How to break the kids' lockdown food habits

Back in the habit: Adam and William Hawkins are getting back into pre-lockdown life and eating healthier. Picture: Supplied
Back in the habit: Adam and William Hawkins are getting back into pre-lockdown life and eating healthier. Picture: Supplied

Anyone who was locked down with children knows that sometimes the only way to move past mealtime is to relent.

With parents busy working from home, it was harder than ever to enforce healthy eating habits in lockdown, especially at lunch time.

Currans Hills mum Coreena Hawkins knows the feeling well. The busy mum has three kids under 10 - Adam, William and Harrison - and struggled to combat their boredom munchies.

"During lockdown my boys were eating more frequently during the day and always on the look-out for snacks," she said. "This was definitely due to the change of routine and the fact that we were doing remote learning.

"'Sometimes' foods were consumed more often than usual, and the snacking had increased. I was balancing working from home and remote learning and doing whatever needed to be done to keep the peace."

Ms Hawkins' experience is far from unique.

New research from +Plant (a product offering a mix of chicken and plant proteins) reveals 71 per cent of parents admitted to 'giving in' to their kids' meal requests during lockdown, including three quarters of all working parents surveyed.

The findings indicate parents were often 'too tired' to fight with the kids at mealtimes, or needed them to be quiet during a virtual meeting.

Paediatric nutritionist Karina Savage said increased stress on parents definitely reduced their resilience to "manage pester power and fussy eating behaviour".

"Parents simply have less energy and head space to put towards showing up with healthy, tasty food at this time," she said. "Often children are helping themselves to higher sugar or higher salt foods in the cupboard, when they would usually be at school eating from their lunch box. Habits developed over the months of lockdown may now become the new expectation for children. Parents may find that they need to press the 'reset button' and have a chat to their children about the 'everyday' foods and 'sometimes foods' - reinforcing clear boundaries and expectations."

Ms Savage encouraged parents to 'strip it back to basics' and stick to whole foods as much as possible "with plenty of plant-based options". She said spending 10 minutes planning weekly snacks and meals during the weekend was vital.

"Disguising veggies in meals and snacks is another way to increase their overall intake," she said. "Foods like Chicken +Plant Nuggets are great because they have 50 per cent plant protein and 50 per cent chicken breast.

"The more we familiarise our children with plant foods the better. And this doesn't only happen at the dinner table."