Don’t let your stress derail your kids’ eating habits

A grab bag of strategies can help parents weary from the pandemic keep their children's eating habits on track.

Like many other parents across the country, Tara Haelle and her husband suddenly found themselves under an immense amount of stress when the pandemic forced widespread stay-at-home lockdown orders in the first half of 2020. Between a booming workload, their two sons out of school, and bereft of the hired help they’d had pre-pandemic to juggle it all, the household’s eating habits went off the rails.

“It was so much harder to keep routines around meals and snacking,” she says. “We were constantly asking ourselves if the kids had eaten yet, and what did they want to eat, or they’d come into the office while we were both on phone calls and say they were hungry, and we’d tell them to just go get some chips or something!”

The family wasn’t alone in their stress-eating dilemma. One survey conducted last year found that more than 25 percent of the 8,000 participants reported weight gain from reduced activity and an increased consumption of sweet snacks and drinks. And an October 2021 study shows that pandemic stress diminished parents’ abilities to foster healthy eating environments for their kids. That has experts concerned about the long-term impacts on children’s ability to learn healthy eating habits.

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