5 Ways to Balance Family Meal Times and Work from Home
During the pandemic so many are working from home and struggling to balance family life with work life. It can be hard to manage it all when everything is all in one space. One particular challenge can be finding the time to prepare every meal, every day, for you and your family. Here are five great tips on how to stay ahead of the game and balance meals and work to reduce your stress load.
1. Meal Planning. Before your week begins, take some time to plan out your menus or meals. Using a free meal planning app such as Mealime can help you to get inspiration for meals, plan a menu for the week and also provide a grocery shopping list. Enlist your family to help with planning which meals to make throughout the week; this is a great moment to plan healthy meals that everyone enjoys.
2. Meal Prep. Try choosing which day or days to meal prep, such as Sunday and Saturday if you have a Monday through Friday job. You can choose to do your shopping on your meal prep days as well. Check your menus and see what needs to be prepared for the week. This can include chopping or slicing any fruits or vegetables, cutting or marinating meat or poultry, or cooking casseroles to be frozen for later. You can also prepare meals in freezer bags to put in the slow cooker or instant pot later.
3. Delegate. This will work best if you have older children or a spouse or partner at home to help out. The cooking and feeding doesn’t have to be all on you! Enlist the help of your family members when it comes to cooking or preparing food. Have the older kids help the younger ones. Even smaller children may be able to help with some tasks like setting the table. Offer positive reinforcement for helping out, such as extra half hour of television, stickers or a promise to play a board game when work time is over. Preparing dinner together can help build a positive relationship with your kids and creates a positive relationship between your children and the food they eat. According to BMC Nutrition, involving children with cooking creates more positive food choices.
4. Make Nutritious Snacks Accessible. If your child is actually hungry between meals and not just bored, put snacks in an accessible location for them to munch on. Great ideas include celery sticks, baby carrots, string cheese, cut fruit and nuts. Being able to grab these healthy options on their own will keep them from searching for you during your Zoom meeting to ask for a snack. Learn more about healthy snacking for kids from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
5. Talk About Boredom Snacking. Let’s face it, it's not just the kids who are mindlessly eating during quarantine. Does working at home have you munching on snacks you wouldn’t normally consume, at times you wouldn’t normally eat if you were at your onsite work location? According to a study by the British Psychological Society, our brains are looking for ways to release dopamine so we can feel good. For many of us that means reaching for our favorite snacks.
When you feel the urge to eat something between meals, take a moment to examine whether you are actually hungry. If you are not, you may just be bored. Tips to get that dopamine boost without snacking can include listening to music, taking a 15-minute break to exercise or go for a walk, meditate, or fit in another fun activity that you enjoy. Including your kids in these fun breaks can help them beat boredom too!
Life is a great balancing act, and we are all going through adjustments during this time, but feeding your family doesn’t have to be painful.
Learn more about ways to keep you and your family healthy and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.
Written by Jennifer Cassidy, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern