In England, the government recently extended the shielding guidance to 1.7 million more people, advising those who are classed as extremely clinically vulnerable to shield until the end of March 1. With this in mind, here are 3 tips for eating well whilst shielding!
1. Buy food that can last
Whilst there is no need to panic-buy, frozen, tinned and dried foods can come in handy if you are shielding and unable to food-shop as frequently. Alternatively, you can freeze food yourself. Frozen / tinned fruit and vegetables are equally beneficial for your health as fresh, and still count towards your 5-a-day 2! When buying tinned fruit and vegetables, try to choose items without added sugar or salt, in their natural juice or in water 2.
Kitchen hack: if you already have fresh herbs that you aren’t going to use, keep them fresh by adding water and freezing them in an ice cube tray. That way, you can pop them out as and when you need them!
2. Batch cook
If you struggle with ill-health, batch cooking and freezing meals on the days that you feel able to, can be a great way for you to maintain a nutritious diet on your not-so-good days. They’re perfect to keep in the freezer in case you are struggling to get a delivery slot too! 3. Meal plan
Meal planning can save time and money, minimise food waste and reduce the amount of times you need to get shopping. It also makes it easier to ensure you’re getting good variety into your diet, including your 5-a-day. Planning well-balanced snacks can help prevent mindless snacking when stressed or bored 3.
Our tip: Set aside some time at the beginning of the week to plan your meals according to your schedule. Remember, you may need to be flexible - plans sometimes change and you may need to switch meals around 4. That’s okay!
Are you lacking inspiration? Or do you want to try something new? Maybe you’re unwell and feel as though you can’t prepare your own meals right now. Fear not - we have some options for you!
Subscription recipe boxes (e.g. Gousto, HelloFresh, Mindful Chef) are helpful when you’re lacking inspiration and want to try something new. They’re also ideal if you’re struggling to get a regular food delivery slot.
Chef-made ready meal subscriptions.
These are convenient if you are unwell and unable to cook for yourself. There are now more nutritious options out there, including choices for those with dietary requirements. For example, AllPlants have vegan and gluten free options, and Field Doctor even caters for those on the low FODMAP diet!
Restaurant “Cook at Home” meals.
Slightly more extravagant, and more of a one-off occurrence, but perfect if you are wanting to support a local (or even not so local) business. The “cook at home” options are great if you are outside of the delivery area.
Sign up to access priority delivery slots.
If you have been classed as extremely clinically vulnerable by the government, you will have received a letter with details about registering for support online 5. This service can be used to apply for access to priority delivery slots with supermarkets.
Online deliveries or click and collect.
Online deliveries are best for those who are shielding but it can sometimes be difficult to get a slot! Many supermarkets are now offering click and collect services, with some even loading the shopping into the car boot for you so that you don’t have to get out 6. It’s best to check whether your local supermarket offers this service beforehand.
Think outside the box! If you can’t get a delivery slot, there are other online options:
Lots of independent businesses, such as bakeries and greengrocers, have now moved online and offer postal services.
Many greengrocers offer fruit & veg subscription boxes.
The Milk Man delivers more than just milk these days!
Many offer basic cupboard staples.
This is a great option for regular deliveries. Amazon sells some food products.
Some wholesalers have been offering deliveries to the public throughout the pandemic.
Ask around your local community
Is there someone who is willing to go shopping for you when they get their own?
If you’ve never heard of it, Olio is a free sharing app. The users of the app help neighbours by giving away food they won’t eat, for free! Community groups, charities and NHS volunteers
NHS volunteers can pick up food and medicine for you if you are unable to yourself and don’t have anyone else to help you. There are also charities and community groups that have set up support for local residents who may need help during the pandemic.
One final note
During lockdown and over winter in the UK, the government advises that everyone should supplement vitamin D (10 micrograms daily). People who are shielding are at a higher risk of becoming deficient in vitamin D, as they are likely getting less sun exposure 11. If you have been classed as extremely clinically vulnerable, you should have received a letter from the government informing you that you can access a free 3-month supply of vitamin D tablets from the NHS. Check your letters and register online to receive your free supply!
Georgina Hardy is an intern at City Dietitians.