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How have your eating habits changed in lockdown?
Overview

Share your experiences of how lockdown has affected your eating habits.

  • Discussion
  • Influence

On the 2nd of July we will be hosting a virtual research coffee morning exploring diet and nutrition. If you haven’t already, you can register for a spot on the digital event here.

Ahead of the call, we want to start thinking about the effect COVID-19 has had on what we eat, in an online discussion. The majority of us are now spending significantly more time in our homes, with older adults specifically being asked to self-isolate for weeks, with no clear end date. This new way of living has, for many of us, had an effect on our diets and eating behaviours.

The emerging statistics show a clear link between more serious COVID-related outcomes for people who are more overweight, as well as for people who have diabetes. Newcastle University research has shown that Type 2 diabetes (the most commonly occurring type), can be put into remission with significant weight loss and sustained changes to eating habits. We want to explore how our eating habits have changed during lockdown and what has affected them, as well as the difficulties surrounding eating a ‘healthy diet’ in this altered way of living. We’ll be talking through some of your comments on the virtual event with Research and Diabetes Specialist Dietitian Alison Barnes, so make sure to join us then to be part of the conversation. If you aren’t able to join though, you will be able to watch a recorded version of the event afterwards.

To get started, click here to take a look at the following resource and discuss the following questions:

How have your eating habits changed during the lockdown, and why?

What are the challenges are around leading a healthy diet at this time?

How have your eating habits changed in lockdown? Discussion

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  • joy packard
    1 day ago

    My eating habits - or rather my cooking habits - have changed in lockdown as I’m cooking for one rather than two or three. I‘ve really enjoyed having more time to plan and prepare lunch. Seems more like my main meal rather than in the evening.

    I’m considered high risk for the virus so I’m getting all of my shopping online plus milk to my doorstep and eggs from my hens. I’m eating more meat without vegetarians to share meals and probably because game is a bit of a ‘treat’.

    What has changed is that I suspect I’m out of sync with seasonal fruit and veg as I’ve tended to buy the same things when I do a grocery order online. I really miss going to the shop and seeing what is fresh/in season and takes my fancy.

    The challenge for eating a healthy diet for me is avoiding too much alcohol and my lockdown cookery project: I challenged myself to make new dishes with store cupboard finds, take the time to create the perfect salad dressing, make scones that rise properly, and fathom out the double baked cheese souffle. The souffles were early on in lockdown and I ate too many; things have settled down a bit now. I’m less anxious so I eat less.

  • Alison Barnes RD
    2 days ago

    Hi Hayley and thanks for sharing your experiences in the discussion, so sorry to hear about your mum. Something that's hard at any time, but especially so in the circumstances. Your morning 'me time', midfully eating a piece of fruit sounds quite blissful! Great to hear that you've found healthy eating and meal inspiration from the meal deliveries, as well as a solution for the differing dietary requirements in your household, some real positives in there.

  • Alison Barnes RD
    2 days ago

    Hi Stella, and thanks for contributing to the discussion. Maintaining lost weight can often be the trickiest part, so very well done on keeping things steady during lockdown. It sounds like you've got some great healthy eating habits in there with the fruit, veg and fish, and have a good plan for when things get back to 'normal'

  • Alison Barnes RD
    2 days ago

    Hi Don and thanks for joining in the discussion. I know many of the NHS staff involved in frontline care see it as 'just doing their job', but what an amazing and difficult job they do, and lovely to hear how you're all looking out for each other in your own ways. Creative meal planning sounds like a very good approach to lockdown and the shopping issues, and to getting back to your more usual weight after what sounds like a very significant life event! They can often be associated with weight gain as in your experience, but sounds like it is all heading the right way again now which is great.

  • Alison Barnes RD
    2 days ago

    Hi Ian, and thankyou for joining in the discussion. You're not alone in finding that factors such as being unable to go out, and lack of comapnionship, can result in those extra nibbles. In many ways food is not so much about being hungry a lot of the time these days but becomes part of how we cope with the stresses and emotions of everyday life. Wher it;s not so good is if, as you say, it feels a bit scary and out of your control. This in iitself can cause more anxirty and trigger more comfort eating. It's a really positive step to recognise what is tempting you to nibble, as if you can find an alternative way of coping with those stresses and emotions without food being the thing to do it, then you will get the comfort without the unwanted side effect of the weight gain which comes with the 'food solution'. The second thing is to think about whether you need to have those food in the house if you're trying not to eat them, as you're far more likely to have them if they are there. We can have a bit of a'habit' shopping list and just buy the same things, so revising the old list might be a help - try some new types of snacks perhaps (we'll be talking about snacks with Emma later in the session tomorrow). The next aspect is that if the tempting nibbles are still in the house, where are they? If the biscuit tin is out on view, or rhe chocolates are in a bowl on the table, you are making yourself resist them every time you see them - it's no wonder your willpower battery rund out eventually, like any battery that gets a lot of use! Conserve your willpower energy and put them away out of sight. You may still have some but I bet it will be less than before! Hopefully something helpful in those suggestions. It's lovely to hear you have neighbours looking out for you, that's been one of the real positives of the lockdown situation for many people. And well done on the no alcohol!

  • Lois Neal
    24th June 2020

    Meal-times are a highlight of our lock-down days so we try to make them interesting by trying new recipes and finding things at the back of the cupboard that need to be used up, so they become more interesting than usual although the basic sausage, chips and beans is a standard comfort item! We do avoid eating between meals and have avoided buying biscuits and cake unless we have a lock-down birthday or anniversary celebration.

    Speaking personally I have been working towards less red meat, but this is really hard as I live with two avid meat-eaters! We have eaten a lot of carrots, swede, potato (white and sweet), parsnips and celeriac while the weather was cooler! We have now moved on to stir fry mixes and barbeques

    Drinking plenty of liquid (water and tea, mostly) and taking vitamin D3 are the other things I have been consuming regularly.

    Alison Barnes RD
    2 days ago

    Hi Lois, love your positive approach to lockdown meals! Who knows how long those items may have 'lurked' in the cupboard and if they ever would have been used. I'm sure we all have some of those! You raise some very good discussion points. Not buying in things you're trying to have less of is one (cakes, biscuits etc. ) as seeing them (or just knowing they rae there) is a prompt to eat them, whereas if they aren't there it doesn't put the idea in your head. Even putting things out of sight (e.g. in a cupboard rather than out on the bench) can reduce how much is eaten! Well done on the carrot sticks. Another interesting point about trying to change your eating habits when others in the housr aren't so keen. I'll pick up on this in the discussion tomorrow, and my colleage Prof Tom Hill will be talking about Vitamin D which you also mention. Good stuff!

  • Ian Fairclough
    22nd June 2020

    How have your eating habits changed during the lockdown, and why?

    I am old - I am alone.

    In some respects, my eating habits have not changed, in others the change has been drastic

    My breakfast is exactly the same as it has been for the last 35 years and at approximately the same time of day (7-8am) - two shredded wheat/yoghurt/fruit and orange juice.

    Lunch is roughly the same - healthy snacks but the time can vary wildly (11am - 3pm).

    My evening meal has changed, I now eat "modified" supermarket meals by Weight Watchers, Bisto etc.

    The BIG changes in my life have been nibbles, alcohol and eating out. I continually nibble on biscuits, chocolates, unhealthy snacks and mints – this is scary.

    I have not had an alcoholic drink since Feb 27th. I used to regularly dine out, twice per week, late afternoon or early evening mainly at a local Italian restaurant.

    What are the challenges are around leading a healthy diet at this time?

    Willpower – motivation – companionship.

    My weight has increased by nine pounds – I spend more time not moving – my neighbours bring me meals and it is the “I have cooked more than we need” syndrome – so I get the extras – they are very kind.

    I used to exercise at the local gym – now it is an effort to do anything.

    The only positive aspect of this Covid-19 is that my wallet is heavier than normal.

  • Don Pinchbeck
    18th June 2020

    Being in the most vulnerable age group, we haven't seen the inside of a shop since lockdown. Apparently we're not vulnerable enough to get priority deliveries so we thought we were going to have to don masks and gloves and venture out. Then family intervened, three of whom are NHS and working with Covid-19 patients. They have been shopping for us. I think once you seen someone die of C-19, you want to protect your parents. Death is unpleasant and lonely. We've done our best to minimise how much we expect them to have to buy for us, so now we have to be more creative about meal preparation. Had a near death experience back in November and during recovery (no exercise) I put on 16 lb. During lockdown, I've lost 9 lb, so not all bad news. Diet still very good.

  • Stella  Findlay
    18th June 2020

    I had been deliberately losing weight before lockdown but now eat many of the foods I’d avoided such as biscuits and chocolate.

    I eat healthily- mainly vegetables, fruit and fish.

    I have gained only 1lb in the few months of lockdown so not too dispirited over it. I plan to be more careful when I can resume my usual busy life.

  • Hayley Hall
    15th June 2020

    At the beginning of the lockdown, I did a lot of comfort eating. my Mam caught Covid-19 in her care home and she died after several days. I think I may have eaten my own weight in dark chocolate digestives.

    We tried to expand our shop local philosophy by ordering a veg box. This didn't work well as the choice was limited, there is a limit to how much white cabbage and turnip we could eat. We had just started a milk delivery, this was to cut down on our plastic use but its been handy for avoiding shopping and keeping our food local. We also get bread delivered one day a week.

    We changed to a food delivery service for some of our meals. As I need to eat more vegetables, my husband is a vegetarian and my son is lactose intolerant we decided to try Mindful Chef as they focus on healthy food and are always lactose-free. We buy 4 single meals each week at the moment.

    So far it has been really good. We are both eating better for half the week and the new ideas are helping us eat better for the rest of the week too. My son had shown an interest in some of the meals so he has tried a couple of the meals too. This is a very good thing.

    I've also made an effort to eat more fruit. Each day I get up and have half an hour of time on my own and eat a piece of fruit. It's a nice start to the day, especially the time on my own.

    We are definitely spending more money on food. We plan to keep up the Mindful Chef delivery after lockdown as it has helped me think of healthy eating as something attainable even when you are very tired.

    Charlie  Wilkinson
    16th June 2020

    Hi Hayley,

    I'm so sorry to hear about your mam, that must have been really tough and definitely requires chocolate digestives to get through. I find it really interesting to see how people's shopping habits have changed during lockdown, i know in my home we've gone to doing one big shop to limit how many times we're in the shops during the week. The options for delivery of fresh fruit/meals I think have had an interesting impact I will be a really interesting point to discuss on the call!

    Thanks,

    Charlie

  • Tina Fry
    12th June 2020

    1 I'm rather surprised that the analysis of likely demand/expenditure etc concentrated so heavily on a meat-based diet, with no mention of vegetarian/vegan options (e.g. soya-based products, Quorn etc) when these diets are becoming more popular.

    2 A factor which influences food choices heavily is availability. Since the lockdown, the number of apples (for example) one can buy has been rationed, and many fresh fruit items have been unavailable. Thank goodness for frozen fruit!

    Charlie  Wilkinson
    16th June 2020

    Hi Tina,

    Interesting point! as you mention availability has been a real issue, I wonder if people made a shift to vegetarian/vegan meat alternatives during lockdown when shelves were sparse!

    Thanks,

    Charlie

    Tina Fry
    16th June 2020

    Hi Charlie,

    Thanks for your reply. You may be right about availability leading people to try vegetarian foods, but (certainly out at the coast) the popularity of vegetarian and vegan foods has been growing considerably over the past couple of years, most notably in the last year, judging by the amount of shelf and freezer space allocated to them in the supermarkets. (Of course, there could also be the cost factor, as a block of tofu or bag of Quorn mince (for example) would cost considerably less than the equivalent amount of meat.)

  • Violet  Rook
    11th June 2020

    My eating habits have stayed the same. I try not to eat fatty foods,nor salt nor sugar.

    This involves not buying sugar, nor butter nor salt which I have not done for more than 20 years.

    I do not drink alcohol except for a half a glass of Asti Spumante at Christmas ad New Year.

    During the Lockdown, the advertisements in the media are a real threat to the health of the public. They encourage "comfort" food. If cooked well and with healthy ingredients such food would be a source of promoting a balanced diet. But ideas on healthy eating seem lacking most of the time. Convenience food is still fashionable. This is one of the big challenges in regard to promoting healthy eating.

    Charlie  Wilkinson
    16th June 2020

    Hi Violet,

    Thanks so much for your contribution. I think that's a really interesting point about advertisements, I have definitely seen a shift in what is promoted to me in advertising during the lockdown and I wonder how that will have affected people!

    I hope you'll be on the call as discuss these themes with Alison!

    Thanks,

    Charlie

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