Life in Quarantine: Your Kids Need You

April 15, 2020


How are you doing? Emotionally? Physically? Times are tough! I’m lucky to still be working at my nursing home 3 days a week, so I’m enjoying the balance of being at work and working at home. I’m also lucky to not have to be home schooling anyone! But, as we continue to work and do school at home more and more, I’ve noticed an important trend that I want to bring to the forefront. We need to talk about schedules, or lack thereof, and how keeping a daily routine can impact the health of our families and kids. Children are so used to being on tight schedules; school all day, activities or sports after school, homework time, dinner time, and miscellaneous tasks to complete their day. Since the closure of schools for the foreseeable future, I'm noticing schedules and structure have gone out the window. The work that I have done with so many of my pediatric families to establish a healthful meal, snack, and physical activity routine have gone by the wayside. From what I’ve observed, kids are staying up all night and sleeping in late, without structured meals, snacks, or exercise. Now, I admit this is an over-generalization. I’ve seen some families do an excellent job of maintaining a daily routine to keep life as normal as possible right now. Still, I worry about the families who aren’t. From a nutrition perspective, lack of structured meals and snacks in children can lead to overeating or undereating, both huge concerns with negative health outcomes if left untreated. Kids who struggle with their weight are more subject to bullying and poor self-esteem. “Stay at home” orders could be going on for months, so we need to act now to get our family routines under control.


Your children need you, their parents, right now more than ever. Most children that I know are not good about sticking to a routine on their own. Of course, we can’t expect younger kids to wake up, exercise, and do their school work all on their own, but even my teenage patients need that little push from mom or dad. They need you to get them out of bed at a reasonable hour, put breakfast on the table, and set the tone for what the day is going to be like (if you are struggling financially to keep your family fed, or feeling any food insecurity at all, please seek help! Reach out to me, a friend, a neighbor, or a food bank. We are all in this together!) Make an effort to get outside with your kids each day when the weather is nice. They’ll benefit from the movement, fresh air, and UV rays that help their little bodies make Vitamin D! Set aside some time each day for screen-free family time. Remember board games? Bring one out! Have family dinner each night. The act of sitting together as a family, uninterrupted, each night for dinner is SO important and underrated. Even if you have a picky eater who “won’t eat anything” on the dinner table, they are learning table manners, participating in family conversation, and building relationships with their parents and siblings (some of my fondest memories growing up with my brothers happened around the dinner table!).


Keeping the focus on nutrition, here are some ideas of how you can spend time with your kids while encouraging a healthful relationship with food. Get them involved in the kitchen. Whether they are 2 years old or 20 years old, they can help! A 2 year old can pour from a measuring cup or spoon, help mix batter, and taste test! Try a new recipe together (see below for a recent favorite of mine!). Have a cooking contest (who else loves Chopped on the Food Network!?). Eat a rainbow every day; how many different colored fruits and vegetables can you eat? The opportunities here are endless. Don’t feel like you suddenly need to be the Martha Stewart of your household. Use my blog, other blogs online, Pinterest, and other social media outlets to come up with ideas! Let’s keep our kids engaged, healthy, and on a routine as best we can!


To help inspire you to establish routine for yourself, I highly recommend the book My Morning Routine by Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander (I have no affiliation with the authors or the book, I just love it!)


I’d love to know how you are keeping a schedule around your house or any new routines you’ve established during quarantine. Send me an email and let’s chat!


Here's a recipe I developed for a Mass Appeal segment!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 1 hour Serves 4 (2 quesadillas per person)

Ingredients

1 whole sweet potato, peeled and diced into ¼ inch cubes

1 whole onion, peeled and diced

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 ½ cups shredded Mexican style cheese

8 small (6 inch) flour tortillas

4 Tablespoons olive oil (for drizzling at each step)

Salt and pepper, to taste


Directions

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F

2. Spread sweet potato in an even layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for 30 minutes

3. Remove sweet potato from oven. Push to one side on the baking sheet and add onion to the other side. Spread into an even layer. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast 15 minutes.

4. Remove sweet potato and onion from the oven. Push onion to middle of baking sheet. Add black beans to the remaining space. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast 10 minutes.

5. Pour all roasted vegetables into a large mixing bowl; mix thoroughly.

6. On a clean baking sheet, lay out 8 tortillas. Drizzle each with olive oil and spread so that each tortilla is covered with olive oil. Flip each tortilla over.

7. On one side of the tortilla, sprinkle 2 Tablespoons shredded cheese. Spoon about ½ cup of the vegetable mixture on top of the cheese. Sprinkle another 2 Tablespoons cheese over the vegetable mixture. Fold tortilla and half and push down so that it stays folded on its own. Repeat with the remaining 7 tortillas.

8. Broil on HIGH for about 2 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Serve with salsa and sour cream, or fresh avocado!