‘Use this time to your advantage and pick up a brand-new skill’- very wise words from a very wise man. And I completely agree!
Many of us have had our regular routines turned upside down and are trying to adjust to changes in our everyday lives. I know for many, we are finding ways to keep ourselves occupied at home, whether it be playing board games, studying for upcoming exams, scrolling through social media or exercising in the good weather- we all have our own go-to past-time. However, wouldn’t it be extremely satisfying to look back at our time in quarantine and say we were able to develop a new skill or even progress an already existing skill, using this time to our advantage? Have you always wanted to learn how to play guitar, or wanted to complete a 5k run? Maybe you would love to learn a language? Well for me, I decided to get back in the kitchen and polish up my cooking skills- and I am absolutely loving it!
In the busy routine of everyday life, over the past months I had found myself switching to robot mode, where planning and putting together meals was the very last focus in my day. I would result in throwing together a last-minute meal that proved ‘functional’ i.e. met my nutrient needs. However these ‘dishes’ became very repetitive and boring very quickly and resulted in my mealtimes lacking the all-important ‘enjoyment factor’. I think we can all get wrapped up in the hectic nature of our everyday lives, with food choices often being a long way down our list of priorities. For me, it was time to take back control of my mealtimes. It isn’t as dramatic as it sounds (I promise!). A huge factor in building healthy relationships with food is taking the time to appreciate and enjoy the foods that we consume. Of course, we want the foods we eat to provide our bodies with the necessary nutrients to support our health. However, we also want to feel a sense of emotion and connection to the foods that we eat and encourage healthy relationships with food. But how can we go about doing this?
Firstly, I decided that mealtimes mean family time. This means we sit down together as a family each and every evening and use our mealtimes not just as a time to eat, but to socialise with each other and have conversations – something that can be limited during our time in quarantine. Secondly, I decided that ALL meals are to be eaten at the table. Why? This allows our bodies to acknowledge that we have eaten and also gives ourselves time to appreciate the foods that we are eating. And finally, I decided to spend more time in the kitchen, getting creative with my dishes, trialling brand new recipes (and foods!) and falling back in love with cooking! And I would encourage you all to do the same.
A common dish I see athletes making for their lunch/dinner is chicken, rice and veg. Although this is a functional meal that provides athletes with a variety of nutrients, when I ask athletes whether this is one of their favourite dishes to eat, they usually respond with ‘no, but it hits my macros’. Although, I completely understand where these athletes are coming from, this is a key example of a meal proving ‘functional’. However, for the majority of players this lacks the ‘enjoyment factor’. What about sauces? What about spices? These are additions which can help transform a functional dish into an enjoyable meal. Why not add a tin of chopped tomatoes and some herbs to the chicken to add some flavour? Cook an egg or two in with the rice to make a tasty ‘egg fried rice’? All very simple steps. The limiting factor is your confidence to experiment with food and get cooking.
I challenge you to get yourself in the kitchen. Don’t over think it- you can keep it very simple. All it takes to transform your basic everyday dishes is a little confidence- . Trust me you will surprise yourself! If your cooking skills are limited, start off with the basics.
Firstly, try scrambling an egg. Then move on to poaching an egg. Before you know it, you will be a pro at omelettes. If you don’t have someone at home who is able to show you, try watching a YouTube video. Soon you will be able to experiment with different pasta dishes and French toast for breakfast- chicken, rice and veg will be no more!
As quarantine is a time that most of us are limiting ourselves to one shop a week, it is important to move through the fridge and cupboard and make use of leftover foods and storage items by adding these to the dishes we cook. One really easy recipe to get you started is ‘baked eggs’- a simple recipe to make your protein hit a lot more exciting, while getting 2 of your 5 a day and using up leftover veg! What’s not to love?! This dish is lower in carbohydrate and ideal for a rest day when you don’t require as much energy. Why not give it a go? If you find this a success, check out my Instagram page @theperformancedietitian for more simple and easy recipes to get you cooking through quarantine!
Anne-Marie is a Sport Dietitian with a BSc in Dietetics and MSc in Sport Nutrition. Anne-Marie has experience in both Clinical and Sport environments and currently works within the IRFU as a Performance Nutritionist. You can catch Anne-Marie on Instagram @amulhollandrd and Twitter @AnneMarie_Mul