As a working mom, I wish people would stop judging me thinking I wont’t be able to manage healthy food for kids. Worse is when they ask me, “How do you manage to feed your daughter,?” “Are you able to feed her enough healthy food?”
And if it were limited till these annoying questions, I would still have let it pass. But things become really hot under the collar when I get judged each time my kid is seen with an ice-cream or a candy. But, then I have learnt to ignore the stares and stick to what I can manage. And here are some healthy food ideas that have worked for me which ensure my kids are heartily-fed and clocking in all the nutrition milestones.
1. I get my snacks customised
- I am not convinced about the readymade snacks available in the market and so enlisted the help of a home chef to make me healthy food—atta cookies, roasted makhanas, dry fruit mix, granolas, muffins (I give instructions to swap oil with butter), bread, theplas, mixed namkeens and so on. Prepare a menu of wanted items and share your specifications.
- I keep snacks in easy-to-open transparent containers for my kid to grab when she wants.
- Same for beverages. My beverage concentrates are customised with less sugar and fewer preservatives—aam panna, kokum concentrate are kept handy in the fridge. Milkshakes, smoothies, lassis are kept in the fridge in the morning for children to pick up and drink.
2. I model healthy eating habits
I eat fruits/salads myself and have put my kids into the same habit. You will always find fruits, vegetables (cucumbers, kakri, carrots especially) in my fridge and dips such as hummus and baba ghanoush stocked.
Plan meals in a way that you can cover all major food groups–protein, carbohydrates, antioxidants from vegetables/fruits, and a dairy item–together in each meal. Think of solutions like wraps, stuffed paranthas with accompaniments etc.
3. Include all nutrients in each meal
A nutritionist friend advised me to plan my menu to include all the nutrition groups in each meal. Veggies, carbohydrates, protein, calcium, etc. Here are some combinations that work for me to make healthy food for my children:
1. Paneer (protein), with a seasonal vegetable (ant-oxidants from veggies), dahi (dairy and digestive), fruit salad, and roti/rice (carbohydrate)
2. Daal/sambhar (protein), roti/rice.idlis (carbs), salad, sweetened curd with fruits or fruit puree (dairy item and doubles as a dessert too)
3. Stuffed parantha or atta kneaded with grated veggies (carbs and veggies), mix-veg raita (dairy), a piece of fruit, sprouts chaat (protein)
4. Egg curry (protein), rice/roti (carbs), vegetable salad, fruit on the side
It will require forward planning but is really simple once you get the hang of it. Same applies for school tiffins.
4. Pack a healthy punch in each bite
For other days, I try simple, fun tricks such as layering salads in a jar, meals in a wrap (roasted veggies, chicken or lentil patties, cheese all go in one wrap), yogurt parfaits work since maximum food groups can be brought in together in one dish.
5. Keep a special meal in the week
Plan a meal on any day–an only fruits and freshly-squeezed juices meal, or a sautéed veggies and soup meal to ensure the nutrition gaps are covered.
6. Keep a day for indulgences
Ice creams, halwas, pizzas should also be there to keep the fun alive and also give yourself a break from all the planning.
And finally, remember; children will be children. They will eat junk food sometimes, be messy, or un-mindful about food. Keep it simple and don’t give up.