24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904
(361)575-0611
(800)421-8825
Fax: (361)578-5500

Nutrition
Resources
Basic InformationLatest News
Diet Drinks Don't Do Your Heart Any FavorsAHA News: Persimmons Pack Plenty of Nutritional PunchRestricting Promotions of Sweet Foods Cuts Sugar, Not Profits: StudyWhat Foods, Medicines Can Lower Your Colon Cancer Risk?Americans Are Cutting Back on Sugary DrinksAre School Lunches a Ticket to Healthy Eating?AHA News: Healthy Food for At-Home Students Starts With ThisEating in the Evening Could Be Bad for Your HealthAHA News: When It Comes to Labor Day Menu Choices, Safety Is TastyUSDA Extends Free School Meals Program Amid PandemicSweet-Tooth Tendencies Change as Kids Get Older: StudySome Vegetarian Diets Are Much Healthier Than OthersMediterranean Diet Might Lower Your Odds for Parkinson'sAHA News: Nut Butters Are a Healthy Way to Spread NutrientsFast Food Makes an Unhealthy Comeback Among KidsIs It Really 'Whole Grain'? Food Labels Often MisleadingPizza Study Shows Body's Resilience to 'Pigging Out'More Americans Turning to Artificial Sweeteners, But Is That a Healthy Move?Want to Protect Your Eyes as You Age? Stay Away From CarbsCould Vegetables Be the Fountain of Youth?Coffee: Good for You or Not?How Much Fasting Is Enough for 'Fasting Diet' to Work?Smog Harms Women's Brains, But One Food May Help Buffer the DamageGuys, Going Vegetarian Won't Lower Your TestosteroneGetting Your Protein From Plants a Recipe for LongevityUpping Fruit, Veggies, Grain Intake Can Cut Your Diabetes Risk by 25%Healthier School Meal Programs Helped Poorer Kids Beat Obesity: StudyExcess Sugar Is No Sweet Deal for Your HeartAHA News: A Healthier Frozen Treat for Hot Summer DaysIntestinal Illness Spurs Recall of Bagged Salads Sold at Walmart, AldiHealthier Meals Could Mean Fewer Strokes, Heart AttacksWhat Difference Do Calorie Counts on Menus Make?Female Athletes Shortchange Themselves on NutritionMilk Chocolate, Dairy and Fatty Foods Tied to Acne in AdultsLatest in Cancer Prevention: Move More, Ditch Beer and BaconFor Tasty Tomatoes, Either the Fridge or the Counter Is OK: StudyAHA News: Calorie Data on Menus Could Generate Significant Health, Economic BenefitsHealth Warning Labels Could Cut Soda SalesWhere Are Kids Getting the Most 'Empty Calories'?AHA News: A Nutritious Side Dish to Grill This Memorial DayAHA News: Cooking More at Home? Diverse Food Cultures Can Expand Heart-Healthy MenuEven One High-Fat Meal May Dull Your MindToo Many Sugary Sodas Might Harm Your KidneysCan Fruits, Tea Help Fend Off Alzheimer's Disease?More Evidence Sugary Drinks Harm Women's HeartsIn COVID Crisis, Nearly Half of People in Some U.S. States Are Going HungryNavigating the Grocery Store SafelyOn Some Farms, Washing Machines Give Leafy Greens a Spin -- But Is That Safe?Coffee May Do a Heart Good, as Long as It's FilteredPotato & Sausages, Cold Cuts a Bad Combo for Your Brain
Questions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics

Wellness and Personal Development

AHA News: Healthy Food for At-Home Students Starts With This


HealthDay News
Updated: Sep 4th 2020

new article illustration

FRIDAY, Sept. 4, 2020 (American Heart Association News) -- You're trying to work. Your kids are attempting online learning. Everyone wants something to eat. And you're losing your mind.

Experts say one ingredient can make all the difference in this situation.

Grace.

"You know, this is not easy," said Caree Cotwright, an assistant professor in the University of Georgia Department of Foods and Nutrition in Athens. "Even with all the skills I have as a registered dietitian, there's a lot of planning and a lot of volleying between Mom and Dad that has to go on in order for the kids to keep a schedule and be able to have things that are healthy."

Alexis Wood, assistant professor of pediatrics-nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, agreed. "Parental stress and guilt is not going to help anything," she said. "It's going to make it worse, if anything."

Wood and Cotwright speak from both professional expertise and personal experience. Wood, lead author on a recent American Heart Association report about how to help children develop healthy eating habits, has a daughter, 4, and son, 7. Figuring out meals hasn't been easy.

When the pandemic started, she tried to do it all. She focused on her children all day until 3:30 p.m., when her boyfriend would take over so she could work. "Then I would cook dinner and serve it. Put the kids to bed. Clean the house. Prepare the homeschooling for the next day." She made it work for several weeks but was burning out.

Now, rigorous planning helps everyone stay on track. And she follows the advice in the report she helped write – which says the best way to help children develop their own healthy eating habits is to focus her energy on providing an environment that "covertly" sets boundaries around food, such as keeping regular meal times and deciding what child-friendly foods her children have access to.

Wood combats unhealthy snacks by restricting the grocery list. Then, she lets her kids make choices from the healthy options that do make it home. By keeping mostly healthy foods in the house, children can "do the work" by selecting and serving foods – and this has freed up some of her responsibility. Dinner times look different than before the pandemic, but she's learned "that for kids, not only do they not mind if you just put random foods on the table – they actually love it."

One desperate evening, Wood set out leftover chicken, fruits, cheese and whole-grain bread and let her kids build their own plates. "And they thought it was the greatest."

Cotwright has daughters who are 6, 4 and 2. When making her shopping list, she asks her girls what fruits they'd like. Those become snacks for the week.

But Cotwright, who has written about ways for daycare providers to encourage healthy eating, said it's important to have realistic expectations for healthy eating.

She had to adjust her own approach during the early days of the lockdown, when she thought she needed to cook a full, hearty breakfast each day. By 10 a.m., her girls still wanted snacks.

She realized, "There is no way I can keep this up." So, she asked her kids what they liked. Breakfast now might include a whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk or a boiled egg.

Planning helps ease the stress of meal preparation, Cotwright said. Mondays might be good for weekend leftovers; Tuesday is always Taco Tuesday. "My kids love it. My kids eat it. Doesn't take me long." And she doesn't have to stress about coming up with an idea.

She also cooks whenever her schedule allows. "Just because you eat at 6 doesn't mean you have to cook at 5:30."

For drinks, each daughter has her own water bottle. "I'll cut up lemons and limes. If they want to put those in there, they can. If they don't, they don't have to. But they sip off of the water bottle all day, and then it saves me in not having wash a ton of cups."

Dr. April Spencer, a surgeon in private practice in Atlanta, is the primary caregiver for Taylor, 10, and Tye, 8. The kids offer ideas for snacks, which might include bowls of fruit or kid-friendly charcuterie, or grazing boards, with fruit, cheese and protein. (You can see an example on Spencer's Instagram feed.)

Is being in charge of your own choices overwhelming to a kid?

"Not really," said Taylor, a self-assured fifth grader.

"I kind of miss school lunches because we get, like, a lot of options," she acknowledged. "But I like having home school, because we can just, like, go to our refrigerator or our pantry to get any snacks we want." She particularly likes the veggie burgers her mom makes for lunch.

The family's success fits with Wood's professional advice.

"The goal, in a nutshell, is to try to control the environment. But not the child."

And, she added: "Cut yourself some slack."