As we continue to spend more time at home during the COVID-19 restrictions on socialising and working, many of us are gaining unwanted weight.
Movie nights, newly-discovered baking skills, access to the fridge all day and the opportunity to catch up on all those shows you’ve been meaning to watch for ages mean that it’s all too easy to find that your jeans won’t fasten up any more and your tops are getting tight.
We spoke to The Hospital Group’s team of leading dietitians to get their top tips on keeping to a healthy weight whilst in lockdown.
Q. I’m really enjoying having the time to bake for my family just now, but I can’t help over-indulging! What can I do to make better choices?
A. Lockdown’s brought out many people’s inner Mary Berry and social media is packed with recipes, images of enticing cakes and handy hints for baking bread. Tasty treats are fine in moderation, but cakes, biscuits and scones can be energy-dense and contribute a significant amount to your daily intake of calories.
It’s a fact that just one scone topped with jam and cream can contain a staggering 670 calories as well as 23g of fat. Delicious it may be, but that’s a huge proportion of your daily recommended calorie intake.
Making healthier foods is just as much fun as baking sweet treats. How about making yummy kebabs using rainbow-coloured fruits such as watermelon, strawberries, oranges and grapes? You could dip these in fat free yogurt, too.
And you can even make your own ice cream in under an hour – simply slice peeled banana on to a tray and freeze for an hour, then blitz in a food processor with a small amount of milk to make a creamy consistency. Top with the fresh fruit of your choice, or sandwich together with rice cakes for a banana ice cream sandwich.
Q. Our family has been binging on box sets, but we always seem to have a salty, fatty snack to eat while we’re watching. What are the alternatives to crisps and dips that would be better for my waistline?
A. Why not cut up some carrots, peppers, celery and cherry tomatoes and make a lower fat houmous for dipping? The houmous is packed with protein and fibre. You can make it really easily by combining a drained tin of chickpeas with 2 tablespoons of the chickpea liquid, 2 tablespoons of 0% fat Greek yoghurt, 1 tablespoon of tahini (sesame seed paste), 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, ½ a teaspoon of cumin, ½ a teaspoon of smoked paprika, 1 crushed garlic clove and a pinch of salt and pepper in a food processor. Delicious!
Q. I’ve been treating lockdown as one long holiday, and that means I’ve been drinking a lot more alcohol than I would usually. I know it’s packed full of calories. Any tips to help me cut back?
A. Try to have 3 alcohol-free days a week – not only will it help with avoiding weight gain, but it’s much better for your liver and general health.
It’ll also reduce bloating and help you to sleep better. That means you’ll be able to make healthier, more considered food choices during the day.
When you do have a drink, invest in a drinks measure and have 25ml of a plain, clear spirit such as gin, vodka or white rum with a diet mixer. At just shy of 60 calories, this is a far better option than that calorie-laden glass of wine or pint of export strength lager, which both come in at over 200 calories a glass.
Q. Being stuck in the house for most of the day, I’ve been making frequent trips to the food cupboard and the fridge and now my clothes are definitely getting tighter! How can I start to change my habits?
It sounds like you’re eating out of boredom. When you feel like getting up and going to the kitchen, firstly have a think about why that is. Ask yourself, “Am I physically hungry? Am I thirsty? Am I bored?”
Mindful eating can be a great way to help overcome these habits. We’d suggest buying heathier snacks, like chocolate covered rice cakes and low fat yogurts, or making a fruit salad. If you are tempted to snack and do head to the kitchen, then you’ll have some heathier options to choose from which can help to reduce your intake of calories compared to chocolates and crisps.
It’s best to try to keep yourself occupied, otherwise you may find your thoughts drifting towards food. Why not have a potter in the garden, or spring clean the house? A 20-minute exercise video on the TV or internet can keep you occupied too, and can also help with your mental health during lockdown by releasing those feel-good endorphins.
Q. We’re now doing one large supermarket shop a week, and I can’t stop adding comfort food like chocolate and crusty bread to my trolley. What could I substitute that would be better for me?
A. There’s nothing wrong with bread, but try to go for wholemeal or granary rather than white. If you buy a ready-sliced loaf, keep it in the freezer – that way you’ll only use what you need, and won’t have any left over that “has to be eaten”.
Buy treat size chocolate bars rather than normal or super-sized, and keep them in the fridge so a little more work has to go into eating them.
Q. The weather has been so good during lockdown that we’ve had lots of barbecues with burgers and sausages. I know these are fatty foods, but they taste so good! Are there any healthier choices I could make that are still delicious?
A. Choose lower-fat food options such as chicken sausages rather than beef or pork, and remove the skin from any chicken you barbecue to reduce the calorie content. Cutting off any visible fat from the likes of chops and steaks can help, too.
Lower calorie options include prawn, chilli and garlic kebabs, or why not make your own burgers using low-fat mince for great taste with fewer calories?
Marinating food before barbequing it is a great way to add flavour without many more calories. It’s easy to make spicy chicken kebabs, for example – just make a marinade for chunks of chicken breast with lemon juice, crushed garlic, cumin and chilli powder and leave in the fridge overnight.
Find out about our weight loss options here https://thehospitalgroup.org/weight-loss/