As moms we worry! We worry a lot about what our child is eating right from the day he is born. I am no different. I’d worry if he breastfed every few minutes, I’d worry if he decided to take long breaks. After six months of age I decided to switch to solids that were natural with no added sugar or salt, but I’d fret if he rejected a particular food. And after my toddling boy turned one, I decided to take it easy! Yes I did want to develop healthy eating habits in my boy but not by being a tough task master.
Children develop a natural preference for foods they enjoy the most. So what are we supposed to do, deprive them of food that we consider “unhealthy”?
If my toddler saw me eat a packet of French fries wouldn’t he want to eat them too? In that case should I allow an occasional treat or gulp down the piece and hide the rest of the fries?
With a two and a half year old, I have accepted that it is not feasible to make strict meal plans and stick to them. And to be honest I wouldn’t even choose that for my boy.
The secret here is not to forbid any food but to budget it. Nobody, young or old can get away with eating their favourite foods daily. Chocolates, chips, pastry, ice-cream, pizza, burgers etc., are delicious and exciting for kids. While I strive to strike a perfect balance between healthy meals and occasional treats.
These are five mantras that I follow when it comes to my child’s diet:
#1 Don’t declare a food as unhealthy
I truly believe in doing that. I’d never tell my boy that you must never eat a chocolate because it’s not good for health. I prefer taking a bar giving him a piece and eating only one piece myself and explain to him why I choose to eat only a little. That way he learns for life that certain foods are best eaten in moderation. And is there any food that is totally unhealthy anyway? There is no food that is totally unhealthy. Moderation, balanced nutrition intake and an active lifestyle will lead to a healthy mind, body and soul.
#2 Fat is an essential nutrient
As adults we are striving to maintain a certain body weight and consider any kind of fat to be unhealthy and unnecessary for the body. According to ICMR recommendation on Dietary Guidelines for Indians, the total fat in the diet should provide between 20-30% of total calories. The total fat intake in the diets can go up to 50g per person per day based on the level of physical activity and physiological status.
A child indulges in a lot more physical activity and feeding the right kind of fat would only aid his developmental process in the right way.
#3 Allow treats
I have the fondest childhood memories of eating Maggi noodles with my sisters at 1 am. I wonder what would it be like if my mother did not allow me to eat Maggi at all 🙁 on a side note, Maggi goes through a five stage cooking process that involves steaming, baking, frying, cooking and cooling down before it’s packed. The frying makes sure the product stays safe for longer period of time. Infact I recently learnt that Maggi Noodles that we consider unhealthy for instance, strikes a nutritional balance really well. The balance between Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat in MAGGI noodles is very similar to the recommendations made by Indian Council of Medical Research. This includes even the newly launched MAGGI Oat noodles provides energy in this recommended ratio –Energy from carbohydrates (56%), protein (10%) and fats (33%). So shouldn’t I be okay if my boy want to eat it once in a while? Then again, isn’t moderation the key? Also how safe are the vegetables that we buy from the market. With several videos going viral about almost every edible item being adulterated, the paranoia is likely to exist.
#4 Be Okay!
One mantra that I think we all must follow is to be in an “okay” frame of mind. We tend to brood if a child does not eat a particular food or goes on a hunger strike. In my opinion trying different variations, encouraging healthy eating through play and demonstration, being a role model totally works better than force feeding or bribing. If you see a habit that you think needs to be improved then work in that direction with a healthy frame of mind.
Food is an essential fuel and we must make our kids use it as fuel and not therapy.