There’s no better time in life than childhood to eat right. What we put in our stomachs in our childhood can determine how we turn out physically for the rest of our lives. Too much sugar and refined flours can even lead to detrimental health conditions such as childhood obesity and diabetes mellitus in teen years. No parent wants that for his or her precious child. That’s why, as parents, you should do everything you can to provide only the healthiest food for your children, starting by filling the lunch boxes for kids with home cooked meals. Meals prepared at home, in general, tend to be healthier than store-bought ones, as they are less likely to contain preservatives, artificial flavourings or hidden sugar. Now that you’ve made up your mind to cook for your babies, here are some tips to follow:
Try to buy fresh ingredients
Modern parents, especially the ones living in cities, are highly prone to buying pre-packaged frozen vegetables from supermarkets. Are you aware that these veggies are loaded with preservatives and have possibly lost their nutritional value? That’s why you should do your best to by fresh and whole ingredients. Skip the canned fruits section and instead buy fresh, seasonal fruits sold at the front. Never, ever buy pre-cut fruits or veggies sold in sling-wrapped Styrofoam containers. These are usually expired vegetables the store can no longer sell. It would be ideal altogether if you can buy fruits and veggies from the local farmer’s market, as supermarkets spray chemicals to keep raw ingredients fresh.
Skip vegetable oil at all means
Hydrogenated oils, like margarine and vegetable oil used for frying, are now known as a contributor to obesity and heart disease. These oils kill good gut bacteria, leaving children vulnerable to disease and storing more fats. That’s why it’s smart to leave out hydrogenated oils completely from home cooking. You can substitute hydrogenated oils with healthier oils like olive oil, ghee (clarified butter) and sesame oil. Know that all oils are high in fat, so they must be consumed in moderation to maintain a healthy weight. It’s best if you can refrain from frying omelettes and potato chips, and instead poach or bake so no unnecessary calories enter your child’s diet.
Reduce use of refined flours
Refined white flour forms an all too big part of children’s diets. Kids eat white bread, waffles, pancakes, muffins or bagels in the morning and many times during the day. Refined flour in foods like this digest easily and causes spikes in blood glucose levels. Continued reliance on refined flours can lead to obesity and heart disease. Parents, therefore, should take steps to reduce reliance of refined flours in children’s meals. You can do it gradually in ways like buying whole grain bread instead of white bread, or whole-wheat bagels instead of regular ones. Red rice and sweet potatoes are also excellent options for a filling breakfast without unhealthy refined flours.
Cook breakfast and skip cereal
All children’s cereals, despite what’s said on the front of the box, is dangerously high in sugar. You can always check by looking at the ingredients list. Cereals label themselves “heart healthy” or “low fat” only if the saturated fat content is low, never mind the amount of sugar. Now that science has proven that sugar content is a leading factor in obesity, heart disease, and of course, diabetes, parents should take precautions not to give sugary cereals to children. Alternatively, make cereal at home with barley, wheat, quinoa or another ingredient high in fibre, and nil in sugar. The kids probably won’t eat it without any sugar, so you can add a little amount just to make them take the first bite. Preferably, you can ditch the sugar and use organic honey or fresh fruits as sweeteners.
Snack time needs revamping
What do kids have for afterschool snacks? Chocolates, soda, factory-made biscuits, salty potato chips and many other things that are very bad for them. There’s no point in telling them to stop snacking, they simply won’t. What you can do is to gradually wean them off the sugar and gently introduce healthy alternatives, like baby carrots, fruit salads and fresh fruit smoothies. You probably won’t make them stop eating sugary snacks completely, at least not until they are much older. You can also get innovative with desert recipes and make things like nutritious avocado mousse instead of chocolate mousse.
It’ll take time and some effort to get your kids to stop eating easy but very greasy food like burgers and fries. It won’t be easy to for you to prepare healthy meals, either. Some patience, however, will go a long way in helping you achieve your goals.