Pack health into your child's tiffin box

Mummies are at their wit's end when it comes to packing a healthy lunch box for their kids. Nutritionist MUMTAZ KHALID ISMAIL shares some break-time recipes.

I cannot recall a single day when a concerned mother would not enquire about the type of nutritious food she should give her child. Every mother is delighted when her child eats well and worried if it is otherwise.

Malnutrition and mental development go hand in hand. In a child, nutrition, growth and development are interrelated and aberration in one aspect tends to significantly influence the other.

The word nutrition is derived from `nutricus', which means `to suckle at the breast' and breast milk is considered most balanced nutritious single food item specific for that age group. Unfortunately there is no single food product that gives all nutrition in required amount to any other age group. This forces us to take different types of food to derive required nutrition at required level.

School children have a reasonably good appetite but what they eat may be nutritionally imbalanced. To overcome this, food from the different food groups will help to make the lunch box healthier. School going children need a lot more energy and nutrients for their body size than adults.

During 6 to 12 years, the rate of growth in children slows down and body changes occur gradually. This period of life in general is known as the latent period of growth. This is applicable mainly for boys. In girls, pre-pubertal acceleration of growth takes place during latter half of this period. During this stage girls usually outgrow boys. The body requirements of calories and protein are increased steadily. Requirements of the nutrients of children are increased from 7 - 12 years, as there is gradual increase in need because reserves are being laid down for the demands of the approaching adolescent period.

The increased requirements of protein should meet demands of the growth. Girls require more protein at 10 - 12 years than their male counter parts since they are approaching puberty early. During this period, children require more calcium than adults to meet demand for skeletal growth. Likewise iron requirement is also increased.

Breakfast is particularly important for a school child. They have a tendency to skip breakfast, which is bad. This will make them weak, tried, lethargic and cause lack of concentration. Any cereal such as museali, oats, dahlia, wheat flakes, or milk, steamed nendran banana and fruit will make a good and quick breakfast. Those who have time in the morning can have whole wheat toast sandwich with healthy filling like cheese, peanut butter, chicken, eggs or vegetables, or stuffed vegetable or cheese or paneer rotis with curd or puttu and kadala or idli, sambhar for a very healthy and wholesome breakfast.

Do you send your child to school every day with the same cheese, jam sandwich or rice or noodles? But then packed lunches should be nutritiously adequate. Children's packed lunches can become either the most painful or most fun part of your days' cooking. Use your imagination and let your child help choose some things that will be included in the lunch. Children tend to eat better if they have a say in what they eat. Encourage your child to choose a variety of foods. Make sure they get the wide range of nutrients they need to stay healthy. Preparing packed lunches can be time consuming but a little advance planning does help. Remember to include food items such as cheese, curd, soybeans, bean sprouts, peanuts, eggs, chicken, fish, and vegetables. Include salad and vegetable sticks such as carrots, celery, cucumber, or tomato in your child's packed lunch. Try giving your child fruit and vegetable as snacks between meals as well as part of the main meals. These are a few recipes, which make eating healthy and enjoyable.

Nutritious chapathi rolls


Chapattis made from wheat flour-3 Chopped boiled vegetables-1/4 cup Cooked sprouts-1/4 cup Boiled chopped spinach- 1- tbsp Ginger and garlic chopped-� - tbsp Chat masala- � - tsp Wheat flour �- tsp Ghee or oil- 2- tsp Butter-1 tbsp Salt and pepper to taste


Heat butter; add vegetables, sprouts, ginger, garlic and spinach. Stir for a minute. Add masala, salt and pepper. Sprinkle wheat flour and mix well. Cool. Do not roast the chapattis too crisp while making. Just semi-roast. Spread 1 tbsp filling across chapatti. Fold ends where the filling touches the edges. Roll tightly. Place chapattis on a warm griddle. Sprinkle ghee. Roast on low flame till colour turns golden. Cool and pack into lunch box with some ketchup, jam, curd or chutney.

Colourful parathas


Whole wheat flour- 2 heaped tbsp Ragi flour - 1 level tbsp Bengal gram flour - 1 level tbsp Chopped spinach - 1 tbsp Chopped cabbage - 1 tbsp Grated carrot - 1 tbsp Chopped spring onion - 1tbsp Coriander leaves - 1 tbsp Sesame seeds - � tsp Juice of lemon - � lemon A little sugar for taste (optional) Fresh curds - 1 tbsp Salt to taste


Knead the dough with curd and other ingredients. If the dough starts breaking you can use a little oil to bind. Roll out on a board with a rolling pin to your desired size. Make parathas with pure ghee on a non-stick pan. Pack in the lunch box with green chutney or tomato chutney.


New dishes should be introduced at regular intervals.

Involve children in food shopping and preparing meals.

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