Top tips for creating healthy food habits at home

Many of us are still working from home and home schooling the kids, so it's important we creating healthy and lasting food habits.

We spoke to Sarah Hawkins, an AfN registered associate nutritionist, about gut health, IBS and improving our relationship with food. 

1. How can I steer clear of the “goody” cupboard when I’m working from home?

Firstly, it’s important to recognise those hunger sensations of wanting a snack are completely normal. We’re not in our usual busy routines where you would naturally suppress those hunger sensations. It’s quite an emotional time being away from friends and family, it’s also a stressful time waiting to see what’s going on.

Ask yourself the question; are you eating enough during the day that you don’t need to snack? Even though we’re home, it’s important to have breakfast, lunch and dinner, keep the structured meals. Your body is still working although you’re not moving around as much.

Make sure your meals contain a source of protein, carbohydrate and fat, that way that’ll be more satisfying and keep you full for longer so you won’t need to snack as much.

2. I associate breaks during my working day with getting a cup coffee and a packet of crisps or a chocolate. At home, I now have access to these snacks really easily, how can I avoid this?

There’s nothing wrong with having these snacks from time to time. But, if you find you are reaching for the unhealthy option frequently then try substituting the chocolate for healthier alternatives. If you have a sweet tooth, have a bowl of fruit, a toast with peanut butter, oatcakes or yoghurt. If you prefer something savoury, try tuna and crackers or houmous and oatcakes?

Once you’re satisfied and you have all of those nutrients in your body, you won’t need that extra coffee. You won’t feel the dips during the day either, as you’ll have a more balanced diet.

3. How do I know if I am hungry or whether I am emotionally eating?

Ask yourself the following before reaching for a snack:

- Am I angry? Has someone from work annoyed you? Have one of the kids done something to irritate you? Is your partner frustrating you? If so, try to address the issue and resolve the situation before reaching for the food.

- Am I lonely? Are you stuck at home by yourself? Are you missing your family and friends? If you’re feeling lonely call somebody, have a chat before reaching for the food.

- Am I tired? This whole situaton is exhausting physically and emotionally. If you’re tired, do you need an early night? Or do you need a nap? Sleep is really important in curbing hunger.

These are really useful ways to distinguish whether you are in fact hungry or whether there are other factors on your mind that you need to address.

4. Why do I feel constantly bloated?

Our guts are used to routine. It knows the time we have our morning coffee, breakfast and even when we poo! Being at home means that our gut is thrown out of whack and then has to find a new way to cope.

One of the biggest things to help with bloating is movement. Your gut needs movement so it can properly move food through the gut and digest it. Moving less, perhaps when you’re working from home, can lead to bloating. A lot of people are also struggling with water intake and struggling to have enough water, which is also necessary to help move food along the gut.

Fibre is also important to keep things moving in the gut, so making sure you get a good variety of fibre, including lentils and whole grains. Lifestyle can also have an effect on bloating, stress and lack of sleep.

5. I’m finding my IBS hard to manage, what can I do to help this?

Stress, sleep and movement are really important. Going for a walk will really help, yoga is also really beneficial to improving IBS. There are loads of yoga teachers teaching online. Gentle stretching is also important for gut health. One of the biggest external factors, similar with bloating, is managing stress.

The lack of social interaction can have an impact on your well being, so making sure you speak to friends or family over the phone can help to alleviate a negative mental state. Food is our fuel, but there are so many external factors that play a huge role on our internal health.

For more information on nutrition and gut health, you can listen to our interview with Sarah on our podcast: click here.

Sarah is an AfN registered associate nutritionist. Sarah works one to one with a range of clients, mainly in the field of gut health, IBS and improving our relationship with food. Sarah takes a gentle, non-judgemental approach and aims to empower clients with the tools they need for optimal health which fits in with their own personal circumstances and lifestyle.

If you would like to contact Sarah, you can visit her Instagram page here.

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