Yes, meal preparation can be challenging but it doesn’t need to be. While we live through the COVID-19 stay home order with the family; if the family primary looks to you for meal preparation, here’s a word of advice; do not succumb to the pressure you may be placing on yourself to be a “June Cleaver” or Martha Steward in the kitchen if that is not naturally you.
-Sometimes “good enough, is in-fact good enough.”
The Question of What To Prepare:
Here is my balanced, realistic, non-crazymaking response to the often-asked question of “what to prepare for the family.” One of the caregivers’ primary responsibility is to make reasonably balanced main meals or provide the ingredients so that most teens or adults will be able to put together reasonably nutritious meals and snacks. If you can manage that task most of the time during these otherwise time-starved and financially challenging times, then you have won a big portion of the battle of feeding your family during COVID-19, or at any time for that matter. Using the Martha Stewart or June Cleaver model as your ideal is admirable, but for most families, it is highly unrealistic and plain unnecessary.
The Question of Timing:
Another of the main caregivers’ responsibilities is establishing reasonable consistency around meals and snack times. Mealtime consistency provides reassurance for our minds and bodies that says our nutrition needs will be met – within a reasonable time frame. Attending to this mental and physiological need is fundamental in achieving a positive relationship with food. More specifically, it is an important determinant for ensuring personal food security. Food insecurity is the constant feeling of not knowing whether or not you will be fed. This mental and physical feeling often leads to chaotic eating. Chaotic eating confuses and inhibits the desirable metabolic process we know as intuitive eating. To compound this, it is not difficult to imagine how Binge Eating can be an unwanted outcome of a very erratic eating schedule.
Beyond these two broad guidelines, I would recommend using the unprecedented times we are living through, to prepare meals together, to relax and enjoy each other’s presence around meals as much as possible. Use the time that COVID-19 has gifted us, to update our memory bank as to our child’s current food “likes and dislikes,” as well as their “… yeah, but hat was when I was little mom. I would be willing to try it again” eating status.
Does Becky still hate tomatoes to the same extent that she did 3 years ago when she was 4 and you didn’t have the time or patience to help her accept other tomato-based meals? Now that everyone -including 15-year-old Mackenzie does not need to rush out the door to go to school, work, piano or hockey practice; maybe, just maybe six years later, Mackenzie will be more receptive to eating baked potatoes as opposed to insisting on only eating potatoes in the form of French Fries (hold the Ketchup?). Maybe now he /she is ready to try BBQ chicken (yes with sauce), not just plain chicken fingers.
May I suggest approaching meal planning and meal preparation more with an open relaxed mind. Make it less about crafting the perfect well-balanced meal every time. Allow yourself the ability to test, what might well be dated understanding of your family’s food preference, and their willingness to try preciously hated foods. Be aware that similar to their taste in friends, music, and clothes, their food preferences may have also evolved.
As caregivers, when we create key family moments sprinkled with patience and clear yet flexible approaches to food and eating, we leave lasting impressions that will nourish them for generations to come.
How can Eating Dynamiks & Therapy Help?
Health is not only about nutrition or physical health. Fostering good mental health for you and your family is an equally important ingredient in achieving the healthy balance needed to weather uncertain times such as these.
As a dietitian who also has professional training in mental health; I have acquired decades of examples of what works most of the time and sadly, many experiences of how early eating and feeding behaviours can go terribly wrong, leading to decades of eating behaviour issues in adulthood.
I would recommend caregivers use this unexpected COVID-19 breaks, to create precious mental health food moments with their families, as opposed to setting unreasonable standards for themself and their family by attempting to execute elaborately planned, well-balanced ‘healthy,’ meals every day.