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What’s On Your Child’s Plate?​

Children love birthday parties! For them, parties are all about friends, fun, gifts and lots of colourful, exciting goodies to gorge on. However, most of time, these ‘goodies’ turn out to be junk food like pizzas, burgers, fizzy drinks and colourful cakes, which do more harm than good. Yes, it is OK to let children have these as an occasional treat, but it’s NOT OK to let them make it a regular habit, for junk food is highly addictive. Loaded with salt, sugar, preservatives and bad fat, junk food, as the name rightly suggests, is “junk” that makes children unhealthy and obese.

Here’s why you need to take junk food off your child’s party menu:

It’s Unhealthy

Junk foods contain large quantities of added sugar, salt and poor quality fat.

Regular consumption of such food can lead to many disorders like diabetes, hypertension and obesity, with passing time. Besides, they also contain a melange of preservatives, which can trigger multiple health complications.

Kills appetite for healthy food

Recent researches have revealed that excessive consumption of junk food can supress the child’s appetite for good, healthy food and lead to overeating.

Excessive weight gain

Heavy on fat and calories, junk foods make children gain weight rapidly, resulting in obesity. One of the worst lifestyle disorders, obesity can lead to multiple health complications including occurrence of heart diseases and diabetes very early in life.

High risk of hypertension & stroke

Junk foods usually quite salty, which means larger levels of sodium. Though we require Sodium for certain crucial body functions, excessive amounts can lead to increased blood pressure and in turn, high chances of stroke.

Kidney & bladder stones

Increased intake of sugar and salt can lead to formation of stones in the kidney and bladder.

Gastrointestinal/ digestion problems

Eating too much junk food also cause bad stomach problems, as the fibre content is extremely low. Besides, they also contain multiple preservatives like Monosodium Glutamate (MSG); Sodium Nitrate; Sodium Benzoate and Aspartame that can cause major health complications like cancer, heart disease, liver failure, kidney failure and depression.

Tooth decay

Sugary sweets and snacks stick to the teeth, increasing the chances of developing cavities and enamel damage.

Makes the child hyper active

High amounts of sugar can cause hyper activity and insomnia in children.

So how can we prevent children from falling prey to the lure of junk food?

If we want our children to change, we need to change the way we handle them. Most of the time, we give our children whatever they ask for, without even thinking twice. We don’t see any problems in letting them have their way, especially when it comes to food choices. All we want them to do is to eat ‘something’ and not stay hungry. And most often that ‘something’ turns out to be the ‘wrong thing’ and they slowly get addicted to salty, sugary junk food. This should stop. We encourage them to eat healthy, keep a strict watch on what they eat from outside and make sure that they eat on time.

Curb the cravings

Start by saying a firm “No” when they ask for junk food. Explain to them in detail about the possible health problems such foods can cause. Occasional junk food treats are fine, but don’t let it become a weekend ritual or habit.

Introduce them to healthier alternatives

Replace packet snacks with homemade snacks. Bake, grill or air fry (no-oil frying) instead of deep-frying. Make healthy dips with yoghurt, chickpeas etc. instead of buying tinned mayonnaise based sauces. Substitute French fries with cut vegetables or baked soups ticks. Your child will fall in love with the fresh, healthy taste!

Say NO to preserved food

Any food with chemical preservatives isn’t good. Avoid items like preserved meat, tinned food and instant meals.

Don’t offer food as reward

Parents often treat children to junk food as a reward. Never use food to express love for your child. It will only make them unhealthy, physically and mentally.

Such habits may also lead impulsive/ stress eating, which can result in obesity.

Food that’s good

Children are what they eat. If you want your child to be healthy from within, make sure you take charge of his or her diet. A balanced, healthy diet should include

  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Lentils
  • Dairy products
  • Calcium rich foods like milk and small fish
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Fruits
  • Natural sugar like palm jaggery

Make sure they eat well, on time. And yes, they should drink at least 2 to 3 litres of water (plain water, not carbonated drinks) everyday to avoid a whole lot of problems including constipation, dehydration and urinary infections.

Host A Healthy Birthday Party!

Now that you know how bad junk food is, make sure you put together a fun yet healthy menu for your child’s next birthday party. Here are some delicious, nutritious part food ideas that will turn even the pickiest eaters into foodies.

Get set to celebrate the healthiest birthday party ever!

Baked potato wedges: This a healthy substitute for deep-fried, oily potato wedges. You can bring in an interesting twist adding mixed pizza/ pasta herb seasoning.

Vegetable sticks with dips: Cut vegetables like carrot and cucumber into sticks and serve with homemade dips made with yoghurt (blend yoghurt with a few pods of garlic, pepper, salt and a pinch of cumin) or avocado (blend avocado with a bit of garlic, salt, pepper, a few drops of lime juice and a pinch of cumin seeds)

Homemade ice-lollies: Blend fruits like banana or mango with milk and honey. Freeze these in ice-lolly moulds. You can also add chopped fruits/ dry fruits into this. Homemade lollies can also be made with fresh fruit juices.

Wholegrain/ multigrain sandwiches: Toast a wholegrain/ multigrain bread slice, layer it with sliced veggies, caramelised onions, boiled eggs/ boiled & shredded chicken/ tuna, ketchup, cheese and creamy potato mash (optional) and lettuce leaves. Cover with another slice of bread and secure the sandwich with a toothpick. Place an olive or cherry on top of the toothpick.

Choco chunks: Melt some dark chocolate and mix in chopped dry fruits. Scoop out this mix with a teaspoon and place on a baking sheet. Let it cool. Take the chocolate chunks off the sheet and refrigerate if required.

Spicy sweet nuts: Roast peanuts in a pan with a bit of oil. Add in some honey, salt and pepper powder/ chilli flakes. Mix well and let the mix cool.

Creamy fruit bowls: Chop up seasonal fruits like mango, watermelon, banana and pineapple, add some fresh cream and honey, mix well and serve chilled. Top with finely chopped nuts.

Fruit shakes: Blend fruits like banana, mango and strawberry in a blender with some milk, honey and ice. Colourful, creamy and yummy, fruit shakes are a great substitute for fizzy drinks.

Remember, good habits go a long way. And it’s necessary that we inculcate a healthy eating habit in children so that it becomes a part of their life, well after they’ve entered adulthood.

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