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5 hearty eating tips for home isolation

Isolation is the perfect time to ask yourself: have I been keeping healthy eating habits?

It’s an important time to keep healthy and ensure our immunity stays high. The Heart Foundation’s Health Strategy Director, Julie Anne Mitchell, says one of the best ways to stay healthy and support your immunity is continuing to eat the right mix of foods over the days, weeks and months ahead.

“Many of us are eating breakfast, lunch or dinner at home, so a bit of meal planning can minimise food wastage and help reduce cost,” Ms Mitchell says.

“It’s also a great time to audit your pantry or freezer to use any foods you already have before they go out of date.

“We’re encouraging Aussies to adopt a heart-healthy eating pattern by filling their plates with a good mix of veggies, fruits and wholegrains, together with some healthy proteins like fish, legumes or smaller amounts of lean chicken or eggs. If you’re choosing red meat, make it lean and have less than 350 grams per week.”

Last year, the Heart Foundation revised its guidelines around meat, dairy and egg consumption. Ms Mitchell recommends people with heart disease or high cholesterol choose reduced fat unflavoured milk, cheese or yoghurt, and those with Type 2 Diabetes should limit eggs to fewer than seven per week.

Even before COVID-19 reached our shores, poor diet was a leading risk for heart disease – Australia’s single biggest killer – taking 48 lives a day.

With that in mind, here are five hearty eating tips from the Heart Foundation to adopt during home isolation:

1. Prepare ahead, but don’t hoard

Stocking up on a few extra staples is sensible, but there is no need to hoard as supermarkets are staying open during the coronavirus lockdown. Plans your meals ahead and shop with a list to ensure you’re getting the right ingredients for a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner meals to minimise food wastage and cost.

2. Fresh, canned or frozen – it’s about the mix

Frozen veggies can be just as healthy as fresh options. Canned vegetables, beans or fruit have an extra-long shelf life, so they are perfect for your pantry. When choosing canned vegetables and legumes (like beans or lentils), buy “no added salt”, “low salt” or “reduced salt” versions and choose fruit canned in juice rather than syrup.

3. Choose heart-healthy proteins over red meats

Heart-healthy proteins like fish or seafood are an excellent source of omega-3s, which our bodies need but cannot produce. If you can’t get fresh fish, choose canned salmon or tuna in spring water rather than salty brine. Or you can opt for lean chicken or eggs, but if choosing red meat, make sure it is lean and limit to 1-3 meals a week.

4. Set routine mealtimes and cut the couch snacking

Now the couch and fridge are in easy reach, avoid snacking by establishing a mealtime routine to keep work and play separate. If you do snack, go for a handful of unsalted nuts, a cup of veggie sticks or a small plate of cut-up fruit to curb that afternoon craving. Opt for this instead of unhealthy foods like chips, biscuits, chocolate or flavoured sugary drinks. While these unhealthy snacks can be an occasional treat, try to avoid stocking them in your pantry in the first place.

5. Brush up your home cooking skills and get inspired

Staying at home for long periods of time is the perfect opportunity to brush up on your cooking skills. If you’ve stocked up on pantry essentials like tinned tomatoes or lentils and need inspiration on how to turn them into a meal, why not try some heart-healthy recipes?