Make smart food choices

What a long way we seem to have come from the time when lack of food and poverty were thought to be the only causes of poor nutrition!

Who is to blame? Is it the media with  the OTT marketing spiel? The food manufacturer who makes lofty claims? Or, the parents themselves? Everyone needs to take collective responsibility but those with young children need to wake up fast, because eating habits are formed at the family dining table.

Do not stock unhealthy food at home. Avoid promising treats like pizza for good behaviour. I’ve heard parents admonish kids with: “If you do not complete your homework, you will get only rice and dal, nothing else!” Such not-so-subtle messages can damage good eating practices of kids.

Some food manufacturers go to the extent of claiming that their products help children ‘memorise better’, ‘grow taller’, ‘become more intelligent’ etc. Name any area of child development, and one can see a processed/branded food ready to step in with lofty claims! Children come to associate pizzas, chocolates and colas with ‘success’, ‘happiness’ and ‘victory’. So, it is natural for kids to demand such foods and refuse simple home-made food, which is linked to failure in life!

Link healthy food to good causes. For instance, treat your child to chikki, badam burfi and methi paratha when she wants something special. Educate your child to take advertisements with a pinch of salt.

Many parents use sugary treats like biscuits and chocolates to keep their children’s tantrums at bay! Worse, they use such snacks to buy peace and quiet while travelling! I suggest they carry a favourite picture book, a packet of sandwiches and a toy instead of
chips and chocolates in their hand baggage.

Due to time constraints, many parents encourage their children to eat pre-cooked or ready-to-eat foods, which are not balanced meals. Replacing staple food with pre-cooked or processed food affects the child’s growth and development.There are many traditional foods which do not require cooking time. For example, rice flakes with milk,  puffed rice and ragi porridge are quick, easy and nutritious breakfast foods.

Replace chips with papads or kakra; pasta and noodles with semiya, and ice cream with shrikand to add colour and variety to the meal. If your child fusses over milk, make sure she gets a serving of curd rice. Eating is a conditional reflex, so children can be conditioned to conclude their meal with a bowl of curd or a small serving of curd rice.

Have at least one meal together with the kids every day.  

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