Since we’ve been in lockdown, I’ve been dipping into social media for inspiration, escapism and/or companionship as I seek to balance my roles of home educator, businesswoman and general jack-of-all trades with calm and constructive thoughts.
As we navigate this unprecedented time as parents, we’re facing different scenarios at home. I’ve put together some nutrition tips for two different circumstances; a parent with less time on their hands, juggling a lot, but still keen to have a positive influence on their families nutrition and secondly for parents, who may have some more time to fill with their children in tow, wanting to add some nutritional sparkle to their day. Amongst all the shifts in routines and uncertainty, small tweaks can make a big different to all the family’s well-being and sanity whilst at home.
Consistency is worth far more than perfectionism.
There are limitations right now, but what is within our control and reach?
Get ‘buy in’ to the food routine
We’re all coping with new limitless access to the kitchen, and let’s be honest, this poses differing challenges – whether it be constant interruptions for snacks, or us seeking relief from the monotony and stresses of the day.
A meal and snack routine can really help to give everyone boundaries for multiple reasons. Firstly,– reassurance that the next meal or snack isn’t far away, but secondly a routine provides a sense of context, as to when they may actually just be ‘head- hungry’, in which case the answer doesn’t lie in the kitchen. This can help to alleviate the ground hog day argument and if the plan is displayed somewhere, it takes the pressure off you.
Without a hectic morning and commute/ school run, could breakfast be a little more substantial to fuel the morning with ease? Getting a bit more protein in here would be ideal, as regulating this across the day, makes a big difference to what our blood sugar levels do, helping to keep tempers at bay. Eggs, wholegrain cereals, Greek yogurt or nut butters are all great examples of protein-rich breakfast foods.
Fill water bottles at the start of the day – just like you would for school or work and make sure they have them with them where they’re working or playing. Encourage each other to stay hydrated by having competitions for who can finish their water bottle first. It’s so important at the moment with increased screen time and warmer weather; drinking enough really helps with concentration and even mildly dehydrated brains have to work harder to achieve the same output.
Make dinner work for you, for longer
For every dinner that is prepared, make double with lunch the next day in mind. It doesn’t have to be double of the entire meal, but could you do more chicken and turn that into a DIY pasta salad for lunch? What about roasting more veg for a salad the next day? Could you lob an extra tin of pulses in the sauce, so it can be put in a taco or wrap for dinner the next day, as an alternative to the rice it’s going with tonight?
Fill the freezer with time saving ingredients
Get some quick wins in the freezer that reduce your prep time – frozen onion, garlic and ginger for example all save endless peeling and chopping time. This fabulous fajita recipe from Feed The Brood, incorporates freezer time savers and the concept of cooking with the next day or meal in mind.
Chop chop in the morning
In the time it would normally take to ask the kids to put their shoes on 10 times you could chop a fruit salad and put it in the fridge so the family can help themselves when the snack whining starts. Pre-portioned cheeses or crackers are a useful addition to this to boost the fibre and protein content and keep hungry cubs satisfied.
Put the ‘F’ word into baking
I’m all for a cupcake or two, but this strikes me as an opportunity to really boost the diversity of their diets, with fibre and fruit. Use recipes that incorporate wholegrain flour or fruit and veg for extra fibre goodness. These banana bran choc chip muffins that I did with my children went down well.
Back to nature
Supporting our children’s gut health is a good idea, as a good diversity of healthy bacteria will protect their long- term health and look after their immunity. Even getting out in the garden more will help expose them to more beneficial bacterial diversity than they get in the classroom. Remember, not all bugs are bad. Could you start a mini herb garden perhaps?
Be brave to try something new
If your children are traditionally a little reluctant to try new foods, now is a perfect opportunity to get them handling unfamiliar foods and ingredients. Remember, for many fussier eaters, it’s a feel and texture thing, not a taste issue. These Sardine Fishcakes from Feed the Brood are brilliant – not only are they an important omega-3 source for growing brains, they’re made from store cupboard tins and those hassle free freezer time-savers. Fish is a tough sell to kids sometimes, but playing around with, and handling the fish from the tin, boosts comfort and reduces the inclination to refuse something simply because it is unfamiliar.
Turn fruit and veg into a lesson
To boost intakes of fruit and veg and create a project at the same time, try making colourful fruit kebabs, which can be drawn and labelled afterwards, popping your own popcorn for a mini science lesson, painting with potatoes or improve fine motor skills with some veg chopping for tea. My children love the opportunity to learn in the kitchen!
Give the carrot stick a holiday
With a little more head space, perhaps now is the time to move away from the classic carrot and pepper sticks – Kitchen Titbits has some fantastic ideas for using up leftover salad and veg – if you’ve got any veg boxes recently, I’ll bet there’s something in there you’re not sure what to do with!
Use all the bowls
Lockdown is a great chance to bring the whole family together, with working parents, already home in time for tea. There is no doubt that children model our behaviour, even subconsciously. Sharing meals encouraging the self-serve method are great fun and boost independence and variety in the diet. This fabulous Korean inspired free-for-all from Kitchen Titbits, is the reason dishwashers were invented!
On a personal level, I’m using this an opportunity to try new tastes, for me and the family. You can watch my successes and failures via my Instagram stories (@lauraclarknutrition), which of course, contain my beautifully unscripted children!