How has COVID-19 affected your eating habits?

The last couple of months have been very uncertain times for many families. In these uncertain times, you may have noticed your patterns of eating have changed. Whether it’s eating more, eating different or eating less, let’s explore each of these a little further.

You are eating more: you are at home all day, potentially with your kitchen table being your desk. This makes access to food very easy, at any time of the day. Schedules look very different; some families may have more to schedule in a day because of adding home schooling and work. Or maybe you have an essential worker in your family and you are trying to juggle them working, with changes in childcare not being able to support your family.

For any of the reasons above or just the stress of what is happening in the world, you could find yourself reaching for food more often in your day. The options you will have to snack or eat from could also be plentiful as you stocked your kitchen to not go out often. Research shows us that the more options you have, the more you eat.

So what can you do to help you from eating the cookies instead of the carrots?

First, acknowledge that this is a harder time than usual and forgive yourself for eating in a way that you feel is not benefiting your health.

Second, make a meal plan. Even though you may have more food in your house than usual, it will help you limit waste and have things ready for the afternoon wander to the fridge.

Make the healthy choice the convenient choice. This means the carrots and celery are cut up on a plate easy to grab instead of sitting in the crisper. No one (even a dietitian!) wants to cut up fruit or vegetables the minute they are hungry.

You are eating different: Your usual foods weren’t available at the grocery store when you went grocery shopping so you grabbed some substitutes. Some of these substitutes are easy to use, for example white pasta instead of whole grain pasta. Others however may be more challenging. Use this as an opportunity to try something new. You can find a recipe online to try together with your children or significant other. For example, if you bought frozen squash and don’t know what to do with it search for butternut squash recipes. You may not have all the ingredients it calls for and that’s ok, most recipes will turn out without all of the ingredients. Have fun with it!

You are eating less: Have you noticed your family choosing less pricy foods in this uncertain time. Everyone seems to be looking at the ways they are spending their money and figuring out ways to cut costs because of the uncertainty.

Unfortunately, there are more families that are having to worry about how to feed their families because of job losses or if their child was being fed by school breakfast and lunch programs. Agencies working to address food insecurity are doing their best to keep up with the demand; however, Bobbi Turko, Executive Director of I Can for Kids says that even before the COVID-19 crisis their waiting list has grown at least 10% each year and until the root causes of poverty are addressed, the need will continue to grow.

What can you do to make your dollars go further at the grocery store?

Buy items in bulk if you can such as rice and pasta. They are usually cheaper because of less packaging.
Buy canned fruits and vegetables. They still have nutrients in them and will last longer, again buy the largest cans you can find if possible.

Use beans and lentils for protein sources instead of meat. One bag (900 g) of beans costs around $3.00. This bag has 20 (1/2 cup) servings of beans in it. That’s $0.15/serving. Add some rice and canned vegetables and you can serve a meal to a family of 4 for under $5.00.

Watch for sales and use coupons. Buy items from the almost expired rack where they usually have 50% tags on them.

If you are looking for ways to talk to your children about food security and help others, you can check out this Hungry to Help Family Action Plan. This is an American based resource so you can modify it with Canadian resources found here: Calgary Resources.

I Can for Kids is currently working with suppliers and agency partners on meeting the increase in demand in Calgary. Make a donation to their COVID-19 Response and 100% of your donation will help purchase grocery gift cards for families in need.

Interested in learning more about how you can meet your nutrition goals? Visit Calgary Family Nutrition