As we enter our sixth week of lockdown in Scotland, we are now beginning to get used to our new normal way of living. We all now have new routines; routines that are structuring our days spent at home. Enjoying our time outside is important, with some people starting off their day with a refreshing walk or cycle, some taking up challenges such as Couch to 5k or yoga to wind down in the evenings. All this ‘free’ time for exercise is no doubt beneficial for both our mind and body, but naturally as a Registered Nutritionist my focus always turns to food.
Even before COVID-19, we already were experiencing food challenges. Although our shopping experiences may be improving, empty supermarket shelves had become commonplace across Scotland, with panic buying impacting on food security. Amongst other services, food banks are working hard to maintain the provision of emergency food to those in crisis.
From a health perspective, I’m concious that we no longer have full control over what food ends up in our fridge or storecupboards – we have to do the best with what is available. Yes, this bothers me slightly – I have to sometimes settle for items that would not usually end up in my basket. But this is okay. It is definitely okay. I could write about good nutrition, what we should be eating and what we should be avoiding – but what use is this advice when we don’t have the luxury of choice? Something that struck me last week was the lack of ‘free-from’ food ranges on the supermarket shelves. How are coeliacs coping? Are consumers tapping into free-from ranges because gluten-containing foods are limited? Do we have other people’s needs in mind?
A completely normal reaction for us is to react to stress by eating (or not eating). Naturally our eating behaviours have changed over the past six weeks. Some of us may now be sitting down in the morning to enjoy breakfast, instead of throwing it down our throats to run for the bus. Some of us may be experimenting more in the kitchen, perfecting sourdough and banana bread recipes. Some of us may in fact just enjoy being around to physically cook. What is important here is that even though we do not have the same control over what food we buy or have access to, there are many positives to gain -whether that be learning new skills, cooking with others, sitting down together to eat or simply just enjoying each others company at mealtimes. What we put on the table is important for our health but at this time having food on the table might be just as important. Personally, food (and a good cuppa tea!) gives me a sense of security in an uncertain world.
Dr Suzanne Zaremba