Eat healthy during the COVID 19 pandemic.

Eat healthy during the COVID 19 pandemic.

The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is disrupting the lives of families around the world. As schools and childcare centres close, many parents are having to stay home and juggle caring for their children and working full time while taking care of other responsibilities. Decide “what’s for dinner?” it can become another daily challenge.

To further complicate matters, shopping panic and disruptions in food supply systems can make finding certain foods difficult. In addition, for many people, unemployment and loss of income make buying food more economical pressure.

While many parents are understandably turning to ready meals and processed products to feed their family quickly and cheaply, there are practical, affordable, and healthy alternatives. We present five ways to feed your children following a varied and nutritious diet that will promote their growth and development and, at the same time, will help to establish healthy eating habits.

Five tips for healthy eating

1. Keep eating fruit and vegetables.

Buying, storing and cooking fresh vegetables can be difficult during isolation, especially when parents are advised to limit their outings from the home. However, as much as possible, it is important to ensure that children’s diets include a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables. Whenever you have the opportunity to get fresh produce, go for it. Fruits and vegetables, in addition to being able to be taken fresh, can also be frozen, and retain much of their flavor and nutrients. If you use fresh vegetables to cook soups, broths or other dishes in large quantities, you will make them last longer and you will have different options for several days. Besides, you can also freeze these dishes and reheat them quickly.

2. If you cannot find fresh products, replace them with healthy alternatives, such as dehydrated or canned foods.

Fresh produce is almost always the best option, but when they are not available there are many healthy alternatives that you can easily store and prepare. Rich in nutrients, canned beans and chickpeas can be stored for months or even years and can be included in your dishes in a variety of ways. Canned oily fish, such as sardines, mackerel, and salmon, are rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. You can use them cold, such as in sandwiches, salads or pasta dishes, or you can also add them to hot dishes. Canned vegetables, such as tomatoes, tend to contain fewer vitamins than fresh produce, but they are a good alternative if you have trouble finding fresh produce or frozen vegetables. Dried foods, such as dried beans, legumes, and cereals, such as lentils, split peas, rice, couscous, or quinoa, are also long-lasting, nutritious options that are tasty, affordable, and filling. Oatmeal flakes cooked with milk or water are a great breakfast option, and can be seasoned with yogurt, chopped fruit, or raisins.

3. Keep stocks of healthy snacks.

Children often need one or two snacks throughout the day to stay active. Instead of giving them sweets or salty snacks, opt for healthier options like nuts, cheese, yogurt (preferably unsweetened), chopped or dried fruit, boiled eggs, or other healthy options available in your area. These foods are nutritious, satisfying, and help create lifelong healthy habits.

4. Limit highly processed foods.

Although it will not always be possible to use fresh products, try to limit the amount of highly processed foods in your shopping basket. Ready meals and packaged desserts and snacks are often high in saturated fat, sugar, and salt. If you buy processed foods, look at the label and try to choose healthier options that contain less of these substances. Try to avoid sugary drinks and drink plenty of water instead. A good way to add more flavor to the water is to add fruits or vegetables, such as lemon, lime, cucumber slices or red fruits.

5. Make cooking and eating an important and fun part of your family routine.

Cooking and eating together is a great way to create healthy routines, strengthen family ties, and have fun. Whenever possible, invite your children to participate in the preparation of the meal: the younger ones can help wash or organize the food, while the older ones can take on more complex tasks and help set the table.

As much as possible, try to stick to fixed times to eat as a family. These types of structures and routines can help reduce children’s anxiety in these stressful situations.