If you're anything like me, the COVID-19 lockdown has made it tough to stick to regular healthy eating habits.
A change in routine and stress over the uncertain times may have sent your hands into the chip packet and cookie jar on more than one occasion. This is especially tough when the whole country is sharing their kitchen creations on Instagram - has anyone else eaten a whole loaf of banana bread? Just me?
Don't worry if so, you're not alone. Numerous studies have shown stress seems to affect our food choices in many ways, often leading to cravings for foods high in fat and sugar. High cortisol levels may be responsible, as once ingested, fat and sugar-filled foods seem to have a feedback effect that dampens stress-related responses and emotions.
But instead of saying 'sod it' and ripping open another packet of biscuits, Countdown nutritionist Deb Sue says it's important to take a step back from snacks high in saturated fat and salt, as well as sugary and highly caffeinated drinks.
"These might make you feel 'energised' for a short while, but your body needs more sustained energy to help you concentrate and get you to your next meal," she explains.
"Of course, if biscuits are just an occasional snack then that’s fine, just balance it out with some more nutritious options," Deb says.
"Being prepared with nutritious snack options may help improve your energy and concentration levels, plus it will help stop you from overeating and keep you a bit fuller for longer."
Some of Deb's favourite nutritious snack options include:
● A handful of almonds (approximately 20)
● A piece of fruit
● Wholegrain crackers or vegetable sticks with hummus or cheese
● A pottle of unsweetened or unflavoured yoghurt
● A hard-boiled egg
● Brown rice cakes topped with cottage cheese or hummus and tomato.
"At the moment I'm really enjoying almonds and fresh-cut fruit - pears and feijoas are in season and are yum!" Deb adds.
"I make a wee plate up and share them with my toddler while I'm working and she's drawing."
Another great snack is hummus. "It's such a good one because you can create multiple flavours by adding different vegetables and flavourings, and the base recipe is super easy," she says.
- 420g can chickpeas, drained
- 1 Tbsp tahini
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1. Place the chick peas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil into a kitchen blender.
- 2. Blend until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place in a small serving bowl and garnish with your favourite herbs e.g thyme or basil.
Add 300g roasted pumpkin and 1 teaspoon cumin to the base recipe. Blend to combine.
Spinach and Feta
Add 100g wilted spinach and 150g crumbled feta to the base recipe. Blend to combine.
Olive and Sun-dried tomato
Add 1/2 cup of sliced olives, 1/2 cup roughly chopped sundried tomatoes and 1/4 cup chopped parsley to the base recipe. Blend to combine.
Always remember, the number one thing to keep up is your water intake - if you're mindlessly grazing all day, there's a good chance your body is crying out for a big glass of water or two.
So enjoy everything in moderation. By making an effort to nourish our bodies with some delicious and nutritious snack options, we'll all come out happier and healthier on the other side.
This article is created for Countdown.