Most parents care about feeding their families healthy meals, but in addition to having picky eaters, one of the biggest obstacles is lack of time. Now that most of us are working from home, homeschooling and stuck with nowhere to go, we’re still really busy but there’s definitely more time to make healthy eating a priority.
While I’ve always prioritized healthy eating for my family, made breakfast every morning, served healthy school lunches and made dinner almost every night, the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown have changed the way my kids eat.
At home, my daughters love to eat foods like lentils and salads, but the first half of this school year was proving challenging when it came to healthy eating.
All of a sudden my adventurous foodies were becoming seriously picky eaters.
Containers of salads and fruit would come home untouched, and they’d beg every day for me to pack what they call “junky snacks,” like Goldfish and chocolate-covered pretzels.
Yet 3 weeks into the lockdown, my kids have eaten (and loved) a salad almost every day. They’re also reaching for fruit for snacks and drinking green smoothies, and there’s less pushback at lunchtime.
However, it also hasn’t been all healthy fare all the time either.
When my kids asked for homemade mac and cheese—after seeing it on a healthy cooking show––I happily whipped it up. When we were running low on milk and my husband ran out for coffee, I asked him to pick up donut holes for my kids as a lunchtime treat.
As it turns out, many parents are experiencing much of the same in their homes. Here, read on for 7 ways the coronavirus is changing how parents feed their families.
1. THEY’RE LETTING GO OF PERFECTION
Between balancing work with distance learning and caring for your kids, feeling isolated and craving social connection, it’s no surprise that we’re craving comfort foods—and experts say, there’s nothing wrong with it.
“I’m the first to go to the mat for good nutrition, quality food choices, and balanced eating,” Jill Castle, MS, RDN stated in this article. “But in our present situation, I’m releasing the idea of having perfect balanced meals and healthy snacks all the time. Truth be told, I’ve got plenty of chips, cheesy crackers, and cookies in my pantry right now.”
2. THEY’RE PLANTING GARDENS
Having a vegetable garden is one of the best ways to get your kids excited about healthy eating.
In fact, a September 2016 study out of the University of Florida suggests kids who garden are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables throughout their lives.
During this time, families are turning to gardening to eat healthier and make the most of their food dollars.
Take Dave Munson, founder and CEO, of Saddleback Leather Co.
After learning that his friend started a plant-based diet and hadn’t been sick in 2 years, Munson decided to plant a large vegetable garden. “I told my wife that having so much healthy food available to us would force us to eat way more veggies and should keep us generally healthier during these next several months or years of this virus pandemic,” he said.
If you don’t have the space for a garden, try planter boxes, join a local CSA (community-supported agriculture) or look for a community garden.
3. THEY’RE FINDING WAYS TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE
When you have little ones, some food waste is almost inevitable.
Whether it’s because of picky eating or lack of appetite, toddlers, in particular, often leave food on their plates.
Yet if you don’t know (or can’t see) what’s in your refrigerator, don’t store food properly, or tend to buy too much, you could be needlessly throwing away food—and money.
In fact, an average family of four in the U.S. wastes about 25 percent of the food they buy, costing as much as $2,200 a year!
During the coronavirus outbreak, Barbara Nevers, founder of NeoLittle.com has been prioritizing fresh fruits and vegetables, and adopted a “no waste” system. “Not that we were loose in that area before, but the current situation has shed light on the fact that every bit of food and every penny spent is important,” she says. “We’re also saving all leftovers, even if we freeze them for the future.”
4. THEY’RE EATING MORE CARBS
The keto diet continues to be extremely popular for its ability to help people lose weight, improve their health markers, and manage type-2 diabetes.
Related: Is Keto Safe For Kids?
Yet for some families who were following keto, carbs are back on the menu.
Varda Meyers Epstein, parenting expert and writer/editor/blogger at Kars4Kids, says COVID-19 has caused her family to leave keto behind. “Grains keep well and are a budget-conscious choice at a time when no one is sure how long they’ll be able to stay afloat in terms of employment and the economy,” she said.
The truth is that kids need carbohydrates. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend kids get 130 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Carbs from starchy and non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, milk and yogurt provide the energy and key nutrients that support their growth and development.
5. THEY’RE ADOPTING PLANT-BASED DIETS
Plant-based diets are one of the hottest food trends in 2020 and for good reason.
Plant-based foods are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and most foods also have filling fiber, which satisfies hunger, keeps blood sugar levels stable, and can prevent and treat constipation.
Studies also show that plant-based diets are linked with a lower risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol and obesity.
That’s certainly been the case for George Hammerton, Director of Hammerton Barbados whose family is eating more fruits and vegetables. “As we’re now cooking with more fresh vegetables, and trying to reduce our meat intake—both for health reasons and to make it go further—we’ve found ourselves eating better, and cheaper than we have for a long time,” he says.
6. THEY’RE SERVING (MOSTLY) HEALTHY SNACKS
Kids love eating snacks and now that they’re at home all day, chances are, they’ll be vying for them a lot more—and you may too.
That’s certainly been the case for Bonnie Tuggle, founder of ChickaBonBon.com. While she admits she and her family have had more comfort foods around like potato chips, she does her best to serve her child healthy snacks. “Whenever my daughter gets hit with the ‘I’m hungrys’ I tell her to grab an apple, cashews, or unflavored popcorn,” she says.
7. THEY’RE COOKING WITH THEIR KIDS
Cooking with your kids has so many amazing benefits and with more time on your hands, it’s a great weekend activity to do now.
“I am obsessed with teaching my kids the skill of cooking, something I was never taught myself,” according to Samantha Milner, founder, RecipeThis.com. “So I am recipe testing more new blog recipes than usual to get them involved.”
Milner, who gets her kids involved by setting out the Instant Pot on a table her kids can reach, recently taught them how to make pasta salad, and even how to prep, cook and slice beef tongue!