Health professionals. People are applauding them in the street, companies are giving them meals and food and offering them special shopping hours. Everyone knows they are at the forefront of the current health crisis.
But how is the pandemic impacting their diet and food choices? For many, their own diet and nutrition understandably stops being a top concern – but that’s not the case for one Portuguese doctor we spoke to.
“I was transferred to the Covid-19 dedicated hospital last week, so life is a bit chaotic right now,” said the 25-year-old, who wants to become a prevention and lifestyle doctor and is currently doing the general practitioner intern year in Lisbon, Portugal. “I do very long shifts and the stress is immense, so to perform my best in this critical time I must try and keep my diet routine and my body healthy and functional, otherwise I underperform and there will be immediate consequences on the patients I see every day”.
With over 1,000 followers on Instagram, she has a page dedicated to sharing healthy recipes and lifestyle tips – tips that she is making sure to follow these days. So what are this millennial doctor’s food choices in this time of crisis?
They’re mostly vegan – eggs are the only animal product that are part of her diet. “Since I discovered I was lactose intolerant my diet shifted completely. I couldn’t believe how much better I felt without dairy and gluten. Then gradually I stopped eating meat and finally fish and seafood. I keep eating eggs because I know they are good nutritionally and I choose to have organic eggs whenever possible.” Other protein sources include tofu and tempeh.
Her cupboards are filled with beans, grains, seeds and even yeast flakes that give a “savoury addition to many of my dishes, it almost tastes like melted cheese, and it has vitamin B12, fibre and protein, so it’s great!”.
Vegetables and fruits are part of every meal, and now more than ever she is careful not to skip her morning shot and late evening latte. “In the morning I always have a lemon and ginger shot. At night I do my gold milk latte. Usually I like to use fresh turmeric but now I only have curcuma powder. I add oat milk, cinnamon and honey with a bit of black pepper. Both drinks have immunity-related foods/ingredients, so it’s something I must keep up”.
Because of her lactose intolerance and food preferences, she doesn’t rely on the hospital canteen or cafes for her daily energy pick-ups. Except for black coffee, she brings every meal and snack with her from home. “I love baking so I always make cookies, bars, muffins and other snacks with ingredients I choose and trust. I use gluten-free flours and never use white sugar, I prefer dates, apple sauce, coconut sugar or honey. Because of my busy schedule now I started to buy the natural fruit pouches that are meant for kids but that have a more interesting profile than most adult snacks, so I have those whenever I need a boost and don’t feel like having coffee”.
Has this unprecedent situation changed the way this young doctor is buying her foods?
“My shopping routine has definitely changed, the hospital I am at now is on the other side of the city, so I spend almost two hours traveling every day. I had to turn to online shopping and delivery…I have a doorman that can take my packages, otherwise even that would be hard with the unpredictable schedule I have now”.
But this doesn’t mean she is buying her groceries in traditional retailers, but rather taking advantage of recent initiatives like “local fruit & vegetable basket” deliveries as well as ordering from her usual lifestyle and health food stores.
It’s hard to know how long it will take before she can go back to her previous shopping and cooking routine, but one thing is clear; for highly motivated and health conscious consumers, this crisis won’t cause them to dismiss healthy behaviors and products. It might in fact reinforce their beliefs about the importance of a healthy diet (whatever “healthy” means for them personally) and the choices they make.