Easy Tips To Meet Nutrition Needs In Children
It is Saturday morning. Birds chirp as they sip water from the potted plants in the balcony that I have freshly watered just now. There is very less traffic on the road today as it is the weekend. I take my coffee and sit on the swing in my balcony that I rarely get to sit on. As I sip, I savour the bliss of this unhurried morning. I relish the calm, the silence. And I wonder – why aren’t my everyday mornings like this? Why is it only on Saturdays that I get to experience this beauty of the relaxed morning? And I sigh.
Because I know the answer to that question. I know, that every day, at this time, I am in the kitchen, rushing to get tiffin boxes of breakfast, lunch and snacks ready for my family – coming up with innovative ideas, worrying about portions and running against time to get it all packed and sealed for the day in the meal boxes that my family will carry with them for the long day ahead. Nutrition in bite sized pieces. That is what I am doing at this time on any other day. And that is what any mother would do, I know.
The thing is, we are pretty cool people, happy to eat out and load up on junk until we become mothers! When motherhood hits though, we suddenly transform into calorie counting, nutrition enthusiasts who realise that the health and immunity of the family now entirely depends on us! And whether or not we continue with our own haphazard consumption of junk food, we try to ensure that our children are always well-fed and every morsel they eat is nutritious and helps improve their resistance to diseases. And then we start looking at vegetables and fruits differently. What was yucky (or maybe even still continues to be yucky) for us, becomes top priority when it comes to feeding our children. And we turn into our own mothers who force fed us that broccoli we so hated or the pumpkin curry we so loathed!
But really, nutrition doesn’t have to be yuck! You know that? Well, even I didn’t know it myself, till recently, when I attended a workshop conducted by a dear friend who is also a doctor and who specialises in parenting and paediatric emergencies. And as is becoming more and more the case, she gets more parenting emergencies, than paediatric ones (and lot of them from obsessive mums like me)! And I loved the point she made in the workshop, about children and nutrition. I loved it for its simplicity and for its logic. And trust me, armed with that knowledge, I find my mornings much easier now. Don’t get me wrong, I still run against time (what can I say, I tend to sleep in despite the alarms ringing persistently on most days); but now I do not spend so much time thinking about the nutritive value of the food that goes in the lunch boxes! How is that? Let me tell you –
You see, when we look at packing food in meal boxes, we look at –
- · Taste
- · Quick bites (what takes less time to eat)
- · Nutrition
Now this is a daunting task for any mother to pack food in children’s meal boxes that they will like and eat. (By children, I also mean to include the older, 30-something children who are popularly known as husbands.)
You see, we always fall into the trap of carbs, protein and fat, when it comes to food. And we have our own notions like oh fat is not good, or proteins are the best or that carbs can be good as well as bad…and a lot of things like that. And here is where we go wrong. All we need to remember is this –
- · Carbs are essential to provide energy to the body. Eg. rice/rotis/bread.
- · Proteins help in building and repair of muscles. Eg. Dals, pulses, sprouts, meat, eggs and so on
- · Minerals and Vitamins are necessary to build the immunity of the body. Eg. vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds etc..
- · Fats are essential fuel for the body to function and for healthy skin and bones. Eg. Dairy products, butter, ghee, cheese etc.
And the best meal should contain all of these to ensure the smooth running of our body.
Fun fact: The brain completely runs on fat! So don’t forget to include that spoonful of ghee with every meal!
And to make thigs easier for all of us, my friend gives us some really helpful tips!
1) Your child doesn’t drink milk? No issues. So long as dairy products are consumed in any other form, it is alright. If that doesn’t work, even variants of milk like soy milk could do the trick.
2) You can win snack-time battles with your children by keeping only healthy stuff at home – like nuts, seeds, dry fruits, even multigrain khakras maybe, or ragi laddoos (which can be disguised as chocolate laddoos by adding a bit of cocoa powder when making), you get the drift?
3) It does not matter how much the children eat, so long as every morsel they eat is healthy. Because really, when it comes to healthy food, it is the quality that matters and not quantity.
4) It is best to eat raw fruits and cooked vegetables and different types of dals on a regular basis to ensure overall health.
5) Foods such as ragi, sooji etc. are known to help in slow release of energy over a period of an hour or more. So it is best to include them in breakfasts especially to ensure that children do not have hunger pangs between their breaks.
6) Water is the least talked about but the most essential ingredient of a balanced diet for the body. It helps in carrying nutrients to all parts of the body and also helps in removing the toxins out. So make sure that children drink enough and more water during the day!
7) And the most important tip that made my day! Most traditionally cooked Indian food is the best. Our breakfasts, lunches and dinners have already been planned by our ancestors keeping the requirements of our body in mind. And if we do nothing else, it is enough to stick to traditional, seasonal, local eating habits to ensure the best health for our family.
Now tell me, why should meals and nutrition be worrisome anymore?
Disclaimer: This article is my personal takeaway from a workshop I attended last week. I will be happy to share the details of the workshop, the website and the name of my dear friend who is responsible for this wonderful insight if anyone wishes to get in touch with me on personal mail.