With millions of Aussie currently spending a lot more time at home and with plenty of stress in the air, the last thing we want to do is find ourselves eating the wrong types of food when we are trying to optimise our immunity and prevent weight gain.
So if you are looking at a few weeks if not months of massive changes in terms of your usual routine, here are some easy diet tricks and tips to help you get through healthy and in control of your weight.
1. Drop the snacks
While snacks can be a nutritious source of energy for active people, when we are spending a lot more time sitting down and formal exercise is limited, the reality is that we are unlikely to need to snack in between meals. Focusing on three meals each day, as opposed to three meals and multiple snacks will significantly reduce your calorie intake, ultimately helping to prevent weight gain over the next few weeks. If you must snack, the best options are filling foods with minimal calories such as raw veggies, popcorn and berries.
2. Lighten your favourite recipes
Spending more time at home will means that we also have a lot more time to cook, which is a good thing from a nutritional perspective. The only issue is that we can get a little heavy handed with the home cooked meals, and indulge in calorie dense, higher fat options when we have time to plan and prepare more elaborate dishes. So if you love to bake and try new gourmet recipes, a simple shift to lighter versions will allow to enjoy your time in the kitchen minus the extra calories. Easy swaps include vegetable pasta for regular pasta, cauliflower rice for regular rice, konjac noodles for regular noodles, pumpkin mash instead of pastry on your pie and vegetable chips instead of potato.
3. Start to track calories
Obsessive calorie tracking is not always the best option for individuals who find that it increases food focus but as a strategy to keep us mindful of exactly what we are eating, keeping a general food diary or logging your calories is a proven strategy that supports calorie control.
The average female who is managing minimal activity will need just 1200-1400 calories a day, while males 1800-2000. Given that a single muffin or chocolate bar contains at least ¼ of an entire day’s worth of calories, it is easy to see how we can eat too much if we are mindlessly munching on extra snacks and treats.
4. Embrace herbal tea
If you are someone who enjoys taking work breaks regularly and gabbing a coffee or tea with colleagues, not having this opportunity available when working at home will be a noticeable change in your daily routine. One way you can still get up from the desk to do something is to make yourself a cup of tea every hour or two. While tea in general is a low calorie option, specifically herbal tea, green tea in particular, contains a range of different antioxidants and potential health benefits without any calories. Drinking tea regularly will also help you to keep optimally hydrated and give your hands something to do when you are bored or anxious so you are less likely to reach for a snack.
5. Pack your lunch
Many of us will start the day with the best of intentions when it comes to our food, but it is when it gets to 1 pm, and you find yourself starving and not knowing what to have for lunch that grabbing the frozen pies or sausage rolls, or ordering high calorie food in becomes an appealing option. On the other hand, if you start each work day knowing what you will eat and when, you are far less likely to be seduced by appealing options when a meal time arrives and you are hungry.
You can either pack your lunch and snacks the night before, or at the start of the day but keeping the focus on what you will eat at what time, rather than what you could eat will help to keep your calorie intake controlled.
6. Keep food out of sight
One the most significant predictors of food intake is availability. This means if you have tempting foods in sight or within easy reach, you will eat them, no matter how self-controlled you believe yourself to be. This means that if one of your goals is to keep your weight under control when working at home, a key step is limited the availability of tempting foods, and also keeping snacks and other foods you can easily grab, out of sight.
Pack snacks away, make sure tempting foods are placed at the back of cupboards and keep minimal extras at home. You can always duck out and pick something up if you are desperately in need of or are craving.
Author Susie Burrell is a leading Australian dietitian and nutritionist, founder of Shape Me, co-host of The Nutrition Couch podcast and prominent media spokesperson, with regular appearances in both print and television media commenting on all areas of diet, weight loss and nutrition.