family meals

Family Meals during a Pandemic

Quarantine has definitely brought us many challenges! I’m sure most of us are tired of being cooped up in the house all day with the same routine, but one benefit of quarantine is more opportunities for family time, including more frequent family meals!

For those of you that have taken this opportunity to be more adventurous in the kitchen, that’s amazing!  But for those of you that are still timid about meal prep, are getting tired of thinking about what to make for dinner every night, and are getting frustrated when your kids want to leave the table before you even take your first bite, this post is for you!

It is really easy to choose take-out over home-cooked meals when you are being pulled in a million directions and you’re exhausted from working from home and/or helping with online learning. Try to keep in mind some of these benefits to keep you motivated.

Kids who eat home-cooked family meals are:

  • More likely to eat fewer calories from carbs and fat
  • Less likely to be overweight as teens/adults
  • More likely to develop higher self-esteem
  • More likely to have healthier relationships with their family

Some tips for successful meal planning:

  • Avoid being a short order cook – make one meal for everyone!
  • Try to be realistic about what you will actually make for the week – this saves you money and energy (it is perfectly fine to stock up on frozen meals like pizza/lasagna for those nights you don’t feel like making a home-cooked meal)
  • Create a list of family favorites that are easy to make, especially in large batches so you can freeze some for future meals (look for easy one-pot meals like stews, casseroles, and stir-fry)
  • Planning ahead means less stress from deciding what to cook at the last minute and also allows you to create balance and variety over multiple meals (aim for a balance in nutrition content over the course of the week, don’t stress about each meal being perfect)

Some tips to keep your child at the table for meals:

  • Have your kids contribute to the weekly menu planning – give them some healthy options to choose from throughout the week
  • Have your kids help out in the kitchen – the more they are involved in the meal-prep, the more likely they are to try new foods and enjoy eating what’s on the plate
  • Keep your expectations low – most toddlers can’t sit for a meal longer than 15 minutes, so start small at 5-10 minutes and slowly build up to longer mealtimes
  • Try to avoid eating on the move throughout the day – it can be confusing to have to sit still at dinner time, but not at snack or lunch time
  • Try to have the food ready before they sit down so they don’t get restless before the meal even starts
  • Engage with your kids at mealtime by discussing the foods they’re eating and asking about their day – when they feel part of the conversation, they are more likely to stick around
  • Reinforce that even though they want to leave the table, you don’t have to get up also – let them play independently and set the expectation that everyone else is still eating
  • You can also change up the venue – if everyone is growing tired of the same old routine, try having a picnic in the backyard or even in the living room!

Hope you found this post helpful and don’t hesitate to reach out with any further questions.

Have a great week!

Dr. Hager

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