We all know that diet care and healthy eating are essential to keeping our immune system functioning optimally, yet we do​n’t prioritise it when dealing with stress and isolation.

The MetLife 360Health team asked Robyn Compton, an accredited practising dietitian in Melbourne, to provide us some recommendations for staying healthy.

Limited trips to the grocery store and unpredictable fresh food supply during lockdowns may compromise healthy eating. What should we do?

Even with few and limited ingredients, you can continue eating a diet that supports good health. My advice to follow would be:

  • Plan a weekly balanced menu.
  • Prepare a corresponding shopping list, including food for meals and snacks and store it on your phone.
  • Add a few new recipes for variety and interest each week, updating your weekly list.
  • Limit shopping trips. Take advantage of the many new home delivery services that have arisen during the pandemic.
  • Supermarkets seem to deplete key stock more quickly. Shop at the local butcher, fruit and veggie shop, fishmonger or bakery instead.
  • Make food preparation a family affair. Prepare more home cooked meals. Limit takeaway food for special occasions or a treat.
  • Enjoy sit down dinners with your family or household.

One of the silver linings of social distancing has been that families are preparing more home cooked meals, exploring new recipes, and sharing meals around the table. There is extra time to involve children in cooking and to teach yourself new cooking skills, or to finally use some of those recipe books in the cupboard.

What are your recommendations for a meal plan?

When it comes to a meal plan, there is no one size to fit all! The key is to have a balanced diet, including all the important food groups, which provide key nutrients for good health and wellbeing.

  • Bread and cereals for energy, fibre and vitamin B - Choose wholegrains and high fibre cereals. Quantities required depends on the individual’s age, activity level, health and weight goals etc.
  • Fruit and vegetables for vitamin C, folic acid and fibre - Aim for two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables daily.
  • Protein foods e.g. meat, fish, chicken, eggs, legumes, nuts for protein, iron, vitamin B12, zinc, omega 3 fats, iodine - Aim for 2-3 serves daily.
  • Dairy foods or alternatives e.g. milk (cow, soy, almond, oat etc), cheese and yoghurt for protein, calcium and riboflavin - Aim for 2-4 serves.
  • Good fats e.g. mono or polyunsaturated oils, nut, seeds, olives, avocado for essential fatty acids, energy, fat soluable vitamins such as vitamin D and E. Use in moderation in cooking, salad dressings or as a snack e.g. avocado, nuts and seeds.

Is there any specific food recommended for boosting the immune system?

There is currently no convincing evidence that any specific food or diet can “boost” our immune system and prevent COVID -19.

Having said that, a nutritious balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, are essential for good health and to support our immunity. A poor diet is tied to an increase in general infection risk. In addition, regular physical activity and specifically getting enough sleep are very important for optimal immune function. Diligent hygiene and social distancing continue to be the best advice for preventing infection.

What kind of snacking is good during the lockdown period?

While in prolonged lockdown there is a tendency to want to eat and snack more often, whether it’s due to actual hunger, boredom, emotional eating or simply sampling the products of your recent cooking. If you get hungry, choose foods providing longer lasting satisfaction and energy. Some examples of healthy snacks include:

  • A piece of fruit or bowl of berries
  • Yoghurt
  • Chopped raw vegetables with hommus or salsa dip
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • A couple of wholegrain crackers with tomato or avocado
  • Celery sticks with a small amount of peanut butter filling
  • A boiled egg or slice of fat reduced cheese
  • A handful of nuts
  • Seasoned seaweed/Nori sheets
  • Freshly boiled Edamame beans
  • Homemade protein balls
  • Smoothies with milk, yoghurt and fruit blended with ice

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