“Arre yeh to kitna doobla hai! (He’s so thin!)” was the first reaction that I got from my extended family, who eyed my son with deep concern. Soon after my first trip with the baby, my relatives vouched in that the baby wasn’t “roly-poly” like I was as a kid. There was that accusation that I, the amateur mother, did not know what to feed the baby and was not doing the job properly. Suddenly there was a huge uproar and a parliamentary session on “how to help the baby put on weight and make him chubbier”.
While some suggested potatoes and other high calorie foods for the baby, some said dried fruits, powdered and mixed with food. The unsolicited advice poured in from every nook and cranny. Mostly everybody, unanimously, voted for ghee and butter, in dollops, for puppy fat. In fact, some said I should just let him lick butter and ghee from the tray just like that. To my utter zapped expression, ladies gave me the example of lord Krishna in his chubbier, baby “bal gopal” avatar, citing how adorable he looked. Seriously!
I mean our mythical “gopal” had loads of planetary, high calorie action to handle. Plus, let’s not forget he was a magical being, but what about my son? How will he be able to lose all that puppy fat once he grows up without any magic?
With a mother who’s hopeless in losing fat herself, I wonder what my son will learn from me in terms of weight loss. If not help him lose it, at least I can do my bit by helping him not gain it. Not that I am not fond of chubby babies, but chubbiness with a hollow, nutrition deprived body is not what I advocate. My kid should eat not just calorie rich foods, but also foods which add some nutrition as well.
In my growing up years, my parents taught me that food is medicine on its own. As long you understand the benefits associated with it, you can eat meaningfully and stay healthy and hearty. Eating fresh, local and seasonal was the prime thing in my home. Packaged and processed foods, were a big no-no. My mother used to re-create that favorite street food at home, with a punch of her own healthy feeding sensibility.
The only flip side during those days, was a high dose of sugar through homemade sweets. I mean, what can I say, I, being a Bengali, am genetically programmed to binge on sweets! And that’s what I did in my growing up years. Now after I’ve realized what all it can do (after seeing my growing waistline), I consciously try to steer clear of it. I know my son also has that genetic trait because he just doesn’t know when to stop with sweets, so now I hardly buy, but make my own healthy version of sweets. It hasn’t cut down on his inclination (I don’t wish to do that either), but at least if he doesn’t see, he doesn’t demand.
There’s a reason why a diet is called a balanced diet because everything including carbohydrates, protein and essential vitamins are taken in prescribed portions. I too, like every concerned mother, wish to feed my son delectable food, but not at the cost of nutrition. I do let him binge, but it isn’t like a daily routine.
I’m not solely into taste, I also want to sneak in dollops of nutrition for my kid, who is growing by leaps and bounds every day. And why not? After all, I’ve to help him cope with the real life challenges of his age, which include playing, walking, running, jumping, exploring the world and of course other crucial mental activities as well. Language, analytics and so many other creative activities will require his mental alertness and physical agility. I don’t want my son to lose on all that by feeling lethargic with just loads of fat and zero nutrition!
Also the sensibility and the need to eat well stems from my own observations of my surroundings.
Suddenly I feel that diseases are defying the laws of age. Diabetes, heart attacks, cholesterol issues, obesity are now high on the rise with people, who are just in their 20’s and 30’s. Bad and erratic eating habits and sedentary lifestyle are all culprits, adding to health issues. To this add the threat of pollution, mobile radiations, random popping of over-the-counter medicines, and lack of exercise and high quantum of stress at work. These all are doing the needful in triggering that genetically loaded gun of diseases.
When I see young people diagnosed with ailments like cholesterol, diabetes, chest pain, arthritis and what not, I do my own calculations towards my own family’s health. One out of four friends or relatives in my circle, has some or other health issue, pertaining to bad eating habits. This is acting like a high ‘tick-tock’ alarm for me!
I’m taking cues from all this and consciously working to make my next generation, eat healthy and meaningful food. Through food, I’m trying to create that balance, that support system for my child, which can combat the said harmful factors.
Hence, while I let him binge at times, I also ensure that he takes in his regular dose of healthy balanced meal. This includes dairy and dairy products, rice, whole grains, pulses, fruits, vegetables, fish, chicken and eggs with minimum sugar, refined and processed foods. I don’t intend cut down on sweets, but I have switched white sugar into sweets.
I sneak in the sweet dose through dates or jaggery, which has a lot of iron benefits. Similarly, most of the bingeing sweets are usually made at home, sometimes substituted with honey or dates juice as well. Also the refined carbs are switched with healthy multigrain or whole wheat flour to ring in some health benefits. Be it Indian or western desserts, I create my own version of healthy sweet to satiate that sweet tooth in my kid, while satisfying my hunger for providing good nutrition as well.
I try and incorporate a wide variety into his food menu each day. Right from a variety of textures, flavors, aromas to colors, I make it a point that he sees a different kind of meal every day. After all, food is an integral part in staying happy, so seeing, smelling, and tasting form an equally imperative part in sending the right happiness signals.
I’ll not say I’ve mastered the art, but my conscious efforts are helping me to reach it to that point. Creating a blend of health, calories and nutrition into a flavorful meal is an art and as a mother, I constantly try and achieve it. Also I make sure that both I and the ‘daddy’ eat the same food that he eats.
Children see other family members in the house and develop similar eating habits. They will see everyone around them and eat similar food. So, if you are guzzling on cola and bingeing on fries, don’t expect your child to eat carrots and cucumbers. It’s natural for him to demand the same. Therefore, start becoming the healthy example for your child, because seeing is believing. He will eventually learn to eat and appreciate the food that everyone eats. Maybe with kids, especially with fussy eaters, you will have to be a little more creative to make the healthy food look good, but it will be for the good!
It’s high time we say no to frizzy drinks, high sugar, high salt foods, packaged and processed foods. Saying no to these, with an active lifestyle will keep your child stay active and healthy in the long run, which is what should be the main prerogative of every parent.
If we are doing so much on their academic and extra-curricular front, isn’t it equally imperative to make sure they have a strong physical and mental composition to take in all that? After all, only a healthy and active lifestyle will allow a child to absorb and appreciate all those challenges. Helping them achieve that discipline via food will pay off in the long run.
Hence, I’m in favor of feeding calories, but only with meaningful nutrition. I will prefer feeding two bananas to my son than a bag of chips. Although, calorie wise both are at par, but I’m incorporating a healthy dose of vitamins through bananas, which is lacking in the latter. Calorie counting, without clicking in the nutrition component doesn’t register well with me.
Let me know what your take on the subject of healthy eating with kids is? Please share your thoughts and suggestions on what all can be done to incorporate it as a habit.