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    Iso-hungry : Taking control of lockdown eating with some healthy alternatives

    Pan-fried cheese toasty

    Looking after ourselves has always been key to keeping our heads and bodies in check. During lockdown it can be even more challenging. We’re out of our normal routine or may be eating more due to emotional reasons. Many of us are working close-by to the kitchen. Perhaps you’re not sleeping well or doing extra isolation exercise.

    Whether you’re new to healthy eating or have been already following a good diet, I’ve pulled together some easy tips when spending long periods of time at home. The suggestions below are designed for people who are generally healthy and have no underlying health conditions.

    If you have any medical conditions, please see your doctor or GP first. The good news is many dieticians are currently open for business, including via telehealth consultations. A referral to your local dietitian can help you tailor your diet and nutritional goals.

    Habits, Habits, Habits

    Setting a routine is important for healthy eating. Relying on motivation alone to make healthy changes takes a lot of energy and effort to maintain and is only a short-term strategy. Creating long term habits extends the benefits of healthy eating after our motivation runs out. Even the smallest change right now can build up to significant lifestyle habits over time.

    Balanced Eating

    According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines it’s recommended to enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five food groups every day.


    • Aim for ½ plate of vegetables.
    • Fill your plate with mainly non-starchy vegetables.
    • Starchy vegetables are potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and legumes like kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas.


    • Aim for ¼ plate of (mainly wholegrain) carbohydrates.
    • These are your breads, cereals, pasta, noodles and rice.
    • Choose higher fibre varieties like multigrain bread, wholemeal pasta, brown bread and brown rice.


    • Fill your plate with ¼ plate of lean protein.
    • Lean beef, skinless chicken, roast pork etc.
    • Vegetarians may prefer eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds.


    • Include dairy for strong bones, teeth, muscles, hair and nails.
    • Aim for 3-4 serves a day.
    • 1 serve is equal to 250mL (1 cup) low-fat milk, 2 slices low-fat cheddar cheese, 125mL (¼) cup cottage cheese or 200g tub of low-fat/low sugar yoghurt. (Low fat diets are not suitable for children under the age of 2)
    • If you prefer soy milk, almond or rice milk, aim for varieties with added calcium.
    • Calcium alternatives also include 100g almonds, 1 tin (100g) salmon with bones, 60g sardines (canned in water) or 100g firm tofu.


    • Limit fruit to 2 pieces a day.
    • You may choose to include these as healthier snack alternatives or at main meals.
    • Watch out for fruit smoothies and juices as these can contain 8 pieces of fruit in a single cup!

    Rules on Snacking

    Frequent snacking can get the better of all of us. When being stuck at home for many hours, boredom can easily override our effort to maintain a balanced diet.

    Some easy tips to avoid frequent snacking:

    • Set specific times to eat.
    • Eat meals as a family (within the same household) at the dining table or designated area.
    • Focus on eating when eating. This means no tv, phones or iPads. Observe the appearance, smells, textures and combination of flavours of the food in front of you.
      • Pick-up a new hobby or meaningful activity to fill the boredom during the day.
    • Avoid bringing junk food home – includes chocolate, lollies, sugary drinks etc.
    • Shop when you are full and avoid buying food and groceries when you’re hungry.

    Some healthier snacking alternatives include:

    • Unsalted popcorn
    • Wholegrain crackers with cottage cheese or nut spread
    • Vegetable sticks with dip
    • Nuts and seeds
    • Crumpet with tomato and cheese
    • DIY frozen fruit or fruit popsicles
    • Yoghurt, custard or creamed rice

    Meal Planning

    • Plan meals ahead on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis.
    • Learn to cook – start with the basics. Try family recipes, online recipes, YouTube videos etc.
    • Get the family and kids involved in planning and meal prep.
    • Designate days to try new ingredients and recipes.
    • Try grilling, roasting, steaming, or microwaving instead of frying foods.
    • Portion cooked meals into smaller serves and freeze individually for easy microwaveable meals later.
    • Look out for online specials in supermarket catalogues.
    • Your local market or deli can often be cheaper than the large supermarket chains.
    • Remember to schedule in drinking water throughout the day

    Keep nutritious staples on hand for emergencies. Budget-friendly options include:

    • Frozen vegetables and fruit
    • Canned beans (reduced salt)
    • Tinned fish
    • Lean mince
    • Eggs
    • UHT light milk, and reduced-fat yoghurt and cheese
    • Wholegrain bread and cereal/wholemeal tortillas and pasta, brown rice
    • Dried herbs, spices and reduced salt sauces
    • Seasonal fresh produce

    Healthy salad

    What about takeaway and food delivery services?

    With the vast amount of food delivery services available now, it can be tempting to opt for takeaway.

    Here are some examples of healthier takeaway options.

    • Portion large serves into small serves.
    • Resist adding the extra dessert, soft drink or side of chips.
    • Choose an entrée instead and avoid ‘upsizing’.
    • Supplement carbohydrate-heavy meals with your own salad or frozen vegetables.
    • Choose tomato or vinegar-based sauces/dressings, rather than creamy/gravy-based options.
    • Thin crust pizza with extra vegetables.
    • Kebabs with extra tabbouli or yoghurt.
    • Grilled fish and salad.

    See www.eatforhealth.gov.au for more great tips and recipes.

    About Naomi Wu:

    Naomi Wu graduated as a dietitian in 2014 from The University of Sydney. She worked in private practice before joining HealthStrong in 2019. As a dietitian, her interest is in providing individualised counselling to customers with chronic health issues including gastrointestinal problems, diabetes, weight management and disordered eating. She is passionate about helping people navigate the vast amount of nutrition information in the media, translating scientific research into practical advice.

    In her spare time, Naomi enjoys Pilates, bushwalking and kayaking.

    About HealthStrong:

    Part of Medibank, HealthStrong is a leading national provider of mobile allied health services.

    With a team of over 300 allied health practitioners, we see clients wherever they choose to call home – whether that’s their own home, an aged care facility or in a retirement village. Our services are available to all Australians, not just Medibank customers.

    HealthStrong services include physiotherapy, pain management, podiatry, occupational therapy, diversional therapy, speech therapy, optometry (NSW only), audiology and dietetics.

    During the coronavirus (COVID-19) health emergency, HealthStrong is following all Federal and State Health Department guidelines to protect the health and wellbeing of our clients and employees.

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