Teaching your kids to eat healthy is something that starts from the womb! A mother’s diet significantly impacts the tastes and flavours the foetus will get accustomed to. A lactating mother should also eat balanced and nutritious meals, so that the baby can develop a liking for natural and healthy foods. However, a toddler these days is surrounded by an overwhelming variety of attractive and great-tasting junk food, ranging from burgers and fries to pizzas, pakoras, samosas and more. While munching on a burger or a deep-fried snack occasionally will do him no harm, excessive consumption of junk food can lead to obesity, juvenile diabetes, and high cholesterol in the future. Junk foods also include excessively sugary and salty treats, apart from those containing unhealthy fats or trans fats. So, how do you win this battle against junk food? The answer is to inculcate good eating habits in your child.
So, what is junk food?
Junk food refers to any food which mainly provides empty calories, i.e. when the food is more calorie-dense than nutrient-dense. Even though junk foods may seem to be a convenient option for quick meals, these have saturated fats, abundant salt or sugar, and very little dietary fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
Ways to inculcate healthy food habits in your toddler
Junk foods can cause a wide range of ill-effects on your child’s health. Since your toddler is growing at a fast rate and a healthy balanced diet is required to support his or her development it is important to inculcate healthy food habits in your child and steer him away from the addictive taste of junk foods.
The best time to introduce your child to healthy foods is when he or she has just started to eat. Teach your child about the health benefits of natural foods by offering a variety of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats etc. Junk food should never be given as a reward to your kid if he or she accomplishes any goal. This might make him feel that junk food is better than natural food. If you are eating out, make sure you choose dishes wisely for your child as well as the rest of the family. Search for restaurants that offer healthy foods. Opt for foods that involve minimal processing or frying.
How to make junk food healthy
Junk foods, due to their easy availability and convenience, are fast replacing natural and nutritional foods in many households. However, to ensure your child’s health and development, here are some tips you can follow:
- Pizzas, burgers, rolls, and sandwiches can be modified and made healthily at home. This will satiate your child’s cravings and also teach him about eating healthy. Add a generous topping of vegetables on the pizza and go easy on the cheese.
- Noodles and pastas are every kid’s favourite and are usually prepared using refined flour. Substitute these with whole-wheat pasta or noodles, and add lots of vegetables to make the meal healthier.
- To avoid the excess consumption of artificial preservatives, prepare sauces at home. A recipe for hidden veggie pizza sauce is given at the end of this article.
- Cooking bread at home ensures that the right the type of oil, flour, and other ingredients go into it. For the base of your pizzas, burgers and rolls, use whole wheat. Whole wheat is fibre-rich and has an abundance of micronutrients.
- Usage of fresh fruits, vegetables, sprouts, paneer, soya granules, eggs, etc. as toppings or fillings can add to the fibre and nutritional content of meals.
- Potato fillings in samosas can be substituted with minced soya and paneer, to make it healthier.
- Always go for fresh fruits instead of packaged fruit juices and even fresh juices. If you are making fresh juices, leave out the sugar,
- To decrease fat consumption, grill, bake or steam food items instead of deep frying them. This cooking technique preserves the nutritive value of foods too.
- For sweet cravings, milk-based and homemade desserts with less sugar are a wonderful solution. Kheer, payasam and custard can be given to kids, and garnished with dry fruits or chopped fresh fruits, for natural sweetness.
- Popcorn popped at home can be given as a snack.
- Prepare light meals. For example, serve sprout fillings instead of only potato fillings. Opt for makhanas instead of chips. Encourage your kids to have puffed rice instead of bhujia. Tandoori chicken can be enjoyed instead of butter chicken, if you wish to keep the fat intake low.
Finally, make sure you act as the role model for your toddler. If you eat healthy and avoid junk foods, he or she will follow suit. Completely banning your kids from eating junk foods is never the right move. It will only intensify his or her cravings. Instead, try and satisfy their cravings by giving them healthier but tasty substitutes. Innovation is always the key. Last but not least limit TV viewing. Certain cartoons encourage the consumption of unhealthy foods.
Sneaky Hidden Veggie Sauce
2 cups chopped vegetables (red pumpkin, zucchini, carrots, capsicum, onion, spinach)
4 cloves chopped garlic
6 red ripe tomatoes
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp red chilli flakes
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Add the chopped vegetables, chilli powder and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until softened.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
- Separately blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 3 mins and after it cools, peel skin and blend it into a puree
- Add the tomato puree, Italian seasoning, dried basil and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a low simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Let cool slightly and then transfer to a blender to puree until smooth. (Or use an immersion blender to puree in the pot.)
- Use sauce on homemade pizzas or as a dip for grilled cheese sandwiches or on pastas.