"My child refuses to eat veggies and drink milk" is a common complaint faced by parents. With fast food restaurants mushrooming in your neighbourhood it has become difficult to convince children to eat healthy, especially now when a burger, pizza or a bowl of pasta is just a mouse click away.
According to the Obesity Foundation of India, 15% of the children are affected with childhood obesity. To ensure their kids are not malnourished, many Indian mothers often over-feed them leading them to become overweight. When it comes to growing children, it is important to fight the "motherly instinct" of satisfying their craving with junk food; instead habituate them to eat and lead a healthy lifestyle. We spoke to some concerned mothers who have been working on different ways to improve their children's health quotient. Here are their ideas, which may help you too.
Pragatti Rao, a Psychologist based in Delhi, conducts workshops for children and their mothers at her centre - Educoncepts India Initiative. With topics ranging from communication techniques to life skills to smart techniques for school, Praggatti not only addresses the IQ and EQ of the attendees but their NQ i.e. Nutrition Quotient as well. "The existing modules are based on how we think, how we talk and how we focus our mind. With the mind and body being connected, I propagate that for a healthy mind we need a healthy body and this means eating nutritious and healthy food. When you use interactive techniques such as crossword and jumbled puzzles, initiate group discussions and provide visual aid to explain your point, the children become more receptive and tend to assimilate more information," explains Praggatti Rao.
While you cannot stop your child from wanting to eat junk food such as pizza, pasta and burgers, you can always recreate this at home. Eating at home is always a healthier option as the fat and sugar content being consumed can be regulated. Chef Priyanca Bhatia, has incorporated some healthy substitutes while cooking and baking so that her children and family can eat healthy and tasty food. "It is very important for children to like what they see when they eat. I usually camouflage healthy ingredients in food items they relish.
- For example, when they want burgers I make the patty out of soya and potato with carrots and peas. Sprout cutlets are another healthy snack to give the children.
- My children also look forward to kathi rolls wherein I use wheat or corn tortillas with a paneer or tofu stuffing, garnished with homemade salsa. For non vegetarians, a grilled chicken stuffing is an alternate option.
- Another healthy kid friendly healthy dish is pita pocket. This is basically hummus spread, paneer/soya/tofu/grilled chicken stuffed between pita bread (preferably wheat pita bread)."
Payal Priyadarshini, a professional banker, may not have the time to oversee what her children eat during the day but she surely regulates the food that enters her house. "To inculcate healthy eating habits in my 10 year old son I have made sure to educate not only my family but my care taker as well. She is the one who is in charge of the kitchen in my absence; hence I have made her aware of daily food safety practices like:
- Keep the kitchen clean at all times by washing the dirty utensils and cleaning the slab
- Line the dustbins with garbage bags and ensure the bin is covered so as not to attract flies and mosquitoes."
To improve your child's overall health you not only need to regulate what he/she consumes but also ensure that there is no contamination so as to avoid spreading of diseases. Dr. Debmita Dutta, parenting & wellness consultant, has imbibed the quality of commanding her children from her husband who is a part of the Indian Army. "At home, I constantly repeat the mantra 'Wash your hands thoroughly' so as to ensure that my family does not fall sick. Even if you are eating with a spoon it is important to wash your hands before the meal", recommends Dr. Dutta.
Being the Vice Principal of a school in Dwarka, Seema Bali tries to constantly communicate to her students and the teachers about eating right and eating healthy. "Infact even before schools were asked to implement the FSSAI guidelines about 'no junk inside school premises', I had started making changes internally. Our school serves mid-day meals and so we ensure that we provide the children with healthy and nutritious food items.
Once a month we do put junk items such as noodles on the menu, but here too we ensure that the noodles are made of 'atta', not 'maida', and are loaded with vegetables so as to make it a healthy and well balanced meal. The school canteen too doesn't serve junk items such as chips and aerated drinks; instead we now serve more healthy snacks such as boiled corn, sprouts chaat and fruit chaat. To add variety, we sometimes serve kathi rolls or cholepuri but these too are full of vegetables and the chappati/puri is made from atta. We have switched to serving Tetra Pak packaged juices as thirst quenchers".
Seema, along with her colleagues, has educated the canteen and kitchen staff about safe food practices as well. She has also appointed senior school students to carry out inspections of the areas where food is being cooked and served, "This way the children not only learn about food safety practices but also feel they have a responsibility towards the health of their fellow students, themselves and the community. Being part of the Right to Keep Food Safe initiative has only strengthened my conviction of providing safe and healthy food to my students", says Seema.