A bowl of mac and cheese is shown.
If you’re looking for quick, easy and delicious, look no further than mac and cheese—the time-tested, kid-approved favorite. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Meal planning might be the last thing on parents’ minds as they live isolated at home 24/7 with their kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

And that’s completely understandable, says Jessica Corwin, a Spectrum Health registered dietitian.

“I am encouraging families to offer themselves and their children plenty of grace,” Corwin said.

“While I wholeheartedly believe in filling our bellies with whole foods, I also believe we must nourish our mind and spirit first.”

As a mother of three young children, she understands the struggles families face as they balance a job at home, lesson plans for kids and meeting their family’s emotional needs without their usual social outlets.

“Motherhood can feel isolating in many ways already,” she said. “Now the feeling is actually literal.”

Corwin shared her dietitian-mom approach to feeding and caring for family during a challenging time.

She encouraged parents to give themselves permission to serve simple meals, so they have time to spare “for laughing with your kids, playing cards, hiking through the woods or just cooking up fun treats to share.”

“It’s OK to serve up a box of cheesy noodles so that you can sit down and read with your kids instead of spending your time on a more in-depth meal,” she said.

If you have a bit of time and mental space, write a list of simple meals you can prepare.

Scan the freezer, refrigerator and pantry to see what you have on hand for a meal.

“Tonight, for us that means spaghetti squash with marinara, leftover frozen chicken meatballs, garlic bread and berries,” she said.

Other simple meals on the agenda include chicken tenders.

“They are quick and simple to make,” she said. “Plus, pounding the chicken flat is an excellent stress reliever for both you and your kids.”

She might pair the chicken with roasted sweet potato fries and strawberries, maybe with a dollop of whipped cream.

“Lunches can remain as simple as those you pack for school,” she added.

Make sandwiches with whole grain bread, creamy nut butters and a squeeze of honey.

Serve fresh fruit and vegetables with hummus—her daughter would suggest chocolate hummus. Add a side of whole grain crackers, peanut butter pretzels or fruit leather.

“We are also enjoying extra popsicles and truly, just taking it day by day,” she said.