• According to new research, one in five parents said they fed their children
  • fast food more frequently now than before the outbreak.
  • At least twice a week, parents with overweight children reported eating out.
  • Too busy or worried, for example, were mentioned as reasons.
  • Experts, on the other hand, suggest that preparing a healthy dinner at home does not have to be difficult or time-consuming.
  • They propose that instead of dieting, children should focus on developing healthy habits.


Many families have discovered chances for improved nutrition and increased physical exercise as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.


Others, on the other hand, have experienced more stress and decreased mobility as their houses have become both a classroom and a job.


This has made it more difficult for parents to find the time or energy to prepare healthy meals at home regularly.


According to the National Poll on Children’s Health conducted by the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, roughly 1 in 5 parents said that their children were eating fast food more frequently than before the epidemic.


According to the poll, which included responses from 2,019 parents of children aged 3 to 18, one in every six parents claimed their child eats fast food at least twice a week.


When compared to parents who said their child was a healthy weight for their age and height, parents who said their child was overweight were about twice as likely to also claim that their child ate fast food twice a week.


When asked why they couldn’t prepare meals at home, over 40% of parents stated they were simply too busy.


A percent of parents said they were excessively stressed.


These barriers to healthy eating were reported most often among those families with children with overweight.


Simple but healthy meal options


However, according to nutritionists, preparing a healthy dinner at home does not have to be complicated or time-consuming. It doesn’t even have to be related to cooking.


Dr. Mary-Jon Ludy, associate professor of food and nutrition and chair of the department of public and allied health at Bowling Green State University’s College of Health and Human Services, recommends adopting the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a starting point for meal planning.


“To summarise, half of our plates should be filled with fruits and vegetables, half with whole grains, proteins should be lean, dairy should be low fat, and variety should be encouraged,” Ludy said.


Ludy suggested simple food recommendations, such as:


  • Plain low-fat yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit, chopped nuts, and whole-grain granola for breakfast.
  • Lunch consists of a nut butter sandwich on whole grain bread with sliced apples or bananas on the side, as well as baby carrots or cucumbers and low-fat milk.
  • Whole wheat tortillas stuffed with black beans or shredded chicken, brown rice, mashed avocado, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and shredded cheese for dinner.
  • Hummus with sliced peppers or whole-grain crackers as a snack


“These are fantastic options,” Ludy said, “because they take little time to prepare, are balanced in healthy carbohydrates and lean proteins, offer a variety of fillings/add-ins and are simple enough for youngsters to help with.”


How can parents help their children in managing their weight gain?


The ideal strategy for weight loss, according to Therese S. Waterhous, Ph.D., RDN, CEDRD-S, an eating disorder expert in private practice in Corvallis, Oregon, is to use a non-diet approach, especially with children. Diets don’t work, she said, and most people regain the weight they lose.


“Instead of dieting, it’s better to focus on health-promoting behaviors,” she stated.


She believes that no foods should be off-limits when it comes to eating, but that the focus should be on improving health so that children can grow and develop to their full potential.


It is “crucial,” she said, not to make young children or teenagers feel horrible about their bodies. This causes tension, as well as, in some circumstances, eating disorders.


“Weight stigma is extremely destructive to children, and it is widespread in our society,” Waterhous added. “Rather than concentrating on the weight, it is preferable to concentrate on the health behaviors.”


Instead of vilifying certain meals, she suggests focusing on getting adequate calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals.


She claims that most young people do not consume enough produce, which contains essential minerals and fiber. Every meal should include two to three portions of veggies or fruit, according to her. She said that one serving is around 1/2 cup or one medium piece of fruit.


Consider healthier options when you eat at restaurants


Even if you have the best of intentions, there may be occasions when a quick supper at a restaurant is the best option for your hectic schedule.


When it comes to eating out, Ludy recommends the following strategies:


  • When possible, include vegetables. For example, on sandwiches, order lettuce and tomatoes, peppers and onions on burritos, and mushrooms and olives on pizza.
  • Instead of sodas or sweet tea, choose water, 100 percent fruit juice, or plain low-fat milk.
  • Instead of chips or fries, serve apple slices or carrot sticks as an aside.
  • Small or child-sized portions are available.
  • Make fast food an exception rather than a rule.
  • Make good food choices for yourself to set an example for your children.


Waterhous also recommended that you start your lunch with a sandwich or rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Then, to finish your dinner, add easy options like fruit salad, tossed salad, or homegrown vegetables.


Rice, mashed potatoes, or a slice of bread might be served with your chicken to add some starch, she suggested. Your side dishes can even be prepared ahead of time and reheated for dinner.