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Your Space: Here is how Pune parents plan to ensure a healthy diet for children

Fussy eating has been a common behavioural problem among children leading to a great amount of stress for mothers who are coping with it. Growing children require lots of energy due to their high activity levels, which in turn require a good intake of healthy nutrients.

pune Updated: Jun 17, 2018 16:59 IST
Hindustan Times, Pune
Your Space,Pune parents,healthy diet
With junk food occupying more space in store shelves and being prominently displayed to catch people’s eyes, it has become more difficult to make children interested in healthier alternatives.(Satish Bate/HT PHOTO)

When our child was born there was pressure from the hospital staff and from the family to use formula. We were told that we were starving our baby by not offering him formula fortified with nutrients. However, I stood my ground, and based on World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations, exclusively breastfed for six months. Thereafter, armed with wisdom from evidence-based research and support from peer communities, we try to follow the following ground rules to keep meal times healthy and stress free for our child and ourselves:

1. Exclusive breastfeeding until six months, and extended breastfeeding until the child self-weans.

2. Trusting the infant/toddler/child. They know when to eat and how much to eat. Force-feeding in early childhood leads to aversions, a lifetime of poor relationship with food, and contributes to obesity. This also means no screens while eating, as distraction feeding is a variant of force-feeding.

3. Offering a variety of fresh and nutritious food. Avoid things that come out of a box or a plastic packet, such as biscuits, chips or chocolates.

4. No salt and sugar until one year, and limited sugar intake thereafter. Of course, every once in a while the child gets some ice-cream.

Most importantly, we have learned to avoid stereotypes that a healthy child is a chubby child with rolls of baby fat. We’re very happy with our lean machine, and have come to grow comfortable with the fact that not wanting to force feed or fattening our child does not make us bad parents. If you’re reading this, you’re likely to be a privileged resident of urban India. In that case, it is childhood obesity, and not malnourishment that we should all be worried about.

Amrita Dutta

Make food more fun

Fussy eating has been a common behavioural problem among children leading to a great amount of stress for mothers who are coping with it. Growing children require lots of energy due to their high activity levels, which in turn require a good intake of healthy nutrients. Fussy eating children suffer from unhealthy diets low in protein and micronutrients which leads to a poor immune system, lack of focus, weak bones and an overall slow growth pattern. Moms wish to see empty lunch boxes coming home from school, but it’s not just about eating. It is about eating a healthy meal.

Innovative cooking can help make food look attractive. Children tend to get bored of the same colour and a repeated food pattern. A plain glass of milk is difficult to gulp down, but adding some honey enhances the flavour and its nutritional quality. A banana milk shake or an oats porridge topped with seasonal fruits are rich in nutrients for morning breakfasts. Palak parathas or paneer rolls are other healthy options for school tiffins. Vegetables protect against all sorts of diseases. They should be a major portion of a child’s diet plan.

Pav bhaaji is often a child’s favourite dish. Instead of topping it with cheese or butter, grated beetroot would add to their iron content. Crunchy cornflakes garnished on any food dish would seem yummy for the fussy ones. Junk snacks in between regular meals kill the child’s appetite. They should be avoided. Family meals should be encouraged. Children often copy their parents and elder siblings. This would help them eat healthy. Dry fruits such as almonds and dates are rich nutrients. They, along with fruit yogurts and a variety of salads, should be added to children’s daily meals.

Apart from a healthy diet, daily exercise for children is very important. With mobiles and computer games, children are more prone to staying indoors. This has led to them being overweight and it has harmed their growth potential. Outdoor activities like tennis and football serve as important tools in growth development.Parents should encourage swimming, cycling and jogging to help them stay fit and healthy.

Finally, a plate full of sliced fruit is the perfect way to end the day.

Shireen Musaddique Penkar

A visual treat

Kids today have a lot of junk food options to choose from over healthy foods. This makes it a bigger challenge for parents to ensure a balanced healthy diet for them. Add to that the sedentary lifestyle and the time spent in front of screens; kids are becoming increasingly lethargic and overweight. As a parent of a growing 6-year-old, it continues to be a challenge to ensure that not only is my child eating a balanced healthy diet, but also enjoying what he is eating. Kids like shapes and colours so innovation in terms of presentation of the food is recommended. Simple salads can be made a lot more fun by cutting vegetables into different shapes and sizes. Finger foods are also a big hit with children, which need not always be oily. For example, carrot and cucumber strips can be fun for children when they have to dip it in hung curds or similar such dips. For fussy eaters, concealing vegetables while making their favourite snack is also a good option. For example, potato cutlets can be made more nutritious with grated carrots, pumpkin or beetroot. Using natural colours like spinach for green, turmeric for yellow and beetroot for red can be a good option to make food look more appealing. Involving the children in preparing simple dishes in the kitchen is also a good way to ensure they eat well and eat a variety of vegetables.

Exercise is equally important to be fit and active. Encouraging the child to pursue any one or more physical activity or sport is a good option. The child can be given the choice as per his or her liking. If time doesn’t permit to take the child out for physical activity classes, parents can play outdoor games that they played when they were young with their children. It will be a healthy option as well as a good way to bond as a family.

Vaishali S Heblekar

Make healthy snacks available

I have a 7-year-old son and it is a big task to see to it that he eats right. It has been observed that all children tend to like junk food more. With more and more junk food in the market, most children demand more junk and never want to eat salads, fruits or leafy vegetables. I ensure that my son eats every three to four hours. I also never let my son go to school without breakfast and milk. This becomes tiresome, but I make sure that there is some healthy snack available every three to four hours so that my son doesn’t end up eating junk.

Swati Dhole

No more nighttime snacks

Children’s lifestyles are changing very rapidly. It is difficult for working mothers to keep a tab on whether their children are eating right. I have a 12-year-old daughter. I am taking efforts to ensure that my daughter follows a routine when it comes to meals and also ensure that she is not hungry during any part of the day, which is very important as children many times do not realise when they are hungry. I have seen that a lot of children tend to eat late at night and this should be avoided.

Nilima Raut

Bring out old healthy recipes

To ensure that children eat right, it is important to present them with new innovative dishes which are healthy. Mothers have to be on their toes as it is very difficult to keep coming up with something that is both tasty and healthy. With the Internet, it has become easier to look for newer recipes which can give children a balanced diet. Also, the old recipes that mothers used to cook for us are very helpful. These old recipes are much healthier.

Aparna Sengupta

Sports are fun and healthy

Most children now lead a sedentary lifestyle, which is very bad for their health. I have two sons - an 8-year-old and an 11-year-old. Most of the time, they spend their day in front of their computer. Due to this sedentary lifestyle, children don’t feel hungry and eat at odd hours. To change this, I have ensured that they pursue some outdoor sport which would benefit them. With this, the eating habits of children can also be improved.

Reema Singh

Parents need to take charge

Yes, it is a fact that today’s children are very fussy eaters and lean more towards junk food rather than healthy home-made food. First and foremost, today’s parents themselves are hooked on fast food. Even if it is made at home, it still remains fast food. Parents also need to start eating home-made nutritious food in front of their children and show them how tasty it is. That is the way I handle my granddaughter for whom having full home cooked nutritious lunch and snacks is compulsory. This goes for her parents as well. Even for school tiffin it is home-cooked parathas with vegetables or roti frankies with vegetables is a must.

It is also necessary to make eating time one without screens. We need to introduce all the food items very early in life so that children grow to like a variety of home-cooked and nutritious food. A time will come when a child wants only home-cooked food, but for that parents have to give up their own fascination for fast food and eat what they want their child to eat. Both the parents need to follow this rule because you don’t know whom your child will emulate.

Maya Hemant Bhatkar

Exercise for mental and physical well being

I am 39 years old, working in a software company and a mother of two - a 12-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl. I am delighted that as a mother, I take care of what I provide my children so that I can regulate the amount of junk food that they eat. Both my children love being outdoor and are adventurous. While I take care of their daily diet, making sure they leave home after having a heavy breakfast (vegatable parathas, curd, milk and other healthy food), my neighbour, Sethupati Asokan, takes care of the well being of every child in the society. Under his leadership, the children play football along with the adults, or go trekking, cycling or swimming during weekends. This contributes to their mental and physical fitness.

Sunayana Bhalla

First Published: Jun 17, 2018 16:58 IST