As we head into yet another week of lockdown, many of us are in the process of developing some new daily food habits — habits that may not be ideal when it comes to our health and weight control.
So if you’re noticing your pants or skirts feeling a little more constrictive, but you don’t really feel you’re eating more, then you may have fallen into one of these common lockdown food routines that, let’s face it, aren’t doing your body any favours.
With the alarm clock sounding a lot later than it usually does, if at all, it can be easy to skip breakfast in favour of a coffee before cruising into brunch or an early lunch.
The issue with this is that we fail to tap into the natural metabolic boost we will experience in the first couple of hours of the day. While replacing breakfast with a capp or latte can mean we start the day feeling full, we’ll still be left with an insufficient number of calories to keep us satisfied throughout the morning.
The solution: commit to eating a protein-rich breakfast, even a light one of yoghurt or protein toast with a coffee before 8am. Or, adopt a 16:8 fasting regime and skip all food including milky coffee until lunchtime.
READ MORE: The 16:8 fasting diet, explained
Lunch too late
A small brekkie followed by multiple snacks can mean that we don’t feel overly hungry each day until mid-afternoon. The issue with this nutritionally is that our meal size increases as the day progresses and our calorie intake becomes concentrated in the second half of the day — the time of day we are less likely to burn through the calories and, as such, more likely to result in weight gain over time.
As we often snack late afternoon, and may also indulge in a couple of drinks, it also means we are eating our calories within a concentrated amount of time, whilst not feeling overly hungry, and as such consuming extra calories we really don’t need.
The solution: schedule a lunch break at 12pm and stick to it. Make lunch a substantial meal that can be followed with a light snack mid-afternoon which supports a much more even distribution of calories.
Too many snacks
In your home, ‘snacks’ may be multiple cups of coffee and a biscuit, a piece of fruit every so often, or a handful of the kids’ food when you get up from the desk. But if food is entering your mouth on more than six occasions each day, chances are you are snacking too frequently.
A snack in between meals will only be necessary if you have your first meal particularly early in the day, exercise a lot, or have more than four hours in between your meals. For most of us this means we only really need a mid-afternoon snack — and don’t forget, lattes and cappuccinos count as a snack!
Solution: pack yourself 1-2 snacks each day to consume 2-3 hours after a meal if you are genuinely hungry. If you are not hungry but are looking for something to munch on, keep chopped up veggies handy for mindless munching.
Heavy meals at night
Spending more time online means that we can be easily tempted by heavy comfort meals being paraded by literally everyone, with pasta, bread, noodles and cakes featuring heavily on our social media feeds.
The issue with enjoying these more indulgent meals, especially at night is that they also tend to clock in at 500-600 calories or more per serve — roughly double what most of us need at the moment since we spend much of the day sitting. If we then indulge in a little wine, plus dessert, our evenings become a complete calorie overload.
The solution: limit the high-carb, high-calorie meals such as pastas, roasts and risotto to once or twice a week, and if you like a sweet treat or some wine, choose grills, salads and soups as low, 300-400 calorie meal options while we’re in lockdown.
Eating foods you never usually would
The significant change to routine in recent week’s means that are many of us are doing, eating and watching things we never usually would. We are baking sweet treats and eating the lot; we are eating more pasta than ever before and we are using gym closures as an excuse to do far less exercise.
The issue with this is that it’s always much more difficult to lose weight once it is there than work to prevent it, so if you know you have let yourself go a little too much these past few weeks there is plenty of time to correct it.
The solution: focus on fitting in as much activity into your daily schedule as you can, and factor in your higher calorie treats at meals just a couple of times each week to get back in control of your health and your weight. And give away the baking to the neighbours — they will be very grateful.
Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, co-host of The Nutrition Couch podcast and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.