amounts of fats and oils
Replace butter, ghee and lard with healthier fats like olive, soy, sunflower or corn oil when cooking. Choose white meats like poultry and fish which are generally lower in fats than red meat; make sure to remove visible fat and limit the consumption of processed meats.
Select low-fat or reduced-fat versions of milk and dairy products.
Avoid processed, baked and fried foods that tend to be higher in trans-fat;and try steaming or boiling instead of frying food when cooking.
4.- Limit sugar intake
Limit consumption of sweets and sugary drinks. Choose fresh fruits instead of sweet snacks such as cookies, cakes and chocolate. Opt for low sugar desserts and smaller portions.
Avoid giving sugary foods to children.
Salt and sugars should not be added to complementary foods given to children under 2 years of age, and should be limited beyond that age.
5.- Stay hydrated
Good hydration is crucial for optimal health. Whenever available and safe for consumption, tap water is the healthiest and cheapest drink. Drinking water/herb teas instead of sugarydrinks and beverages also helps limit your intake of sugar and excess calories.
6.- Avoid hazardous and harmful alcohol use
Drinking alcohol does not protect against COVID-19 and can be dangerous. Frequent or excessive alcohol consumption increases your immediate risk of injury and causes longer-term adverse effects like liver damage, cancer, heart disease and mental illness.
There is no safe level of alcohol consumption.
Read more HERE.
Read more from the World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/campaigns/connecting-the-world-to-combat-coronavirus/healthyathome/healthyathome—healthy-diet
Or on the Public health website: https://healthygibraltar.org/healthy-eating/