As mothers or caregivers the only thought which keeps us preoccupied is the well being of our children. Being a mother of a toddler, a school age child or an adolescent; the thought which haunts you and keeps you worried all the time is your child’s eating habits. But the burden of studies and co-curricular activities leaves a little time for us to fuss over as the child eats. As a result it becomes a literal situation of eating on the run.Nutrition is of utmost importance all through the growing years because of various changes taking place in the child’s body. Food and feeding are especially important during this phase of life, not only to support growth, but as the basis of life-long, food related habits and attitudes. Appetite and nutritional needs vary with age, activity and rate of growth.
But not to worry; with some careful planning we can try and bridge this gap.
Packing a wholesome Lunch
Half of the day of a child is spent in schools / colleges; thus packed lunch should ensure a wholesome, attractive and appetizing meal which should be able to meet 1/4th of the daily requirement of nutrients. Few lunch options which can be nutritious as well as appetising are as follows:
Savoury ideas: Stuffed roti wraps, mini burgers (with hummus and mix veg tikki), vegetable rava idli, baked veg cutlets / kebabs, whole wheat pasta prepared as salads, brown bread pizza, can be added to packed lunch menu ideas once or twice a week to add variety. You can also use different spreads while making sandwiches to add variety. Create a quick sandwich spread by blending together fresh cream, finely chopped or grated vegetables and season with salt and pepper.
Sweet ideas: Children have a renowned sweet tooth. Small fruits like grapes, strawberries, peach, plum, cherries or yoghurts are ideal for a sugar boost. Sometimes cupcakes or biscuits can be added to break the monotony.
Beverages: the availability of spill proof bottles allows us to add beverages to the lunch options. Beverages like lemonade, fruit punch, mango panna, etc. can be sent along with lunch in summer months. These will ensure the intake of fluids and electrolytes and prevent dehydration from setting in.
Include these foods
School lunch should be a combination of cereals, pulses / dairy / flesh foods (if permitted at school), fruits / vegetables. These foods ensure a write mix of nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals. The packed lunch should include carbohydrates (rice /chapatti / parantha), proteins (pulses, paneer, soy nuggets, egg / non-veg) and vitamins-minerals (vegetables and fruits). E.g., Vegetable and nutri nuggets Pulao & fruit; Methi / palak parantha with fruit; Dal parantha & fruit; Paneer sandwich & fruit, etc.
Insist on giving homemade food
Kids definitely like and would eat something or other from the canteen but we need to insist on sending homemade food with them. As this is the only way of ensuring nutritious and hygienic meals.
By being watchful you can prevent any nutritional deficiencies from setting in. Be on the lookout for any slightest change in your child’s activity: is your child getting tired frequently / are the grades dropping / is the child no more interested in sports and physical activity? If yes, the chances are high that the child might be suffering with some nutritional deficiencies. Get them checked and focus on providing those nutrients through diet or supplements.
Childhood and adolescence are gateway to adult health. But children in this phase tend to ignore nutrition as they have less time and maybe do not know or care about the effects malnutrition (over as well as under nutrition) can have on their coming life. We as their guiding forces can however be the facilitators for their healthy diet and lifestyle.