Phil Holmes BA (Hons), PGCE, Adv Dip.Nut MRSPH

Smart nutrition can play a part in overcoming current feelings of despair, hurt, anger, fear, anxiety, disbelief. Whilst the following advice won’t remove any of the uncertainty, it will hopefully give you a chance to consider the advice and bring some structure and balance to how you and the family eat – and simultaneously mean online shopping can be done quickly, easily and to a predictable budget.

Family Nutrition – Start as you mean to go on

It’s really important to start the home-schooling with breakfast. Oats in the form of porridge (warm), overnight oats (cold) or an oat & milk based smoothie will provide blood sugar balance, a feeling of fullness and oats don’t cost the earth. If the young ones prefer cereal, opt for weetabix. From practical experience with my own clients (and not a genderist judgement) girls may prefer yoghurt and fruit, often with granola. I’ll post a recipe for homemade granola here later which is both yummy and a good excuse to incorporate a Food Tech lesson during time at home.

Given the slightly later start to the day, making pancakes and dressing them up with fruit and maple syrup is a fun start to the day – washing up afterwards might be harder to implement if the chef ‘has to start a lesson!’ In many ways anything is better than nothing at all but sugary cereals, pastry filled croissants or just a slice of toast with jam are likely to be effective for a short period of time – and then the drop in concentration / willingness starts.

This means that by 9am and when the online schooling begins, the mood isn’t exactly vibrant, they moan, you get agitated, they react and it’s another day in paradise, to coin the well known song.

Snack Nutrition

Go for oatcakes with jam, cottage cheese and crackers, fruit, yoghurt. Afternoon snacks could include raw carrots, peppers, cucumbers with houmous. Or use rice cakes (salt & vinegar are popular) to give flavour as well as some carb content. If you’re feeling confident, promote thoughts of a bake off – banana loaf or cookies can be a good starting point for young cooks.

Lunch Nutrition

Wraps are easy to make and easily filled with tuna, chicken, ham, pork, turkey, beef. They also fit veg really well – use a peeler to shave carrots into thin slices, tenderstem broccoli lines up well. Spinach is great as it is very beneficial and yet quite a mild flavour so teens shouldn’t be put off and use taste as an excuse.

Make soup – another chance to educate them in the kitchen, allow them to have pride in the end product. This then opens a gap to have input to the shopping list and allows seeds to be sown for their understanding of tastes, flavour combinations, colours and benefits. Minestrone is a good starting place (recipe on my website v soon).

Making excess pasta or rice for evening meals can also form the base for a lunch. Just add a protein source, raw veg and a dressing. Alternatively, lunch is a good time for using eggs as omelttes (add veg), scrambled, poached with an avocado mashed onto the toast or as good old, Soft-Boiled eggs & Soldiers.

Dinnertime Nutrition

Hopefully have a protein source, vegetables and carbs. This can range from stir-fry to jacket potato and baked beans. Try to suggest meals they can make, this lockdown time is a fantastic opportunity.


Water is usually the first item listed under this heading. Some teens love it, others find it ‘boring’. Add squash if it means they’ll drink it. If you have seen the company online / social media, look for ‘ViDrate’ to add natural flavours. Check them out at

Milk would be extremely beneficial given the growth of the body and serves skeletal as well as muscular development due to the calcium and protein content. Even if this needs to be mixed with a milkshake powder, it’s better than not at all – though the first stage of flavouring for me would be frozen berries and whizz them up with the milk. This is yet another chance for creativity and input from the young person.

The bottom line is, like a good breakfast, we can use drinks to help maintain calm and control emotions. We are better served as a family if we avoid sugar rushes from fizzy drinks as this leads to a crash and then a real build up of angst against ‘another boring lesson….what’s the point….I hate lockdown….. I hate you’

Sweets, chocolates, crisps and food we know they’ll eat!

If the foundation we build on is made from wholesome, energising, fresh, colourful and healthy sources then allowing the young athletes to be typical adolescents will not break the bank. Percy Pigs, Haribo, Pringles ….. choose your weapon; they can all be included without tipping the balance the wrong way and this also would avoid any extra fallouts. Choose your battles wisely.

If you have offspring who only default to white bread, pain au chocolate, biscuits, easter eggs once the selection boxes have gone and think lettuce is for the family rabbit then try very gradually to implement some change. Making a soup is a good starting point but only if you can cajole them into helping. It’s going to be a difficult time for the vast majority of families but small steps can be made.

If you have any questions, please email or drop me a text / call. Food plays such a huge part in our lives and with this brings enjoyment and satisfaction as well as challenges and worry.. There are other areas for consideration such as teens who are aware of their lack of energy burn and their reduction in food intake. Exercise is permitted but mixed with the anxiety of some who won’t want to go outside when the whole country are out walking, or become hooked into the best method for young people to communicate whilst having fun – Game Console land.

We are facing more challenges brought on from decisions which are out of our control. Hopefully we have greater impact on how we eat as families. This lockdown may be a time for positive progress in terms of skill development in the kitchen, awareness of foods and their benefits and raise awareness of health and how nutrition and exercise may be linked.

Nutrition Summary

Control the controllables

Use this time to bring the family together through food, not fall out because of a lack of good choices

Pupils are stressed – more than they show at home. Stay patient and aim for wholesome food to help keep balance

Creativity, imagination, challenge and praise can all be attained through the use of food. Hopefully this lockdown can be 3rd time lucky and provide an escape route for everybody. If you feel really up for a test, hold a family style ‘Come Dine With Me’. This can serve be a great platform to dress up, plan, prepare and make.

Good luck to all of you and please stay safe.