Young health matters

Balanced diet

Young health matters

With  hectic lifestyles and fussy eaters at home, meal times can be quite a challenge for parents, especially when it comes to making children eat healthy food.

   In light of the recent National Family Health Survey, stating that around 58 percent of children under five years of age in the country are anaemic, the focus is shifting to children’s health.

    Homemakers and doctors in the city talk about how well-balanced diets are important for the general health of the children.

Ranjani Suresh, a homemaker, has always made sure that her four year old Pradyumn ate vegetables and fruits from a tender age.

“I include spinach and tomato in most dishes. Children are often amused by the colour of the food. So, presenting it in the most unique way always makes them curious,” she says adding, “Light seasoning like salt and pepper to boiled carrots are also good.”

    Dr Praveen Venkatagiri, a child specialist with Ovum Hospital says that anaemia is common among children, though not everyone actively checks for it.

“Of the children aged between  six months to two years that I see, almost 40 percent have it. These issues could also be because the mothers are anaemic and haven’t taken iron supplements in time, despite these being prescribed,” he says.

Dr Praveen adds that a long-term reserve is required for people with anaemia, which means one has to keep adding to the iron content if they are low on haemoglobin.
He also says that excess consumption of cow’s milk leads to anaemia.

“Many children like drinking milk which fills their stomach but cuts down on nutrition. Parents need to keep a watch on this. Also anti-worm medicines should be administered as ignoring this could lead to blood loss and in turn anaemia,” adds Dr Praveen.

Apart from taking iron-rich food, one also needs to make sure that iron absorbing food is consumed.

Dr Vikas Satwik, consultant paediatrician and neonatologist, Motherhood Hospitals says, “Most children lose the iron content in their body after six months of age.”

The solution to such situations isn’t force-feeding but to involve them in a family meal. “Develop a routine for the child. The WHO recommends that one meal per day should be had with the parents so that the child picks up healthy-eating habits. Also, the kid should be allowed to have a ‘dirty meal’, where he or she can eat as much as they want and the way they want  to,” he says. 

Though some parents don’t go by strict plans, they ensure that their young ones have food which is home-cooked and non-processed.

Anindita Dey, a corporate trainer who is mother to two-and-a-half year old Hrehan, says striking the right balance can be a tricky task with children.

“Though I  focus on healthy options, we also let him have occasional treats,” she says.

Anindita ensures that Hrehan has two fruits a day. “I blend them into soups or the breakfast cereal, or add an apple, chikkoo or banana to the milk. This cuts down on the sugar and also flavours the milk. At lunch, he has lentils and even an egg, which completes the diet,” she adds.

Parents feel that making children understand the concept of healthy eating isn’t easy and doesn’t always work, thus making them eat what the adults eat is the best
way.

Richa Kapoor, a writer who is mother to four-year-old Mihira, says, “I make a carrot and tomato soup with garlic and onion, which will also include vegetables like bottle gourd, pumpkin or beetroot. I also change these  vegetables occasionally to change the colour of the food and make it more attractive for her. I also make ‘aloo paratha’ with spinach, carrot or beetroot along with curd,” says Richa.

“At meal times, I also encourage some activity like reading to her, which distracts her and lets her eat without noticing much,” she says.

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