We’ve all been home a little more than we’d like these past few months. We’re not used to being sequestered for so long and it’s ramping up our anxiety. On top of that, several of us (self included) have children we need to teach, entertain and FEED. At our house, we no sooner finish lunch and the question of “what’s for dinner?” arises.
If you’ve got teenagers, they seem like bottomless pits. You can’t feed them enough. Meal times are completely skewed with schedules being tossed out the window as they navigate school from home. Snacks seem more frequent, too. This could be due to boredom, stress, anxiety or just hunger!
And now, summer break has just begun. Since we’re unclear about travel (can we go, where can we go, should we stay home?), we may as well use the ‘thyme’ for something productive.
Respecting the right to eat
I’ve dropped several hints to my girls that perhaps they should be fixing their own meals, or at minimum, learn something beyond pancakes! But, if you want to get them cooking, sometimes they need to start with what they enjoy eating. For my girls, it’s waffles, pancakes and sweets. Our mixer is getting quite the workout these days.
Having dealt with an eating disorder myself at 16, the last thing I want is my girls to feel uncomfortable about food and their bodies. While 80% of what we eat is nutritious, I do allow treats regularly. They may not be eating sugar coated cereal or Poptarts for breakfast, but there is always at least one treat per day (typically after dinner) like ice cream or a brownie. Being militant does no one any good and shaming kids for enjoying food can wreck their relationship with food. Food is for eating!
Teaching kids to cook
If you want your kids to learn to cook, they have to get their hands dirty. Shows like Chopped, Top Chef and America’s Test Kitchen may increase their interest in food and cooking, but actually prepping the food requires them to be in the kitchen, not on a couch.
Below are some tips to get kids started in the kitchen:
- Ask them to make a list of what they’d like to learn to make from each meal. From here, you may start with a basic omelet, French toast or pancakes then move on to salad, soup or other dish.
- Involve them in shopping. Once we’re able to shop as families again, bring your kids to the store and have them pick out the fruits or vegetables they like or side items they’d like to have for their meal.
- Let them collect ingredients for you. This teaches them what goes into a recipe and how you can make substitutes if needed. No oregano? Try Italian seasoning instead.
- Utilize math skills. Ask your kids if they can scale a recipe up or down. This is a great way to teach or reinforce fractions. Have them weigh or measure ingredients. Teach them the difference between “wet and dry ingredients”.
- Talk them through it. Explain what baking soda or baking powder does in recipes or why using whole wheat flour changes the texture, color and taste of things. Ask questions and see what they already know.
- Let them plan a meal. Have them choose a protein, vegetable and starch of choice. Start with having them make the side dish.
- Encourage sanitation. Now more than ever, hand washing is super important. Remind them that raw eggs and raw flour contain bacteria and cookies should be COOKED before being eaten. Use separate cutting boards when cutting meat or vegetables.
- Teach them how to reduce food waste. Show them how leftover chicken can be made into soup, tacos or other dishes. Discuss food insecurity with them. They may never have heard of the term before.
- Experiment with spices. Make a batch of plain rice then try different dried herbs or spices in it. They might find that they like curry, cumin, paprika or oregano. It’s also fine to keep it plain!
- Be patient. Your kids are going to make a mess. They aren’t going to like everything they prepare. The key is to let them try and fail. It’s the only way we really learn.
If you’re tired of seeing the same 3 or 4 people (or for some, no people) because you’ve been sequestered from society for 8 weeks, you’re not alone. Having to work from home, file for unemployment (for some), home school your kids and find a mask to wear every time you leave the house can be draining.
I get it. We all want to resume our “normal” lives of going to work, the mall, the grocery store, and our friend’s and family’s homes. It would be nice to not have to think about getting sick every time we left the house.Being isolated is difficult.
So- how are people coping? For some, getting outside to walk or ride a bike has been exactly what they needed. Many of us don’t take the time to get outside and enjoy the weather because we’re too busy running around with work, kid’s sports, meetings and other events. You can physical distance with a walking partner and still be social, which is great for your mental health.
Others have taken to cooking. For someone who embraces food, it’s refreshing to see people baking bread. CARBS are cool again! Don’t beat yourself up for craving carbs right now. They are comfort food to many. We’re all in survival mode. Have some grace about your food choices.
Maybe you’re learning a new skill? Just about every day, I receive an email or invitation to participate in a free webinar. You can learn about free lance writing, podcasting, how to make your favorite curry or just about any other topic right now. Take advantage of it!
Are you a person of faith? Reach out to members of your faith congregation or take time to pray or meditate daily. It may help to reduce anxiety and stay connected.
Social media use is at its peak. It’s natural to want to connect with people. I’ve been enjoying meeting other dietitians across the country via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I avoid political chatter as it can be draining and divisive. I’m not going to change anyone’s mind and there’s no point fighting online with strangers.
Take care of your pets and your skin. Psychologists note we may all be suffering from “skin hunger” from the lack of personal touches we’re normally accustomed to. Pet your dog or cat often, hug the people in your immediate circle daily. If you live alone, treat yourself to long bath or hot shower or use a favorite lotion on your legs and arms. We all need human touch.
We will get through this. I fully recognize my own anxiety over the future. I’m opting for virtual visits only and giving up my office space. I have no control over the virus. As things open back up here, I’ll have more control over where I can go. But, I’m not too eager to host a party, go to a crowded shopping mall or eat out.
Do what feels right for you.
This post was featured on Links à la Mode fashion roundup by Independent Fashion Bloggers.
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As a small business owner, seeing clients face to face in an office or going on-site to do programs, most of my work has come to a screeching halt with COVID-19. It feels weird to me to be home so much. I miss seeing clients and helping them navigate their health issues through better nutrition.
But- in this age of technology, I am nervous but excited to be able to continue nutrition counseling or coaching online through various HIPPA compliant software. You’ve likely heard the term “virtual visits” or telehealth. The same is true for dietitians. We are able to teach, coach and counsel you online. Handouts and documents like recipes and articles can be sent through email (or snail mail if desired). Accountability may help during these times of stress.
If you’re interested in meeting virtually or just talking over your health and nutrition issue on the phone, send me a message and lettuce set up an appt. firstname.lastname@example.org Payment accepted through Square, PayPal, Flex spending/health savings account and Venmo
Stay healthy friends!
If the anxiety of having to be housebound while watching another news conference about COVID19 is making you eat more, you’re not alone. When we’re under stress (mental or physical), the hormone cortisol can really do a number on our appetites. Lack of sleep related to constant worry also raises cortisol levels. Kids being off school, spouses working from home and gyms and rec centers being closed will likely take a toll on our waistlines. Eating due to boredom, fear or frustration isn’t helping either. Call it the “quarantine 15” or the “COVID-19”, we’d all like to avoid weight gain right now.
The good news is that you CAN prevent the possible ‘spread’ from COVID19. If you’re an emotional eater, now is the time to get it under control. Here are a few tips to help.
- Keep a journal. Writing down what you eat, when you eat and how you feel will help you keep an eye on eating patterns and emotions. It will keep you accountable for what you eat in addition to making you pay attention to hunger VS habit or emotion.
- Don’t hoard food. While a few US cities are forcing people to stay in (which is good advice for all of us), there is no need to hoard food. The more food you have in your frig or pantry, the more you’ll either eat or throw away if not used. In the age of Instacart and Amazon delivery, you can have food (and toilet paper) delivered if needed.
- Limit purchases of snack foods, alcohol and other empty calories. Sure, we’ve all been joking about turning to baking or drinking to ride out this pandemic. You may want to save your money (and liver function) during this uncertain time. Keep up the water intake- hydration prevents headaches and fatigue.
- Eat scheduled meals. Work and school life is completely upside down right now, but keeping your family on some semblance of a schedule will help ease their anxiety and help regulate appetite. While this doesn’t have to be militant, keep meals roughly 4 to 5 hours apart.
- Keep eating produce. Just because every article you read says “stock up on non-perishables”, you can still buy, prepare and eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Until we run out of romaine, we’re going to keep up the salads in my house.
- Be creative. Have a little extra ‘thyme’? Try a new recipe to get you out of your food rut. While you may crave comfort food, it’s OK to mix things up (literally) now and then.
- Get outside! I am so inspired by how many neighbors I see outside with their families and pets. As the weather warms up, take advantage of biking, hiking or just walking around the block. You can still keep 6 feet of social distance between you and a neighbor or friend while outside.
- Go to bed already! It’s tempting to stay up later if you don’t have a normal work or school schedule. But your body and brain still crave 7 to 8 hours sleep to remain healthy. If possible, keep your usual sleep and wake cycle, even on weekends. Getting enough sleep keeps cravings down, maintains energy and prevents depression. It also keeps your immune system humming!
- Maintain food rules. Eat in your kitchen or dining room only. Don’t allow snacks in your kids’ rooms or snacks while playing board games or watching TV. Mindless eating contributes to the “COVID-19 spread”.
- Seek support. Many mental health providers as well as dietitians are providing virtual visits (telehealth) and phone support to clients. If you’re interested in this service, don’t hesitate to email me to set up an appt.
Keep washing your hands and stay healthy friends!
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Within a week, our world here changed. While we watched the news of the Corona virus spreading into our state with announcements about “social distance” and virtual classrooms, everything from March Madness to soccer season, stopped.My girls’ first response was anxiety and panic. Questions about how to get back into the school for various belongings and projects or having no homework packet began to surface. We’d all been so conditioned to be on the gerbil wheel of a schedule. That comfort of regularity ended abruptly.
As a small business owner, I panicked a bit, too. A tee shirt booth I had at a festival was cancelled. Classes lined up for the garden center beginning next week are on hold. I teach once a week at a small school and while their spring break is next week, I question what will happen the week we’re to return. Plans for our own spring break changed as well. We had planned a trip to Chicago to look at colleges for my oldest daughter, but the campuses are now closed.
But here’s the thing. This time of quiet is a gift. How many of us spend our lives in and out of our cars, on and off the phone planning, scheduling, wedging our lives into multiple events day after day after day? Quite frankly, it’s exhausting. Few of us can say “no” to our kids that want to join yet one more seasonal sport. We can’t politely decline an invitation to be on another committee. We agree to evening meetings when we’d rather be at home with family.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy being involved in my girls’ lives. I like to serve in my community. I enjoy rolling up my sleeves and digging into a meaningful project. But honestly- I’m kind of excited to take days one at a time with no schedule. I’m looking forward to sleeping in instead of waking at 6:15 to get my daughter off to the bus. I’m going to catch up on reading that I rarely get a chance to do. And, I’ll likely make a lot of soup! Being in the kitchen chopping things makes me happy. I won’t be making much money these next several weeks, and that is OK.
Take advantage of this gift of quiet. Enjoy the slow pace. Get out some board games with your family. Read a book. Take a hike outside. Indulge in a nap if you like. The world is upside down right now. And I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.
I get a lot of questions from clients about how to plan meals. While meal planning is seen as tedious, it’s best to start with a few simple tenets. Consider these points first before you start your plan:
- Do you like to cook or need more convenient type foods?
- What do you like to eat? Do you prefer vegetarian or animal-based meals?
- How often do you eat out? To meal plan, consider how many meals you are not eating at home.
- What can you afford? Do you shop at discount or high end grocery stores?
- Do you have any health conditions to keep in mind? Are you trying to prevent diabetes, weight gain or trying to lower cholesterol and blood pressure? Or, are you seeking to gain weight or improve your energy levels?
- Do you have food allergies or intolerances that modify your eating habits?
Balanced meals are just that- balanced. They include all (or most) food groups in order to give your body all the nutrients it needs. Studies show that the more diverse your diet is, the more robust your microbiome (gut bacteria), which helps protect your immune system. Can you manage without dairy products? Of course- but you’ll still want a decent calcium source from either a dairy substitute or calcium/vitamin D supplement.
Should you eat low carb or high carb? This depends on your goals. A lower carb diet may help with weight loss and blood sugar reduction, but may also be difficult to follow long term, especially during the holidays. How about reducing the amount of treats you eat and making a switch from white rice to brown rice? Or adding an extra serving of vegetables and having a smaller serving of grains at each meal? These little tweaks may help you with your health goals rather than having to give up an entire food group.
Do you make a list when you shop? If not, you should. Include foods that you will actually eat. Sure, avocados are in vogue right now, but if you don’t like them or will let them sit on your counter and rot, then don’t buy them. Why not use guacamole for your “avocado” toast? It’s convenient and you may be more likely to use it. Are you bringing food that you purchased with you for snacks or meals at work? If not, why not? Food is for eating!
Breakfast is optional. If you’re not hungry in the morning, I give you permission to skip it. BUT- only if you’re NOT overeating at lunch, dinner and at night. Sometimes people aren’t hungry in the morning simply because they eat too much before they go to bed. Take a real look at what times of day you are eating and why. My advice is that if you’re not hungry, don’t eat. Spread your food out throughout the day for more balanced energy. Include high fiber foods (fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains, nuts or seeds) and high protein foods (beans, meat/fish, tofu or dairy products- cottage cheese, string cheese, Greek yogurt). These keep you feeling fuller, longer and may help you snack less.
Keep some staples on hand for when you’re in a time crunch. These are a few of my favorite meals: black beans & whole wheat tortillas with salsa & shredded cheese, scrambled eggs and toast with a side of fruit, stir fried chicken and vegetables with brown rice. Other than thawing the chicken, these meals can be made fairly quickly without a lot of prep time needed.
Finally, don’t beat yourself up for not having every last morsel in your diet planned. That takes all the fun out of eating. Your meals don’t have to be 100% perfect and neither do you. Remember to include fruits and vegetables every day and a few whole grains per day. Reduce empty calories from chips, candy, cookies, soda and alcohol. Drink more water and get 7-8 hours sleep every night. Your health will improve without drastic measures. Give yourself time.