Hints and Tips – Covid 19 and Beyond

At Food Vale, we want to encourage healthy eating, especially during the current Covid-19 crisis. We have created handy ‘tips and hints’ under the following headings. Please click on each one to find out more.

Eating a healthy balanced diet (with a wide variety of foods, in the right proportions) is important part of maintaining good health. It can help you feel good and make sure you have all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

Beware of stories on social and print media of very specific diets or superfoods that claim to give protections against Coronavirus.

The best diet to follow is a varied and balanced diet, recommended by Dietitians. Use credible sources of information about food including NHS sites, British Dietetic Association, etc.

As we are staying indoors more at the moment, taking a vitamin D supplement can ensure we get enough of this essential vitamin. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium in your diet for strong bones and teeth.

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds when you get home from shopping.

Physical activity can help manage stress, improve your immune system and improve energy levels.

It is unlikely that you will catch Covid-19 from food or food packaging. It’s a respiratory illness and is not known to be transmitted from handling food or food packaging. You should still maintain good food hygiene when storing and preparing food so you don’t catch other illnesses that could lead to being hospitalised (such as e-coli or salmonella).

Avoid drinking caffeine with iron rich meals (like fortified breakfast cereals, red meat, poultry, pulses or leafy greens) as it can reduce the amount of iron your body absorbs. Wait about 30 minutes after eating to have a tea or coffee. Ideally, don’t drink high caffeine energy drinks. Iron is an important mineral as it helps your blood transport oxygen around your body and is essential to maintaining a healthy immune system.

Eating a nutrient rich diet, full of essential vitamins and minerals, can have a positive effect on your mood, energy levels and brain function.

If you can’t find an ingredient, most recipes will still work if you leave out or swap an ingredient or two. For example, when making a chilli you can leave out the kidney beans or use a tin of mixed beans / cannellini beans instead, without affecting the flavour.

If you can’t find the fruit and/or veg you want in the fresh food aisle of your supermarket check out the tinned food and frozen food sections.

Frozen and tinned fruit and veg are often cheaper, last longer and are just as good as fresh (as long as they are in water or their own juices).

Supermarkets usually reduce the price of their food items that are due to ‘go off’ between 7pm and 9pm.

Take a photo of what’s in your fridge, freezer and cupboards before you go shopping (a ‘shelfie’) so you know what you already have when you’re at the supermarket / shops.

Buying cheaper cuts of meat (like braising steak, chicken thighs, shin or shoulder) can help save money when shopping. They may need an extra bit of time cooking but taste just as good as the more expensive cuts.

Try to plan healthy weekly meals and snacks before you shop. The British Nutrition Foundation has a weekly meal planner you can download: Click Here

To help save money when you shop, write a shopping list before you go (and stick to it).

Use pulses (such as beans or lentils) instead of meat in your meals to help save money on shopping. Pulses and lentils also count towards your 5 a day, are low in fat and full of fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Don’t shop when you’re hungry as this can lead to unhealthy impulse buying.

In most supermarkets, loose fruit and veg is often cheaper than pre-packaged. Have a look at the difference between the price per kg for loose and pre-packed fruit and veg next time you’re at the shops.

Involve the family, including children, when planning meals. Children are more likely to eat food that they have chosen – including fruit and veg.

Supermarket own brands are cheaper and can be just as good (or even better) than the more well-known brands. Some are also lower in salt, fat and sugar compared to the more well known brands.

Grab a box of veg at some supermarkets for a reduced price (Lidl – £1.50 for 5kg of fruit and veg (past it’s ‘best before date’ but still edible, £3.50 for a box of wonky veg in Asda or Morrisons).

Store cupboard staples can be used to make lots of quick healthy meals. Items such as: rice, pasta, noodles, lentils, tinned fruit / veg, eggs and tinned fish have long shelf lives and are very versatile. You can make a tuna pasta bake using some cooked pasta, a tin of tuna, a tin of chopped tomatoes, a small tin of sweetcorn and some herbs and spices. If you have some cheese in the fridge grate some to sprinkle over the top before cooking. Check out the recipe section for more ideas.

Snacking can be part of a healthy diet but eating snacks high in fat, salt and/or sugar (like crisps and chocolate) can easily lead to becoming less healthy. Swapping unhealthy snacks for healthy snacks (such as fruit, vegetables, leftover cooked chicken, etc) and keeping them readily available will make it easier to snack on healthier foods. Preparing any vegetables beforehand can also make healthy snacking easier (e.g. cutting peppers into strips or carrots into sticks to dip into some hummus or yogurt with ½ teaspoon of mint sauce mixed in). The Change 4 Life website also has some good healthy snack ideas: https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/food-facts/healthier-snacks-for-kids/100-calorie-snacks.

Toddlers can eat the same food as adults, so instead of buying expensive pre-prepared toddler food blend or chop food into bite-sized pieces for them. First Steps Nutrition has great resources for feeding 1-4 year olds: https://www.firststepsnutrition.org/eating-well-early-years

Can’t find pasta in the supermarkets? You can make your own with just 2 ingredients (egg and flour) – see recipe below:

Ingredients: 2 Eggs 200g plain or bread flour (whichever you have)

Method:

  1. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork
  2. Place the flour in another bowl, make a well and pour the beaten into the well.
  3. Mix the flour and egg slowly, using clean hands
  4. Bring the dough together (this may take a little time), add a drop of water, if needed
  5. Knead the dough on a clean, floured surface
  6. When the dough starts to feel smooth, and not rough and floury, it’s ready
  7. Wrap the dough in cling film or a sandwich bag and place in the fridge for around 30 minutes
  8. Lightly dust both side of the pasta with flour and roll out to the desired thickness
  9. Cut and shape the pasta how you wish (e.g. spaghetti or bows)
  10. Cook in boiling water for around 15 minutes (times may vary depending on past thickness)

Batch cook meals to freeze or save time cooking later in the week.

Tins of tomatoes have also ran out of stock in some supermarkets. You can make your own ‘tin’ of tomatoes using fresh tomatoes, of your choosing, and blitzing them in a blender. If you don’t have a blender, squeeze them by hand into a clean bowl. You can tip the blended / squashed tomatoes into an empty jar to keep in the fridge until needed.

Run out of baked beans? You can make your own using the tomato recipe above and other types of tinned beans (e.g. mixed beans, pinto beans). Drain the beans and place the amount you want in a saucepan (the rest can be stored in the fridge for later in the week). Add the amount of the blended or squashed tomatoes you want to the saucepan, with the beans, and cook on a medium heat until the tomato juice starts to bubble. While the beans and tomatoes are cooking, you can add any herbs and/or spices that you like, to add more flavour.

There is no need to wash raw chicken, meat or fish before cooking. Cooking them properly will kill off any germs or bacteria that may be on them. Washing raw chicken, meat or fish can spread any germs around your kitchen, as they’ll be transmitted in the water droplets that come off raw food.

The Change 4 Life website has lots of simple and healthy recipes to try at home: https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/recipes/

Food can be kept (and eaten) past its ‘best before’ date, as this is just a guide. Check the product is still edible before eating it though (no mould, too soft, etc).

Food can be frozen before or on its ‘use by’ date but should not be eaten or frozen afterwards.

The best way to defrost food is to leave in the fridge overnight, or in the microwave.

Defrosted food should be cooked and/or eaten within 24 hours.

Leftover food (excluding rice) should be cooled and placed in the fridge within an hour of cooking and can be eaten up to 2 days afterwards.

Leftover rice should be cooled and refrigerated within an hour of cooking and should be eaten within 24 hours.

Re-heat leftover food for a minimum of 5 minutes and make sure it’s piping hot before serving.

The Love Food Hate Waste Portion Planner (https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/portion-planner) is a great way to find out what the correct portion sizes are for your meals, so you don’t have lots of leftovers or food to throw away.

The NHS has a great website on how to safely store food and leftovers, please click on the following link: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/how-to-store-food-and-leftovers/

The Love Food Hate Waste website also has a brilliant guide on how best to store food (and how to use up leftovers) – https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/article/food-storage-a-z

If you have received a letter informing you to stay at home and no one else can get you food you may be entitled to a food box. Contact OneVale (C1V) on 01446 700111 to find out more.

If you are self-isolating and unable to get food, contact the Crisis Support Team on 01446 729592

If you have children eligible for free school meals, contact EFSM@valeoglamorgan.gov.uk if you have any questions.

Emergency food is available through your nearest foodbank. For more information about how to obtain a Foodbank Voucher visit https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-help/find-a-foodbank/

Alternatively, you could also contact Vale Foodbank via email: info@vale.foodbank.org.uk, visit their website: https://vale.foodbank.org.uk/ or follow them on Twitter and Facebook for more help.

Support for people with eating disorders can be found on the Beat website: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/support-services/online-groups. Their Sanctuary group was created specifically in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.