Top Tips for Cooking and Eating at Home During COVID-19
By dietician Jackie Wilson for Nutritank
Working as a clinical dietitian, I am always mindful of individualising any dietary advice. A key part of this is understanding each family’s circumstances when it comes to shopping, meal planning, food budget, and the dynamics of the home environment as regards food preparation and cooking.
Typically these circumstances remain fairly consistent, but in the last month there has been an immense and unexpected change in the availability and access we have to food. The way in which we cook and prepare meals has also changed, with many of us eating together as a family more consistently.
For some families this has been an unexpected pleasure but for others, a source of financial and emotional stress. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, severe food insecurity (defined as having severely limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate food due to lack of money or other resources) affected 8-10% of the UK population, but this is expected to rise with the current pandemic.
Even for those of us not experiencing problems with access to food, the current pandemic may throw up challenges with food and nutrition. The Food Foundation (a charity who aim to address the growing challenges facing the UK's food system) is now tracking the effects of COVID on our food patterns. There’s no doubt that the additional burden of cooking for extra people, limited time for shopping, access to food, alongside the increase in financial pressures will be a worry for many.
As a dietitian and a mum of one University student and three teenage boys currently living back at home, I was reflecting on strategies which may help to ease the pressure. Here’s my advice;
Plan Take time to plan main meals together so everyone is involved - this can help avoid waste.
Choose for adaptability Meals which can be adapted for different tastes are ideal e.g. meat and veg curries, different salads and vegetables, different jacket potato fillings.
Practice Skills Now is a great time to practice cooking skills and adapt or create new recipes.
Writing a List Create a shopping list which everyone can contribute to and stick it up somewhere visible.
Get into a routine Using a rota a for cooking and clearing up is a great way to get everyone involved and share the duties.
Take it in turns Delegate the food shopping to a different person or pair each week.
Tidy up after all meals This is a particular favourite of mine as a mum! But it does make life easier if everyone helps with the tidy down after meals.
Keep away from fad diets Disordered eating may come to light with reduced accessibility to usual food choices so flexibility and communication is key, to reduce anxiety levels.
Sit down together To eat and drink and eat mindfully to really enjoy the food at the table. Try to keep distractions to a minimum - so keep phones off the table and the television off.
Share the snacks A good supply of chopped up fruit, spicy nuts, hummus or dips with veg and a topped up fruit bowl means everyone stays happy between meals.
Overall try to have fun! Whether it is with the meal planning, the cooking or the eating – embrace this time with a positive outlook – maybe this is an opportunty to try new foods, new combinations of food and perhaps a few new healthy meal ideas to develop and improve!
Useful resources for practical advice on nutrition and Covid-19:
General advice from British Dieticians Association:
Cooking to reduce waste:
Useful webinars on nutrition including “lockdown” nutrition:
About the author:
Jackie Wilson is an experienced HCPC Registered Dietitian who has worked in the NHS alongside GPs, Consultants and nurses for the last 28 years. She is a facilitator on the Culinary medicine programme for medical students in Bristol and has worked alongside the Nutritank students in Bristol and Cardiff. She works for University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust with a specialist professional clinical role supporting people with Type 2 and Type 1 Diabetes and is also very interested in Public Health nutrition.
Social media (twitter & instagram): @jgwdietetics