Recently I was talking to my cousin and she said, ‘My son carries biscuits in his school box’. I said, “Oh, it is OK once in a while”. She said, “NO, he eats biscuits every day, all kids in his class do that!”
What is wrong in this? you might think.
Biscuits are broadly accepted snacks. But think a little deep. Her son is only 4 years old. Since most schools start early (to avoid city traffic), children don’t eat proper breakfast. Their most important first meal is during snack break and all they eat is biscuits.
I am not going to discuss about side effects of GM wheat or palm oil or sugar used in the biscuits. They are highly controversial topics. But all mothers agree that biscuits don’t provide enough nutrition to the growing children. On top of that they curb hunger.
We worry about big dangers our children might get into but forget about these under the carpet culprits. Do you know, biscuit is one of the major junk food children eat?
My struggle with junk food started on the first day my son went to school. He went to playschool at age 2 and playschool teacher instructed us to send one snack and reminded that it should not be junk. So I prepared roti rolls (Indian flat bread) for my son. They are delicious and easy to eat, I thought. After 2 hours I went to pick up my son and his teacher started scolding me. She said, “Your son did not eat anything. Why you didn’t give him biscuits?”. I asked, “Isn’t biscuit junk food?”, she couldn’t answer. I asked my son why he didn’t eat. He said, “I just missed you”. I asked him whether he would have eaten biscuits. He said, “May be”.
I made up my mind that I will not give him junk food no matter what. I made a list of healthy food that he likes and made them finger foods to eat easily. I appreciated him everyday for eating healthy food.
Then came chocolate!
His teacher was very rude and after few days my son resisted going to the school. Out of desperation, I started bribing him with chocolate. My mistake. It came to the point that he would show no interest in school except chocolate.
Finally I changed his school. New school encouraged children to bring healthy food and there were prizes for children who adhere to that. Soon my son started taking pride in eating healthy food.
7 years forward, my son is in the middle school. Middle school children don’t have strict rules. So most of my son’s classmates’ bring biscuits, chips, bread, cake etc. My son’s snack box has sprouts, nuts, fruits, vegetable salads and some quick healthy Indian snacks (ex: Poha). Once in a month, I give him biscuits. He is happy with it. In fact he says, his friends crave for home food and eat from his box. So he carries an extra box.
I am not saying it’s all smooth sailing. Sometimes my son says, ” All of my friends are bringing famous junk food. Children who bring junk food are popular. Only you don’t give me”. Yet another major parenting challenge – peer pressure.
I say,” You need to resist temptations! I understand it is hard but you are strong.”
Once in a month he buys junk food (the ones which are popular in his school). This helps him to be part of food conversations.
Many parents ask me how they can develop healthy eating habits in their children.
Here are few arguments they make for giving junk food to their kids.
1. Everyone in the school brings junk food. My child will feel left out
Children need to learn to handle peer pressure and it should start early. Tell firmly that we need not to do things just because others are doing it. There are plenty of videos about dangers of junk food. Show them to your child. Discuss benefits of healthy food.
This is to the extreme, but will you allow your child to do anti-social activities if he feels left out?Start building self-confidence now
2. My child will not eat anything if I don’t give tasty food
Tasty food does not mean junk food. Experiment with healthy food and check which food your child likes. Also children have in build in wisdom to eat. They will not stay hungry. If they don’t eat in school, they will fulfill their hunger at home. We should only make sure, they don’t curb their hunger with junk food. It takes about 3 to 5 months for children to adopt to healthy food. Be strong till then.
If your child is still not eating, check for nutritional deficiency, digestion issues and food allergies. Many junk foods prevent nutrition absorption in the body and cause food allergies.
3. My child is very weak. Needs heavy food to grow
My son was leanest in the class till age 9. Many people ‘suggested’ us to give him weight gain supplements. I politely said, “He is healthy”. He has not taken any medicine except standard vaccinations from 7 years. That too living in one of the most polluted area.
Now he is a preteen, has toned body and looks strong. His yoga teacher often says he is growing organically where as other children are showing overgrowth. Most parents who ‘suggested’ us weight gain supplements are worried about their child’s overweight now. Remember, junk foods cause hormonal issues which in turn causes emotional issues in the children.
4. We don’t have time to cook healthy food
This is a genuine modern-day problem. School starts early. Parents have to hurry to office. No one has time to cook. Food planning is the key here. Prepare a weekly plan for healthy snacks. Cutting fruits and vegetables takes only few minutes (add lemon juice, salt and pack in airtight container to retain nutrition). Soak for sprouts in advance. Stock dry fruits.
5. My child does not feel full with healthy food
Junk food temporarily creates feeling of fullness. It only increases cravings. If you don’t trust me, give your child chips for 3 days. 4th day your child will crave for it and cry for it.
Add healthy fats to your child’s diet like coconut oil, homemade cheese, milk, butter, buttermilk, clarified butter, olive oil, flax-seed oil etc. Also add nuts and seeds ( sesame, chia, flax etc). They improve texture of the food and gives nice aroma. Use spices to enhance flavors.
Add bitter taste to the food using leafy and bitter vegetables. They nullify sugar cravings.
Use enough sweet vegetables (sweet potato, cauliflower, pumpkin etc). My son loves baked sweet potatoes with clarified butter and Himalayan pink salt.
Eat variety of grains, pulses, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
6. School canteen only provides junk food
This is a huge issue. Talk to school authorities and work to add healthy foods to the menu. Schools often bulk order packed food. Junk food is cheaper than healthy food. Watch video of famous chef Jamie Oliver to know how much junk your child might be eating in the school canteen.
Best solution is to teach your kid, how to select best food from the menu.
Whenever we visit a restaurant, we play a game. Each of us orders a food item and in the end we evaluate who ordered best food (health, taste and value for money). Often my son wins and he enjoys it.
This will help him in long-term too. He is growing up, soon he will move out and take his own decisions about food. He will then know what to eat to stay healthy.
7. I eat junk food so I can’t tell my child not to
I have been there. I loved chocolates and couldn’t tell NO to my son. When he started asking for it daily, I decided to change myself first. I declared, I will not eat anything with coca and stick to it for 2 years (it was difficult initially but then I forgot its taste). Now I eat once in a while but when my son saw my resolution he too started developing self-control.
Don’t stock junk food at home. Emotional eaters should maintain an emotion diary and keep healthy foods reachable all the time. Drink plenty of water. All of it is worth for your child’s health.
Food advertisements are manipulative. Food labeling is highly deceiving. Most are targeted at children or emotions of the mothers. Read more about this in my next post.
Do like, comment and share this post. Stay healthy, stay happy.