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Kids eating biscuits

Why are kids so hungry during lockdown?

I’m hungry!”

It’s a refrain on high repeat in many households across Sydney at the moment.

Why do kids seem so much hungrier? And why is the weekly grocery shop not lasting as long?

The reason could be the same as the one prompting the adults in the house to reach for the chocolate or order takeaway –  Covid-19 lockdown related boredom and stress. That’s according to Dietitians Australia spokesperson Jane Freeman, who is juggling work and homeschooling her kids at the moment too.

“Kids are growing and are active so they will be hungry and do need to be fed a good array of nutritious food over the day,” she said.  “Like all of us food can help us manage feelings of boredom and being stuck at home. Food can be used for non-hunger reasons with kids too.”

She advises parents and carers to use food to their advantage during this difficult time. As a base, make sure they’re eating a good foundation of regular meals and nutritious snacks, including foods that will sustain them, like lean protein, dairy, fruit and vegetables.

“Then within reason, food can be used in novel ways to enjoy a break or time out,” she says.

This may be working together in the kitchen to prepare a platter of fruit cut into shapes, crackers and cheese or nut butter (if not allergic). Or baking together and swapping in some healthier ingredients like dried fruit or grated apple, zucchini or carrot.

“If it is an option for you to do those activities with your kids, they can make food fun and you’ll also have healthy foods on hand.”

Muffin recipe suggestions from the IWM team:

Keep it simple

If you’re short on time, or not a confident baker, Freeman suggests using a packet mix as a base. She sometimes uses a packet brownie mix and adds mashed banana.

“Get creative with them and tweak them,” she says. “Add some more nutritious ingredients:  linseeds, nuts if they’re not an issue, grate in vegies, and fruit is good too as it makes them more moist and tastier too. Even skim milk powder will up the protein and make them more filling.”

In a recent post on the IWM Facebook Group, members shared their favourite brownie recipes, including a number of packet mixes. Donna Hay, Greens and Betty Crocker packet brownie mixes all received a shout out from members.  Another commenter listed this Taste brownie recipe, sharing that she cuts the sugar by half and uses milk chocolate instead of dark.

Good snack options

Child cutting watermelon shapes

Use their usual school lunchbox items as a guide to the kinds of snacks to offer throughout the day. Freeman says healthier snack options include yoghurt pouches (but check the level of added sugar), air popped popcorn snack bags, crackers with cheese or nut butter (if no allergies), some of the healthier museli bars, boiled eggs or fruit toast. Or a fruit and cheese platter.

When to eat?

And if you can, stick to their usual school timetable.

“For myself, the schools do encourage them to stick to the timetable which includes snack and meal breaks,” she says.

“But there will be some times when best laid plans go out the window and you have to do what works for you. If it all falls apart, that’s ok too, don’t be too hard on yourself.”

Jane Freeman is an accredited practising dietitian. She is also a cancer nutrition specialist and operates out of a practice in North Sydney.

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