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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sneaking In Nutrition In Her Meals


So what is a common phrase that almost all mothers all over the world are so used to hearing but wish they never had to hear? From a little tot to a hyper-active toddler, almost all of them will sometime or the other begin saying that very sentence that we so dread hearing – ‘I don’t want to eat!’

In the tiny tot stage they will show their displeasure by moving away from food, spitting it out, making faces, refusing to open their mouth no matter how much you cajole them. Well if you are thinking this is going to change miraculously once they reach the toddler age, you are so in for a surprise my dear friend, and one that will not be pleasant. For no matter how grown up they will become, the problems related to eating will only escalate as the years pass. The only consolation is that at this stage, you can at least fool them and still make them eat what you want them to, using devious means and some scheming. Who said being a parent was simple?

My little toddler is a bundle of hyper-active energy and is always on the go. She refuses to sit down ever, not at home, not outside, not even in class; so much so that after a few months of trying to make her sit down in one place, even her teachers have given up. And of course to do so much running around, she needs her share of nutrition, which she would hardly ever get if left to herself.

Ensuring that your child gets all the nutrition for proper growth and development is YOUR JOB and not the child’s. It is a pathetic and unforgivable excuse when parents say that they tried to feed their children but they would never eat. I never sat down to eat when I was a kid, in fact even when I grew up my ma had to run after me to make me eat. But she never gave up. She never said ‘fine don’t eat, you will know when you feel hungry’ or she never told me to have a pack of chips instead if I didn’t feel like eating a proper meal. Whatever I did, she always made sure that she made changes in her cooking and made sure we had new and interesting things to sit down to. And the fact that she had two kids with completely different tastes was even more difficult, one child eating only salty while the other only wanted sweet things, she never gave up.

I know many modern-day parents who tell me they are tired of trying to make their little ones eat, that they spend so much time running after their kids that sometimes they feel they should just let the kids go hungry. For parents like this there is only one thing I can say – you should have known better before you planned to have a baby.

There are some amazingly ridiculous parents who, in order to avoid any hassle to their perfectly calm lives, feed their children a breakfast of tea and biscuits – and I am talking here of parents of 03-year-olds! And then they blame their children that they don’t drink milk! Also, open their tiffin and you will almost always see Maggi inside. And the next thing they will be quick to point out is – what to do, that is all they like. Well, I agree that is all they like, but who allowed them to have it in the first place?

The taste a child develops towards foods is ALWAYS related to the parents, especially the mother. What you eat when you are pregnant and what you eat when you are breast-feeding your child forms the basis of their taste development routine. Later on, what you eat in front of your child as they are growing up will also go a long way in making them choose their food. If you are sitting sipping a cola while your child is made to force down milk, chances are they will want to go for the cola instead. If you are eating pizza at meal time while your little one is sitting alone fiddling with a plate of beans, most often than not, pizza will be the only point of concentration for your little one at that moment. You don’t need to ban all adult food from your kitchen, just ensure that these are not the only things your child sees you eat. Set an example by eating good and if once in a while your child catches you sipping cola, tell them it is a grown-up drink and not meant for kids. Better still, if you can, leave out these harmful drinks from your lifestyle, they will do you more good than you realize.

I have made it a habit to sneak in health in all that my daughter eats or drinks, well, practically all. I think some of my tricks could help you too:

If I am making khichdi (which she loves) I make sure to put in lots of greens and vegetables.
I also sometimes crush almonds and put it in her food, so that way some extra nutrition goes in her tummy.
Sometimes, when I am making daal (lentils) for her, I soak in a spoon of daliya too. Also, many days, instead of cooking just one kind of daal, I mix in different kinds of daal to make a mixed-daal. I usually do a lot of mix and match so that she gets a new taste each day. And I also add in some vegetables in her daal.
The fact that my daughter loves vegetables and fruits also helps a lot and I take full credit for helping her develop a taste towards good food.
Since she loves soups, I make it a point to use a lot of vegetables/chicken and make a delicious soup for her at home, none of those off-the-shelf instant soups.
Every time I make custard for her I cut up an assortment of fruits to mix with the custard.
Since she loves peas and corns I usually boil these together and sprinkle a little salt and lemon/butter and black pepper, and see, her evening snack is ready.
Sometimes I dry-roast a little bhel (rice puffs) and mix it with corn-flakes, dried curry leaves, a little roasted cumin, salt, a dash of turmeric, some nuts and cut almonds and keep all this – a ready-to-munch snack filled with nutrition.
She loves dosa and idli, so I usually mix some egg too while making the same.
And of course since she loves cheese and butter, which are a good source of energy and nutrition at this stage if given in the right amount, I make it a point to hand her cheese slices and also to include some form of fat, like ghee (clarified butter) or butter in what I cook for her.
My daughter and I both share a common love for green leafy vegetables, so when these are in season, we are always eating yummy green soups and green leafy vegetables cooked in delicious flavours.
Pasta and noodles of course she loves, so sometimes when she is allowed the treat, she has lots and lots of vegetables and corn in her pasta/noodles.
Milk with chavanpraash/honey is something my daughter loves. And when it is raining or the weather is a little chilly, I make her warm ginger milk and add a dash of turmeric, which is always good to prevent/cure ailments related to the throat.
Curd is something that my daughter thankfully loves (I hate it). So I don’t need to do any extra work here. I can just hand her a tub of curd and she will finish it off on her own. She does not like it mixed with anything though, not even with sugar.
Fish and chicken and eggs and paneer are some of the things she really really loves. And I make sure to hand out lots of protein to her this way. Again, paneer and egg are things that I usually mix in with many of her food.

Well these are just a few of the things and tricks I do to ensure my little one is getting her due dose of nutrition. These are my ideas and you may have your own special ways. I know it is much easier to blame it on her and say ‘Oh what to do, she just wont eat!’ but I can safely say I am a much better mother than that, probably one day can be a little bit as what my ma is, but already on the right track.

For all you who still think instant noodles and tea and chips are the best bet, well, be prepared to take the blame when your little one grows up and tell you how you failed in your duty as a parent.
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