Social distancing measures have drastically changed the lifestyle, decadence and routines of the public. For good and for bad, we have disjointed the society that we once thought was impenetrable. In this article, we’re going to look at the nutritional implications of quarantine.
Coronavirus’ impact on nutrition: For the worse
First and foremost, it has been difficult to frequently acquire fresh produce because of lockdown restrictions. Many of us are used to living near shops where we can walk or drive, on an ad hoc basis, to get some fresh produce.
With such limitations on fresh produce, there’s no doubt that frozen, processed and/or pre-cooked food is going to be more convenient. These are undoubtedly more unhealthy, and the processed meat is proven over and over to be cancer-causing.
This is leading to weekly or even bi-weekly shops for many people. Of course, most fruit and veg do not last this long, so many are turning to takeaways, which saw a huge spike in sales. The food quality varies between takeaways, but there’s no doubt the mean is of a fairly unhealthy standard.
Coronavirus’ impact on nutrition: For the Better
An important narrative during COVID-19 has been how vitamin can help fight off the virus. Researchers at Oregon State University, along with the universities of Southampton (UK), Otago (New Zealand) and Medical Center (Netherlands), have published findings in the Nutrients Journal.
Findings showed that Zinc, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, and Omega-3 fatty acid are all vital for immune function and are thus integral to our fight against coronavirus. Researchers are frequently urging the public to consume regular supplements, which in turn may result in a silver lining. The message has also extended to heat-shock proteins through sauna usage along with regular exercise in maintaining a strong immune system.
The case for bulk buying food may raise valid concerns over canned and processed foods, however, this doesn’t apply to everything. In some cases, buying frozen food can actually be beneficial. For example, vegetables are found to be higher in phytonutrients and vitamins when frozen compared to fresh. This is because the nutrition can be reduced over time of perishing, so even a few days old fresh peas are actually less fresh than frozen peas, which are frozen immediately after harvesting.
Some people have used lockdown as a reason to be more thoughtful of what they purchase, however. Whether or not they can access frequent fresh produce (many still can), we are forced to shop more infrequently and with less convenience (often online). If we cannot buy food ad-hoc, it means that we’re putting more thought into planning meals for the week.
Planning meals is a huge bonus for nutrition, because you’re going to be more aware of what you’re consuming. A French study found that meal planning is associated with better diet quality, food variety and body weight. You get a much clearer idea of whether your diet is limited and lacking variety when it’s written down weekly. Furthermore, it makes you more motivated to cook too, as it’s scheduled in.
Most importantly, weekly shops=less opportunities to impulse-buy. With resistance to frequenting the shop and more free time at home, it’s no surprise that we are cooking from home more. Google Trends show that UK searches for hot cross bun and sourdough recipes have risen during lockdown, inferring home-cooking is back on the menu, which is a good sign for our health.
Lockdown measures have brought on the ban of some products in some countries, which could be deemed to have its benefits. For example, South Africa banned the sale of alcohol and cigarettes as a means to stop the spread of the virus. Of course, there’s negative sociological, economic, political and criminal implications that have come about as a result. But! From a nutritional perspective, this is another win from quarantine — though it is somewhat overshadowed in the grand scheme of things.
The rise of meal kits
With most of us now more likely to meal planning, or at least exposed to the idea of it, meal kits have made it incredibly convenient to do so. Lockdown has presented alternatives. Sure, meal kits existed before lockdown, but they’re seen a huge rise in sign-ups since.
Such dramatic disruption to our mindless routines (or lack thereof) has shined the light on alternative ways to approach groceries. Meal planning and resistance to going to a physical store has not only made us keener to shop online, but it’s meant meal kits also flourish in quarantine.
Meal kits essentially provide a menu of meals that you select, where you can see the nutritional content and if they’re suitable for certain diets. Then, when purchasing what you want for the week, they send you the ingredients, which is conducive to social distancing.
This means that users can easily follow strict diets, because the hard work is done for them. You can simply filter recipes by ketogenic, paleo, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan and so on. This is another reason why COVID-19 has sparked a new appetite to try out healthy diets which may reduce inflammation and a surplus in carbohydrates.
The ingredients however are exact measurements of what you need for that meal. No excess. This means that you’re not forced to eat leftovers you don’t want or to snack. You get what you need and nothing more.
For most companies, the produce is fresh and organic too. This seems to consistently be a part of their identity, that they’re a healthy service. Of course, it’s not just about being careful about what we put in our mouths but what we put in our bin, too. Throwing out excess food is terrible for the environment, but something we have grown used to doing in the western world.
Meal kits tend to fit into our busy lives. Perhaps not under lockdown, but usually we have become too concerned with work or even socializing to actually spend an appropriate amount of time shopping and cooking. In fact, 41% of Americans spend less than 30 minutes cooking their weeknight meal. Meal kits are a shortcut. They get us to the destination of healthy meals, but without having to think too hard about it, or even venture out and organize it ourselves.
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