How to keep a balanced plant-based diet during the COVID-19 pandemic

Dolmen Editing

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Getting a regular supply of fresh fruits and vegetables may have been difficult since the coronavirus pandemic measures came into place. This could be a result of disrupted supply chains, lack of workers to harvest crops, inefficiency in international shipping or financial challenges facing businessmen.

Scarcity of imported and domestic fresh farm produce is a problem for everyone, especially vegans who rely heavily on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, more people are interested in keeping a balanced diet than ever before. We need to maintain a strong immune system to help fight any illnesses and stay healthy.

At this moment, some of those who have just started a primarily plant-based diet may be compelled to start again next time when things return to normal.

You might think maybe it's time to open those tins of corned beef or sardines that are hidden in your cupboard just in case. Maybe those frozen chicken nuggets that last for awhile could be a better alternative than dried soy meat, also known as textured vegetable protein (TVP).

TVP is an acquired taste for some and takes a bit of creativity to make delicious flavors and enjoy those meat-like chunks or flakes.

Instead of reverting to eating animal products, this could be the right time to more seriously consider eating plant-derived foods to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Make sure you have the essentials

Here are a few ways to ensure you're eating a balanced plant-based diet, while you're consuming frozen and preserved fruits and vegetables.

1. Eat more plant foods that have lysine which can be found in legumes, nuts, quinoa and seaweed which are available in dried forms.

Lysine is a vital amino acid that helps transform your fat cells into energy. It is good for muscle growth and collagen creation for your skin and bones. It's also very important in absorbing more calcium for healthy bones and in healing a wound.

Make sure your meals will have some beans, lentils, TVP, tofu, seitan, soy milk, pumpkin seeds or seaweed to get lysine.

2. Take supplements and consume plant-based products that are fortified with essential nutrients. There are a lot of available vegan supplements that contain multivitamins and minerals in one tablet.

Make sure you have Vitamins D, K2 and B12, iodine and zinc. These are essential in maintaining our immune system, metabolism and other vital functions, and preventing cardiovascular diseases and fighting inflammation.

3. Consume flaxseed oil in any recipes you like. Flaxseeds have omega-3 fatty acids which are known to be found mostly in fish and other seafood.

Studies show that people eating foods rich in omega-3 have lower risk of cancer and chronic diseases, dementia and other problems in cognitive functions.

Grind flax seeds to add in your smoothies or baking mixture. You can also consume the seeds as they are by adding them into your cereals or snack bars.

Whole foods and seasonal farm products

These are just a few ways to stop worrying about the impact of the current crisis on our food supplies. Nevertheless, eating the right kinds of foods and getting enough nutrients should not stress you out.

Make sure you're eating whole foods as much as you can, even frozen vegetables or fruits. If they're frozen without added preservatives, then you're still getting vitamins and minerals they provide.

Connect with your local farmers and producers to have the best chance of getting the essential nutrients you need. Seasonal plants grow as designed by nature to provide us with what we need during the season.

Pack snacks

Because plant-based foods are easier to digest, some people may find that they need to eat more regularly on a vegan diet. Regular snacking on healthy foods can keep energy levels up throughout the day without leading to weight gain.

Wholefood snacks such as fresh or dried fruits, nuts and legumes are always a nutritious option. If you’re the kind of person who is prone to picking up snacks while you're out, try packing some up to take with you.

We can all make bad decisions when we’re hungry so plan ahead and try not to get caught out.

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Little and often

Don’t forget to treat yourself now and then also. Eating sweet or fatty things is an important part of a balanced diet, and these foods can still be valuable sources of energy. It doesn’t matter what your preferred indulgence is, whether it’s chocolate, potato chips, desserts or a little wine.

One 2019 study found that people who ate a poor quality diet were more likely to struggle with mental health issues. However, the emphasis of the study was on the consumption of too much junk food in a diet.

Fast food and sugary meals especially have been linked to adverse effects on mental health, and may even alter the way our brains function.

We can try and alter our worst habits by exchanging them for healthier options. This could mean phasing out sugar in our coffee or eating darker, more nutritious chocolate. There are healthier snack options too like unsalted or low-salt nuts and low-sodium crackers.

If you have time you can trade your favourite store-bought junk foods for a homemade healthier option like granola bars or popcorn. Many people find that when they cut out foods that are high in sodium, fat and sugar they begin to crave them less.

It’s important to remember though that there is still a place in our diets for occasional treats and if we don’t overindulge, we can enjoy them more. Balance is a beautiful thing.

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