Embraced in a lifestyle that is beaming with options, we all get to frequent malls and supermarkets with aisles full of foods spoiling us with choices like never before. Add to that food offered by street vendors, again, in a bewildering variety of temptations. Now, as parents, what food shall we choose for our children?
Well, the bottom line is, the simplest foods are still the best for children. Whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, unprocessed meats, and natural dairy goods have always been and will always be the best choices to make.
However, the conflict resides in the battle between taste buds and health needs. Let’s face it, we, as urban twenty-first-century parents, encourage a great deal of children’s personal preferences in food. The reasons are evident: children these days are more opinionated about their personal likes and dislikes; moreover, readymade delicacies are at the fingertips, thanks to the countless dial-ins in the neighbourhood – an easy way out to pamper taste buds with mouth-watering indulgences.
So, what do we do to strike a balance between the delicious and the nutritious? One simple thing to do is to read the labels before purchasing food items. Most labels indicate the contents of additives, preservatives, emulsifying agents, and so on. The ground rule is, lesser the added components, better are the nutritional values. For example, a loaf of whole-grain bread with basic ingredients is a better choice over a fancy loaf with a whole paragraph of refined ingredients. So stick to the basics or the naturals, in as unprocessed forms as possible.
Children should be encouraged at a very early age to eat natural produce. It is far better to have your child chew through an orange rather than picking that convenient carton of juice. Instant noodles are yet another favourite grub with children, but you will think twice as parents if you visited the inside story. An anti-freeze ingredient called propylene glycol used to retain the optimum level of moisture in instant noodles is believed to be weakening the immune system. Add to that the flavouring agents, the high sodium content, and the wax – certainly not best friends to health.
Stick to the basic and the wholesome. Correct food choice is not about recipes, but about ingredients. Instead of those sodium and chemical-laden pizza sauces, consider coming up your own version. All you need is a fusion of extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil, some Italian seasoning, and natural taste builders like tomatoes, olives, etc. And there you go, load your home-made pizza with your loved one’s favourite toppings! Sneak in an enormous amount of vegetables onto the disc, along with a generous spread of grilled proteins like chicken or lean fish. This will make nothing less than a visual, gustatory, and nutritive treat to your child. Avoid loading down with more than just a thin layer of cheese. When the tangy tomatoes and the vegetables bubble together in the oven, the freshness of the ingredients and the enhanced flavours will make your child not notice the lack of cheese or the big portion of veggies they ate. And you can pat yourself on the back for a job done well!