While kids battle school exams usually thrice a year, mommies take exams every day on what to pack in the tiffin. It has to be healthy, and the kids want it to be tasty. Then there’s a list of things that the kids don’t like, which usually doesn’t leave much on the menu. Due to this, mothers have to fret over the fact that their kids are missing essential nutrients. And all this has to be managed within a nano time frame, especially in case of working women. In come the picture then, sandwiches, burgers, maggie, bhajiya, vadas biscuits, banana chips and more nutrient starved, and even bad food.
However all this won’t do, as these are their growing years. “A child needs a balanced and adequate diet to ensure adequate supply of nutrients and energy needed for growth,” stresses clinical nutritionist Dr Nupur Krishnan.
Your child’s needs
Children require relatively more protein than an adult. “It is essential for growth and tissue repair. Hence, “About 14 to 15 per cent of the calories should be supplied as protein,” say experts. The main sources of protein are milk and milk products (curd, paneer, lassi, shrikhand, ice cream), meat, fish, eggs, nuts, cereals and pulses. Carbohydrate and fats are supplied mainly for their calorie value.
Liberal helpings of raw and cooked vegetables and fruits should be given along with each meal. Another important thing is fluids. “Children usually do a lot of running about. As most of the games they play involve a lot activities, they sweat profusely. Hence fluids lost need to be replenished.” Agarwal stresses, “They must always carry a water bottle. If possible, encourage them to carry a small bottle of Glucon-D or tetra packs of juices.” But not aerated, fizzy drinks, she adds. And least of all, no energy drinks. Fluids intake should be sufficient to ensure a free flow of urine, as it helps throw out toxins from the body, adds Dr Krishnan.
Packing an attractive lunch box
A little imagination in the preparation of what you pack in their lunch boxes can be rewarding. Sandwiches, parathas and puris can be made into various appealing moulds, shapes and colours. A host of cutters of interesting shapes are available in the market. To Add colour to puris and parathas, use vegetables and herbs, like carrots for orange, beetroot for red, spinach for green. “Simply puree them and mix it with the flour,” suggests Dr Deepa Bhandarkar, a pediatrician.
Working mothers can prepare a week’s tiffin menu for their children and put it up on the refrigerator using a magnet. This has two sided benefits. One, it will save mothers from fretting over what to pack each morning. Two, the idea of six different treats will have kids excited. “Just make sure you use interesting names, like Chatpata Chana or Rajma Frankie,” says Dr Krishnan.
Introduce your children to a plethora of vegetables available out there, from different states as well as different countries, like lotus stems from Kashmir, Chinese cabbage, and a host of other exotic vegetables. If your kids like pasta or noodles, make sure to slip in the essential nutrients along. Use vegetable stock not only for the base sauce and also chop veggies. “You could also boil noodles/ pasta/ macaroni in vegetable soup or dal water,” suggests Dr Krishnan.
Nutrient rich options for the lunch box
– Chatpata Chana
– Rajma Frankie
– Veg sandwich
– Mango puree with puris
– Maggie with chopped vegetables
– Vegetable-stuffed paratha
– Daly-stuffed paratha
– Puris made from vegetable puree mixed in the dough
– Mixed vegetable pulav with rainbow garnishing
– Chicken frankie (in wheat chapati)
– Baked tuna with green salad
Tricks out of the lunch box
Encourage your child to share the tiffin with their friends, as research has proves that eating with friends helps children eat more. You could also take your child for grocery shopping and ask them to pick the fruits and vegetables they’d like in their lunch box. Shares Nimisha Tiwari, a working mother, “I make sure my daughter accompanies me when we go grocery shopping. Like this, I involve her at the grassroots. As we walk through, I advice her on the goodness of different foods, but she makes her choices.” Experts agree with this exercise as kids are more likely to eat what they pick up for themselves. Children shouldn’t be forced, but motivated to eat healthy food. “Parents should inform children of the goodness of fruits and vegetables. Tell them how by eating ladies finger and walnuts their memory will improve memory that will in turn help them excel in studies. Girls also love to hear things like by eating carrots and papaya their face will have a glow,” advises Dr Krishnan.
Add a mini tiffin
Most schools have two breaks, a short one and a long one. Apart of that growing children feel hungry more often. Hence apart from roti, sabzi etc. also pack some dry snacks or appetizers. For the smaller lunch box, items like carrot kheer, or nuts with muesli, green chutney or egg sandwiches are good. You could also give them biscuits, or baked farsaans sometimes. You could also pack in colourful steamed salad of green beans cherry tomatoes and nuts, or chatapati bhel of kurmura and cornflakes. Children also like yellow corn. Just add a small knob of butter and some black pepper and it’s yummy.
Summer time is also good to indulge in sprouts, so prepare sprouts bhel. Even a chocolate cake with fresh mulberry or fresh strawberries or raspberries is good.
Full stop to fast food?
Urban India has seen an explosion of world cuisine. People want to try out new cuisines and different kinds of foods now available at supermarkets, but we need to strike a balance. It’s okay to try chicken nuggets, burgers, and other fryings, but such treats should only be occasional.
Don’t get mislead by words like ‘Zero oil’, ‘baked’, and ‘contains 14 nutrients’ etc. Many brands out there bombard each of us with the ‘virtues’ of different convenience foods. However, no body consults an expert when a food product makes tall claims in advertisements. “With a surfeit of often contradictory information on the internet and the electronic media, parents do not know what is right for their children. The PFNDAI (The Protein Foods & Nutrition Development Association of India) attempts to help them make sense of the information,” informs Dr Krishnan.
We don’t need to learn from our mistakes. Look West-wards to know what the frozen/can food trend has led to. Developed countries like the US are battling with rising obesity, so much so that Unites State’s First Lady Michelle Obama wants to wage a war against it.