The dabba from home

Cultivate a taste for healthy food

Cultivate a taste for healthy food   | Photo Credit: V Sreenivasa Murthy

Try going back to the good old puli saadam or curd rice for your child’s lunch box; you will be surprised how nutritious and satisfying it can be

Now that the summer vacations have come to an end and the new school year has commenced, it’s time for families to get back to regular school routine and the one of what to pack for lunch.

When we were growing up our school lunches were a reflection of the kind of food we ate at home and most often we would barter our tiffin with others. A puli saadham for example would be exchanged for a pongal, a payasam, an aloo subzi and so on.

Somewhere along the way that changed and the packed lunches got fancier but less nutritious so much so that schools are now stepping in to provide nutrition as they see fit. Parents are being urged to send simple, wholesome meals in the right quantities. Some schools are even suggesting weekly meal schedules to help parents.

Why is it this hard to get children to eat simple foods? My father-in-law shared an early childhood memory with us. One day, he refused his idli breakfast and wanted something else. No one berated or reproached him, they just removed his plate from the table and he was free to go. He still remembers the hunger pangs and by the time the noon meal came along, he was ready to eat anything that was served to him! He says he never complained about food thereafter. I sometimes think that a little hunger is good for children. It won’t hurt them. The privileged kids, especially those who live in an urban environment, are plied with an endless supply of food and probably have never felt a hunger pang.

Often love for one’s young is equated with feeding them. Many people hinted that I was a heartless mother just because my children ate a breakfast of either ragi porridge, idli or a nendhram porridge from the age of one till they were almost three. Meal times were kept simple. Lunch consisted of simple poriyal, keerai , paruppu and curd which continues to this day. It is a diet my husband and I were brought up on. And I believe that is why my kids eat vazhaithandu, bitter gourd or sundakkai without a fuss.

My kids do love their sushi rolls and thin crust pizzas but it’s very clear that those are treats and will always remain so. It’s heartening to see my older teen refuse a heavy meal out because she has already made plans to dine out with friends the following day. Balance is of utmost importance and it can only be achieved by following a daily diet of the kind of food you are born into. It’s claimed that the Indian DNA not only recognises local cuisine but also helps improve the body’s metabolic rate of digestion, absorption and assimilation.

My mom always quoted her elders saying that when children are given high calorific or rich foods, it will lead to mandham (a slump in the digestive organs) and I’ve witnessed that so many times when parents complain about children being listless and not feeling hungry. When children are active and eat the right foods the body demands food by ‘feeling hungry’. So feed that hunger with the right food. You might face some resistance initially to junk being replaced by real food in the lunch boxes, but trust me, your child will thank you in the years to come.

Did you know?

Tempering ingredients like mustard seeds, urad dhal and curry leaves are vital because they add small daily doses of protein, iron and fibre to the diet

Semi polished or un polished rice grains are highly nutritious and make flavoured rice dishes

Dals, lemon, pulses are easy to cook and replenish vital nutrients

Curd and buttermilk are essential pro-biotics which promote gut bacteria

Sauces and condiments are high in preservatives, refined sugar and salt and are best avoided during the week

Childhood obesity is best tackled by offering fresh, seasonal and simple and tasty meals

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 11:53:02 PM |

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