Research shows that obesity rates have been increasing in recent years, especially as the standard American diet has shifted from fresh foods to fast foods. Adding on a major stressor, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, can contribute even more to unhealthy eating habits amongst families that are struggling with the new reality of health concerns.
Living in this chaotic time has presented new challenges to parents that have been forced to work from home, keep their children home from daycare and/or school, or even deal with unemployment. Rituals and schedules have been tossed to the side as parents cope with meeting their children’s basic needs and paying careful attention to keep them safe from the viral spread. Children are spending more time indoors, not getting their typical amounts of daily physical activity. As adults have switched from thriving to surviving, healthy habits may be giving way to unwanted changes.
However, this doesn’t have to be the case - with some simple adjustments, any family can take this time to form healthy eating and exercise habits that will give all family members a better chance at staying active and avoiding illness.
Pediatricians and dieticians are noticing several substantial changes to family life due to the pandemic: more frequent snacking, increased reliance on fast food or convenience foods, lack of a daily routine, and decreased physical activity. These trends can be attributed to parental fears about bringing their children in public spaces due to the highly contagious nature of the COVID-19 virus, changing schedules due to employment shifts and school closures, and an overall increase in stress levels.
Are you concerned about your family’s health habits during the pandemic? Follow these simple adjustments, and your family will be back on track in no time!1. Maintain a daily schedule.
Experts agree that the main way to ward off stress during chaotic times is to keep a daily schedule. Although our standard way of life has changed due to the pandemic, it is important to maintain a sense of normalcy by keeping a daily schedule. As much as possible, be sure to get up, get dressed, and eat a healthy breakfast every morning. Eat three meals a day, and avoid mindless snacking. Try to keep your children on a schedule as well, so they can know what to expect each day.2. Get adequate sleep.
Healthy habits start with maintaining good sleep habits. As much as possible, keep a consistent bedtime routine, a daily nap or quiet time, and a standard time to get up in the morning. As a general guideline, newborns need 12-18 hours of sleep, infants need 14-15 hours of sleep, toddlers need 12-14 hours of sleep, preschoolers need 11-13 hours of sleep, and school-aged children need 10-11 hours of sleep. These numbers include daily naps. If your child refuses to take a nap during the day, consider adding a scheduled “quiet time” to your daily routine, when your child must stay in her room and can choose from quiet activities or books for a set amount of time.3. Encourage healthy snacking.
If your children are feeling stressed or anxious, you might observe them eating more than usual, and turning to quick snacks more often. While there’s nothing wrong with offering snacks throughout the day, be sure that your children are still eating adequate portions at set mealtimes! Help your children make smart snacking choices by setting up a special basket, drawer, or spot in the refrigerator for nutrient-dense foods to choose from. Some ideas for healthy snacks are granola bars, fruit leather, Greek yogurt, raspberries, apple slices, baby carrots, cucumbers, whole wheat crackers, or homemade muffins.4. Keep junk food out of the house.
One of the easiest ways to combat junk food cravings is to simply keep it out of the house! If you’re finding yourself, or your kids, turning more often to a bag of chips, sugar-laden beverages such as juices or sodas, or foods high in fat and calories, consider keeping these foods out of the house to avoid temptation. Make some simple swaps such as replacing chips with pretzels, switching from juice to water flavored with fresh sliced fruits, and shifting from convenience foods to home-baked goods. This way, treats will remain a treat - saved for special occasions only!5. Exercise as a family
Make exercise a family affair! You don’t need an expensive gym membership in order to live a healthy, active lifestyle. Even if your children’s normal activities have been canceled (swim lessons, baseball leagues, P.E. classes, and park playdates) due to the pandemic, there’s nothing stopping you from being creative with your daily routine. You can scope out a new hiking trail in your city, drive to the beach and walk along the sand, play soccer at an open field at a local park, or take a family bike ride around your neighborhood! If the heat is too intense for outdoor exercise, consider setting up a family obstacle course in your living room, doing a workout DVD together, or utilizing one of the many online platforms for kids’ exercise videos, such as GoNoodle or Cosmic Kids Yoga!6. Be open and honest about emotional changes.
Emotional eating often leads to disordered, unhealthy eating. Strive to maintain a positive emotional environment in your home by helping your children embrace their feelings. Young babies and toddlers lack the emotional maturity to correctly identify and deal with their strong emotions, but you can help them by reading books about emotions together, taking time during each meal to talk about feelings, and practicing empathy by guessing what other family members or book characters might be feeling. Model emotional intelligence with your children by reassuring them that feeling anxious, sad, or scared is normal and acceptable. Family routines have changed, and it’s hard for everyone, even your youngest children! Help them work through strong emotions by providing a safe, stable, calm environment where children feel accepted and cared for.
Life has changed for parents all around the country. While it might be easy to slip into unhealthy habits, it’s important for families to maintain a routine and strive to live a healthy lifestyle even during these difficult times. If your family has been struggling lately, consider adopting one or two of the above habits and enable your family to make health a priority!
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
|I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.|