Kids and Junk Food - Finding the Balance
|   Jan 04, 2016
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Kids and Junk Food - Finding the Balance

Health is wealth, an old adage suddenly seems to carry more weight only when we fall prey to ill health; a cold, a headache, an infection, a viral, are enough to throw the most health conscious person off track.  And then at other times just because one looks skinny and fit does not mean he/she is healthy. How many times have we heard of that friend, uncle or aunt who looked so fit, but suddenly passed away? I have witnessed this in my own household and that’s when I began to evaluate my lifestyle and perhaps the one my child will inherit.

I am quite health conscious and it reflects in my cooking as well. Personally I ensure that my little one gets a balanced meal, at least twice a day, yet, it’s difficult to get her to eat healthy and nutritious all the time. For the longest time I kept her away from the world of junk food, until I would find her gorging on it at a friend’s or neighbours house. I then let my guard off, so that she would be allowed to eat her favourite bag of chips or cookies in small portions couple times a week.  

Have you ever noticed how children never need coaxing to eat such stuff? Chips, cookies, candies, ice-cream, chocolates, will be devoured like a gorilla who’s been on a weeklong fast!! But as parents we know that these foods lack nutrition. Nutrition in the form of vitamins, essential fatty acids and such is so vital to the development of a healthy brain.

Antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E are especially important as they prevent the oxidative damage which is most prominent in the brain, since it is metabolically the most active organ of the body. Moreover, fats in the form of nuts, seeds, milk and oils are equally important.

While nuts, seeds and milk are considered “healthy”, it’s the oil that gets a bad name. Yet they are all equally essential for the omega 3 and 6 fatty acids they provide.

As parents we strive for the well being of our kids, physical as well as mental well being. Physical by ensuring proper diet, rest and exercise and mental by engaging them in various activities (schooling being one of them) and nurturing their emotional quotient.

So while we may ideally envision our children adhering to that balanced meal as pictured in the food pyramid, realistically it isn’t always the case. Junk food is here to stay and so are our mealtime battles. But, by making informed choices, a positive impact can be made in their nutrition quotient.

So here’s sharing some simple techniques that I have started to implement, so that I can look at the “Sunny” side of junk foods.

1.       Control the portions- I try to stay away from sale promotions on junk food when shopping. Buy one get one free, 50% or 25% extra (on a bag of chips, soda, cookies and such). Don’t think twice before passing up such deals on junk foods. It’s just not worth it, for you or your kids. Better to buy just the minimal required. Also, when making such stuff at home, I make controlled portions, so as to avoid the extra cupcakes, cookies, pooris etc sitting around, which ultimately somehow find ways to sit on our waistlines. As far as junk food is concerned, my mantra is “less is more.”

2.       Fried/Fatty foods- Most kids love fried stuff. So instead of always steering away from it, I use vitamin and omega rich fortified oil, this way at least I know that my little one is getting a healthier version of those French fries as compared to the ones served outside. In fact I prefer using fortified sunflower oil for all the cooking that I do.  Fortified oils are packed with fat soluble vitamins like A and D which are so important for the eyes and bones.

3.       Sugar laden foods- Cakes and cookies are an all time favorite with kids. I have started to bake these at home, occasionally involving my little one in helping me as well. My little one enjoys this so much that she now rarely craves them outside. We often end up in the kitchen creating memories baking together. This also helps me monitor the flour (whole wheat), sugar (unrefined cane sugar) and the fat (I prefer using fortified sunflower oil) used in making the baked goodies.

4.       Candy and Chocolate- These are generally rewarded when she finishes a vegetable or curry which might not be of her preference.

5.       Chips - I try to limit them to outdoor trips. I don’t keep them in the house at all. Even when I do buy them, I buy the smallest pack available. Also for every bag of chips, a whole fruit has to be eaten first, that is a deal; courtesy her dad (I let her cheat at times). Offering them homemade chips would be ideal; think veggie chips like sweet potato and beetroot.

6.       Soda/Packaged Fruit Juices- Like chips these are not stocked in the house. For that occasional craving we prefer buying cans instead of that jumbo 2 liter bottle, which we ultimately get tempted to finish (especially us being just a family of 3). I also try to supplement sugar laden packaged fruit juices with fresh fruit juices. For outdoor trips, a friend suggested taking tetra packs of salted lassi instead of fruit juices, which has worked quite well in our home.

These are small, yet some effective ways to help them eat healthy while giving into their junk cravings without much guilt.

We all know that junk food is here to stay and so, instead of fighting or abstaining from it, better to make peace with it by controlling how much is served/fed/eaten or better still, making it at home where we can control the ingredients and up its nutrition quotient.

And we can be rest assured that one fine day the angel of healthy eating will wave her magic wand on our kids but until that happens, the “happy meal” is here to stay!




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