Since the start of the circuit breaker measures on 7 April, you may have been inundated with overnight "chefs and health gurus" dishing out meal recipes that seem Instagram worthy. But while these recipes and dishes may look good, would they provide you with a balanced nutritional intake that you need?
To ensure that you are equipped with credible information, RUN Singapore recently conducted an e-mail interview with Cheryl Teo, a Sport Dietitian from the Nutrition Team at the Singapore Sport Institute (SSI).
RUN Singapore: What nutrition bits should we look to include in our food, especially during this period?
Cheryl: During this period, it is important to keep a well-balanced and colourful diet, rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables, as this will ensure a wide range of phytonutrients and antioxidants that are essential for protecting and boosting our immunity. We should also prioritise the health of our gut, the body's largest immune organ, by maintaining a diet rich in fibre, resistant starch and probiotics. This includes taking wholegrains and legumes, fruits and vegetables, and fermented products like kimchi, yoghurt and miso.
Beware of emotional eating, like stress or boredom eating. Instead, leveraging mindfulness techniques and strategies to maintain mental wellness can be particularly helpful as they indirectly influence nutritional behaviour, in addition to one's overall health and wellbeing.
Also remember to follow safe food handling and food storage practices.
RUN Singapore: Going to the supermarket now can possibly be a chore with queues, temperature checks and contact tracing initiatives. If we can go to the supermarket only once a week, what should we stock up on?
Cheryl: My advice would be to plan for the week's meals and craft a shopping list to ensure a quick and efficient shopping trip. As a guide, I have listed some pantry items that are budget friendly, versatile and nutritious in the table below:
These pantry items also store well and will help families to minimise the need for multiple shopping trips.
Dried Noodles that have a longer shelf life (e.g. bee hoon, dried egg noodles, instant noodles)
Bread (can be frozen)
|Canned/ frozen fish|
Canned/ dried beans
Soy products like tofu, tau kwa, tempeh
|Prioritise local produce as they are likely to be fresher due to the shorter travel time from farm to table|
Vegetables that have longer shelf life (e.g. celery, pumpkin, cabbage, carrot, broccoli and eggplant)
Frozen vegetables (e.g. spinach and mixed vegetables)
Cooking aromatics like onion, garlic and ginger
|Fruit that have a longer shelf life (e.g. apples, oranges and pineapple)|
All frozen fruit
Grapes and bananas can be frozen
RUN Singapore: Should we pop extra supplements and vitamins during this period? What else should we be aware of?
Cheryl: It is very important for people to maintain not just a balanced diet, but also a balanced lifestyle. This includes adequate nutrition, physical activity and sleep. Therefore, I would encourage people to focus on the fundamental essentials of what is needed by adopting healthy lifestyle habits instead.
To achieve sustainable lifestyle changes, it helps to craft goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound (SMART).
RUN Singapore: What else can we do - nutrition-wise - to generally keep our mental wellbeing intact?
Cheryl: Improving sleep quality and being well rested can improve mood and mental wellbeing. Here are some tips that can help improve your quality of sleep:
- Avoid caffeine after 3pm if you are sensitive to caffeine
- Have two kiwifruits or a glass of warm milk before bed to increase melatonin production
- Create a conducive sleep environment by eliminating light and sound, and keeping it cool.
RUN Singapore: Do you have any other recommendations?
Cheryl: I would like to emphasize the importance of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Good nutrition is important but it also needs to be accompanied by good sleep and frequent exercise. Our SSI Sport Science recently introduced the "When My Circuit Broke" series, which shares tips and strategies on how people can improve their physical and mental wellbeing.
As we adapt to spending more time at home during this period, it would be good to maintain good nutritional habits - or start, if we have not done so.