Tag Archives: child nutrition

Eat, Drink And Be Thankful

After Halloween and pumpkins, we couldn’t resist talking about Thanksgiving because they are after all the three musketeers. Thanksgiving (Day), is a public holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States.

A Day To Be Grateful: What’s That About?

Thanksgiving is a holiday feast that we can track back to November 1621. History says that first Thanksgiving was an autumn harvest celebration by Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians who had newly colonized in Plymouth.

Thanksgiving Feast: Then & Now

Since it was a harvest celebration, locally grown grains, fruits and vegetables along with the bounty of hunting made their way to the first Thanksgiving feast. Today, the famous banquet includes roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. But these didn’t earn a place at the table until later in the holiday’s 400-year history.

Surprise surprise, Turkey was not the centrepiece of the meal! The colonists ate wildfowls such as ducks, geese, and swans; and the wild turkey was one such fowl. Also, instead of bread-based stuffing, herbs, onions and/or nuts were part of the recipe to make the birds extra flavorful.

Fun Food Fact: It seems that turkey was the victim of a common complaint ‘feeling drowsy after Thanksgiving meal’ as it contains tryptophan, an amino acid with a somnolent effect. But research highlighted that carbohydrate-rich sides and desserts are the ones that aid tryptophan to make way for the brain.

Speaking of meat, culinary historians believe that hunting also included deer and venison which were used to whip up a hearty stew. The colonists and Wampanoag also probably ate seafood like lobster, bass, clams, and mussels.

Local vegetables such as onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots, and peas were used. The bumper crop was corn, consumed as cornmeal or porridge. Indigenous fruits were berries and plums, no wonder the Native Americans ate and used cranberries as a natural dye. However it wasn’t eaten as a sauce, this tradition started about 50 years later.

Potatoes of any kind, in any form, were not part of the meal. But pumpkins and quashes were definitely on the indigenous list. Of course, the colonists definitely lacked butter and wheat flour required to bake pies! Besides the settlers hadn’t yet constructed an oven for baking. So custards were more probable.

So how did the modern Thanksgiving banquet turn out to be this way? Here’s the final tit-bit on the Thanksgiving front. Sarah Josepha Hale, the author of the famous nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” started campaigning (in the 1800s) to establish Thanksgiving as an annual event. As a part of her campaign, Hale circulated Thanksgiving recipes and menus which make up today’s feast! Ironically lamb was not on the menu 😉

Start Them Young: Right Eating Habits

Childhood is the period of habit formation and learning, so it is important to ensure our children develop the right eating habits during the early years. Here’s a quick guide on do’s and don’ts to help inculcate healthy eating habits in children.

GO AHEAD

Hand washing: Encourage your children to wash hands before meals to prevent infections (read more about this at http://blog.monkeybox.in/2017/10/14/scrub-em-clean-clean-hands-are-safe-hands/).

Family Meals: Eating together as a family is how children learn to make healthy food choices. It also gives you a chance to set an example as children mimic and learn from their parents.

Meal pattern & timings: When all family members follow a healthy meal pattern (3 meals and 2 snacks) with appropriate meal timings, the child adopts the same.

Balanced meals: Apart from rice, chapathi, noodles or pasta (carbohydrates), make sure to include some form of protein (pulses, lentils, dairy, soy, lean meats or egg) and a rainbow of veggies and fruits as a part of every main meal.

Hydration: Most children guzzle down large amounts of water just before/after meals or after their play-time. Teach children to sip water throughout the day. During meals, if children have a tendency to fill up on water, restrict the amount of water they are allowed to sip during the meal.

Dunk the junk: Once they are back from school, children rampage the house for food. This is when they are most likely to pick up junk food. But remember kids choose from what they have access to. So if they have healthy snack options (hung curds, vegetable fingers with hummus, fruit bowl) within their reach, you can wean them off junk food.

Pre-sport snack: It’s important to boost children with some ‘good’ carbs and protein before their play and sports. This ensures a constant supply of energy throughout their sport and enhances their performances and endurance (get more insight at http://blog.monkeybox.in/2017/08/29/make-sure-your-budding-athlete-eats-like-a-champion/).

 

STOP RIGHT THERE

Clean the plate rule: Most of us were brought up with this rule. But let children stop eating when they feel full. They must listen to their own bodies and acknowledge the feelings of fullness to prevent over-eating. Teach them correct portion-size and portion control as most restaurants and packed foods have led to portion distortion.

Screen-time during meals: Watching TV, using the mobile or playing video games while eating has shown to contribute to obesity. Since children are not seeing what they eat, not only do they enjoy what they eat but also lose track of how much they eat.

Food as love: Never use food to show affection or reward children. This can lead to an unhealthy attitude towards food and children may resort to food during stressful periods. Also, do not restrict any food items (like chocolates and sweets) but teach children how to eat in moderation.

Apart from these tips and tricks, ensure your child is dewormed. Otherwise eating well would equate to filling bottomless pit since the worms feed on the food and children may end up with deficiencies.

Oh My Gourd: The Pumpkin

This winter squash is more than just a vegetable to carve out Jack-‘o-lanterns. Post-Halloween we are still hung up on pumpkins and why not? Find out why.

The Healthy Orange All-Rounder

Hailing from the family of cucumbers and melons, pumpkin is technically a fruit since it contains seeds. However, in terms of nutrition, it’s more like a vegetable! Pumpkin’s health benefits are thanks to its micronutrient content and the fact that it’s a fiber-filled, low-carb fruit.

Pumpkin provides a hefty dose of beta-carotene. Apart from that antioxidant it also contains vitamins C and E. It is a good source of B-complex vitamins and minerals like copper and potassium. Pumpkin seeds are tiny packets of nutrient power-house. They are rich in protein, fiber, zinc, and magnesium.

Its nutritional make-up makes pumpkin beneficial for immunity, skin and eye health and can help combat health issues like heart-diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and obesity.

More Than Just Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin isn’t the hero of just pumpkin pies or pumpkin spice. Traditionally, our Indian dishes incorporate white and orange pumpkin as a part of sambars, subzis, sweets and more. This veggie is so versatile that it goes well with traditional cooking as well as for global cuisines.

Get a load of these dishes across the various states:

  • Mangalorean Style Kuvalyacho Pollav (Yellow Pumpkin Curry)
  • Odiya Style Chana Dal With Potato & Pumpkin Curry
  • Goan Pumpkin Sabzi
  • Manjal Poosanikai Sambar (Yellow Pumpkin in Toor Dal)
  • Kerala Pumpkin Pachadi (Parangikai Pachadi)
  • Kerala Kootu Curry (Pumpkin with Desi Channa or Black Eyed Beans in Spicy Coconut)
  • Kumror/Kaddu Posto (Spiced Pumpkin with Poppy Seeds and Tomatoes )
  • Lahsuni Dal Tadka (Moong Dal with Pumpkin)
  • Parangikai Payasam

On the international front pumpkin can be used to make hummus, soups, ravioli, risotto, and ice cream. We can even get creative to use it in making flourless pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie protein no-bake bites.

And if you have bowled the gourd clean, you’re sure to end up with power-packed seeds. Here’s how you can incorporate them into your diet:

  • Roast them to the perfect crunch and toss with some spices like cayenne pepper
  • Top your salad with pumpkin seeds for the crunch in every bite
  • Chomp on some pumpkin seeds brittles (chikkis)
  • Make a unique salad dressing with pumpkin seeds, garlic, parsley, coriander, olive oil and lime juice!

So what are you waiting for, grab that gourd and enjoy.

Healthy Halloween Treats & Snacks

It’s time for trick or treat

So there has to be something good to eat!

But not only sweets!!

Halloween is back. Here are some wicked, fang-tastic Halloween-themed ideas to whip up for your little witches and wizards.

Stuffed Jack-O’-Lanterns

Image courtesy: pampered chef
Image courtesy: pampered chef

How about orange bell peppers stuffed to the brim with veggies and baked to perfection? Carve out the bell peppers and you have mini pumpkin Jack-o’-lantern! Go ahead and add quinoa to turn it into a full-fledged meal.

“Boo”nanas

Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Nothing screams Halloween better than ghosts. Grab some bananas and stick on some funky choco chips and this treat is good to go.

Spooky Halloween Salad

Image courtesy: workingmomcookfusion
Image courtesy: workingmomcookfusion

Spook the little monsters with a colorful, healthy, yet creepy Halloween inspired veggie salad. Ghost bread croutons, honey glazed carrot Jack-o’lanterns, fresh crunchy lettuce and juicy cherry tomatoes with a mix of lemon, olive oil, and Italian seasoning for dressing. It will be blood-sucking good!

Shrunken Heads in Blood

Image courtesy: pampered chef
Image courtesy: pampered chef

Don’t worry, this yummy spooky beverage isn’t as creepy as it looks! Carved apples floating around in a healthy, refreshing pomegranate-mint juice.

Ghosstt

6
Image courtesy: Biopro

It ain’t Casper the ghost, but these ghosts are friendly as well. How about bread cut-outs of ghosts, smeared with hummus and some black olives for eyes? Simply and spooky right.

Creepy Carrot Fingers

Image courtesy: Kidzworld Kitchen
Image courtesy: Kidzworld Kitchen

Halloween style of veggies and dip! What do you think of carrots fingers with festive almond fingernails glued on with a delicious hummus dip? You can always toss in other veggies on the side to have with the hummus.   

So what are you waiting for you, set your cauldrons on fire and start off.

 

Get the recipes at:

  1. Stuffed Jack-O’-Lanterns

https://indianhealthyrecipes.com/stuffed-capsicum-recipe-stuffed-bell-peppers/ or http://vegecravings.com/stuffed-capsicum-recipe/

  1. “Boo”nanas

https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/hummus-237832

  1. Spooky Halloween Salad

https://www.marthastewart.com/873231/honey-glazed-carrots-cilantro

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/6887/croutons/

  1. Shrunken Heads in Blood

https://realfood.tesco.com/step-by-step/how-to-make-shrunken-apple-punch.html http://foodviva.com/juice-recipes/pomegranate-juice-recipe/

  1. Creepy Carrot Fingers

https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/hummus-237832

  1. Ghosstt

http://www.kidzworld.com/article/27504-kidzworld-kitchen-halloween

Pasta 101

The Fables of Pasta

Although not from the stone-age, Pasta’s origin dates way back. The most common origin story claims pasta was brought to Italy from the East by the explorer Marco Polo. Wait, what? Didn’t we all just equate pasta and Italy?

Well, it is true that a dumpling-like pasta existed in China as early as 1700 BCE. As we slurp our way to the bottom we discover that pasta’s existence in Italy pre-dates Marco Polo’s trip from China. Lagana, the ancestor of Lasagna existed in Italy long before. Bet you’re thanking god you still have your facts right.

Pasta Comes In All Shapes & Sizes

From butterfly-shaped Farfalle, large tubes called Cannelloni, spirals/spindles called Fusilli or noodle like Spaghetti, there are an infinite number of shapes from A to Z including alphabetical pasta! Different forms of pasta go with different styles of sauces and vegetables. Check out few of the common shapes below.

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Can the Slurp be Nutritious?

“As more and more people embrace the health and fitness fad, (internationally) traditional, centuries-old pasta is seeing a renaissance of appreciation by all.”

Most health and fitness freaks blamed pasta to be one of the causes of obesity among other foods. However, the humble pasta was a nutritious staple centuries before obesity became a major health problem. As a matter of fact, even today pasta is a part of healthy diets such as the Mediterranean diet.

But bear in mind that highly processed cheese wasn’t dripping and bacon wasn’t smothered on the meals before. Then how do we classify pasta as healthy and nutritious?

Pasta is considered a complex (good) carbohydrate that digests slowly as the pasta making process compacts the starch structure within the pasta making it more slowly digesting than other foods made from the same ingredients. No wonder pasta is such a popular pre-race meal for athletes!

Did you know that thicker, larger pasta shapes tend to digest more slowly than thinner and smaller pasta shapes? So spaghetti digests more slowly than macaroni!

Whole grain pasta offers more nutritional benefits with more fiber, protein, and many more vitamins and minerals. Apart from the type of pasta you choose just as important is what it is paired with. Research constantly highlights the importance of total diet rather than individual foods. And pasta is a canvas that is easily adaptable include fresh herbs, seasonal vegetables and heart-healthy toppings like olive oil.

Too much of any food can lead to weight gain and subsequently other health issues. Stick to the following tips:

  • Watch the portion sizes closely. It has definitely become much bigger over the years at restaurants.
  • Choose a light sauce. Pasta generally gets a bad rep because of what it is paired with – butter and cheese hike up the calorie and fat content. Dress with olive oil or tomato sauces.
  • Healthy toppings and piling on vegetables definitely do the job.

‘Penne’ for your thoughts?

Food Hacks to Beat Post-Diwali Blues

Frowning faces, tantrums, and kids whining to go back to school – isn’t this the common scene when festivals come to an end. Most of our little sweethearts always have a big taste for sweets, especially during the festive season. But can you really blame them, we all need to treat ourselves once in a while right? However, this often causes stomach-upsets and/or illness after a good festive celebration.

Clues to the blues

Over-indulgence of the sweet tooth generally results in excess consumption of refined carbs (especially sugar) and deep-fried foods. Get this:

  • Excess sugar intake adversely affects the friendly bacteria present in the gut. This, in turn, weakens the child’s immunity. That means children suddenly end up with that cold that you kept away by saying no to ice-creams.
  • Of late low-calorie sweets are in trend. But beware that these contain artificial sweeteners (like sorbitol) which end up fueling the bacteria that produce gases.
  • We also know that foods high in sugar affect the behavior of children. So at the end of the Diwali party, you wonder if the kids are fussy because they have to go home or it’s because of the irritability that kicks in after a sugar high.
  • You may end up spending the festive bonus at the dentist, dealing with cavities thanks to all the sweets the li’l ones binged on.
  • High-fat foods (sweets/savories) take longer to digest than protein or carbohydrates. So kids may complain that they feel ‘stuffed’ and bloated.
  • Also, fried savories like farsan are loaded with sodium that may lead to dehydration.
  • Last but not the least children end up skipping proper meals either because of stomach-ache or because they have binged on sweets.

Food Hacks

So how do you deal with the tummy-aches, diarrhea or constipation and so on? Here are some quick tips to avoid or overcome the problems.

  • Make sure you include probiotic-rich foods that help the friendly gut bacteria. This can be as simple as curd rice, buttermilk or lassi, and fermented foods like idli or dosa.
  • Before heading out to the party feed your children a vegetable sandwich, fruit bowl or a salad. This has multiple benefits
    • Their stomach is partially full so they don’t binge on those tempting sweets.
    • This way they don’t lose out on the nutrition if they skip the meals after the binge.
    • They get the fiber that sweets and fried foods lack. This helps relieve constipation.
  • Ensure they drink plenty of fluids (like water, tender coconut water, buttermilk) throughout the day. This can help ease the digestive issues, avoid over-eating and it can help prevent the cavities.
  • Teach your children about portion control. This goes a long way in developing healthy food habits.

Scrub ’em Clean: Clean Hands Are Safe Hands

Come winter and rainy season, we all tend to pack our children warm with sweaters and scarves and prepare for sniffles. So there’s no better time for Global Hand Washing Day to come around.

It’s but common for children to pout and say sorry or give you that do-away-with-it giggle when you’ve asked them if they’ve washed their hands before eating, after using the bathroom, or when they’ve come back from playing.

But remember it’s a message worth repeating, considering that most of the common infections – including the flu – spread through dirty hands. Hand washing is the dogma to prevent the spread of germs and dodge illness.

Did you know that handwashing is also important for a child’s nutritional status? As surprising as it may sound, it’s very simple to understand why. Good nutrition is not just about eating good food but also depends on the body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in the food. Germs (bacteria, viruses, or parasites) damage the lining of the gut thereby affecting effective nutrient absorption.

Negligence of proper handwashing and hygiene makes children prone to infections like the flu and pneumonia. They suffer from diarrhea, nutrient deficiencies and so on. This has an adverse impact on optimal growth and development and can at times be fatal.

Teach your children how to scrub those germs away. The illustration below gives you an idea of the steps involved in handwashing.

8-steps-of-Handwashing

Set a handwashing rule especially:

  • Before and after eating
  • After using the bathroom
  • After touching pets
  • Before and after visiting any sick friends or relatives
  • After blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After being outside (playing, gardening, walking the dog, etc.)

So raise your hand for hygiene and make your kid a handwashing champ!

PS: If handwashing isn’t possible, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. But remember the use of a sanitizer does not substitute for handwashing.

Breakfast Cereals Are Healthy & A Good Way to Start the Day

Let’s look at this nutrition myth and set the record straight once and for all so that you can cross it off your list.

A hearty nutritious breakfast is the much-needed fuel to restart the engine of the car after a night’s halt-over hence the name ‘break-fast’. It kick-starts the body metabolism and refuels the body’s glucose stores. Studies have shown that breakfast improves kids’ attention span, concentration, and memory. It prevents irritability, fatigue, and restlessness.

Our fast-paced lifestyles constantly change in tandem with increasing spending power, time crunch, dependency on convenience, and so-called health and fitness consciousness. So most reach out for breakfast cereals. Besides, let’s not forget the influence of western lifestyle and eating trends!

What goes into the cereal box?

Commercial breakfast cereals simply translate to refined carbs with added sugar. Why? Because breakfast cereal is made from processed grain. The grain-flour is mixed with water, sugar and/or chocolate and this mixture is extruded. The cereals maybe puffed, flaked or shredded. To top it off, they are coated with chocolate or frosted with sugar before drying and packaging.

Do they deliver what they promise?

The main marketing strategy is undoubtedly the nutritional plank. There is a wide range of commercial cereals to suit the needs of different people be it kids, all-family segment, aging adults or weight watchers. Consumers need to cautious that these breakfast cereals are often marketed with dubious claims and labels which can be misinterpreted.

As a matter of fact, a research conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) on children’s breakfast cereal highlights that “promotional labeling on cereal boxes is designed to distract consumers from focusing on the unhealthy sugar content by making claims that the product provides important nutrients, such as ‘Excellent Source of Vitamin D’ or ‘Good Source of Fiber’ and so on.”

While children are enticed with cartoons or superheroes, parents are convinced with claims. EWG research also found that children’s cereals with cartoon characters on the box are among the most highly sweetened of all.

shutterstock_298389146

Another aspect is that the nutritional benefits claimed on the pack are often not due to the cereal alone but with the suggested ingredients to be added or eaten with. If pairing with milk meets a percentage of protein and calcium requirement or adding fruits gives the required fiber then why do we need the cereal in the first place?

Whip-up your own cereal

So now you know that breakfast cereals aren’t healthy as claimed. But if your child cannot do without breakfast cereals, make your own healthy cereal mix with unprocessed plain cereals. How about ragi flakes with yogurt or milk, a handful of fresh fruits and a sprinkle of dry fruits/nuts!

The Road to Good Heart Health Starts in Childhood

“Oh, high blood pressure? That’s only in old people”

“Heart problems only occur in adults or old people”

Aren’t these your thoughts too? Most of us think that problems related to high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart problems only occur in adults or older people.  In reality, it can affect people of all ages, including children.

Studies show a significant rise in the number of children affected by non-communicable diseases like hypertension and heart diseases. Commemorating World Heart Health Day, we would like to highlight that taking care of the heart needs to start in childhood.

Obesity; the main culprit

Although there are a number of factors that can adversely affect heart health in children, obesity remains the main culprit. Obesity also hastens the occurrence of other heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia and so on. High BP is an important risk factor for heart diseases.

A study that looked at the relationship of childhood obesity with blood pressure in Indian school children (5–16 years) reported that high blood pressure was more prevalent in obese children. So what? Here’s the catch – the problem of high blood pressure that begins in childhood persists through adolescence well into adulthood. In a nutshell, a hypertensive child is a hypertensive adult.

Experts also believe that childhood and adolescent obesity has a compelling impact on the structure and functioning of the heart; so it is very important to ensure that children fall in the healthy weight range.

What can you do to ensure good heart health in your child?

Prevention is always better than cure. Although factors such as family history or genetic predisposition cannot be changed or avoided, we can take control of other risk factors to deter or delay the disease.

  1. Children are what they eat: Healthy eating habits not only includes healthy, nutritious food but also regular meal times. Excess of anything is bad. A diet high in fat, carbs and/or sugar contribute to obesity and excess of sodium (in the form of salt, sauces, MSG) make way for high BP.
  1. Hustle the muscle: with the advent of technology in every phase of life, screen time (like TV, mobile-use, video games) has substantially increased. Activity and exercise have undoubtedly taken a back seat. Physical activity strengthens heart muscles, helps blood vessels branch out more, regulates blood pressure and also increases HDL (good) cholesterol.

      Children and adolescents must get at least 60 minutes of moderate to        vigorous aerobic activity every day. Examples include bike                                  riding, swimming, jogging, football, aerobics or dancing.

  1. Let the children kick butt: be it electronic cigarettes or smokeless tobacco, they are all harmful. Most children may get on this track due to peer pressure or stress. On the other hand, passive smoking can also be the reason.

It’s best to form good habits early in life so we don’t have to break bad habits later.

So it is time to change our way of thinking and understand that good heart health starts from childhood.

The Untold Tales of Millets

Ever come across the story of the murder of millets? Yes indeed, millets were a part of our country’s staple food. However, with the advent of polished rice, wheat, and their processed descendants, millets are no longer a part of the picture.

Sadly, this acclimatization has lead to a plethora of health disorders and diseases like diabetes, obesity, and blood pressure which seem to prevail in a widespread manner. It’s time to bid adieu and break the unhealthy trend, and who better than our children to start and set the right trend.

“Did you know that millets are much superior to rice and wheat when it comes to protein, fiber, and mineral content?”

Millets could be the best bet to keep children on high-energy mode since they are said to be high-energy nutritious food and an excellent source of B-vitamins. While the protein of baragu (Proso Millet) ensures optimal growth in children, the calcium content of ragi (Finger Millet) strengthens the children’s bones and teeth.

“Each one of the millets has more fibre than rice and wheat. Ragi (finger millet has thirty times more calcium than rice while every other millet has at least twice the amount of calcium compared to rice.”

Research shows that a jowar (Sorghum Millet) rich diet improves growth and positively affects the hemoglobin, folic acid, vitamin A, iron and calcium content in school going children. Those hunger pangs can be saved for later since the high fiber content of millets gives children a feeling of fullness and as a plus point prevents over-eating.

Millets are not only easy to digest but also offer healing action in cases of gastrointestinal inflammation and ulceration. This gluten-free grain is the mantra for children struggling with gluten related health issues like celiac disease. Additionally, consumption of millets notably cuts down the incidence of wheezing and asthma in children.

Loaded with phytochemicals, millets provide the antioxidants that keep the body’s immune system at its peak. Not only do fermented millet products act as natural probiotics but millets’ whole grain also shows pre-biotic activity, boosting the population of friendly bacteria that play a key role to promote digestion.

Although it would be nice to say that millets are synonymous to perfection, they do contain anti-nutrients. The proportions of these anti-nutrients can be cut down by simple food processing techniques like decortication, germination, malting, and fermentation.

Last but not the least, here’s another bonus – with the monsoon setting in, get set to include millets in your children’s diet because it is a warming grain that will help to heat the body in cold or rainy seasons and climates!