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Post by Doctora Nohemí Sala, Nutrition and Dietetics.
During these days of confinement due to the possible infection with COVID-19, it is fundamental to take maximum care of our diet.
The Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has published dietary and nutritional recommendations for the Spanish population in face of the health crisis of the COVID-19. They make clear that in no case diet by itself prevents or cures the infection with coronavirus, or with any other virus, but that a healthy diet favours an optimal health condition .
The 7 recommendations.
1. First recommendation: maintain a good hydration.
The recommendation of intake of liquids is essential and the consumption of water on demand must be guaranteed (depending on the sensation of thirst) or even without said sensation, guaranteeing at least 1.8 litres of liquid a day, always preferring water as a source of hydration.
2. Second recommendation: eat at least 5 portions between fruit and vegetables a day.
Guarantee a consumption of at least 3 portions of fruit a day and 2 of vegetables is an objective for everybody .
3. Third recommendation: consume whole products and legumes.
It is recommended to choose whole cereals from whole grains (whole bread, pasta, rice) and cooked or stewed legumes, trying to cook this food with vegetables .
4. Fourth recommendation: choose dairy products (milk, fermented milk/yoghurt) preferably low in fat if you’re controlling your weight, or natural, especially for the children.
When we talk of the recommendation of consuming fermented milk like yoghurt, kefir, etc. we refer only to the natural type, not the rest of varieties with flavours, aromas, with fruit, etc. as they contain an important amount of added sugar .
5. Fifth recommendation: moderate consumption of other food of animal origin.
The consumption of meat (3-4 times a week, but maximum once a week red meat –beef, lamb, or pork), fish (2-3 times a week), eggs (3-4 times a week), and cheese must be done in the framework of a healthy diet, preferably choosing bird meat (chicken, turkey, etc.), rabbit and lean meat of other animals like pigs, and avoiding the consumption of cold meats and fatty meats of any animal .
6. Sixth recommendation: choose the consumption of dried fruits and nuts, seeds and olive oil.
Olive oil is the dressing and cooking fat par excellence of the Spanish Mediterranean diet. Dried fruits (almonds, walnuts, etc.) and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, etc.) also are an excellent option as long as they are natural or toasted, avoiding fried, sweetened and salty dried fruits .
7. Seventh recommendation: avoid pre-cooked and fast food.
Taking into account the recommendations of the Academy, what do we do to not gain excessive weight in this period of confinement (less sports, full fridge)? There is a fundamental principle regarding healthy eating and weight loss diets: when the energy intake (what we eat) is equal to the energy consumption (what we burn) we say it is Balanced. But when the energy intake is higher than the burning, there is a Positive Balance and the body will tend to gain weight. To minimise gaining weight due to physical inactivity, for being confined, you have to do some physical exercise at home and/or reduce the consumption of energy nutrients (in this case it would be the carbohydrates).
In a balanced diet we provide approximately 50-60% of carbohydrates to face daily activity and the rest divided between proteins and fats .
What carbohydrates should I reduce?
To facilitate the task we will divide them into::
- Cereals and their derivatives. Such as corn flakes, oats, pasta, rice, bread, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. All these provide more energy per weight of food (on average 150 kcal per 100 g). So this would be the food to control and not exceed and reduce the consumption. It is important to accompany it ALWAYS with vegetables. It is recommended to take a portion per meal. The secret is in the size of the portion; help yourself with your hand, for example the portion of cooked whole cereals should fit in both your hands; raw spaghetti is the diameter of when you do the OK sign with index and thumb; the portion of raw rice is what fits in your hand…
- Legumes. This group also provides a calorie density similar to the first group, but also contain proteins that make them very interesting. It is advised to combine them with cereals to obtain a protein with high biological value and that is well absorbed. For example, lentils with rice, pasta with chickpeas, soya with barley, couscous with chickpeas. It is recommendable to consume them 3-4 times a week, but you could perfectly consume them daily. The raw portion is what fits in your hand. The ideal is to consume them always with vegetables.
- Fruit. Published by numerous institutions such as SENC or OMS, fruit has magnificent properties. Thanks to the minerals, vitamins andantioxidants it contains it provides us with great benefits for the health. It also satiates, so it replaces the consumption of ultraprocessed food and helps us reach our goal of reducing the energy intake. It doesn’t matter at what time you consume it, it is a matter of personal preference. Before or after eating, between meals. The ideal would be 3 pieces a day, considering that a portion is what fits in the palm of your hand.
- Vegetables, green vegetables and vegetable soups. Rich in fibre, water, minerals and low calorie density. It is suggested to combine vegetables and proteins, as fibre gives a satiating effect. 2-3 portions a day are recommended and as for amount, don’t even worry! Being confined you will hardly have always fresh vegetables that you feel like eating, so choose frozen vegetables, they have the same nutritional quality.