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How to Eat Healthy and Prevent Weight Gain During Covid-19 Pandemic

14 Apr 2020

Malaysians from all walks of life are currently adjusting life to Movement Control Order (MCO) (18 March till 14 April 2020) which was announced by the Malaysian government. Even though we are at home, we must stay healthy and fit. How do we do that? Prof Winnie Chee and Dr Lee Yi Yi, from Centre for Transformative Nutrition & Health, Nutrition & Dietetics, IMU, shares some tips to stay healthy and fit during this period of time.

Create a Structure for Eating

Plan your meal times – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Avoid snacking throughout the day. This will avoid unnecessary calorie intake. This may be a good time to keep a food journal or use an app to track your calorie intake. You may use apps with local Malaysian food content such as MyFitnessPal and Lose It!

Snack on Healthy Foods

Whenever you have an urge to eat something, pick up healthy options such as fruits, a handful of nuts, rice cracker or boiled chickpeas which are low calorie and rich in fibre.

Practice Mindful Eating

Before you stand in front of the fridge, ask yourself “Am I hungry or just bored or tired (or whatever else you might be feeling)?” If you are NOT hungry, step away from the fridge.

Keep Your Mind Engaged So You Don’t Always Think of Eating and Food

Boredom can cause unnecessary eating, try to keep your mind completely engaged. The key to managing your weight during this lockdown period lies in identifying the triggers that can lead to emotional eating.

Drink At Least 1 – 2 Liters of Plain Water Daily to Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of plain water can make you feel full and prevent you from filling out on snacks. Avoid liquid calories like soft drinks, packet drinks with sugar and juices. Substitute with plain water, diet drinks and sugar-free options.

Cook at Home More Often and Minimise Ordering Food Online

It has been proven that eating foods prepared at home significantly reduce fats and sugars, and salt intake while improving fibre intake. You can try out simple health recipes from online channels and YouTube. Try this one by our IMU dietetics alumni:

Remember That Eating Healthy is Important at This Time

There is good evidence that healthy diets improve the immune system and eating foods that are rich in vitamins and nutrients — especially many red and yellow and other coloured fruits and vegetables — can help the immune system.

Stock Up Your Pantry and Refrigerator Strategically

Here is a list of healthy options to purchase:
• Cereal and Grains – wholemeal bread, brown rice, oats, wholegrain biscuits, wholegrain breakfast cereals or drinks, unfried/air fried instant noodles, wholegrain beehoon, atta flour
• Fish, lean meat and chicken, tofu, beans, pulses
• Fruits and Vegetables – all varieties
• Dairy foods – low fat milk, cheese, yogurt
• Snacks – fresh fruits, corn, chickpeas, rice crackers, dark chocolate, toasted seaweed, nuts, dried fruits, raisins

Practice Portion Control and Follow The Healthy Plate Model

Fill half of your plate with vegetables, quarter of the plate with either fish, chicken, lean meat, tofu, beans or lentils and another quarter witheither rice, pasta or noodles.

Stay Active While Remaining Indoors

Stay active at home but take adequate precautions and do only what you can really do. You cannot risk an injury during this period of crisis.

While You’re Working From Home
• Stand up or walk around while you read and answer emails and other messages on your laptop or phone. Consider setting up a standing desk to continue working while standing. • During conference calls, stand up and pace, or stay seated and do leg lifts, knee lifts, and toe curls. • Take a short walk around the house during lunch, or in place of a coffee break. • Set an alarm on your computer or phone to remind you to take an activity break. For example, take a one-or two-minute standing or walking break every hour.
Incorporate Exercise Into Your Daily Routine
• Walk up and down your stairs. Take every other step to give your legs a good workout. • Turn on the radio and dance in the house, alone or with your partner. • If you don’t have stairs or much open space, you can do jumping jacks, or walk or jog in place. Try to keep moving for at least 10 minutes. • Use hand weights or grab an object like soup cans if you’re just starting to exercise, or mineral water bottle if you’re stronger. Bend at your elbows to curl your hand to shoulder level. Repeat 10 to 12 times, or until you can’t do it anymore. • Do squats when cleaning out closets or playing with your children. Be sure to bend with your knees and keep your back straight. • Play active video games that require you to move around with your kids or the whole family. • There are plenty of online exercise classes and many of them are freely available on YouTube or other social media platforms or you can search the internet. Check for live-streaming exercise sessions or activity challenges that you can participate in. There are exercises for muscle and strength training, 1, 2 or 3-mile walking, high intensity interval training (HIIT), yoga or Pilates. If you have no experience performing these exercises, be cautious of your own limitations. Try this one recommended by the American Heart Association: Walk 1 Mile!
Make TV Time Active Time
• Stand up and do ironing or fold laundry while you watch. • Do a few simple exercises like jumping jacks or walking in place, or by doing stretches in front of the screen. • Make a new rule: No sitting during commercials. • Limit sitting down and watching streaming channels such as Netflix to not more than 1 or 2 episodes each day.
Make Household Chores Count
 • Mop or vacuum fast enough to get your heart pumping  and burn calories. • Have young children or pets at home? Playing with them can burn more than 200 calories per hour. • Yard work and gardening are also ways to burn calories and strengthen your arm, leg, and back muscles. Pushing a lawn mower, raking leaves, shoveling, and other outdoor chores can be an effective  workout. • Use stay-at-home time for projects you may have been putting off. Cleaning out the garage or attic is another way to be productive and active at the same time.
Track Your Activity Level and Food Intake Using Devices and Apps
 • You can track your steps in a day and move goals using devices such as Apple Watch, Garmin, XiaoMi, and Fitbit. • You can also use apps such as BookDoc, AIA Vitality and Naluri to track your overall health goals, activity levels, healthy eating goals and speak to a coach to help you stay healthy during this Covid-19 pandemic. • Don’t forget, weigh yourself once a week and catch any increase quickly!

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