Meal planning for families is hard enough in the best of times, but it’s become even more challenging since the start of the pandemic. Remote work, money problems, and of course, sickness can all impact parents’ abilities to provide healthy and nutritious meals for their kids.
Unfortunately, this reality has led many families to turn to a new food source: fast food. According to the National Poll on Children’s Health conducted by the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, one in five parents said that their family had eaten more fast food since the pandemic began.
The allure of fast food
Most people are well aware of the harm that too much fast food can do to their bodies. Most fast food dishes are high in sodium, cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat. Eating these foods too often can lead to health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes.
So why are so many people turning to McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and other fast-food chains for help feeding their families these days?
For one thing, hectic work schedules often don’t give parents time to cook at home. When you’re in a hurry to handle work and other responsibilities, fast food may be all that you have time to provide.
Likewise, many people often see fast food as an affordable option. When money is tight, most families don’t feel compelled to go to Whole Foods for fresh fruit and veggies. They head to the local fast food joint to get a quick and easy meal for their family.
Is healthy food expensive?
The idea that healthy food is expensive is pervasive, with many people across all socioeconomic backgrounds believing it. And, in some instances, it can be true. However, many people don’t realize that there are things you can do to make fresh and healthy food more affordable.
Next time you’re at the grocery store, consider heading to the frozen foods section. Freeze-dried fruits and veggies provide you with the same nutritional value as their fresh counterparts. That said, they often sell for a fraction of the price. Stocking up on a few bags can help provide you with an affordable way to feed your family.
Likewise, frozen foods are also easy to cook. Often, all you have to do is throw the bag into the microwave. While cooking this way might not always taste like a five-star restaurant, it’s affordable, simple, and doesn’t compromise any nutritional value.
Cooking is an opportunity
While busy parents might find it difficult to stop and cook, consider shifting your perspective. Instead of seeing cooking as a chore, try seeing it as an opportunity to spend more time with your family.
Kids, no matter how old they are, can help you get food on the table. Whether you make them wash a dish, set the table, or sprinkle pepper on top of food, getting them involved is a great way to get closer to them.
If you have older children, you can even have them experiment with cooking a family meal. Just make sure to stick by their side in case they need any assistance!
Resist the temptation
While fast food is OK from time to time, it should never become a staple part of your diet, and especially not of your family’s. If you’re short on money, time, or motivation, don’t worry -- there are plenty of affordable and simple ways to get nutritious food on your family’s dinner table.
And remember -- cooking gives you a chance to spend more time with your kids!