Eating healthy meals while on lockdown
Bermuda is now under a 24-hour, shelter-in-place until May 2. There have been concerns about gaining access to food and other necessities. However, despite this state of emergency, the Government has reassured us that supply chains have not been disrupted; food and medication will be available as necessary.
This does not mean that you can and should go out. You should ensure that you have enough food and medication to last you a few weeks, only leaving the safety of your home if absolutely necessary.
In this article, I have collaborated with Hannah Jones, registered dietitian and owner of Island Nutrition to give you a few suggestions on foods you should keep that will help you manage your diabetes and help you feel good during this unprecedented time.
Many of my clients comment that they don’t know how to cook or don’t have time, so they eat takeout and fast food for most of their meals, particularly during the work week. But these options are not available at present, and it is possible to make simple, healthy meals that are not difficult to prepare — even if you’re not a great cook.
If you’re trying to control your blood glucose, watching others who do not have diabetes loading up with pasta, rice, cookies or chips at the grocery store can be frustrating. Our goal during this time of lockdown is not just to survive. We must also be maintaining our health, or even improving it!
We want to have nutrient-dense foods that are not going to disrupt our metabolism, causing weight gain and increased glucose levels.
This means stocking up not on just the high-carbohydrate favourites everyone else may be going for, but on low-carb, nutrient-dense foods that keep you well, keep your body healthy, and will not adversely impact your blood sugar.
If you have not received education about your diabetes and healthy nutrition, please do reach out to a registered dietitian, preferably one who has been trained specifically in diabetes education, such as those at Island Nutrition or the Bermuda Diabetes Association.
If you have other conditions such as kidney disease or hypertension, a dietitian will be even more useful in helping you to choose what to eat. Very simply though:
1, Check labels for total carbohydrate, sugar, sodium and fibre whenever possible
2, Eat above-ground vegetables — versus root vegetables. Many of these are available frozen
3, Avoid processed foods, as these will not be filling and tend to be less healthy
4, Limit simple sugars and carbohydrates
If you are at risk for blood-sugar lows, you will want to have simple carbs around. These include soft drinks, juice boxes, honey, jam, hard candies or ice lollies.
You will notice that there are no breads, potatoes, pasta or rice (starches) on my list — and those are often inexpensive staples. It’s not that you cannot have them at all, but they should be limited for anyone who has issues with their sugar or their weight.
However, because you are not out and about, you’re not as likely to have that sweetened latte and a muffin at break time and you’re not going to hit the buffet for lunch. This means you can get away with a little more starch with your meals. Of course, we recommend complex or whole grain starches — not cookies.
Starchy foods should take up one quarter or less of the space on your plate. Fill up on vegetables and make sure you have enough protein so that you don’t get hungry and search for those unhealthy snacks!
Foods that keep well in the fridge
• Dairy: butter (six months), hard cheese (lasts two to four months unopened), cream cheese (eg Philadelphia), plain yoghurt (about two months), eggs
• Fermented foods: kimchi, sauerkraut, tofu, pickles.
• Veg/Fruit: grapefruits (last about six weeks, but be careful if you’re on certain cholesterol medications), carrots, cabbage, green apples
• Condiments: aim for low-carb unsweetened options such as mayonnaise, mustard and hot sauce
• Low-carb vegetables: cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, collard greens, asparagus, artichoke hearts, green beans, edamame
• Low-carb fruit: raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, clementines, watermelon and avocado
• Meat and entrées: whole, pieces or ground chicken, pork, beef or lamb, fish, seafood, eg shrimp
Shelf-stable foods that are low-carb
• Dairy: powdered milk and buttermilk; unsweetened soy, coconut and almond milk; crunchy snacks made of 100 per cent cheese
• Protein sources: nuts such as pecans, pistachios, walnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts and almonds; nut butters; seeds; cans or pouches of fish and seafood (tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, clams, mussels); meat — beef jerky, meat sticks, and some salami, canned ham, spam, chicken; canned chilli (look for under ten grams of carbs per serving); dry lentils and beans (all varieties). Watch the sodium of canned foods
• Cans and jars of vegetables (choose low-sodium varieties whenever possible): tomatoes, green beans, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, olives, roasted peppers, pickles (unsweetened), sauerkraut, bamboo shoots, spinach, beans (source of protein and fibre, but do have some carbohydrate)
• Sweets: fruit cups (drained), sugar-free gelatin and pudding, sugar-free chocolate or candy bars (labelled low-carb or keto). Sweeteners such as stevia or Swerve. Be careful with tinned fruits that are often in syrup. Even the ones in juice are often very sweet
• Other: onions and garlic, spices, tomato paste, vinegar and other condiments, cooking oils (olive oil and coconut oil); shirataki noodles, chicken and vegetable broth, hot sauce and salsa, coffee, tea, coconut water
So you can see that almost everything that you would like can be bought and stored for when you need them. Some of these options are less expensive than what you may usually buy — frozen versus fresh, for example — and certainly will be less expensive than eating out.
You may need to get creative to cook things from scratch, but there are lots of online resources to help you with this. Or maybe during the shelter-in-place you are with family members who have been longing to teach you how to cook.
• If you have questions about Covid-19 call the Bermuda Government Covid-19 helpline at 444-2498, available 9am to 9pm daily. If you are encountering a medical emergency, call 911
Annabel Fountain, MD, is a Bermudian physician who is board-certified in endocrinology, diabetes and internal medicine. She is the owner and medical director of Fountain Medical Group. Dr Fountain is available for telemedicine appointments during the Covid-19 isolation recommendations. Please call your primary-care physician for a referral or 232-2027 to make an appointment. If you are concerned about your nutritional health and feel you would benefit from support from a registered dietitian, contact Island Nutrition on 295-4082 or at email@example.com. Island Nutrition is fully covered by your standard health benefit
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