How to get your child to eat healthy
India is currently suffering from vast problems of malnutrition among children. The term malnutrition does not mean thin, starved or under-fed children. Malnutrition is an umbrella term that encompasses both under and over nutrition.
According to UNICEF, under-nutrition is the cause of 50% under-five deaths in India. On the other hand, in Delhi alone, there are nearly 24.2% obese adolescent children. Obese children are not concentrated in public schools alone. The prevalence of obesity in adolescents is 29% in public schools and 11.1% in government schools.
But the problem arises when the parents refuse to accept that their child is over-weight or obese. There are many myths that the parents suffer from when it comes to their children.
Myths and truths
1. Myth – Most parents believe that a fat/obese child is a healthy child.
Truth - The truth is that 50-70% of obese children grow up to remain obese adults.
2. Myth - If a child is fat, he/she will not have any disease!
Truth - Chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and heart problems seen in adults strike early in such children. The problem of PCOD, facial hair, infertility is seen in girls who are over-weight.
3. Myth – Children should enjoy, eat and relax.
Truth - While relaxing, most children eat junk like chips, chocolate, french fries and pizzas. Such comfort foods are high in calories and fat, which keeps accumulating in the body, leading to obesity.
4. Myth – Children do enough physical activity in school.
Truth - Most children do not indulge in physical activity or exercise in school, even during the physical education class. Studies, TV viewing and the internet leave hardly any time for children to indulge in exercise.
With increasing income and less time for their children, most parents compensate for the lack of time by increasing the pocket money, which leads to eating out. And children indulge in foods like pizzas, burgers, fries, creamy pastas, chocolates, instant noodles, colas, fries (smileys) etc.
Some of the worst snacks for children include cold drinks, french fries, chips, chocolates, instant noodles, cookies (chocolate and other flavours), packaged fruit juices (they are laden with preservatives and sugar), mayonnaise filled sandwiches, burgers (with mayonnaise or cheese), pizzas, fried munchies, doughnuts, also whole fat milk!
Make food interesting
Inculcating the habit of eating fruits and vegetables is extremely essential for children. If a child finds a fruit or vegetable boring, efforts need to be made to camouflage it. Making use of different cuts and shapes of fruits and vegetables will make the food interesting for children. For example, most children avoid eating leafy vegetables, put spinach in the blender and add it to the dough while making rotis or pooris. Its colourful, nutritious and makes an interesting snack!
Instead of plain instant noodles, add lots of vegetables such as beans, carrots and peas, which will make the noodles colourful and grab the attention of the children. Add fruits such as apple, strawberry, banana, papaya and nuts to the cornflakes that kids eat. Most children do not like plain milk. Instead of adding milk additives make fruit shakes with mangoes, bananas, strawberries or chikus.
Curd instead of mayonnaise
While making sandwiches or burgers, instead of using mayonnaise as a dressing, use low-fat hung curd. Fruits should be given as dessert, instead of ice cream or chocolate. Making fruit cream with hung curd and fruits is a good way to make children eat curd and fruits.
Instead of giving plain curd, which is invariably disliked by children, curd can be given in the form of raitas like spinach or beetroot raita, pineapple raita. You could add a mango or strawberry to curd and make lassi.
Smoothies are another interesting option to feed children with milk and fruits! Children might not kick up a fuss to eat fruits, but when it is in the form of smoothies, they almost always love it!
Instead of using only potatoes to make the burger cutlets, use paneer, minced chicken, vegetables to make tasty and colourful cutlets.
Colourful food, different shapes and variety in the diet will help children wean away from junk food. Like adults, intake of fruits and vegetables as part of their daily diet is equally essential for kids.
A healthy child today will make a healthy adult tomorrow!