There’s a pandemic on. The world is crashing down around us, and everything is changing at a mile a minute. And while the experience is different across the world, one thing that’s very common is being stuck at home wondering desperately about how to be healthy during this time of crisis.
Which is why I’m here. What follows is my detailed guide to eating healthily during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s all extremely important stuff:
Step One: Don’t Worry About It
Seriously. Don’t worry about your eating. Stop stressing about food. Your diet will be there in a few months’ time. Yes, it’s good to try and maintain your current habits, but the reality is that our lives are falling down around us and if you need that bar of chocolate no one should judge you, least of all yourself.
Our existence has been upended in the most absurd and unbelievable of ways. Last year, we were all happily commuting away from our families, now people are stuck in an increasingly tiny house trying to get work done while ignoring the smashing noises in the background. Work has become a hazy, 7-day event, where weekends are only meaningful because you’re checking your email on the couch rather than at your haphazard work desk.
The world has changed, and change is stressful.
Even more than that, times are tough for finding your regular grub. There’s no point worrying about the juicing craze when you can’t leave your house to get fresh vegetables anyway. Frozen is fantastic, but your freezer only has so much space and a lot of it is needed for vodka right now. It’s lovely to read joyous messages of thinness from smiling rich people online, but not everyone has a mansion with a private gym that they can retreat to during a pandemic. Some of us are stuck in a small apartment where the cats climb on you if you try to do sit-ups in the living room.
Diet is important. Obesity is a major risk factor for poor health. But we are living through one of the most stressful experiences of our collective lives, and it’s ok to give yourself a break while you live through this period of existential dread.
Physical health is important, but mental health is paramount. We’re going to have to spend weeks or months doing what you’re doing right now, and we’re never going to last if the most important thing to us is whether we’ve managed to get spinach in the weekly nightmarish run to the shops.
So take a deep breath, and read on. The next step is the most important one.
Step Two: Make Pancakes
Now that you’ve realized that you can relax a bit about food while worrying for your friends and family’s lives, here’s my personal pancake recipe. It makes as many pancakes as you want — just multiply the ingredient quantities by [x] where [x] = anxiety-induced pancake craving — and I usually make it with gluten-free flour for my celiac wife.
1 1/2 cups milk (can sub in almond/lactose-free/soy etc)
2 cups self-raising flour (can sub in gluten-free — usually a mix of rice/corn starch — although don’t use almond meal et al because then you get stodgy pancakes)
1 tsp vanilla extract (if you’ve got a vanilla pod, go for it but those things are expensive)
1 tsp salt (v important)
1 tsp cinnamon (unless you hate it, no judgement here)
2 tbsp treacle (can use golden syrup, but treacle is delicious you won’t regret it)
Lots of butter (to taste)
Maple syrup (to smother with)
Berries (whichever berries you like, they’re all brilliant)
Whisk eggs and milk together in a big-ass bowl. Seriously, use the biggest one you can comfortably handle with one hand that you own, makes it so much easier. Also, don’t bother with electric mixers, this is super quick and easy it’ll be done in a second.
Add flour, salt, cinammon, and vanilla extract and mix with a wooden spoon. Or really any spoon. I sometimes use the whisk if I can’t be bothered finding a spoon. It’s a pandemic, who really has time for spoons?
the reality is that our lives are falling down around us and if you need that bar of chocolate no one should judge you, least of all yourself
Chuck the treacle in and stir a bit to combine. The only tip for stirring that I have is that if there are still lumps, it’s probably not enough stirring yet.
Heat a pan up on medium heat. Should be hot enough to melt butter, but not burn it. Melt some butter in it. Some is not an exact figure, but my recommendation is that the amount should be inversely related to how comfortable you feel about your head of state’s current performance in the pandemic (sorry New Zealanders, no butter for you).
When the butter is melted, ladle in some pancake batter. About a ladle’s worth. Don’t have a ladle? Use a big spoon, that’s basically a ladle. If you’re sans spoon, because, you know, pandemic, use a cup instead I’ve done that hungover at least a few times and the only difference is that cups are harder to clean.
Let the pancake cook for a couple of minutes, until the underside is golden brown. How will you know it’s golden brown if it’s face-down on a pan? Trust me, you won’t be able to stop yourself from looking to see, just like we’re all checking the John Hopkins dashboard 20x a day to see how many deaths have sprung up in the last 5 minutes.
Flip the pancake over. Cook for a bit more. Until the middle is done, which you’ll know when you tear some off and taste it because it’s delicious treacly pancake that smells like heaven.
Butter the pan before every pancake. Cover cooked pancakes with maple syrup and berries, and enjoy while we all wait for this nightmare to be over.
Step Three: Keep Your Spirits Up
The most important message here, even more than buttering the pan before every pancake, is that your mental health is important. Perhaps we should all probably try to stay thin and fit during lockdown, but realistically it’s going to be nigh on impossible to do. However, one thing we can all focus on is not getting depressed, or falling prey to our various demons in our middle-class cages.
You don’t have to make pancakes to do this, but food is definitely one way of coping. If it doesn’t work for you, try something different. Watch terrible television. Buy a wiffle bat and whack away at a piñata wearing a photo of Donald Trump. Go for a walk wearing a three piece suit and a monocle, and address passers-by as “sir” or “madam” until someone yells at you to stop.
Whatever it is, try to remember that there’s a pandemic on.
You don’t have to hate your body for at least the next six months, maybe more.