Putting On Weight During COVID-19 and How To Turn It Around

  • 03 Jun 2020

As the daily momentum picks up and we gear up to return to the office and for our younger ones, to schools, how do we fast track our way to a healthier diet post-circuit-break? Here are five tips from our Senior Dietitian, Ms. Rachel Ng.

Boost Energy Levels

A healthy breakfast meal can give you an energy boost that lasts the whole morning. Aim for a breakfast which has a combination of carbohydrates, fiber and protein. Kick-start the day with some wholegrains such as oatmeal topped with yogurt and fruit, or wholegrain toast with some eggs. Eggs provide a good source of protein which help keeps you full for longer so you end up eating less during the afternoon to evening time. 

Packed Lunches

If you are planning to pack lunch, it is important to look at diet as a whole instead of individual components. Main meals should always be built around the key food groups which are grains, protein, and fruits and vegetables. Here are three considerations you can make:

  • Grains: Choose wholegrains when possible e.g. Brown rice, quinoa, wholemeal bread and wraps. 
  • Protein: Choose lean meat such as skinless poultry, fish or plant based proteins such as beans, legumes and tofu. 
  • Fruits & vegetables: Aim for a wide variety of colourful vegetables (1 cup of vegetables per main meal lunch and dinner) and 2 portions of fruits per day.

It is also important to aim to consume fats and oil in moderation for healthy eating. Such as, choosing oils high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats e.g. Canola, corn, sunflower, olive oil. For more ideas, check out these healthy home cooked recipes by the Health Promotion Board.

Pick-Me-Up Foods

The best way to maintain your body’s immune system is through a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can provide you with vitamins and minerals which are the key elements needed to sustain the normal function of our immune system.

Research shows that the best brain foods are also the ones that are good for heart health are: 

  • Green leafy vegetables: Broccoli, spinach, kailan or kale, provide vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, folate, fibre and antioxidants. 
  • Fatty fish: Salmon, tuna, sardines or mackerel. Try to add fish as a source of protein at least twice a week for omega-3 fatty acids that supports overall heart health.

Mid-day Snacks

Switch out that chips binge or sugar-filled treat for alternative that packs a good punch for health and taste. Here are some examples:

  • Berries: Strawberries, blueberries or blackberries are rich sources of antioxidants, anthocyanins and flavonoids. Research suggests that these may support memory function. Mix some berries in your morning cereal or enjoy a handful for a snack. 
  • Nuts: For instance, walnuts can provide a source of protein and healthy fats. Rich in alpha-linolenic acid, a plant based omega-3 fatty acid that positively impacts heart and brain health. Snack on a handful of walnuts as a midday snack or add them to salads or vegetable stir fries for extra protein.

To Juice or Not To Juice?

We should preferably be getting all our vitamin and minerals from a variety of whole fruit and vegetables instead of juices. Juices contain a concentrated source of sugar since more than one fruit would be needed to make a glass of juice. The Health Promotion Board advises to choose whole fruits over fruit juices and to limit fruit juices to no more than one glass per day. 

For instance, one medium apple provides 15 grams of carbohydrates mostly from naturally occurring sugars, while a glass of apple juice (300 milliliters) may contain up to 40.2 grams (eight teaspoons) of sugar. In fact, a glass of fruit juice can contain as much sugar as a carbonated soft drink.

There is no particular fruit or vegetable that we should avoid daily though but the key is to consume a wide variety in your diet to get all the different nutrients that your body needs.

Cheat Tip:

It is okay to indulge in your favorite foods once in a while because it can be a mood booster during this period. So go ahead and have that dessert or ice cream but, having said that, remember to take all things in moderation and try to keep the sweet treat to about once a week.

Contributed by

Rachel Ng
Senior Dietitian
Farrer Park Hospital