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Logic on lockdown: eating sensibly during coronavirus

Judith Wills / 15 May 2020

Diet expert Judith Wills looks at some of the positives of a slower way of life during the Covid-19 lockdown, and what sensible eating opportunities there are.

Frozen berries
Frozen fruit and veg are actually often higher in vitamins than fresh

By the time you read this, it seems much of the world will still be in lockdown or at least, still leaving us much restricted in what we can and can’t do. Not least regarding our health and fitness.

And I’ve found in recent weeks of being at home we tend to fall into one of two categories. Category one – “Oh, what a fabulous reason/excuse to bake some cakes, lie in every morning instead of going to the gym (shut, hoorah), dig out that old onesie and watch daytime TV and generally ‘chillax’, a word we despaired we’d never see or hear of again once DC disappeared.”

Or category two – “Well I’m not going to be beaten on this one. I’ll do Joe Wicks every morning if it kills me; and then I’ll do Mr Motivator*. And what a great excuse to go on a crash diet – no need to bother trying to buy food or stockpile. Tap water and dried cranberries will do me. Brilliant.”

Or there’s me. I refuse to categorise myself, and that’s mainly because I’m more or less carrying on as normal. My only concession to a life that’s changed beyond comprehension for many is that, hell’s bells, I bought an Amazon Fire tablet. Can’t believe I just said that, as I always swore I’d never get a tablet – I loved my home office computer, and that was that. But the journey to the newsagents every day to get the papers was a ten mile round trip and I had visions of getting myself fined or locked up or both as I could not in honesty say it was a necessary purchase, although I think it was.

Now Husband and I can sit together over breakfast and read our two dailies on our tablets (he having had an iPad for several years) and swap virus stories.

But as for the rest of it, life goes on. I go out and garden, do a bit of exercise on the treadmill in the outbuilding and/or walk up the hill at the back of the house. I cook from our mega-freezer and say thankful prayers that we are lucky enough to live in an old house with plenty of larder and freezer space, and that we have enough time and knowledge/experience of food and cooking to be able to drum up meals and snacks from a random variety of items therein. Getting an online delivery here is currently a bit like trying to win the lottery, nigh on impossible.

Last year I was lazy and didn’t grow many vegetables, but this year, I managed to buy seeds online before everyone went out of stock, and had some still in date from 2 years ago, so have tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, salad etc already growing. I even hate myself, I’m so smug.

So little has changed in real terms apart from no visits from family and friends which normally keep us pretty busy from around April to October every year. And I do miss a drive to our little city of Hereford to do supermarket and farmer’s market shopping. I talk to friends and family by phone and bemoan the eerie lack of sport on TV but make up for it by reading more books than I’ve read for years (mostly ordered online and mostly secondhand). And doing much, much more gardening.

I’ve been surprisingly restrained about eating ‘comfort food’ more than usual, apart from Easter chocolate but then that’s normal. Mostly, I’m thankful we live in a fairly remote area of the country and that a locked-down life isn’t all that far removed from how we normally live, and if you think that’s sad, well I can understand even if I don’t concur.

And I hope, whatever your circumstances, that you too can see a positive side to what’s happening at the moment. A chance to pull back and live a more simple life, perhaps. For today, for sure, whether we are 60 or 90, retired or not, our normal (old) lives just seem to carry on being busy, hurried, and maybe even stressful for more of us than we could imagine.

And you shouldn’t let food stress you out, either. Some of my friends and family are, apparently, finding it hard to drum up meals that contain enough vegetables to add up to at least five portions a day and to anyone who feels that way – let me say that frozen fruit and vegetables are just as good as fresh in terms of vitamin C, fibre and so on. And in fact may be better on the vitamin C front, research shows. Tinned veggies can be fine too, though not quite as good as frozen – tinned toms are particularly good and rich in important carotenes. I use lots of tinned pulses and my favourite at the moment is a kind-of hummus made out of cannellini beans with lemon juice and olive oil.

Just do the best you can with eating healthily, get a bit of exercise each day and keep positive, don’t stress.

There are masses of blogs, books and YouTube demos showing how to make the most of what’s in your larder and freezer and stay fit and healthy. A Google search brings up dozens (as my new tablet shows me).

I’m getting rid of it when this is over. Perhaps.

* Gosh, I remember meeting him once up at TVam or whatever it was back in the 90s, and being frightened almost to death by his enthusiasm if that’s the right word, but maybe he’s calmed down a bit now.

The Food Bible

Judith Wills is the author of the bestselling The Food Bible, White Owl Publishing, out now.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.