Who among us hasn't eaten one too many homemade chocolate chip cookies or grazed mindlessly on salty snacks while staying at home? Being quarantined means our eating habits have changed, not always for the better. Gina Rancourt is a registered dietician with Whole Health Nutrition in Colchester. She often works with families looking to create well-balanced meal plans for their picky eaters, or children with dietary restrictions. We asked Rancourt to share her tips for how to keep both kids and adults eating nutritiously while sheltering in place.
1. Schedule meal and snack times. This doesn't have to be rigid, but give your kids an idea of when their next meal or snack will be.
2. Be sure to include the "big three" for snacks: protein (keeps them satisfied and helps them grow), carbohydrate (keeps them energized) and fiber (keeps them full for longer).
- Protein: cheese, hard-boiled eggs, turkey jerky, yogurt, nuts and seeds
- Carbohydrate: fresh, frozen or dried fruit, or whole-grain crackers
- Fiber: fruits and veggies
3. Make snacks fun and interactive.
- Present foods in a new way: Cut up food in different shapes, serve fruits/veggies of all colors on a platter, use chopsticks instead of forks, make snack kabobs, or have an indoor or outdoor picnic.
- Add a dip or two: Serve veggies with hummus, bean dip or Greek yogurt dip. This gives kids choices and a task: to dip their veggies so they don't only have to focus on eating them.
4. Get kids involved in choices and prep for snacks and meals.
- Have your kids come up with a new snack idea. Since we should avoid bringing kids to the grocery store, have them pick something out online.
- Give younger kids two choices for a snack — for example, "Would you rather have peanut butter or cheese with your crackers and apple slices?" Older kids can choose from more options.
- Younger kids can wash and dry produce; older kids can help put dips in bowls, cut up produce and plate the entire snack.
- Try new foods to keep things interesting. Because we are limited when it comes to food variety and shopping frequency, this can be tricky, but it can also encourage kids — and adults — to think outside the box. Fresh, frozen and canned all count toward your child's nutrition.
5. Think quick. Having prepared snacks and a few packaged options on hand, kept in a place that's easy for kids to access, can be helpful when parents are busy working from home.
- Pre-cut fruits like apples, oranges and kiwi slices
- Pre-cut veggies like bell pepper strips and cucumber
- Homemade trail mix with nuts, dried fruit and dark chocolate pieces
- Homemade smoothies
- Unsweetened applesauce or pear sauce
- Hummus or other premade bean dip
- Chocolate hummus or chocolate peanut butter
- Cereals like Barbara's Puffins Cinnamon, Multi Grain Cheerios and Kix
Make it educational and more nutritious by following the tips below:
- Math: Get kids using measuring cups and spoons.
- Chemistry: Explore why salt, baking soda, baking powder, yeast, sugar, eggs, etc. are important in baking.
- Biology: Where do the ingredients come from? How are they grown?
- Nutrition: What effects does food have on the body? Why do our bodies need food?
Challenge your kids, and yourself, to maximize the nutritional benefit in favorites like muffins, cookies and pancakes by adding nuts, seeds and oats; using alternative flours like almond flour or oat flour; adding shredded fruits and vegetables; adding pureed fruits and vegetables like apples, bananas, butternut squash, spinach, carrots and cauliflower; and using one-quarter to one-half the amount of sugar called for in recipes, or using maple syrup instead.
Power Up Smoothie
- 1 cup berries
- ½ cup Greek plain yogurt or low-sugar option like Siggy’s vanilla
- 1 teaspoon ground flaxseed
- handful spinach
- ¼ cup orange juice or unsweetened milk
- Blend all ingredients and serve.
PB Yogurt Dip
- 1 cup Greek plain yogurt or low-sugar option like Siggy’s vanilla
- ¼ cup unsweetened peanut butter (or other nut butter)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1-2 teaspoons maple syrup (optional)
- 2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips (optional)
- Dash cinnamon
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Serve with cut-up fruit and whole grain crackers or pita chips.