2020-03-31 17:53
by Inge Lindseth
  Last edited: 2020-04-01 16:49

Eating properly in quarantine

Several reasons to eat extra healthy during a quarantine
Several reasons to eat extra healthy during a quarantine. (Pic.: © ImagESine - stock.adobe.com)

Quarantine food

It seems that everything in the news these days is about the corona pandemic. And even on this website you can’t escape it! Rest assured, we are not writing about this to increase anxiety, but rather to give you a few pointers as to how you can be empowered to handle the crisis in a better way.

Although (seemingly) healthy young people can get serious symptoms from the virus, it is still a disease that affects the frail and the elderly the most. What the main frailty characteristics are for being disproportionately affected by the virus is not clear at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take measures to make your body prepared for the virus: A healthy microbiome and a healthy diet are among the fundamental factors that can aid the immune system in shaking off the virus. 

Recommended article: Virus infections – Your microbiome protects you!

And, if you suddenly end up in a quarantine in your own home because of infection or a curfew, it could be good to stock up on food to make it through the isolation and to even come out on the other side in as good a health as you went in. (Just add some indoor exercise!)

Energy rich foods recommended

Inge Lindseth, registered dietitian at the Balderklinikken in Oslo, Norway, recently fell ill with the coronavirus, and spent 10 days in isolation in his home. He therefore knows how important it is to have access to delicious food, both to stay satisfied and to keep up the morale while being in the confines of the apartment.

The virus didn’t leave me completely bedridden so I had the energy to make the meals that I use to. Vegetables, berries and nuts were a large part of the diet. And no ultra-processed foods.

He didn’t stock up on foods before the illness because he was unaware that he recently had been in an area that only later was upgraded to a high risk area for spread of the virus: Austria. Thus, the isolation started suddenly. And indeed, the corona test came back positive a few days later. The delivery of foods by friends and family therefore became important.

Running out of food while ill or being in quarantine is not necessarily a crisis however. Fasting, or even better - a fasting mimicking diet - could have good effects on health, and if the food shortage isn’t protracted for many days, it does not need to affect your immune system negatively. But during a quarantine a fast would only add insult to injury for my morale.

Cheese could be a good food to stock up on. It can be stored for a long time, contains a lot of energy per 100 grams and is versatile in its use", Inge advices.  And continues: "If you are worried about running out of food, but don’t want to have lots of foods in your house that may go bad, aim for concentrated energy sources such as olive oil, nuts, bacon or other fatty meats (store in the freezer). Dried and frozen berries and fruits, and tubers are healthy alternatives that will also not expire quickly, and it is good to add if you already have stocked up on fatty foods. Rice, barley grains, quinoa are good too, primarily due to their long shelf life. 

Several reasons to eat extra healthy during a quarantine

Morale - or comfort - foods do not need to be unhealthy foods.

For some, being ill is an excuse to seek comfort in unhealthy foods. But, do you really feel much better when you eat junk food while ill? Do you ever really feel better afterwards? The mindset could be shifted into thinking and feeling that every bite of nutritious foods you eat while ill is going to be a way of killing two birds with one stone. You might both be better protected against the effects of the virus and you can benefit from extra help from the diet in a situation where the body might be under stress from isolation and lack of movement.

Inge stresses that healthy food is not just about what nutrients you eat. It is also about the level of processing and the timing of the meals. And we are not just talking about junk food in the traditional sense.

Several types of breakfast cereals, granola bars, breads, yoghurt, fish fingers, pates/pastes and spreads are classified as ultra-processed. We still don’t know which aspects of ultra-processed foods that are most important in affecting health, but as of today you are better off making as much as you can of your food from minimally processed foods. Why not snack on lightly salted kale chips and nuts, and dried golden berries, instead of chips and jelly beans, Inge asks. And, lastly, don’t eat “all day”. Late meals, and short spaces between meals can disrupt both the microbiome and the different circadian rhythms in our body. 

And, lastly:

Don’t eat “all day”. Late meals, and short spaces between meals can disrupt both the microbiome and the different circadian rhythms in our body.

 

Recommended article: The best and healthiest foods for your microbiome


Inge Lindseth
Inge Lindseth
Was in quarantine for two weeks

Inge Lindseth is a registered dietitian from the University of Oslo. His special areas are diabetes, obesity, ME and those who want to get more out of exercise and perform the maximum in sports.

Lisa Keilhofer
Lisa Keilhofer
Author

Lisa Keilhofer studied at the University of Regensburg. She works in internationalization and as a freelance editor.

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