Total Lock Down – Eat Well, Stay Well

Macron’s announcement 16 March 2020

Macron announced last night that no-one is to leave their homes except to do essential things for at least 2 weeks. The borders closed at noon today and after that time you need to have a form explaining the reason why you are out and about! Luckily, we have the internet and lots of digital ways of connecting with the world. We can still go out and get food with no sign that supply is a problem. Shops just haven’t been able to refill shelves quickly enough.

Suddenly, we have to think about every meal – no going to a staff canteen, kids not eating at school, no trips to a restaurant or takeaway. Added to that we might be limiting the number of shopping trips for food and if you have symptoms then really staying inside for 14 days is essential. So there might need to be a shift in the type of ingredients you would normally use like using more long life ingredients – fret not though, so many fantastic meals can be made from store cupboard ingredients. Then of course there is the snacking – very easy to be nibbling when stuck within the four walls, ask most people who work from home!!

Eating well is important, it is always important but maybe at times like these it can be even more so. Particularly for mental health. We know that eating can really improve our mood – comfort food as a term has evolved for a reason! Some meals just make us feel happy because it is stuff from our childhood, memories of special people, of special places. For me it is warming stews with thick gravy and big chunks of vegetables with creamy mashed potatoes, creamy risottos, beans on toast with poached egg, fajitas with all the trimmings…..OK my list is too long! The smell of home baked cakes and bread is like a hug.

Taking some time to create something can also be very good for our mental health, maybe cooking with others instead of alone – everyone is there in the house, make cooking a bit more of a communal thing. Maybe a bit of teaching the young people in the house to cook, get them practising those life skills. Sitting around the table to eat together might be something that can’t happen as often as you would like in normal life. In this strange situation, we can take the opportunity to really make cooking and mealtimes a focal point of the day.

But is not only the act of eating, the sharing of meals and the taste and smell that can be positive on our mental health. We are seeing evidence appear that if we keep the bacteria living in our gut healthy and diverse could be important too. There seems to be a connection between the gut and the brain. This may be the effect of bacteria producing compounds and stimulating hormones that have an effect on the vagus nerve which is like high speed cable to our brain.

In one example of this, there have been studies showing that people who are being treated for anxiety and depression have a better management of their condition when eating a Mediterranean style of eating (rich in a diverse range of plant based foods, lots of olive oil with moderate amounts of meat and fish). It seems to support their medication and improve outcomes.

Eating lots of plant based foods is one of the big messages being shared with gut experts. At least 30 different plant based foods every week and aiming for around 30g of fibre. These foods don’t have to be fresh. There are so many fantastic plant based store cupboard and frozen foods that help to feed those precious bacteria in our gut, along with fermented products which also have a longer shelf life than the unfermented product in most cases. So even if you can’t get out as often as you would like to stock up on fresh foods, we can still eat well for our gut.

Get in touch if you want to know more about eating well for your gut with inspiration for increasing the number and variety of your plant based foods.

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