The social distancing measures that we have to follow to tackle the COVID-19 virus have meant that families have spent weeks almost completely at home. This has been a really tough time with everyone worried about the health of friends and family, as well as having to adapt to cancelled plans and changed routines. Being at home with children has also added a number of small day-to-day pressures for many families.
From listening to parents, Be treatwise has found that keeping children happy and healthy during this time is a worry. Many parents are finding it hard to know how to keep a balanced approach to giving treats to their children during this difficult period: children are worried, bored, missing their friends and normal activities.
Having listened to the concerns of parents, Be treatwise has teamed up with Consultant Dietitian Helen Bond, BSc (Hons) RD MBDA to create some handy tips for parents on how to keep a balanced approach to treats during this difficult time.
Don’t Feel Guilty.
This is a tricky time for all families, so don’t be too hard on yourself when giving your children treats, such as chocolate and biscuits. Remember that healthy eating is all about balance and moderation – there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods, only good or bad diets. All foods can have a place in a balanced and varied diet – it’s about how much and how often we’re eating them, so focus on providing more nutritious foods regularly and generously, and less nutritious foods only occasionally.
Get portion savvy.
Larger helpings can quickly increase the calorie, sugar and fat content of our family’s diets, and it is so easy to keep reaching for more when we are all stuck at home. So, try and stick to manufacturers’ portion size recommendations, use smaller bowls or plates and opt for smaller sized treats, rather than the super-sized options.
Out of sight, out of mind.
For most families, the kitchen is the central hub of the home and now with lockdown, it’s an accessible space at all times of the day – as are the treats within. So, keep treats out of sight and save them for an occasional treat rather than an everyday eat.
Many of us turn to ‘treat’ foods in time of stress. Take comfort that the key to a healthy diet is balance and moderation, so during these stressful times, it’s okay for you and your family to enjoy your favourite sweet treats now and then. But try to encourage everyone to do it mindfully – eat slowly and savour the taste, smell and texture of the food, rather than mindlessly eating treats in front of the television.
Keep treats in proportion.
If kids are cooped up at home all the time, bored and missing their friends, they might start looking for treats to cheer themselves up. So, think about the amount of treats you include in your weekly shop, and try prioritising those that come in smaller portion sizes.
Preparation is key to eating healthily. So, once you have done your shopping and know what you have to work with. Take 10 minutes in the morning and make a couple of different snacks for quick, easy, tasty and nutritious refreshments during the day. Perfect to keep your little ones (and not so little ones) going, and you’ll be more likely to resist giving in to pester power for other kinds of snacks later on.
Embrace the change.
With so many of our usual store cupboard essentials still selling out fast, think about lockdown as a chance to try something new, increase variety into your family’s diet, and a range of new flavours and textures. As much as possible, vary your children’s meals, snacks and treats from day to day, or week to week, and always be open to trialling new foods with them.
Revisit after ‘home school’ munchies.
Although lessons are taking place at home, your kids may still be looking for a snack at that ‘after school’ moment. Try offering different options, such as mini breadsticks or vegetable sticks and hummus, some sliced fruit or berries or a lighter homemade treat like popcorn sprinkled with cinnamon. Your child will soon adapt their palate to enjoy natural sweetness and less salty tastes, more often.
Play around with your fruit and vegetable snacks.
See what works best for your kids. One day try chopping up fruit and veg into bite-sized pieces and store them in a flip-top clear container in easy reach for little and large fingers in the fridge. Kids love finger food so this will encourage everyone in the family to eat a piece. If this doesn’t get everyone opening the fridge to try out a healthy option, try mixing it up by making a fruit bowl part of your sitting room, making iced lollies or cubes with fruit and veg packed smoothies or keeping your fruit and veg basket at your kids eye level, in the same cupboard as your chocolate and sweet treats. By swapping things around you can try and encourage your kids to also see fruit and veg as something they should be keen to get their hands on and help them on their way to their 5-A-Day.
Get the kids involved.
Asking your children to help with preparing and cooking meals and treats is not only an educational and fun activity that you can plan into your day at home. It is also a super way to build kids’ interest in food, learn cookery skills, and even encourage them to embrace more variety – any fussy eaters are much more likely to eat something they have enjoyed making themselves!