Quarantine, an opportunity to improve your eating habits?

Written by Juan Lainez. 

Journalist and Nutritional Therapist, Dip CNM, mBANT, rCNHC


The coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak has massively disrupted people's lives by creating fear, stress and panic. Every country is fighting an invisible and silent enemy that travels very fast from north to south and from west to east. As it progresses, the cities become silent worldwide. Simple daily activities, such as going out for shopping, have acquired a special and strange meaning. Certainly, no one queued outside the supermarkets before this pandemic collapsed the people's routine. But, these uncertain confinement times bring some creativity too. 

Many people have started an online fitness classes, have retaken learning of foreign languages or are improving their cooking skills. However, not everyone has the same willpower, especially for physical activities, and the monotony of the stay at home” order can make them feel anxious. Anxiety that is appeased by regularly opening the fridge or by more often visiting the food storage. As a result, everyone will gain some extra pounds/kilos at the end of confinement. But, it is not just about the weight management, it is about health and overall understanding why certain products shouldn't enter your home in the first place. Prevention may be key in keeping the stable weight and achieving goals. There is no reason to eat unhealthy ultra-processed food and of course to store it at home. 


Protect against ultra-processed food

The same way that the population is being protected from coronavirus, people must fight against the ultra-processed food. Unfortunately, the ultra-processed food that fills supermarkets shelves is a pandemic too, that causes the so-called Western diseases: obesity, cancer, cholesterol, diabetes or coronary disease. They are under the western umbrella, because apparently diet is a significant or even the main factor that increases the incidence of these illnesses and the subsequent mortality. If a simple “stay at home” measure fights COVID-19, choosing the right food can help prevent chronic diseases and enable people to live healthier and longer. 

Food lobbies and corporations and their publicity campaigns hinder identification of natural food. They present “edible products” as healthy food, but in reality these are just unhealthy aliments. To keep it simple for your health, remember this: less is always more. 

Less processing means more nutrients, more vitamins, more antioxidants... And of course, the opposite is true: more processing means less nutrients, less vitamins, less antioxidants and high risk of ending in the hospital. 

Sadly, half of all food put in shopping basket in many countries, including the UK, is ultra-processed food. And what's even worse, more and more people prefer edible product rather than natural unprocessed food. To break a habit may be hard, but it is worth a try. A good daily diet should include 90% or 95% of natural unprocessed food. And yes, only 5% to 10% is allowed for ultra-processed food. Unfortunately,  diets are totally opposite these days, 90% to 95% ultra-processed food and just 5% to 10% healthy unprocessed food. 

To better understand unprocessed and ultra-processed food, follow these simple rules. Ultra processed products usually contain more than 5 ingredients, unfamiliar names, unpronounceable names, refined sugars, refined oils and refined flours. Avoid them. Example: every “meal deal” across supermarkets in the UK. In 95% of cases sandwiches use unhealthy white bread, which is made from poor quality ingredients such refined flour. 

Recognising unprocessed food is simple, they are almost “naked”. It means that they don't have labels on the package and if they do, labels should contain less than 5 healthy ingredients. On top of that, unprocessed food encourages your to cook it. Examples: Avocado, salmon, olive oil, eggs... 

To switch completely to a new life style, it has to occur gradually and it takes time. It is a learning process and at the beginning it may take you some extra time to read labels when you do your food shopping, but after a couple of weeks you will be able to identify all unhealthy ingredients in ultra-processed food. Prevention is better than cure. 

Healthy tips during and after confinement:

Ultra-processed food

Switch with...

Natural unprocessed food

White bread


Wholegrain bread

Strawberry yogurt 


Natural yogurt with strawberries

Banana milk


Milk shake with banana

White chocolate 


Dark chocolate over 85% cacao

Coke drinks


Water or tea 

Sunny Delight 


Fresh orange juice




Peanut protein bars


Hand full of raw nuts

White Spaghetti 


Wholegrain spaghetti

French chips from supermarkets


Home made French chips 

Ready made pizza from supermarkets


Home made pizza


The confinement makes people to eat more, but it will be always better to choose the right food. The line between unhealthy food and healthy food is very thin and it's something that's easy to cross. Switch to the right food during and after the confinement will nourish your body and probably prevent some of the so called western diseases. 


Follow Juan on Instagram at @naturalfoodsrevolution

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