Watch the sugar: Added sugar only provides extra calories to your child’s diet, with little additional nutritional value. Sugary food and drinks also increase the risk of tooth decay.
Cereals and Pulses –
“simple is not good”
Let’s start at the base of the
pyramid. Cereals and pulses contribute mainly to carbohydrate intake; pulses to a certain extent, along with milk and meat products, contribute to proteins as well. This group contributes the most to our energy requirement. The amount of carbohydrate our children get is not a concern. (They probably get more than they need!) It is the type of carbohydrates that needs our attention. Cereals have become more refined over the years and this has led to low fibre content in the diet and the latter is required to give the feeling of ‘fullness’. Refined cereals are also easily digested, giving children the energy required in instant spurts as opposed to a more sustained energy release over a period of time. Children eat many products made with refined flour (maida) – bread, pastries, pizzas, bakery products, naans, and unfortunately seem to love their taste. It may be impractical to restrict these totally, but making simple switches — from white bread to whole wheat bread, using whole pulses with skin, whole wheat flour for chapattis, brown rice for certain flavoured rice dishes — can go a long way in improving the quality of carbohydrate. Millets (jowar, ragi, bajra) are finally getting the muchneeded attention they deserve. We are the world’s largest producer of millets but their consumption has dropped over the past few decades owing to the growing popularity of rice and wheat. Adding millet flour to chapatti dough, making cereal porridge of whole grains and millets for youngerkids, replacing part of the polished rice or refined flour with millet flours in parathas and dosas are some ways to incorporate millets in the diet. Fruits and vegetables – ‘the more colours the better’ Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals and also contribute to fibre intake. But studies show that fruit and vegetable consumption among children is woefully low. Most guidelines recommend 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and stress on variety. Again, starting early will make the experience more enjoyable and less challenging.
Also, there are many ways we can make even older children eat more fruits and vegetables. Some practical tips…
- Ensure your child is hungry if you are trying a new or ‘not-a-favourite’ vegetable — she will be more inclined to try something new.
- If you have a fussy eater, ensure she has something else to look forward to at the table so getting the vegetable down is not a battle.
- Make a rule that she has to taste before saying ‘no.’
- Make fruits and vegetables easily available and present them in interesting ways – cut fruits in the refrigerator, juices, shakes, shapes in salads.
- Combine a new fruit with a familiar or favourite fruit so your child is more willing to try.
- Incorporate cut fruits into breakfast cereals or along with the evening milk so it does not seem like a separate chore.
- With younger kids be persistent, introduce the same vegetable in many ways, and do not give up after a couple of attempts. Some young children may have to try the vegetable a dozen times before they accept it!
- Ask older kids to make a salad for a meal to infuse some interest in eating vegetables.
- Do not reward eating fruits and vegetables with another favourite food item.