Clare Collins shares some practical advice about maintaining a healthy diet while stuck at home with the kids

Put that Tim Tam down. Healthy eating advice in social isolation

Eating or drinking your weight in sugar every day? Worried you will be 10 kilos heavier when your COVID-induced working from home experience ends?

The truth is you are not alone, but it doesn't have to be that way.

University of Newcastle Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics Clare Collins says sticking to a routine, for both adults and children, is one of the most important steps to maintaining healthy eating habits during these extraordinary and stressful times.

"I think people are really time poor at the moment even though they are at home all day. You are trying to maintain some semblance of working, homeschooling and figuring out the internet, it's fair to say you are probably short on time," she said.

"If you can think of your day like you would a normal day it might help you feel more in control. For instance, pack your lunch and get your kids to pack their lunches and snacks too."

Clare Collins

Clare Collins

Take it a step further by making nutrition and maths part of the homeschooling curriculum.

"You can ask them how many slices of bread do we need make our sandwiches? If you have a set of scales you can teach them about weights and measurements, that's one of the harder concepts to learn so they would be learning a bit of maths," she said.

In addition, commission your kids to do an inventory of the pantry, fridge and freezer.

Once you have decided on the three or four things you are going to cook for the week, go through the recipes and get them to match up the ingredients you already have and those you will need to buy.

"Aim to make most of your purchases from five basic ingredients (vegetables, fruit, lean meats and poultry and fish, grains and milk, yoghurt and cheese) and resist lots of junk food," Professor Collins said.

"What you eat is basically the fuel that your body and brain have got to learn. If you want your kids to pay attention in the small amount of time they are doing formal work and you want them to feel better then prioritising nutrition will end up with one less source of stress in your family life."


While toilet paper and other regular commodities might be in short supply, fresh fruits and vegetables are still around in good quantities.

"I was really amazed that the raspberries are only $3.50," Professor Collins said.

"There are some things that are expensive, for instance, people are whinging about the price of cauliflowers, but they aren't in season at the moment. There's a lot of seasonal produce at still reasonable prices."

And if a bit more junk food than normal happens to creep into your house, take the opportunity to brush your teeth more often - the dentist will thank you later.

Professor Collins also cautioned against the temptation to drink more alcohol while stuck at home.

"I can see why some people might tempted to hit the beers or wine to manage stress in the short term but it's not a recipe to manage stress in the long-term," she said.

"It's going to cost you a lot of money, but the other thing is alcohol reduces your sleep quality. You are probably stressed enough without having your deep, restful sleep stolen from you by the alcohol."

If you're motivated to get a head start on your healthy eating this week we have dozens of free recipes available in our food section online.

This story Put that Tim Tam down. Healthy eating advice in social isolation first appeared on The Canberra Times.