Suffice to say, everyone has been on high alert about the coronavirus outbreak. Yet as someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the virus and all of its uncertainty have taken my anxiety to an entirely different level.
As a Christian, I’ve been doing my best to turn to the Lord by praying and letting Bible verses and worship music wash over me—my faith is the only thing I can depend on.
Yet like many, I’ve had moments of fear and panic such as when it was announced that my kids’ schools were closed for two weeks. I went to Facebook (bad idea, every time,) and I saw photos of the empty store shelves as people started to hoard toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and food.
My husband, who is one of the calmest people I know, and in no way an alarmist, suggested I go to the grocery store—even though I had just been there the day before to pick up our regular items for the week.
While I don’t think there will be a lockdown like the ones we’re seeing in Europe, nor will we have a food shortage, I headed out anyway.
All of a sudden, two things happened:
- I realized how much I take the food in my home for granted. I have never faced food insecurity, and I never worry about where our next meal will come from. While I’m always preaching to my kids “be grateful for what’s on your table,” and I often tell them that kids in our town and in their school aren’t as fortunate as we are, this became more apparent than ever before.
- I immediately became extremely grateful that the Lord has provided for us. My husband and I still have our jobs/clients, two incomes, and money in the bank to buy groceries. We have running water, are healthy and safe. I thanked the Lord over and over for our blessings.
At the grocery store, my perspective also shifted.
While I normally make decisions about buying organic vs. conventional, worry about gluten and GMO’s, and fill my cart with fruits and vegetables, I thought more about stocking up on foods that would provide nutrition and last longer.
While we’re definitely not hoarding food, I did stock up on some extras like canned tuna fish, salmon and sardines, beans, bread, peanut butter, milk (which can be frozen), butternut squash and potatoes which have a longer shelf life.
Over the next few weeks while you and your kids are stuck at home, what you eat will probably change.
You probably won’t be able to eat out at your favorite local restaurant. Or maybe the grocery store will be sold out of your kid’s favorite chicken nuggets—one of few foods he’ll eat.
Likewise, if your kid has dietary restrictions or food allergies, you may be concerned about what to feed him.
Chances are, with the kids out of their normal schedules and bored, they’ll be asking for snacks all day too.
While you may have more time at home, you may be trying to work, homeschool your kids and keep them occupied. Add to that cabin fever, isolation and the stress of the coronavirus outbreak, and you may find it challenging to make healthy choices or cook meals.
Yet eating healthy can give you energy, support your immune system, help you sleep better, and may prevent you from feeling overly stressed and anxious.
Here are some easy strategies to help you feed your family well when you’re stuck at home—take out included.
INCLUDE PROTEIN-RICH FOODS AT MEALS AND SNACKS
Protein is an essential macronutrient that provides calories and energy, satisfies hunger so you feel fuller longer, and balances blood sugar so everyone is less likely to feel irritable, nervous or have racing hearts.
Serve up quality protein sources like eggs, fish, grass-fed beef, beans and lentils, Greek yogurt, tofu, tempeh and Greek yogurt.
STOCK UP ON FROZEN FOODS
Barring a storm or natural disaster, it’s not likely that we’ll lose electricity, so stock your freezer with healthy foods, which can ensure you have some healthy options on hand should your grocery store become impacted in some way.
Since frozen fruits and vegetables are picked at their peak freshness and flash frozen, they’re just as—or even healthier than fresh. In fact, a June 2017 study in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found in some cases, frozen produce is more nutritious than fresh that’s been stored in the refrigerator for 5 days.
Frozen foods also make for quick and easy meals and can save you money. Some frozen foods to stock up on include:
- Fruits for smoothies, snacks and baked goods.
- Vegetables for side dishes, stir-fries or yummy dips.
- Shrimp, salmon or another type of fish.
- Veggie burgers and bean burgers.
- Peas, edamame and corn.
EAT THE RAINBOW
Do your best to limit processed foods and serve up plenty fruits and vegetables which provide vitamins, minerals and fiber, satisfy your kids’ hunger and help them feel fuller longer, and lower inflammation and boost the immune system.
To make vegetables delicious, roast them, which brings out tons of flavor and texture, add a pat of butter, or pair them with hummus, bean dip or guacamole.
Top yogurt or oatmeal with fresh fruit, serve frozen fruit as a snack, or make fruit kabobs.
Set aside individual portions of fruits and vegetables and make smoothies together for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
EAT NUTS AND SEEDS
As long as your child doesn’t have food allergies, plant-based proteins like nuts and seeds (chia, pumpkin, sunflower, flax), and nut butters can provide protein as well as fiber and healthy fats.
Nuts and seeds also lend themselves to many meals and snacks:
- Oatmeal and overnight oats
- Homemade granola and granola bars
- Homemade trail mix
- Salads and vegetable dishes
- Muffins, breads, and no-bake energy bites
- Vegetarian meatloaf
- Plant-based milks
- Salad dressings and sauces
- Gluten-free flours
COPE WITH PICKY EATING IN CREATIVE WAYS
This weekend in a Facebook group for picky eaters, a mom asked if anyone else like her was worried about what their kids would eat because the store shelves were empty. Many moms agreed and said they tried to stock up on a few foods their kids liked—most of it processed.
While some kids are extreme picky eaters and actually have an eating disorder like Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), I believe most kids can eventually grow out of their pickiness.
In fact, being stuck at home can be a great opportunity to get your kids excited about healthy eating and start to transform your picky eater into a healthy, adventurous foodie one meal and snack at a time.
Kids, like adults, change every day and with exposure and consistency, their food preferences can change too. Here are some ideas:
- Search for recipes in cookbooks or online and make a new dish together.
- Watch healthy cooking shows or videos.
- Pull out your Vitamix and make green smoothies together.
- Sign up for an online cooking class like the Kids Cook Real Food video course for families. The course teaches kids over 30 basic kitchen skills, builds their self-esteem and confidence and gives you easy recipes to make at home. Register for the course here.
MAKE SAFER ALTERNATIVES
If your children are gluten-free or have food allergies, feeding them can be challenging especially if you can’t get your hands on their favorite, safe foods.
A sesame allergy in particular, is a tough one when it comes to buying bread, granola and snack bars, because many brands either have sesame seeds, may have sesame seeds, or are made on shared equipment.
While it may take a little longer, making your own alternatives with safe ingredients can be healthier and ensure your kids won’t miss their favorite foods.
GET HEALTHY TAKE-OUT
Cooking at home is almost always healthier than eating out, and while we’re a nation that loves restaurant fare, the options are limited now that so many restaurants are offering take out, “to-go models,” or curbside delivery.
So when you do order take out, avoid menu items with the words fried, battered, smothered, stuffed, or breaded and instead order:
- Salads (avoid creamy dressings and opt for oil and vinegar instead)
- Steamed vegetables (sauce on the side)
- Grilled, baked, broiled or steamed dishes
- Broth-based soups instead of creamy soups
- Whole grains instead of refined grains