Five ways to recover from lockdown: 1) easy ways to nourish your body
First of all, congratulations
You've made it through a year of putting a lot of meals on the table. Yes, some of them were toast, but still. Let's take a moment to recognise the role we've played in nourishing ourselves and our families during an extraordinary time.
Now let's help ourselves
As parents and caregivers, we need to make sure we're being cared for too. Right now, a lot of us are in need of some extra care and attention, and the first favour we can do ourselves is to choose how we're fuelling our bodies. Here are a few handy tools that can support us.
The building blocks
When we're recovering from exhaustion, or cumulative stress, it's especially important to get a range of good nutrients into our bodies. Gravitate towards these types of food, for a couple of weeks, adjust according to your dietary needs, and see if you feel the difference.
Wholegrains - eg oats, brown rice, wild rice, wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta, quinoa.
Lean & plant-based protein - eg chickpeas, nuts, seeds, fish, eggs, chicken, turkey, lentils, spelt, tofu.
A rainbow of vegetables - a variety of colour helps cover a range of nutrients - try to fill half your plate with vegetables. I love the look of Rachel Ama's Vegan Eats: Tasty plant-based recipes for every day.
Medicinal herbs and spices - NHS doctor Rupy Aujla, author of The Doctor's Kitchen, suggests using turmeric, garlic, ginger, sumac, cumin, cinnamon, basil, rosemary & thyme.
Try adding sumac to roasted kale, cinnamon or cumin to sweet potato wedges, and garlic and rosemary to roasted potatoes or chips.
A water bottle
Fill a big bottle (about 2 litres) with water at the beginning of the day, keep it in easy reach, and aim to finish it by the end of the day.
A meal plan
Have a look at your week ahead. What's happening? Are there evenings where tea needs to be quick and easy? Can you share the cooking with someone? Plan it in.
A really helpful approach is to plan the easiest meals for the nights when you're normally most tired. Choose meals that you're going to enjoy preparing and eating, and buy in what you need for the week.
Stock your freezer with frozen fruits and vegetables, like spinach, berries, broccoli, cauliflower, mango, peas and sweetcorn. You'll have them ready to add to your cooking, or put in a smoothie.
If you've got freezer space, you can be really crafty and freeze meals from your batch cooking in covered dishes, ready to defrost and put straight in the oven.
A cooking session
Cook when you have most energy, so that when you're tired, you can eat and relax. Take a couple of hours over the weekend to do some batch cooking. Make double quantities - one for the fridge and one for the freezer. Play music or a podcast - let it be fun and relaxing.
Curries, soups, stews and pasta dishes all work well for cooking in batches. You can make a frittata packed with vegetables and store it in the fridge to last for a few lunches. If you roast a tray of veg, you can store it and eat it as salad, with pasta, on toast or in wraps.
BBC Good food has a load of easy recipes for overnight oats, which you can make when you feel like it and keep in the fridge to save time and energy in the mornings.
Low effort & last minute
For meals you haven't made in advance, roasting is one of the easiest ways to cook, allowing you to get everything into one tin and into the oven. Rukmini Iyer's series The Roasting Tin is a brilliant source of recipes and easy formulas to follow.
It's also worth remembering that all of the following are nutritious meals, and don't take much work at all: scrambled egg, beans or nut butter on wholemeal toast, fish finger or hummus wraps with salad/veg sticks, pitta pockets with chicken, cream cheese or tuna, and pasta with pesto and added peas/sweetcorn/broccoli.
You can store veg sticks in a tupperware of cold water in the fridge, to keep them fresh and ready to use, and you can keep seeds in a jar on the counter, to add to soups, salads and toast, for an extra boost of nutrition.