If you’re a parent working from home and homeschooling your kids, other responsibilities are naturally going to fall by the wayside. From cleaning up to cooking healthy meals, it can be difficult to keep your family on track during a pandemic. However, as award-winning Bariatric Medicine Physician Dr. Jan McBarron explains, it has never been more important to build healthy eating habits and strengthen your immune system. Planning, preparing, and cooking healthy meals with your family at home is not a simple task; however, Dr. Jan McBarron has several tips and tricks that she uses to stay on track.

Have Fun With Meal Preparations

Instead of seeing meal preparation and cooking as a chore, Dr. Jan McBarron suggests turning it into a fun activity that involves the entire family. From picking a recipe to food shopping, involving the whole family can generate excitement around building healthy eating habits. She explains that instead of dictating your children’s food choices, allow them to explore, taste, and try ingredients and recipes that they feel drawn to. It might be useful to guide these choices by picking up a recipe book that focus on whole, plant-based, unprocessed ingredients. This is called ‘parental structuring’, which refers to your ability as a parent to support your child’s learning by teaching and helping, while also offering a degree of autonomy. Once your work and school responsibilities have been attended to, cooking is a really great way to create something together and spend quality time after a long day.

Educate Your Children on the Benefits of Healthy Eating Habits

Another great way to get your family excited about healthy eating habits is to educate them on the benefits. If your children don’t understand the health benefits of eating spices, yogurt, or any vegetable for that matter, simple details may help them understand why eating them is so important. Dr. Jan McBarron explains that educating your children on the practical benefits of eating certain fruits and vegetables can not only build a healthy relationship with food but help them make informed decisions about what they eat in the future.

Implement Regular Eating Times

When you’re at home 24 hours a day, it isn’t long before boredom turns into regular walks to the kitchen. Dr. Jan McBarron suggests deciding on specific eating times with your family to avoid excessive snacking and overeating. When it comes time to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, do your best to eat together as a family without distractions. When you eat in front of a television or computer, there is a tendency to overeat and not pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. If outside of these designated eating times you are going to have snacks, ensure that they are filling and healthy, something like almond butter and apples, or hummus and carrots to curb hunger.

Avoid Using Food as a Reward

Lastly, Dr. Jan McBarron suggests avoiding using food as a reward or punishment. While many children have heard, “If you don’t eat your vegetables you won’t get dessert”, this can lead to a negative relationship with food. Teach your child to be intuitive about their eating, and trust them when they say that they are full. Conversely, do your best not to comfort your child or reward positive behavior with unhealthy food, as this can turn into a coping mechanism later on in life.