May 8, 2020

How to Maintain Healthy Diets for Kids While Schools Are Closed

Keep the whole family on a healthy routine

Little girl eating breakfast

If you’re a kid, there are few things better than an after-school snack. Whether it’s salty or sweet, it always hits the spot after the long school day ends and you wait on dinner.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

But with kids stuck at home thanks to coronavirus-related school closures, there’s a chance that, just like their parents, their diets could get a bit out of whack.

Previous research has shown children tend to gain weight during the summer months when they’re not at school. So how can parents keep kids from putting on excess weight while school’s out?

Set a meal plan

Dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, says setting a family’s meal plan for the day can go get everyone off to a good start.

“Make sure that you feed the kids breakfast within the first couple of hours of waking up,” she suggests. “Normally, we’re rushing out the door, trying to get to school. That’s not the case anymore, so while you can be a little flexible with the timing, you’ll want to have some form of breakfast within 2 or 3 hours of waking up.”

Keep a meal schedule

It’s also a good idea to keep track of when everyone is eating during the day, including adults. It’s best to make sure kids have something to eat every four to five hours, Dr. Zumpano says, as this will help cut down on all-day grazing.


“Make a note of what time you ate breakfast, make a note of what time you had the snack,” she says. “If you find you’re snacking all day, maybe just go ahead and have a meal. Maybe you’re hungrier than you realized and you’re just snacking throughout the day, because you’re not actually eating a meal.”

Keep an eye on what you eat

It’s easy to fall back on comfort foods when we’re feeling stressed and out of sorts.

And while it’s okay to indulge in a comfort snack here or there, Dr. Zumpano notes we want to make sure kids are getting balanced meals, with plenty of vegetables, at meal time.

“Really focus on the core of meals being a protein source, a fruit and a vegetable,” she says. “And the vegetable portion should exceed the portion of meat and fruit or starch.”

Have some healthy snack options available, too, and portion them out into bowls so kids aren’t eating right out of the box or bag.


Stay healthy through bedtime

If you’ve kept it healthy throughout the day, keep it going all the way. Dr. Zumpano reminds us it’s best to avoid snacks too close to bedtime, as night snacking is typically done out of habit, not out of hunger.

Instead, offer kids a healthy snack like an apple, celery sticks with natural peanut butte or an eight ounce glass of milk an hour or two before bedtime.

Related Articles

Person reading a nutrition label.
December 9, 2022
How to Correctly Read a Nutrition Label

Nutrition labels explain a product’s calories, fat content, nutrients, vitamins and more

Older woman prepares healthy drink with immune boosting ingredients.
November 17, 2022
5 Vitamins That Are Best for Boosting Your Immunity

Eat your fill of vitamins C, B6 and E, plus zinc and selenium

Farmer's market aisle.
October 14, 2022
12 Inexpensive Healthy Food Choices

Here’s what to add to your grocery list and how you can pull together cheap but healthy dinners

Two vegetarian pizza with a variety of healthy toppings on a granite table seen from above.
October 5, 2022
Tips To Make Your Pizza Heart-Healthy

For starters, try whole-grain crust, load up on colorful veggies and avoid high-sodium meats

Person eating at table.
September 20, 2022
5 Tips for Healthy Fasting

Ease into it, stay hydrated and plan ahead

Person looking at table of food.
September 19, 2022
Orthorexia: When a Commitment To Eating Healthy Goes Too Far

Too-strict ‘food rules’ can have negative consequences

Bowls with apples, grapes, blueberries, tomatoes, kiwi, spinach, nuts and seeds
August 15, 2022
What Is the Alkaline Diet, and Is It Safe?

The alkaline diet promotes good-for-you-foods, but its primary promise doesn’t hold up

Father and son cutting up fruit for the week
April 25, 2022
9 Foods To Help You Lose Weight

Add these foods to help you lose

Trending Topics

group of hands holding different beverages
November 14, 2023
10 Myths About Drinking Alcohol You Should Stop Repeating

Coffee won’t cure a hangover and you definitely shouldn’t mix your cocktail with an energy drink

Person applies moisturizer as part of their skin care routine after a shower.
November 10, 2023
Korean Skin Care Routines: What You Need To Know

Focus on the philosophy — replenishing and respecting your skin — not necessarily the steps

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
November 8, 2023
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try