Immunity-boosting, nutrient-dense, etc have become the buzzwords for at least a year now. But let’s face it, as a parent, we have always been conscious of what we have been feeding our kid/s. Even with more-than-occasional biscuits, chips, chocolates and muffins that our kids gravitate towards, we try to balance it with methi paratha, banana milkshake (oh, with extra sugar and dry fruit powder), and what nots.
And then, there are puritans: no food without salad and veggies, no chocolates if it’s not homemade, no ketchup, etc. (Phew! I wonder how they do it: not about being a puritan but making everything at home from scratch.)
This past year (damn you, Covid!), however, has brought extra pressure on parents. With no schools and WFH ruling, we all have spent more hours in the kitchen than ever before. And that’s why it has become easier to eliminate the nasties and junk from your daily schedule. Trust me, it is as easy as it sounds. Follow these easy steps for eating healthier.
1. Start with a Healthier Breakfast
If you lead the way with healthier habits, your kid/s will follow. S/he might not agree to it initially, but if you do not relent, they will.
Make it a habit to start your day with fruit, and not tea or coffee. Do it every day. And offer your kid a fruit every day in breakfast. Better still, ask them which fruit they like the most and would like to eat in breakfast the next day.
Keeping the fruits within reach also helps. If you can see it all the time, chances are you will eat it.
2. Do Not buy Junk
Do not expect your kid to start eating healthy if you are munching away on chips while watching Netflix. The easier way is to not buy junk when you are in a supermarket. You can’t have it if you don’t have it.
Munch on peanuts, dry fruits, cucumber, etc rather than biscuits and chips, when the craving hits. But that does not mean you stop giving your kid/s the ‘occasional’ junk. Just ration it. The idea is to break the habit.
3. Involve your Kid/s
Involve your child in meal planning, making food, serving, etc. It will instil in her/him a sense of ownership, and they will be more judicious in what they are eating.
4. Dealing with a No
Yes, there will be days when your kid/s will say no to eating healthy. Do not fret about it. We all need cheat days, as long as we have been able to break the habit.
The easier way is to find ways around it. If your child does not like a certain veggie, make sambhar or pav-bhaji and include that veggie in it. Then there’s always veg pizza/ veggie pockets/ veg Maggi/ paratha that you can make at home. If your kid is averse to fruits, try milkshakes, fruit cream, fruit lollies, fruit custard, fruit yoghurt, etc. As they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
5. Cook at home
If you are not eating from outside, chances are you are eating healthier. You can control the amount of oil, salt, sugar, etc you are using in your cooking.
As a rule of thumb, always include a salad in all your meals, but do not insist on your kid polishing it off his/her plate. If they do, reward them. If they don’t, don’t punish.
Interact with your kid on the table, and put them at ease while they are eating. Talk about different food groups throughout the day, and explain why they are important for your growing child.
Please remember, never to diss any food group or calorie-count in front of your child even if you are trying to lose weight.
Build healthy eating habits for yourself and your family, with a positive mindset.
Ananya is a Delhi-based working (WFH) mother of a six-year-old. The strategies listed here have been tested by her personally.