Helping kids eat healthy
NEW DELHI: So what do you do if your child hankers for instant noodles? Experts say one should go for generic varieties or make alternatives more interesting.
It’s difficult to stop children from eating their favourite noodles or fast food, so put in extra effort, suggests Aarchie Bhatnagar, dietician at BLK Super Speciality Hospital. “Mothers can buy plain raw noodles and cook, adding vegetables to make the dish healthy. Momos or burgers can be also made at home by replacing maida with rice floor.”
But what about pesticides, contaminants and germs in raw food bought locally? Experts advise vegetables and fruits should be washed well. Peeling fruits will cut down surface pesticide content. Potassium permanganate may also come to your aid.
“Mix enough of permanganate in water to give it a light pink colour. Soak fruits and vegetables and rinse them well. This will effectively remove pesticides, bacteria and other pests,” advises Kanika Malhotra, senior clinical nutritionist from HealthCare at Home (India).
Too much of the permanganate, though, can be harmful so ensure that the water colour is light pink and not dark, she adds.
Sonia Bajaj, an acclaimed nutritionist and fitness expert advises that suma tablets (chlorine-based sanitising tablets) may be used to clean or sanitise vegetables and salads. Even vinegar can help, she adds.
Another option for healthy food at home is to look for a good ultrasonic food washer. This washer uses the principle of ultrasonic and reactive oxygen to remove most of agricultural chemicals from fruits and vegetables. It also removes fungicides, pesticides and contaminants and has been found to be quite effective, says Ritika Samaddar, head (dietetics) at Max Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi. “The cost, however, is an issue and cannot be a solution for the masses.”
But should vegetables and other food items be bought only from reputed grocery stores? According to Bhatnagar, one should only buy food items from reputed stores as they have certain basic hygienic standards in place. For Samaddar, “buying even from a local vender is fine provided the fruits or vegetables are washed properly before consumption”.
Organic food is another choice. An organic product is considered truly organic when it is duly certified and contains 95 per cent or more organic ingredients.
“Organic foods will mostly be without pesticides and more nutritious per serving. But these are more expensive,” Samaddar says. She advises that one should look for certification, wherever possible.
What are the other ways to ensure that healthy food items reach our table? Read food labels carefully and do not get fooled by gimmicks. “Check how much fat or sugar is there. Just saying ‘contains oats’ and actually ‘containing four per cent per 100 gms’ is not justified,” Malhotra points out. The more processed the food is, the more toxic it is likely to be.
But what about the children’s craving for junk food. Samaddar says junk food can also be made healthy by incorporating some simple changes.
“Use a wheat crust for your pizza and top it up with lots of veggies. Have a whole wheat bun and add lettuce with your patty to make it more healthy.”
Malhotra suggests start the day with fruit and a handful of nuts. For breakfast, pack upma, poha, stuffed veggies, chapati roll or sandwich. Keep lunch simple with a roti or rice, sabzi and dal. In the evenings, give them a glass of milk and another fruit.
“Make dinner interesting with a bowl of soup, stuffed rolls with chopped tomatoes.”