Depending on the rules, restrictions, and guidelines in your area, you may have been asked to go into self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. You may be a vulnerable member of society or simply apprehensive about the pandemic. Or you may still be self-isolating anyway just for peace of mind. Staying healthy and still cooking daily can be difficult. Especially with motivation levels low and inspiration hard to come by when cooped up for days on end.
However, it need not be that way. Circumstances differ, and, naturally, some will find it more difficult than others to source ingredients, whether that be down to logistical or financial struggles. Generally, though, it is possible to stay fit and healthy while remaining inside of your home.
In the United States, those arriving in the country having been to other affected nations, on cruise ships or on river cruises, are recommended to voluntarily spend 14 days at home. Depending on the state you live in and depending on whether you think you have or might have the virus, obligatory isolation differs. In some states, more general “stay at home” orders have been issued, such as in California. Nobody enjoys having their freedom taken away. However, if you can learn to eat well and continue cooking and preparing healthy meals while following these orders, you can guarantee your very own in-house escapism.
Firstly, if you are going to eat healthily at home, you need ingredients. During the height of the pandemic, supermarkets were occasionally difficult to get into. However, in the majority of circumstances, they are now manageable. This means you could try and find a neighbor, friend, or family member who is willing to collect your shopping list for you. Grocery deliveries, if you cannot find anybody to shop for you, are also possible and explained later on in the article.
Supermarkets are usually the cheapest and most convenient places to buy most of your groceries. However, you could also consider asking those shopping for you to get produce from local, independent stores. This supports local businesses that might be struggling as a result of coronavirus, and these stores often provide a more specialized array of goods. For instance, if it is Asian food that you’re craving, then purchasing ingredients from Asian specialist stores will get you better products while supporting small businesses.
What is your goal?
When you make your shopping list – wherever you intend to buy from – consider what your goal is with the cooking you are going to do. Is your healthy self-isolation cooking going to help you lose weight or build muscle? Are you exercising regularly in lockdown, or do you simply want heart-healthy or mind-healthy food?
Some self-isolation food fresh ideas
If it’s the former, then consider buying the ingredients for a delicious low-fat salad. Before isolating, you might have found salads boring; with more time on your hands, you have the ability to form something exciting, healthy, and tasty. Avoid fatty cheeses or too much creamy dressing in your salads, and, if you are including meat, make it something lean like chicken. Grilled chicken and avocado salad, when prepared fresh, cannot be beaten. Avocados might be high in fat, but when eaten in moderation, they contain the types of fatty acids that have other health benefits, such as lowering bad cholesterol and aiding healthy skin.
Plan ahead with these meals so that you have all day to perfect them. If you are likely to be getting others to shop for you, attempt to plan even a week in advance so that you are not requesting that they bring you food multiple times a week. This puts less stress on both your friend and your cooking times.
If you are used to using supplements, there is no reason why you cannot continue doing so while you self-isolate, as many companies will deliver to your door. From vitamin tablets to the best CBD lollipops, you can find many of the supplements you need online. Compare prices and ask others where they shopped online for such supplements. Especially, if you know people who have been through self-isolation before you.
If supermarket shopping through a relative or neighbor proves impossible, consider your grocery delivery options. Costco, Aldi, Kroger, and Safeway all offer Instacart services that can get food to your door on the same day, sometimes even around an hour after ordering. Instacart operates in a number of states and has exclusive deals, helping you save money. You can even choose to see only natural and organic foods, too.
Pick up or own delivery
Many supermarkets in the United States offer their own delivery service, as well as pick-up if you are able to leave your home in a car. This service is remarkably useful and makes you wonder how difficult it would have been to continue cooking and shopping well if the current situation had taken place before the advent of the internet. With a few simple clicks, you can fill up your shopping basket, pay, and choose a delivery slot depending on availability. This ability to browse products online, taking your time over your choices, increases the possibilities of meal planning and preparing food in advance.
Healthy cooking for one
It may be that you are having to self-isolate alone, and not with family, friends, or a partner. This can make cooking difficult, as those who are used to living in houses with multiple occupants often find it difficult when cooking for one. If this is the case, check measurements online and follow recipes closely until you become more confident in knowing how to cook the correct portion size. If you cook or prepare too much, store it (more on this below), and take note of how much of each ingredient you used so that you don’t make the same mistake next time.
Preparing for smaller quantities
Part of the problem is it is difficult to get used to preparing small quantities, so think about cooking healthy meals that can be big without filling you up. Fish and salad aren’t so filling, and neither is soup. These dishes allow you to keep cooking big without worrying too much about being unhealthy and, if you do make too much, you have leftovers.
These leftovers, or hefty portions, are where batch cooking comes in. Cooking healthily for one can be difficult, so why not make plenty of a meal and keep portions for later? This technique works just as well for couples, friends, and big families: just scale up the portions.
When stuck inside, unable to go to an Italian restaurant or your favorite burger bar, you might get into a rut. Eating the same things over and over, making batch cooking sound like a bad idea. This is where discipline and planning come to the fore, as with the right preparation. You can space out these batch cooked meals and not get bored of the delicious, healthy creations you have whipped up. Know how long items last in the fridge or freezer so you aren’t caught out and, if you do know that you won’t want or get around to eating something, give it away to a neighbor.
Frozen or not?
Batch cooking will often require the freezer, a tool in your house that should be working overtime during self-isolation in order to keep you eating and cooking healthily. Generally speaking, frozen produce does lose some nutritional value. However, frozen vegetables, for example, are occasionally a better source of nutrition than fresh ones, depending on how far the fresh vegetables have traveled. Freezing food not only preserves some of its goodness but obviously it also helps them stay longer. Freezing already-cooked meals means that on those lockdown days where you might feel lazy, lethargic, or even ill, you have already-prepared healthy food at your fingertips.
Smart storage counts
Different foods should be stored in different ways and for different lengths. Processed meats tend to last less time than fresh ones when frozen; a whole chicken can last up to a year in your freezer. You can even freeze bread and soups, which would give you a quick and easy pick me up at dinner time.
Look after your body
To complement continuing to eat healthily while in self-isolation, you should be looking after your body in other ways, if you can. Doing home workouts has never been easier with fantastic tutorials on YouTube and Instagram, as well as a whole host of free exercise apps.
Use household objects such as gym equipment – safely – if you don’t have any professional tools, and why not consider getting a friend involved? If you know somebody else who is self-isolating, set up a daily morning fitness regime, be it cardio, weights, or yoga, over a video call. This will motivate you not to skip it, as your friend is relying on you, and it will see you to the other side of isolation still looking trim and glowing.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
The final two tips on how to eat healthy during self-isolation are very much about your psychological mindset. Never be too hard on yourself when it comes to eating well and working out, as the minute you begin to beat yourself up, the harder motivation becomes. This, however, is amplified during self-isolation. The above tips are useful and sticking to them would serve you well in the quest to stay healthy while locked indoors, but it should never feel like a failure if you aren’t doing so – also recognize that it’s impossible to behave perfectly every day.
Sometimes, when it comes to staying healthy, just being happy and surviving the day is enough, especially as troubling news floods in and you are unable to enjoy the outdoors, so it is no bad thing to have the odd off day.
Mind and body
This acceptance that sometimes things will be too much and doing the right thing is not always achievable, will go some way to aiding both your mind and your body. Helping your mind stay healthy along with your eating habits is hugely important, if not more so, during self-isolation. Stay in touch with friends when you want to and have evenings to yourself when you need time to reflect; it is all about balance. There are some stunning smartphone apps that focus on mindfulness, meditation, and self-help, which can work alongside those that tell you how to diet and exercise well.
The bottom line
Self-isolating is tough. Nothing can prepare you for 14 days in your own home without leaving and without being able to buy some of the things that you require. Getting a support network in place that can help you with food shopping will be of extreme benefit to you. You should make the most of it by planning and preparing meals in advance.
Most of all, think about being inventive or adventurous. Having the whole day to think about and prepare your evening meal is a luxury you might not have been previously afforded and, as with all other luxuries stripped from you, focus on that. Prepare casseroles, roasts, long and lovingly stirred soups, or homemade pizza bases; marinate meat for hours, if not days; and try your hand at baking that requires an overnight rest. Fill up the space in your day by staying mind- and heart-healthy and, when you do return to normality, try and keep these good habits going.
Self-isolation doesn’t mean you cannot keep fit at home. Click here for easy fitness ideas.