Tag Archives: schoolchildren

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.

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.

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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!

Make Sure Your Budding Athlete Eats Like A Champion

Being on top of the game doesn’t just require the best gear and right training but it’s also about being prepared inside out. It is incorrect to think that nutrition aimed at enhancing performance on the athletic field is only the prerogative of professional athletes.  Whether your kids are competitive athletes or weekend warriors, athletic performance is at its best only with the right nutrition.

Successful sports training and stellar performance come with adequate calorie intake to support energy expenditure and maintain strength, endurance, muscle mass and overall health. Briefly, nutrients that are important for your little athlete are iron, calcium, potassium, high glycemic carbs, and protein.

Why is nutrition important?

The muscle needs food to exercise. So it first uses its own store of glucose (called glycogen) followed by the liver’s store. However, when the sport requires repeated bursts of energy or energy over an extended period of time, the glycogen stores run out. This results in muscle fatigue (commonly called “hitting the wall”) and the athletes either have to stop or drastically reduce the pace.

Therefore, a pre-exercise meal is of utmost importance as it helps prevent the young sportsman from going hungry during the exercise bout and also maintains the blood glucose levels for the muscle to keep recharging itself through the activity.

So, the key to stamina and endurance is to include carbohydrates which release glucose slowly and therefore last over the entire exercise period. So is a glass of milk, a banana or a fistful of dry fruits enough? Not really!

Food choices should be high in complex carbohydrate (high-glycemic), low in fat and moderate in protein. Make sure to fuel your child with a fiber rich mixed millet milk porridge sweetened with jaggery or date syrup or a couple of oat idlis with a glass of milk.

Even a boiled potato whole wheat sandwich with a glass of milk can do wonders for your child’s game. Make sure to avoid high-fat foods as they may cause stomach discomfort.

During exercise, hydration is the mantra. In the absence of thirst, experts recommend that kids drink water or other fluids before beginning their activity and every 15 to 20 minutes during physical activity.

Coconut water, diluted juices, lemon juice, watermelon juice are superb choices. Sugary drinks and carbonated drinks are a strict no-no.

Last but not the least – nutrition post-exercise. Experts recommend that you feed your child carbs within 30 minutes after intense activity and again 2 hours later. Refueling with ample carbohydrates and moderate protein means you’re on the right track. But most of us take the wrong step here. Carbohydrates don’t equate to glucose alone, so loading up on glucose tablets or reaching out for off the shelf juices post exercise can harm the pancreas in the long run. This is because it is overworked in producing loads of insulin to deal with the glucose glut.

Ideal food would be high-glycemic foods like millets, brown rice and lean meat, boiled chicken or whole pulses along with some fat like butter, ghee. It’s important that the post-activity meal be a balance of protein, carbs, and fat.

Understanding young athlete’s nutrition requirement is quite tricky. So keep these tit-bits in mind and do reach out for professional help in managing their nutrition as it is very important in determining the course of their health and the game!

Festival Special – Deciphering Modaks

Come festival time, we always celebrate and rejoice with a wide spread of traditional dishes dedicated to that occasion. Ganesh Chaturthi is one such occasion celebrated with Modaks among other foods.

Modaks are dumplings made across India in various sweet and savory variations, although the sweet variant is more popular. The modak can either be steamed or deep fried.

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Known by various names, these dumplings are called modak in Marathi, Konkani and in Gujarati languages. Kozhakkatta in Malayalam. Modhaka or Kadubu in Kannada. Modhakam or Kozhakkattai in Tamil and Kudumu in Telugu.

Although there are many modern innovations, the classic modak includes a rice flour or maida (refined flour) dough with a jaggery/sugar and coconut filling. Most of the times the steamed modaks are placed in vessels but they may also be steamed in turmeric or jackfruit leaves. The stuffing can include:

  • Toor dal, jaggery, and fresh coconut
  • Jaggery, til/sesame seeds, fresh coconut
  • Channa dal, coriander leaves, dill/shepu leaves, mint leaves and green chilies (savory)

The deep fried modaks are mostly made with maida flour and can have a variety of fillings like:

  • Toor dal, jaggery, and dry coconut
  • Jaggery, til/sesame seeds, and dry coconut
  • Roasted channa dal, sugar, dry coconut and dry fruits

Another regional variation is the besan modaks or steamed rice flour balls steeped in flavored coconut milk. The steamed modaks are served with ghee or coconut milk.

Apart from the classic modaks, the modern twists include the use of millet flour instead of rice flour. Fancy innovations include chocolate modaks, shrikhand modak, green peas modak, and the list is endless.

It’s not hard to see that what goes into making the traditional modaks is rich in energy, protein, and good fats. While the different dals prove to be good sources of protein, jaggery, coconut, til/sesame seeds and ghee are power packed and provide good fats as well.

The medium chain triglycerides or MCTs in coconut is said to boost metabolism and also help boost the body’s power to ward off infections, both beneficial for the winter/rainy season.

Ghee, on the other hand, is a concentrated source of energy and a rich source of DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), a crucial element for brain development. It is also said that during the rainy season, the oils and fat help nourish the skin.

So go ahead and enjoy the modaks guilt free but remember moderation is key!

HOW THESE KIDS SURPRISED THEIR DADS ON FATHER’S DAY WILL MAKE YOU SMILE

On Father’s Day, kids do their best to show their dads that extra bit of love and appreciation. And since we directly interact with kids on a daily basis, we decided to help them out.

MonkeyBox delivers fresh, nutritious, and delicious meals to school kids during their mealtimes, every day, and is a refreshing alternative to the average tiffin box. So, a few days before Father’s Day, we slipped the following note into the kids’ MonkeyBoxes, inviting them to do something special for their dads.

 

Father's Day

We asked them to do something simple: write a special message to their dads on the note, and send it back to us in their empty MonkeyBoxes. Out of over 500 notes sent, we received an overwhelming number of responses from the kids. Take a look at some of the cutest ones below – believe us, we had a hard time picking!

 

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What happened next was a surprise for both the unsuspecting dads and their excited kids. We delivered the notes to the dads on Father’s Day! The end result was a large number of euphoric dads, and tons of brownie points scored for their kids at home. To us, that sounds like a mission well accomplished.

Out of the many hundreds, here are responses from some very surprised Dads.

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responssAt MonkeyBox, we know the things that make kids happy. And nothing makes them happy like seeing a smile on their parents’ faces. We hope this little surprise did just that and a little more.