Once children start school, life takes on a new routine. Regular intake of healthy and balanced diet throughout the day is required to keep children active and help in their concentration while learning.
Most parents complain of fussy or picky eaters therefore we suggest wide variety of food choice for regular meals and snacks, and allow the child to eat according to their appetite without force or arguments. Forcing children to ‘clean the plate’ or giving sweets as rewards may lead to problems of obesity and overeating later in life.
Based on recommendations of Indian Council of Medical Research you need to include the following foods in your school going child’s diet every day. The amount of food a preschooler chooses to eat will vary according to their size and activity levels.
- 5-6 servings of cereals : Roti (Wheat), whole wheat bread, rice, pasta, noodles.
- 2-3 servings of milk and milk products: Glass of milk, milk shake, yoghurt, paneer, cheese etc. A glass of milk or a tub of yoghurt or slice of cheese equals a serve of dairy food. Three serves are needed each day for adequate calcium intake.
- 1 small portion of meat: Chicken, fish, eggs
- 1 portion of pulses: Lentils, chickpeas, green gram etc
- 3-4 portions of fruits and vegetables : Seasonal fruits and vegetables.
- Children should be encouraged to drink plain water. Sweet drinks such as cordials or fruit juice are not needed for a healthy diet and aren’t recommended.
Snack breaks should be energy boosters but at the same time healthy. Try to choose foods from the core food groups. Limit adding highly processed, sugary, fatty and salty foods in your child’s diet you are missing a chance to teach your child about healthy eating habits. You should avoid giving processed meats such as salami, ham, pressed chicken and Strasbourg. Chips, sweet biscuits and muesli or breakfast bars, canned juices and soft drinks should be like treats for picnics or parties.
- For school breaks you can include breads or cereal based foods like sandwiches, paratha rolls with veggies, sprouts, whole wheat bread with a vegetable or egg filling, pasta or rice based salad, crackers with a cheese spread, fruit-based muffins.
- Include a dairy food for lunch or breakfast (eg. cheese sandwich, yogurt, custard).
- Include small portions of salads and fruits – Choose easy-to-eat vegetables such as cucumber sticks, celery, carrot sticks and capsicum. Fruits like banana or slices of apples, water melon or any other seasonal fruits. Remember to cut them appropriately for small fingers.
- A sandwich with a glass of milk , bowl of cereal and a fruit or a bowl of soup with a toast could be a ideal after school snacks which is not only high in energy but nutritious too.
Tips and Tricks
- If your children are fussy, you can add a little note in their Tiffin box. A yellow post-it note with a smile signed with love from mama will surely get them all excited as they open their box. 🙂
- Remember do not overload the Tiffin box. Snack breaks are short and they need time to mingle with their friends. Get them in the habit of finishing and not wasting food.
- Get a dual compartment tiffin box or separate boxes so that the dry stuff does not get soggy with the damp foods like fruits.
- Always plan your snack he night before to ensure ingredients are available and fillings can be prepared before hand. If you are really busy (working or rushed in the mornings), you could have a schedule for each week stuck on the fridge.
Always make family mealtimes fun and a chance to share and talk about the day’s activities and events. Avoid distractions such as the television, radio or the telephones. Let your child decide when they are full – don’t argue about food.
Physical activity is also an important part of good health. Try to encourage your child to do something active each day, such as a hobby, play a game or be involved in sport. For primary school children 60 minutes of activity is recommended each day, and no more than two hours of watching TV, DVDs or computer games. To increase your child’s activity, try to limit the amount of time spent watching television for the whole family. Do something physical and active together like visit a park and watch your child play.
10 ideas for healthy tiffin boxes
It is possible to pack your child a nutritious lunch box that will actually come home at the end of the day empty and eaten. Try these simple recipes :
- Mini Idlis (Steamed rice cake) – You can add vegetable puree (carrots, spinach, coriander) etc. for color, variety and nutrition as well.
- Corn on the cob – Either boil the corn or roast it and pop it in their Tiffin box.
- Sheekh kebabs (veg and non veg) – Prepare either with sautéed vegetables like red or green capsicum, tomatoes, steamed carrots pieces of tofu or paneer. You can also do chicken or fish kebabs.
- Sandwiches – Try different combinations and shapes like cheese, ketchup or green mint chutney with butter. You can also use peanut butter sandwiches with Nutella chocolate sauce etc. Egg dipped and fried French toast is also an easy alternative to sandwiches. Stuffed sandwich are another healthy alternate. – You can choose between vegetarian or non vegetarian fillings – Be creative with ingredients. You could add paneer/chicken; tomatoes/onions/cheese and even jazz up last night’s dry vegetables with a little minced onions and tomatoes for crunchiness and top off with grated cheese.
- Paratha (Indian wheat bread fried in butter) – Keep the mundane interesting. You can make interesting dough with leftover dals, vegetable purees, boiled vegetables. Experiment with different shapes – square or triangles or add jam or cheese in it and roll it up.
- Salads – You can also include a small portion of salads with boiled chickpeas or boiled kidney beans they are full of protein, iron and fiber. Add zing to the boiled chickpeas by adding dash of lemon juice, chaat masala and diced tomatoes and onions
- Pasta – It is an all time favorite of children you can make tomato sauce with dash of olive oil and top it up with grated cheese and shredded chicken pieces or vegetables.
- Home made burritos – If you have a sandwich maker that has only ridges and any shapes of slices can fit, then try using chapattis or paratha as base. Add little amount of vegetables, minced onions and grated cheese, roll them up and put in the sandwich makers and voila you will have a hot chapatti sandwich. Call it something exotic like Roti burritos (Mexican dish) and you have them all excited about this snack.
- Mini dosas – Add Ragi flour to usual dosa batter to make it more nutritious
- Quick bite – Always add quick munching items in a separate box for days when your child is staying longer in the school like extra class, sports day, exhibitions etc. Example: nuts and dried fruit and raisins, whole grain biscuits, small packs of cereals like chocos, muesli, wheat flakes other savories like microwave popcorn, banana chips etc.
Article contributed by
I strongly believe in ethics; as a health provider being ethical is not just a remembered value, but a strongly observed one. Says Dt. Yamini Attri
Dt. Yamini Attri has more than 15 years of experience as a trained nutritionist. She has worked for various hospitals and currently is heading the Dietetics Department at the Metro Heart Institute with Multi speciality . She has completed her Master’s degree in Dietetics & Food Service Management from New Delhi, India. Yamini is a certified diabetes educator and bariatric nutritionist and has attended and also conducted seminars in various forums. She is also part of the D.I.N.G.S project in India run by ADA (Diabetes in India Nutrition Guideline Study (DINGS). She has also written and collated the book ” Zero oil cook book” – recipes for Healthy Heart.