Elyssa Toomey, Nutrition Director here at Eat With Knowledge, has awesome advice to share for parents for back to school. Her article below highlights tips for helping families through this difficult time.
Back to school time always poses challenges for families: adjusting to earlier bedtimes, trying to find time for breakfast before heading out for a busy day, packing lunches that kids will want to eat, remembering soccer cleats and trumpets, and this year is SO much harder. Whether kids are in school, virtual or hybrid, there is a lot more for us to manage.
We’ve been hearing from our clients all about the difficulties with family feeding during COVID-19.
We have five tips to help make this transition back to school a little smoother. We hope these tips support you and your family.
- Structure – We all need it, and in this time of global uncertainty, structure can provide a sense of safety and security for children and adolescents who may be experiencing a lot of emotions. While we promote listening to and honoring one’s hunger and fullness cues, having a schedule as to when the family eats meals and snacks can promote a sense of grounding and ensure everyone is getting consistent nutrition. If you feel all over the place with food during the day, we encourage you to experiment with “the rule of 3’s” – 3 meals and 3 snacks, approximately every 3 hours and exploring what works for you
- Balance – Balanced eating includes eating a variety of foods during daily meals and snacks to provide fuel for your body. We use our peaceful plate to help demonstrate the importance of different food groups: carbohydrates as the main source of fuel for muscles and the only source of energy for the brain; protein as essential for muscle growth; fats for long lasting energy and satisfaction and fiber: fruits and veggies to help prevent disease and boost immunity. Creating meals and snacks with these food groups is important for balanced nutrition and need not be a source of any additional stress during this time. A turkey sandwich with cheese, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato and maybe an apple and or some pretzels meets all our needs quickly and deliciously.
- Empower – When it comes to childhood and adolescent feeding, we often refer to Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility for families. We know as parents you have a positive role to play in your child’s health and wellbeing. Allowing kids to make some of the decisions related to food and their body, is a great way for children to grow up to be both competent eaters and empowered with body autonomy. The philosophy states that parents are in charge of when to feed and what to feed and kids are in charge of listening to their bodies and deciding how much to eat.
- Choice – Flexibility is key to helping us attune to our physical, mental and emotional needs. Within each food group there are endless choices. In this time when we are challenged with so many restrictions, offering age appropriate choices about what kind of carb, protein, fat and fiber to eat will promote great nutrition. This allows kids to enjoy a variety of foods with different vitamins and minerals, and will also help people of all ages feel like they some say in what is happening in their world.
- Connection – I was so grateful when a therapist colleague rephrased “social distance” to “physical distance” at the beginning of the pandemic. Nonetheless, we are all missing some of the social connection we previously experienced. In this way, family meals can be an opportunity to come together for support, fun and a sense of connection. Prior to March, countless clients and parents lamented how busy schedules made family meals a challenge. This unique period of time offers many of us the opportunity to come together and break bread for more meal and snacks times and to cherish these occasions.
At Eat With Knowledge, our passion is to help all people develop a great relationship with food. We would be happy to see you (or your child) for a nutrition counseling appointment.
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Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian and the owner of Eat With Knowledge in Nyack, NY. She is on a mission to help people heal from diets, and find peace and balance with their food choices. She leads a team of dietitians who support the philosophy, “Feel Fabulous about Food!”
Start your own healing by downloading her Free Stop the Cycle of Binge Eating guide or her Free Hunger – Fullness Scale.