A Pediatric Dietitian’s Top 5 Tips for Feeding Your Family During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Whether you have grown kids who are home from college or infants who are just starting out on solids, feeding our children during a global pandemic is anything but simple. From finding all the ingredients you need on the grocery store shelves to balancing a job, childcare, and meal preparation, this is no easy task! My hope is to share with you a few tips to make your life slightly more manageable during these unprecedented times.
1. Meal Planning is the key to success!
Since we are all being urged to limit the frequency by which we grocery shop, we must make each trip a productive one. In preparation for going to the store, take some time to assess what ingredients you already have in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry that need to be used up. Then come up with a list of meal ideas for the next 1-2 weeks (taking note to incorporate some of the ingredients you already have). Brainstorm with family and friends (virtually), look through cookbooks and find recipes online. Next create an extensive grocery list of items you will need in order to make these meals. Substitutions may be necessary during these times if your grocery store is out of certain products (ex. dried basil instead of fresh, rice instead of quinoa, vinegar instead of lemon juice). If your store is out of your children’s favorite brand of chicken nuggets, use this as an opportunity to teach them about the importance of flexibility! Who knows, some of these meal planning tools may even teach you and your family skills that you can continue to apply after this crazy pandemic is over?
2. Remember that frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are still fruits and vegetables!
While you may be used to having perfectly ripe bananas, fresh berries, and juicy tomatoes within arm’s reach, this may not be realistic in this current climate. Keep in mind that green beans are frozen at their peak of ripeness to help maintain their nutrients. Fresh peaches aren’t in season currently but we can enjoy the canned version all year round. In order to make the most of your produce, try to prioritize those meals that require fresh fruits and vegetables first before they go bad, and save the canned and frozen ones for later on. Also don’t forget to salvage every last fresh fruit or veggie by throwing it in a delicious smoothie, frittata or soup!
3. Open up the kitchen for regular meals and snacks!
Offer regular opportunities for meals and snacks in your household. We all know that a hangry child is our worst nightmare. Don’t let them go more than 3-4 hours without providing a nutritious meal or snack to eat! I know it may seem like the dishes are never-ending but waiting too long between meals and snacks will backfire! On the other hand, in between these set meals and snacks, make sure to close up the kitchen so food is not readily available at all times of the day.
4. Suit up your little ones with an apron and chef’s hat!
Sometimes I feel like a broken record but I’ll continue to say it again and again: Get your kids involved in the kitchen! Make it part of your family’s routine. Whether they are ripping lettuce for a salad or mixing pancake batter or spreading peanut butter on a sandwich, make sure they are helping out in the kitchen. While at first it might seem like more work on your end to assign them tasks and clean up the unwanted mess, as their skills and sense of responsibility develop you may even come to find it helpful!
5. And of course when times get tough, there’s always takeout!