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Surviving Virtual School

We’d all hoped for a “normal” back-to-school year after COVID-19 roared earlier this year. And now we find ourselves a long way from that.   After a long summer, the alarm clocks are set, the computers are all charged up and you are stuck wondering how you as parents and your kids will survive another term of virtual learning. 

Here are some suggestions I have jotted down for myself as I’m learning this firsthand as a working mother with kids in primary and secondary school.

  • Set clear expectations about what the virtual school day will look like.

  • Make school a priority. Although children will still be at home, virtual school is not a vacation.

  • At the same time, cut everyone a little slack when you can. With a little thought, clear communication and flexibility we can all get through this. 

But what I really want to focus on today is what will you be feeding your kids.

 I have seen an alarming rise of overweight and obesity in my practice since COVID-19 began, and this is in children who have always been at a healthy weight. Too much downtime at home with not enough to do and free access to snacks has led to boredom and habit eating. We need to create some rules around how we eat at home to prevent this trend from worsening.

For starters:

  • Set scheduled times for meals and snacks to avoid eating out of stress or boredom.

  • Avoid mindless snacking. Eat in a dining area, away from any screens or devices. If we look at a computer or TV while we eat, we tend to keep eating after we are full.

  • Avoid packaged snacks. Each snack should include a fruit or vegetable to fill you up and a protein to keep you from getting hungry again soon. An example would be carrots and hummus, an apple with peanut butter, or a pear with a small piece of cheese.

  • If you aren't available at snack time, plan snacks ahead of time and give your children a list of healthy snack options that you have on hand. If your children can’t read, print a picture of the snacks they can choose from.

  • When it comes to ensuring that our children are eating the most nutritious snacks and meals that they possibly can, it is so important to make it fun, make it colorful and keep it clean.

It all starts in the grocery. I like to think about what I would want to snack on as an adult. If my plate is unappealing aesthetically, or has food I dislike in it, I will tend not to eat it. Especially with young children, a colorful and appealing plate or snack container can be a make-or-break between successful food day and an unsuccessful one.

An important thing to remember when buying your child's snacks is to try to add a little bit of a lot of different things, and to remember that QUALITY is more important than quantity. The ratio 80/20 is a helpful hint. 80% of the lunch should be healthy foods that you are confident your child likes and has eaten successfully before, and 20% of their food should be new things to try that are similar healthy items' that you would like to see them eat in the future. These should not be the same thing everyday, and should always be offered to encourage your child to keep his or her options open to trying new things.

All kids need nutritious foods to help boost their energy and help them concentrate and learn.

Here are 12 Snack Tips:

  1. Always include fresh fruit and vegetables. Vary the selection to keep it interesting.

  2. Offer a variety of whole grain bakery breads, that is if you plan on giving your child a sandwich.

  3. Use avocado or grass fed butter as a spread instead of margarine.

  4. Look at the sugar content of juice packs. Limit juice and always encourage them to drink more water.

  5. Kids need a serving of protein at lunchtime. Ensure you include lean meats, eggs, nut butters, beans or tuna.

  6. Kids like fresh fruit cut and ready to eat. Fruit salad is the ideal; it's colorful, easy to eat and bursting with vitamins.

  7. Offer different seasonal fruits each day for a change in flavor, color and texture.

  8. Freeze fruits. Simply pop the frozen fruit into a small seal-able plastic bag or airtight container.

  9. Mild tasting and crunchy lettuce varieties like iceberg and cucumbers are ideal for kids.

  10. Add leftovers (or cook extra) roast pumpkin or sweet potato to sandwiches and wraps. Naturally sweet and with added antioxidants. Roasted vegetables team well with a range of fillings.

  11. Make salads or salad sandwich fillings interesting by using a range of vegetables like grated carrots, snow peas, edamame, lettuce, cucumbers, baby spinach, celery, tomatoes and avocado.

  12. Use a vegetable peeler to slice cucumber into thin ribbons for sandwich fillings or as a garnish.

Here are some snack suggestions:

Turkey or tuna sandwich {bakery whole grain bread)

Peanut or Almond butter and honey sandwich

Hummus and crackers

Chicken strips

Veggie and cheese dip

Cheese and crackers

Ham roll ups stuffed with cheese and lettuce


My last tip and the most important is Breakfast!

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Kids who skip breakfast have a shorter attention span, do poorly in tasks requiring concentration and even score lower on standard achievement tests. Research says that children who eat a morning meal take in far more nutrients over the course of the day than those who missed breakfast!

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