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Last Updated Monday March 19 2018 06:28 AM IST

Trying to inculcate healthy food habits in kids? Read this first

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Trying to inculcate healthy food habits in kids? Read this first

Mothers are always looking out for what their children eat. Though the awareness about health and food has gone up, many are still careless about food ingredients that have harmful effects on the body. They relent to their children’s demand for fast food for they are either too pressed for time or exhausted to cook.

Studies suggest that the fast food culture is pushing people to rush through life in search of instant gratification. With everyone in the family working, members get fewer opportunities to enjoy meals together. People have become impatient and this is altering their habits and lifestyle.

A significant number of people have more money but less time to spend on food. This trend affects the health of children the most. Childhood obesity is on the rise. Though genetic factors also contribute to the condition, the more likely reasons are unhealthy eating patterns and lack of physical activity.

Instant food, instant harm

Avoid giving kids instant food. Junk and fast food cause several health hazards. Read the label of ingredients on the food packet. One has to particularly avoid biscuits and health supplements that do not meet the food safety standards. If you suspect that your kid is not getting all the required nutrition from the food, either change the diet or consult a doctor for the right supplements. Often, over the counter brain supplements do more harm than good.

The food you consume should never be considered as a symbol of status in the society. There are many parents who feed the children what their friends eat. Many forget that our traditional food has most of the nutrition needed for healthy growth. Our traditional breakfast menu of idly, dosa, kanji, steamed tapioca, and jackfruit is rich in protein. Clarified butter or ghee is a rich source of energy. Egg, consumed in whole or parts, is a powerhouse of protein.

Fast food may be anathema, but a complete ban might have a psychologically reverse impact. Children might rebel more if you put too many restrictions. Be occasionally lenient with their demands.

Maida, sugar, salt: three white devils

Parotta, a layered flatbread made from maida, a finely milled, refined and bleached wheat flour, is a popular food among Malayalis. The process of bleaching denatures the protein content from the flour. This nutritionless flour is also the major ingredient of biscuits, cookies, cakes, and confectionaries that are the favorites of children. Sugar, another constant in these food products, is known as the white poison. The refined sugar added to processed foods have addictive qualities; food manufacturers add chemically produced sugar like corn syrup to all foods and aerated drinks like Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola. The body breaks down refined sugar at a faster pace than the natural sugar, causing insulin and blood sugar levels to rise rapidly. Quick digestion of this sugar tricks the body into believing that it is not full thus leading to overeating and obesity.

The third villain is salt. Packaged chips by brands like Lay’s and Pringles, salted nuts and flavored potato chips contain high amounts of salt or sodium. High sodium levels can lead to high blood pressure and kidney problems. You may reduce the salt content in your home-cooked meal, too.

Milk, if not sourced from organic farms, could be full of preservatives or adulterants. Most packaged milk contain harmful chemicals; daily consumption can impair growth.

Say no to imported fruits and candies

Imported fruits and candies contain high levels of preservatives to keep them intact for longer periods. This is what gives them longer shelf life. Give your kids seasonal fruits. Mangos during the summer season; pears and apples during winter months. Peanut candy and rice balls made with jaggery, sesame seed balls rich in iron, are healthy substitutes for the store-bought candy.

Nuts like almond, cashew, walnut, pistachios are rich sources of protein, fiber and unsaturated fat and vitamins. They should be a constant in a growing child’s diet. Peanut is an affordable substitute for the expensive varieties of nuts in the market.

If we want to raise a healthy generation of individuals, we should pay more attention to what we put on our plates and what we serve our kids.

The opinions expressed here do not reflect those of Malayala Manorama. Legal action under the IT Act will be taken against those making derogatory and obscene statements.

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