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5 Tips for Staying Healthy During Lockdown

By Megan Hasick & Jessica Turton

It’s safe to say that lockdown has had a significant impact on our lives - shifting the way we think, work, eat, move, sleep, connect, and communicate. The uncertainty of this situation can provoke fear and anxiety for many but have confidence in knowing that there are a few things we can all aim to do to take control of our health during lockdown.

1. Healthy Eating

Arguably the number one way that you can stay healthy during lockdown is to focus on what you are putting in your mouth! It’s now more important than ever to fill your plate with nutritious whole foods, packed with all of the nutrients you need to optimise your immune system and boost your physical and mental wellbeing.

Start with the basics and make it easy for yourself. Clean out your cupboard, fridge and freezer of any foods, condiments, cooking oils, or drinks that don’t make you feel good. These might include ultra-processed packaged foods that are full of refined carbohydrates and inflammatory seed oils, such as crisps, biscuits, fried foods, pies, sausage rolls, sugary breakfast cereals, lollies, chocolate, and soft drinks.

Also use this opportunity to check the use-by date of all your pantry items and fridge fillers and get rid of anything that is out of date. You’ll be surprised at how much out-of-date food you have been holding onto…

Now, the fun part! Restock your kitchen with health-promoting foods. These are the real whole foods that make you feel good when you are preparing and eating them, including:

  • Eggs

  • Meat and poultry (beef, chicken, pork, lamb, turkey, etc.)

  • Fish and seafood

  • Unflavoured dairy (butter, cream, cheese, and yoghurt)

  • Vegetables (broccoli, pumpkin, cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, etc.)

  • Whole fruits (avocado, berries, olives, lemons, limes, mandarins, etc.)

  • Nuts and 100% nut butters (almonds, walnuts, peanuts, macadamias, pecans, etc.)

  • Healthy fats (coconut oil/cream, olive oil, butter, ghee, avocado oil, etc.)

  • Herbs and spices

Our food environment has such a big influence on our food decisions and dietary habits – whether we realise it or not. That’s why it’s so important to create a health-promoting environment at home - “out of sight, out of mind”, right? By ridding your home of the foods that don’t make you feel good (whether that be physically or mentally), and making an effort to ensure that health-promoting foods are easily accessible, your food-related decisions during lockdown are going to be SO much easier and more enjoyable! You’ll be far less likely to act on emotions or impulse when deciding what to eat. Sure – it’s slightly less convenient to eat real whole foods, but one thing we all have more of during lockdown is time at home! So, let’s embrace it.

The other great thing about eating more satiating whole foods is that you will be far less likely to snack. We would be flat-out lying if we said we hadn’t increased our snacking frequency during lockdown… It’s far too easy to find yourself procrastinating at the kitchen cupboard when it’s just metres away at all times! However, by basing your meals on healthy whole foods, prioritising proteins, and including healthy fats, you will find that you just don’t think about food as often between meals.

As a result, you might naturally find yourself engaging in some intermittent fasting. Whether you do this intentionally or unintentionally, intermittent fasting involves having longer periods of not eating (i.e., fasting) between meals. The most common form of intermittent fasting is called 16/8, which involves a 16-hour fasting window and an 8-hour eating window within a 24-hour day. For some people, this way of eating promotes a sense of “food freedom” because you have a designated time period to eat and a designated time period to focus on other tasks, such as sleeping, working and/or exercise. Intermittent fasting allows the body to burn through stored glucose (i.e., glycogen) and tap into body fat stores for energy. It has shown to be an effective tool for supporting metabolic health and weight management.

2. Regular Blood Tests

Having regular blood tests with a healthcare professional (every 6-12 months) is an important way to “check in” with your health. Blood tests can be useful for measuring nutrient status, metabolic health, toxin exposure, and levels of inflammation. As dietitians, we like to emphasise the value of measuring nutritional markers to see how well your body is absorbing nutrients and whether your ‘re missing out on any anything! Maintaining and/or achieving adequate nutritional status is key for supporting your immunity and mental health.

If it is discovered that you have one or more nutrient deficiencies (most commonly low iron, vitamin D and B12) or any other abnormality in your blood tests (high cholesterol, elevated blood sugar levels, abnormal liver function, inflammation, etc.), it’s important to discuss your results with a doctor and an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Short-term nutritional supplementation may be required to improve your nutritional status if you are deficient. However, these should be recommended to you on an individual basis and cannot be thought of as a “magic pill” to counteract poor diet and lifestyle. Obtaining nutrients through real food is the most effective way to ensure nutritional adequacy and promote good physical and mental health.

3. Daily Movement

Moving your body for at least 30 minutes a day is linked to enhanced physical and mental health. The benefits of daily exercise include improvements in weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, chronic disease risk and symptoms of anxiety and depression (particularly important at a time like this).

There are endless online resources that can help guide you through exercises to do at home, including body weight resistance exercises for strength, cardiovascular activities for fitness, and yoga for flexibility. These can be done at any time of the day, no matter the weather - so there’s really no excuse for incorporating movement into each day!

Upgrade your exercise by getting outdoors for some fresh air and sunshine! You might choose to go for a walk around the block, run up and down some hills, cycle to the shops, or do a weight session in the backyard or at the park. Not only will it help you clear your mind and build some fitness, but healthy sunlight exposure increases your vitamin D levels - which is a key nutrient for a healthy immune system!

4. Adequate Sleep

When our daily routine gets thrown out of whack, our sleep often suffers. We get caught staying up late working overtime, binge-watching our favourite TV shows, or we can become so stressed and over-stimulated that our minds just refuse to switch off. Whatever the cause, it’s crucial to prioritise your sleep for optimal physical and mental health.

Sleep is an important time for growth, recovery, and regeneration of the mind and body. It’s crucial for muscle repair and growth, and even for regulation of numerous essential hormones that influence your weight, mood, hunger, and immunity. Sleep is life – literally!

So, what can you do to optimise your sleep? 🥑 Eat a whole-foods diet that is rich in animal proteins and healthy fats 💡 Block out or switch off artificial light in your bedroom ☕ Limit caffeine after 2pm 📱 Limit screen time within 60-120 minutes of going to sleep 📖 Wind down with a book instead of watching tv 🍻 Increase alcohol-free days 🙏🏼 Meditate or complete breathing exercises regularly 📋 Create a bedtime routine to help you wind down 🛌🏼 Aim to be in bed for at least 7-9 hours each night, with the goal of sleeping for this amount of time!

5. Social Connection

Losing the freedom to socialise and connect with our loved ones face-to-face is extremely difficult. Social distancing, quarantine, and border closures have made this lockdown incredibly isolating, which can have a significant impact on our mental health. Our mind is just as important as our body when it comes to discussing health and wellbeing, so it’s imperative to stay connected with others as best we can during this time.

From a glass half-full perspective, lockdown means we get to spend more quality time with our immediate family or friends who live with us, and of course - our pets! Use this time to think of ways you can strengthen these relationships by practising open and honest communication. But just as importantly, we need to think about the people in our lives who are living alone or may be experiencing hardship. It only takes a few minutes to send a quick text and ask someone how they are going. Search the internet for fun games and activities you can play either in person, or over the phone. Trivia is a great idea! Even if you’re not feeling particularly lonely, your loved ones may be struggling during this time.

Remember: whether you live with others or not - you’re never alone! Please reach out to professional help if you don’t have anyone that you feel comfortable talking to and/or you need support. Your employer may have a free Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or you can contact your GP, a mental health clinician, or one of the below free telephone support lines:

  • Lifeline - 13 11 14

  • Lifeline Text - 0477 13 11 14

  • Mental Health Access Line - 1800 011 511

  • Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467

  • Blue Knot (trauma support) - 1300 657 380

  • Mensline - 1300 99 78 99

  • DV support - 1800 943 539

  • LGBTIQ violence service - 1800 497 212

Finally, let’s give ourselves a big pat on the back for getting through this difficult time! We’re all in this together.


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