Mindful eating for children

Mindful eating for children

Rashmi Bhatia

Let us agree we are all leading hectic lives and it isn’t easy to make sure children are eating healthy.

Distractions have shifted attention away from the actual act of eating towards televisions, computers, smartphones, IPads, social media, Instagram, etc. Eating has become a mindless act, often done quickly. Packaged food, processed food, frozen food, online delivery of food at your door step has become convenient and easy. 

But making an effort is crucial. Because in addition to physical growth, food also plays a significant role in the mental and emotional development of children. Yes, you read that correct. 

Adequate and balanced nutrition is essential during childhood as it promotes growth, strengthens the immune system and supports cognitive functions. Proper nutrition also affects mood and behaviour in children, as certain nutrients like B vitamins, Magnesium and Zinc plays a role in the production of neurotransmitters and hormones that regulate emotions and support mental well-being. 

A well-balanced diet can help prevent the development of chronic diseases later in life. By encouraging children to consume nutrient dense foods and limit the intake of unhealthy options, we can reduce their risk of conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. This early emphasis on healthy eating habits sets a foundation for lifelong wellness. For overall mental health, parents should educate and train their children about healthy eating habits. As food is a part of Activity of Daily Living (ADL), parents should teach children the importance of healthy meals, and healthy cooking methods.

Perceiving  food  beyond  eating and dieting 

Food as a positive tool: Food can also be considered as a positive tool and a skill building activity as it is the only activity, which involves the five  senses. When all senses work together, our happy chemicals serotonin and dopamine are  produced.

These two make us happy, cheerful, and enthusiastic. 

One important lesson to pass on is making sure males are also taught how to cook.  Children are the root of our future generations. How we teach and guide them, will help them blossom into fruitful trees in the future.  This also fosters important life skills and encourages independence. These skills are invaluable as they grow older and become more responsible for their own dietary choices.

Food as an art: There is different variety of colours and shapes in food, so one should consider food as an art. One should have rainbow colors in our meals as it is considered to have all essential micronutrients, macronutrients, antioxidants, which is needed by our body and helps protect against many mental and physical ailments.

Food as culture and tradition: Food is not just about nutrients. It’s also a means of social connection and cultural identity. Teach your child about cultural food and traditions. Try to include your own traditional and cultural food items in your child’s daily meals. If you are a South Indian family, go for south Indian meals. If you are a North Indian go for paranthas, chole, sarso ka saag, etc. Let them value their cultural roots through food. Don’t go by fancy and fad diets. Try to impart the traditional dietary habits you practiced with your dadis and nanis. Making a child aware of their own cultural dietary habits is the most important gift you can give to your child. Teach them about the importance of festivities and feasts involved with each celebration. Sharing meals together on festivals, celebrations also promotes healthy eating habits and can help prevent picky eating behaviour.

Food as memories: Parents can make food as precious memories for children. Family meals can provide opportunities for bonding and communication, while exposing children to a variety of tastes and textures. A child observes the elders in the family cutting, chopping, cooking, garnishing, laying the table, the colour combination of food items, which food items will go with which food items, how to serve different meal combinations, etc. As most children have a photogenic memory, they retain it for a long time. Our own attitude towards food and our willingness to try new things can greatly impact their perception and acceptance of different foods. Being a positive role model and enjoying meals together as a family can create a supportive and positive environment for developing healthy eating habits. Sharing meals together also promotes healthy eating habits and can help prevent picky eating behaviour.

Take away tips for balanced parenting

  1. Promote positive eating habits as it can positively impact their academic performance, increase attention span, ability to focus and learn to retain information.
  2. Involve your child while shopping groceries, vegetables, fruits and let them help you in menu planning.
  3. Involve your child while cooking and laying the table, as it can be fun and creative while preparing meals. Involve them in cutting salad, preparing raitas, decorating, garnishing meals.
  4. Educate the child about nutrients requirement at different age. Teach them about importance of all different food groups, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, water.
  5. Educate them about the importance of food, where it comes from, people involved them in bringing it to you to the table starting from the farmer. This will ensure no food wastage.
  6. Practice  what you want to teach your child. Become a role model for your child.
  7. Try to maintain a healthy relation with food. Never try to force feed. Respect your child’s appetite; never compare your child’s appetite with other children.
  8. Encourage them to take healthy and light snacks between meals.
  9. Discourage having sugary and aerated drinks with meals. Encourage them to drink coconut water, lassi, nimboo pani, butter milk, mango panna, milk shakes, fruit shakes, etc.
  10. Pack reasonable quantity and variety of tiffin. Try to include finger foods for tiffin.
  11. Discourage your child from consuming packaged and processed foods as they contain chemicals, preservatives, colours.
  12. Avoid gadgets and screen time like mobiles, laptops, IPads, TV during meal times. Instead listen to soothing songs or instrumental music.

Healthy momos

Ingredients

Grated broccoli: 30gm

Boiled corn: 20gm

Wheat flour: 50gm

Beetroot paste: 2 tsp

Ginger: 5gm

Garlic: 5gm

Salt: 1 pinch

Black pepper: 1pinch

Method

For the dough

1. Knead wheat flour, beetroot paste and little salt into a soft dough.

2. Keep it aside for a few hours.

For the filling

3. In 2 tsp oil in a pan sauté ginger and garlic.

4. Add grated broccoli and boiled corn (slightly mashed).

5. Add salt and black pepper and sauté.

Making momos

1. Take a small amount of dough and roll out a very thin and small chappati.

2. Place 1 tsp prepared mixture in the centre.

3. Fold the chappati like a modak by bringing the sides to the centre.

4. Place it in a steamer and steam for 10 minutes.

5. Serve hot with chilli chutney.