Feeding and fuelling your body and mind whilst self-isolating
Our routines have been turned upside down in recent weeks and see many of us finding solace in food. Not everyone though. Incomprehensible to many, some see food as just a fuel and not something to get particularly excited about. Whatever your relationship is with food it can be difficult to maintain a healthy way of eating when priorities have altered, accessibility to good food is restricted or your stockpiles have dwindled to a random tin of processed peas, a dusty box of poppadoms or a bag of frozen spinach. Or is that just me?
Make the most of your super fresh seasonal veg
Receiving a nutritious bag of seasonal veg from CropDrop during isolation will be an even more valuable addition to your weekly supplies now, nevertheless these single ingredients need to be transformed into satisfying meals. Some of us are of course still going out to work, but those working from home may find that they have more time to cook. With schools closed it could be a good opportunity to involve the children in the cooking, if they are usually a stranger to the kitchen. So, what can you grab from your store cupboard to bolster the beautiful fresh vegetables and boost the multitude of vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants that we all badly need at this time.
Nutritious carbs to boost your mood
Comforting carbs are what people crave in a crisis. They certainly have an important role in a healthy balanced diet as they are broken down to glucose which is the main source of energy for the body. However, some carbohydrates are healthier than others. Refined or simple carbs like pizza dough, white bread, cakes and pastries break down quickly in the body causing short term energy spikes and will often contain added fats and sugars. Wholemeal and brown varieties of bread, pasta and rice usually have extra fibre, vitamins and minerals and are a better choice for a slower, longer release of energy to help boost your mood. The pasta shortages that we are experiencing during the corona virus could be an opportunity to make a change and claim the lone packet of nutritious wholemeal penne on the supermarket shelf.
Experiment with other grains such as couscous, bulghar wheat, quinoa and buck wheat. All of these are relatively quick to cook and are great vehicles for roasted root or Mediterranean vegetables or delicious combined with chopped cucumber, tomato and raw peppers. The grains love to soak up flavours from an oily dressing and generous amounts of fresh herbs, whatever you can get your hands on. Adding toasted walnuts, hazelnuts or pumpkin and sesame seeds gives a nice crunch as well as a dose of healthier unsaturated fats.
Help your body to stay strong
Protein is important for every cell in our bodies and key to a strong immune system, which we could all do with right now. Vegetables and pulses such as edamame beans, chickpeas and black beans are perfect choices for low fat protein foods that boost your diet with extra fibre, vitamins and minerals and they can be cheap, if you rehydrate dried varieties. An obvious dish would be to add some of these store cupboard gems to a selection of chopped fresh veg such as carrots, onions and peppers to make a nutritious chilli or curry. Throw in any odds and ends of veg from your box too to avoid waste.
Why not try reducing your meat intake by substituting protein rich lentils for half of the meat in a Shepherd’s pie or Bolognese sauce, it’s a great way of saving money too, as well as increasing your fibre intake. Tinned oily fish like sardines and mackerel are ideal foods to stock up on as they are an excellent source of protein, Vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids that can help to prevent low mood.
Supplementing your veg based dishes with tofu provides a low fat plant based protein. Marinate tofu pieces in soy or tamari sauce, fresh grated ginger and a little sesame oil for up to 30 minutes in the fridge, strain the liquid and keep to one side and then quickly stir fry the pieces until golden. Stir fry a colourful mix of veg, add back the tofu and the marinade to warm through and pile on top of whole wheat noodles or brown rice for a healthy, balanced and tasty meal.
Going back to my strange leftovers of processed peas, poppadoms and frozen spinach. I see ‘a nutrient packed silky green soup with crunchy poppadum croutons’ or, you may think, ‘a spicy hot veg curry, poppadums and chutney’. If you are having trouble with your ‘corona’ creations and lacking the inspiration for your next meal you can always Google your main ingredients and see what delightful suggestions it comes up with. Probably veg curry!
Written by Sharon Conrad, our community cook at Wolves Lane, who teaches cooking skills across London and is Registered Associate Nutritionist. Find her delicious Chickpeas & Greens recipe here.