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  • Suzanne

The Challenges of Feeding Your Family During COVID-19

Updated: May 17, 2020

How many times did you think about food yesterday? A low ball guess would be at least twice every hour but more if you have older kids that are continually asking for food.

How often have you thought about the meals that need to be planned amidst trying to work and keep some semblance of a schedule? Since quarantine orders started, how many times have you questioned the safety of the food you brought into the house? This last factor can ramp up the anxiety of typically zen parents. Added together, feeding our family is taking up a lot of mental space right now, especially for single parents or the individual in a two-parent household that primarily takes care of food needs.

Infographic with images that describe ways Covid-19 is increases mental load for parents
Mental Load of Feeding Your Family During COVID-19

Understanding the Hierarchy of Foods Needs During Covid-19

The graphic below shows food priorities during difficult times. To offer nutritious foods, parents first need to be able to afford food, then be able to offer safe food. There is no shame in making food choices that allow for survival. In fact, it is a basic human need.

Graphic depicting the flow of food decisions during Covid-19
Many of us will move up and down this scale over the next few months


When you are hungry you will eat foods that you can afford, make you feel full (quantity), are available, and can be prepared with the skills and the tools you have. These will be your considerations before all else. This is important: if you are going through a medical or emotional crisis (this includes birth and postpartum), you are in survival mode. Give yourself some grace during these times.


With so much misinformation about how the Covid-19 virus is transmitted, it makes sense that parents might offer their child a safe food even if it is not "healthy". For example, parents offer crackers versus fresh fruit because they are concerned that someone with the corona virus came in contact with the fruit. Parents might also start offering familiar foods as a way to provide comfort during these uncertain times. Again, these two considerations take precedence to offering food based on on its nutrition. For a summary of current food safety recommendations to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 click HERE.


All parents want to offer their children foods that contain maximum nutrition all of the time. However, it is not realistic and can result in unnecessary guilt when parents cannot achieve this. For example, Health Canada recommends offering a variety of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables every day. While this may be the ideal, the reality is that in my househould, the only variety I can afford and access right now is frozen peas and canned oranges and that is OK.

This infographic and concept is inspired by Satter’s Hierarchy of Food Needs and Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Strategies to Lighten the Load

  • Take shortcuts - it's OK! Prepare foods that are quick and easy. For example, chicken fingers served with some kind of vegetable and grain is a balanced meal.

  • Be lenient on yourself. If you were a family that purchased foods based on values like, "hormone-free," "organic," "locally-sourced" rather than consider price, it is OK if you temporarily switch your value system during a time of crisis. While these considerations do have benefits, they don't actually provide more nutrition. Bottom line: when money is tight, ensure vegetables make the grocery list,(frozen/canned, whatever) don't worry about it if they are not organic.

  • Plan 3-4 meals ahead of time. Meal planning can be overwhelming. Aim to plan a few family meals during the week and let breakfast and lunch be either leftovers or quick foods. To download a free 1-week Covid meal plan plus recipes, click HERE.

  • Have fun with food. There is nothing wrong with breakfast for supper. It can be an easy and affordable option. For a listing of healthier cereals, click HERE.

  • Substitute expensive items. Meat and cheese can be the most expensive items in your grocery cart. Substitute half the meat in recipes with canned lentils or beans and use half as much cheese as a recipe asks for.

  • Communicate to family. For older kids that want to eat all the time, post a kitchen schedule. Outside of those times, food will not be served. You can always leave out a snack bin that they can choose from.

To all my fellow parents, you are doing a great job! There is no shame in surviving.

Click to see the virtual sessions I am offering while we remain in isolation. They are informative but casual and we always socialize and group chat afterwards.

Disclaimer: All the advice shared here is general information. Consult your doctor for personalized health information. Compiled March, 2020

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