when Malaysians have been called on to stay home to prevent the spread of Covid-19, as this has transformed our eating habits. While some have discovered the joys of home cooking (do you remember Dalgona’s coffee craze?), Others are starting to rely more on food delivery services.
Is there anything we can learn from the year-long experience?
For dietitian, part-time certified personal trainer, and fitness trainer Adele Wong, there are several key lessons to note here.
“I think it’s not a bad thing to rely on food delivery services, as there are some good options available,” she said.
“Perhaps the problem is that they can be easily delivered to your doorstep, which can easily lead to overconsumption.
“The first step is to create a regular eating schedule, which can help with snacking or mindless eating. Make sure you eat enough fruits and vegetables, and drink enough water throughout the day.”
And for those who plan to cook at home often, Wong has a few tips to keep in mind.
“They need to make sure that they eat a variety of all food groups – vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, carbohydrates / whole grains, legumes, dairy products, healthy fats, and oils (olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, etc.).”
They should also pay attention to portion control, easily handle oils, sugar and salt, and learn to prepare food using more perfect cooking methods, such as steaming, baking, grilling and air-frying.
Wong, who shares her passion for health and nutrition via social media platforms including Instagram (adelewlp) and Facebook (nutritiontrack), believes that we should be careful about relying on food for comfort.
“Comfort food brightens the pleasure centers in our brain,” she said.
“During times of stress, our brain remembers this connection (because we want to feel good!).
“Food gives us comfort but if we turn to food every time we feel stressed (which can often be for some), then we are putting our health at stake.
“Make a list of things that can help you manage stress that doesn’t involve food, including journaling, exercising, spending time with people, getting a massage and listening to music.
“Making sure to eat and give your body what it needs is a form of respect and self-care.”
Regarding the role of nutrition in improving the body’s immune system, Wong emphasizes that no single nutrient or supplement can easily influence such a multifaceted physiological system.
Having said that, 70% of our immune system is in our gut. Therefore, the health of your gut is the key.
Wong said there are some essential nutrients to watch out for.
Fibers. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. There are different types of fiber, but they generally nourish the gut bacteria and make them happy.
Antioxidants. Eat the colors of the rainbow when it comes to fruits and vegetables, that is, choose a variety of colorful foods.
Vitamin D. Mainly from the sun, some are from salmon, eggs and fortified milk.
Vitamin A. Liver, salmon, cheese, eggs, orange fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin E. Olive oil, nuts and seeds.
Vitamin C: citrus fruits, potatoes, kiwis, tomatoes and capsicum.
iron. Red meat, seafood, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, and fortified cereals.
Zinc. Red meat, clams, eggs, spinach, broccoli, nuts and seeds.
For those looking to improve their eating habits after the pandemic, Wong doesn’t think a complete diet or lifestyle fix is necessary to see results. Instead, they should start on a small scale, by setting clear, achievable goals.
When you are clear about your goal, then you can devise strategies to achieve it.
“Look for the why!” This helps set a meaningful purpose about why you want to achieve your health goals. Commit and recognize that it takes effort and sacrifice.
“Practice one habit every week. For example, eat an extra serving of vegetables for lunch. After you’ve mastered it, add another habit!”