Healthy Tiffin / Lunch Options for Kids

Yesterday I visited my Kid’s Parent teacher meeting. (For readers to be able to correlate – my kid is 4.5 yrs old, studies in a chain of reputed schools in Gurgaon / Delhi / Bangalore etc and has recently entered “Prep” Class ). It was an open session wherein parents of at least 20 kids were sitting together in the same class listening to what all teacher had to say about the kids and how to teach them. But after 5 minutes Teacher stopped educating on how to teach kids instead started telling parents as to what a dietitian / dietician should be telling them i.e. my job. I was surprised to hear the horror stories (of what kids eat in school) that the teacher narrated in the class.

Teacher educated parents on what to send in tiffin to school and what should not be sent. What are healthy food items and what is considered to be junk food. Teacher had strict NO for some of the food items that kids carry to school in their tiffin. It was a strange thing to note that people send maggie, Pizzas, chips, cold drinks etc in tiffins of school kids. Apart from being a difficult thing to eat, during short lunch break, these food items are unhealthy for young kids who are still in nursery and prep. Although most of the kids crave for these things when they see advertisements in TV or see their elder siblings eating the same but parents shouldn’t give into demands of their kids. As a dietician / dietitian I always suggest to parents that a complete Ban on these things wouldnt work but parents should try not to make it a daily routine and ensure that their kids get these things once in a while and not on a regular basis. Although my kid now teaches me what he has been taught in school i.e. too much of noodles can cause stone :-).

Although teacher had a very valid point that these food items draw too much attention in the class and most kids start fighting for the food and end up eating nothing. On top of that they get spilled easily in the class and create a mess for kids as well as teacher to manage. But looking at these things from a nutritionist’s / dietician’s perspective I end up asking parents in counseling sessions – Do these things provide enough nutrition to the kids – who we want to grow up as healthy adults and not as obese and unhealthy adults ?

I think at times it is to do with our kids demands or their tantrums to not eat anything and sometimes it is we ourselves who get convinced by marketing campaigns to end up believing that junk food is healthy or an alternative for our wholesome meal as it contains a lot of fortified minerals and vitamins. At the end onus lies on parents to ensure that their kids eat healthy. For few things we have to explain that they are not good for health and also ensure that we give them wholesome meals which they like. For this we need to experiment with things to not only make food attractive / innovative but delicious for kids.

Kids love variety in their food so the effort has to be put in from parents to ensure that their food is palatable. One of the examples that the teacher gave in the class was that of Pizza Parantha. Although there are a number of healthy food options and best and wholesome one is Chapati / parantha with subzi but many a times kids atleast the young ones cant handle it on their own. May be the same can be given to kids in the form of Parantha Roll.

After the eye opening session at the school I as a dietician / dietitian feel obliged to let people know about some of the healthy food options that I give to my kid for his lunch which are easy to make at the same time ensure that kids get enough nutrition in their lunch. Following are some of the things that I include in my son’s tiffin:
1) Paneer Pakoda
2) Paneer Sandwich
3) Cheese Sandwich
4) Chenna murgi
5) Milkmaid Coconut Laddu
6) Home Made Cake
7) Bread Rolls / Pakoda
8) lemon water can easily replace packed juices and cold drinks
9) Soya Aaloo tikki
10) Paneer Tikki
11) Peanut Tikki
12) Bread & Peanut Butter
13) Vegetable Sandwich
14) Besan Pancake
15) Poha
16) Suji Upma
17) Sweet / Salty French Toast
18) Idlis
19) Home made dhoklas
20) Fruit Serving / Fruit Chat / Fruit Cream

Recipes for some of the above food items are provided on Rxocean. i.e. and we would try to ensure that we add recipes that are missing from the list above on our website.

Obesity amongst Children in India

Obesity is not limited to adults instead it is rising at an alarming rate amongst Children. Health effects of childhood obesity can be both psychological and physiological. Childhood obesity can significantly increase the risk of a child developing depression; it can also result in early onset of obesity-related conditions seen in obese adults. Some of the conditions that are associated with obesity include diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, sleep apnoea and cancer etc.

Childhood obesity also increases likelihood of child growing into an obese adult. Research says that around 70% of obese children remain obese even when they grow up. As such, childhood obesity is associated with an increased risk of premature death as well as disability in adulthood.

The rising rate of childhood obesity is a warning sign that children not only need to learn healthy lifestyle practices, but they also need support from parents, teachers and their communities. It all starts with environmental changes and that can take place at all levels. Simple changes can make a big difference and over time they can help obese children lose weight and regain their health.

The most influential people in a young child’s life is his or her parents. An overweight child can benefit greatly from having the proper support at home. Parents can educate themselves and their children on healthier food choices. Simple behavioral modification helps children eat less and move more to lose weight and lower their BMI. Replace treats and soda with fruits and vegetables. Make exercise a fun part of the day that the family shares together. Limit time spent on TV, the Internet and video games and involve kids more in out door activities. Advertisement of Cadbury chocolate is apt in current times but chocolate shouldn’t be the reward for it else the whole purpose would be lost.

It’s important that the child isn’t put on a diet. Instead, focus on positive lifestyle changes that the whole family will follow. Promote acceptance and health rather than focusing on their weight or BMI. Set goals for the family and reward family members for their achievements.