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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Keeping Families Healthy

Reviewed by: Linhda Nguyen, PA

We're spending more time at home to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. But that's made it easy for families to fall out of normal routines. Relaxed schedules, more screen time, changes in access to food, and no regular recess or gym class can add up to unhealthy weight gain and reduced fitness.

So, what can you do to help your family stay healthy? Here are some tips to keep everyone active and eating well.

Is Snacking OK?

Healthy snacks can help manage hunger and boost nutrition. An occasional treat is fine, but serve good-for-you snacks most of the time.

Set regular meal and snack times to avoid all-day grazing. Serve 3 meals and 1 to 2 scheduled snacks each day. When it's time to eat, have kids sit at the table and not in front of a screen. This way, kids are focused on the food in front of them and less likely to overeat.

What Should I Serve?

Make your home a healthy food zone. Put the focus on:

  • fruits and vegetables. Fresh is great, but frozen or canned fruit and veggies are good options, especially when you want to limit trips to the grocery store. Just choose ones with no added salt, sugar, syrups, or sauces.
  • whole grains, such as whole-grain bread, brown rice, quinoa, and whole-wheat pasta
  • foods high in protein, such as lean meats, dried or canned beans, eggs, and peanut butter

What Kinds of Food Should We Avoid?

Chips, cookies, and ice cream are OK once in a while, but not every day. Keep junk food and treats out of the house so your kids are not tempted.

Save sugary drinks, like soda, juice, sports drinks, and sweet teas for special times. Offer water and milk instead.

Packaged foods and prepared meals are convenient, but can be high in fat, sugar, and calories. Check food labels and choose the healthier options.

How Active Should Kids Be?

Encourage your kids to be active for least 30 minutes each day. Whenever possible, let them go outside and play. Go for a walk, run, bike ride, or play sports like soccer, basketball, or whiffle ball together as a family.

Remember to keep at least 6 feet from people you don't live with when you are out. Kids over 2 years old and adults should wear a mask or cloth face covering if they can't stay apart from others. Children under 2 years old should not wear a mask.

On cold or rainy days, look for ways for kids to be active inside. Try dancing, yoga, exercise videos, apps, or online classes.

How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?

Getting enough sleep has many health benefits, and helps kids keep a healthy weight. Help your kids get to bed on time and wake up at the same time every day. Skip daytime naps for older kids, and turn off all screens at least 1 hour before bed.

Sleep needs vary from child to child. But try for:

  • toddlers: 11–14 hours, including daytime naps
  • preschoolers: 10–13 hours, including naps
  • school-age kids and preteens: 9–12 hours a night
  • teens: 8–10 hours a night

Why Is a Schedule Important?

Daily schedules can help everyone stick to routines. Besides setting consistent times for sleeping and eating, schedule time for:

  • school work, online classes, and reading
  • daily "gym class," recess, and other times to be active
  • screen time outside of school work
  • chores or other household tasks
  • family time to play games, watch a movie, or do other things together, like baking

What Else Should I Know?

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world in many ways. A focus on healthy habits, like eating well and staying active, can help kids and parents keep a sense of control during an uncertain time.

Be a good role model for your kids by:

  • enjoying healthy foods and not overeating
  • being active every day
  • limiting your own screen time
  • finding ways to manage stress
  • getting plenty of sleep
Reviewed by: Linhda Nguyen, PA
Date reviewed: July 2020