By Jamie Miller, Registered Dietician for The Village
As many schools shift to online learning, there are a number of challenges that arise for families with this adjustment. Many parents find that an added headache to at-home schooling is feeding their child healthy meals. How can parents provide nourishing meals and snacks every day while also trying to juggle their children’s schooling on top of their own responsibilities? Village registered dietitian, Jamie Miller, has some insight to share.
Keep to a Schedule
Being at home means easy access to the refrigerator, it is easy for families to fall into the habit of “grazing” throughout the day instead of sticking to designated meal and snack times like they would at school. However, this presents a couple of problems. First, snack foods often tend to be more focused on carbohydrates (crackers, fruit snacks, etc.) which digest quickly. So it may seem like your child is always hungry, but it’s most likely because they aren’t filling their stomachs with foods that keep them fueled. The second issue with grazing is that the child never gets hungry enough to have a balanced meal of nutrient-rich foods. If they ate a snack too close to a meal, they are less likely to be open to trying new or less preferred items. At school, children have set times for a snack and lunch. Follow suit and schedule lunch and snack time for when your children know they can pause their schoolwork and take a break to eat.
Aim for Fiber, Fats, and Protein at Each Meal and Snack
To keep your children fueled and focused on their schoolwork, there are 3 things you want to center each meal and snack around: fiber, fats, and protein. These nutrients take time to digest to keep their blood sugar stable and stomach satisfied. Make sure their food choices are filled with veggies, fruits, and whole grains for fiber. Offer healthy fats with meals through items like nut butters, guacamole, hummus, pesto, and dressings. Then ensure they get quality protein through things like eggs, chicken, tuna, steamed edamame, and bean-based pastas.
Make It Easier
With such high demands on parents now, it’s smart to know where we can save time while still maintaining healthy choices. There are plenty of convenience food items that are full of nutrients but take no preparation or effort. Purchase produce that you don’t need to cut like grape tomatoes, snap peas, mini bell peppers, berries, and grapes. Try out canned green beans, frozen broccoli, unsweetened applesauce, and fruit cups in 100% juice. For fiber-filled carbohydrates, look to low sugar dried cereal, whole grain crackers, bread, and tortillas, canned beans, and frozen peas. Easy protein could be purchased with things like frozen chicken sausage links, canned tuna or chicken, deli meat, rotisserie chicken, and individual yogurts and cottage cheese.
Give the Kids Some Responsibility
There is so much responsibility on parent’s plates during at-home schooling, it’s important to find ways to spread out the work. With some guidance, children have the ability to prepare much of their own meals and snacks. Make it easier for them by having designated areas of the refrigerator and pantry with foods they can reach. Have a list of ideas that are easy for them to prepare on their own. For breakfast, they can toast a whole-grain waffle and top with nut butter, then pair with strawberries and a glass of milk. For lunch, they could make a wrap with a whole grain tortilla, hummus, and turkey, with baby carrots on the side. For a snack, they can open a string cheese and peel a clementine. Oftentimes even the most resistant and selective eaters have a more open mind if they prepare the food themselves. Make it fun for them to try out one of these meal ideas below!
English Muffin Pizza
Spread Marinara sauce on a WG english muffin (or pita, bread, etc). Top with shredded mozzarella, diced chicken/ham, and optional chopped veggies. Toast/broil to melt cheese.
Fill WW tortilla with cheese, veggies, chicken, beans, etc., and microwave or warm in a skillet until cheese has melted. Dipin salsa, plain greek yogurt, and guacamole.
PB Roll-Up or PB Toast
Spread nut butter on a whole wheat tortilla, peel a banana and place down the center. Sprinkle with cinnamon and roll up tortilla into a burrito.