How we eat, live, move and socialise on a typical day builds our habits. These longer term behaviours have a lasting impact on the sum of food we eat (our diets), the choices we make (our lifestyles) and how we interact with others (a big part of our wellbeing).
Significant life events, such as bereavement or a change in employment, can have a significant impact of our quality of life and dietary habits which can impact our overall wellbeing and disease risk. The pandemic has done this on a global scale, with the biggest impacts seen for those most disrupted. The outcome the cyclic social restrictions is likely to have a lasting impact on our health.
Emerging data has shown that social isolations for extended periods of time and prolonged confinement has changed our dietary habits which, if maintained, will impact our risk factors for the development and management of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and musculoskeletal conditions.
New evidence from across the globe has demonstrated changes to our diets since 2020. Higher levels of stress and anxiety, such as those reported in India, are well associated with overeating and snacking particularly of comfort foods which are usually nutritionally poor yet calorie dense. Changes have been seen in dietary composition in the UK with some reporting healthier habits (such as more vegetables and plant rich diets) yet others reporting higher intakes of chocolate, confectionery and fewer fruits, vegetables and grains.
Many countries have seen the temporary closure of parks and open spaces and when coupled with more working at home, as seen in Hong Kong, sedentary activitys (such as screen time) have significantly increased. Prolonged periods of sitting, lying or inactivity not only impacts our mood and sleep patterns, it has also been linked to higher risks of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers.
At home alcohol consumption has increased by 20% over the past year in the United States with less ‘binge’ drinking and instead more regular consumption which increased the total amount of alcohol consumed overal. With about 7kcal for every 1g of alcohol, this can have a big impact on our daily energy intake.
Importantly our diets and lifestyles have a big impact on our overal health so making small changes towards eating healthier and being more active can have the single biggest impacts of improving our health.
1: Rebalance your plate – aim for plant rich and plenty of diversity. This doesn’t have to mean going vegan, instead try rebalancing your meals so that most of your plate consists of plant based foods (such as grains, starchy carbohydrates, colourful vegetables, salads, fruits, peas, pulses and beans). Look out for the Eat Well Live Well logo for an easy way to include more plants and browse through our healthy recipes here. You can also find out more about plants based diets here.
2: Diversity is key – it’s easy to get stuck in routines, but adding diversity to your diet through different types of proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits helps to provide a wider variety of nutrients and is also be more sustainable by supporting a more diverse food supply chain. See our healthy recipes for some cooking inspiration.
3: Move more – build activity into your day each day. This doesn’t have to involve sports clubs or running gear read our article on moving more at home here.
4: Sleep well – getting the right amount and quality of sleep impacts not only your health but also your mood, energy, weight and health risks. Find out how to improve your sleep here.