National Nutrition Week has ended on the 2nd week of September. Before we can wrap up our series on Nutrition, we would like to talk about ten healthy eating habits that must be inculcated among children.
Dictionaries define nutrition as “the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.” Unfortunately obtaining food for health and nutrition worldwide has proved to be tougher challenge than it was perceived. Providing healthy food for children is a concern that transcends geographical boundaries. Fresh and healthy food is a basic right of every child, and there is a need to make sure that they get it every day.
- Balanced diet
Children need to be taught early that nothing is tastier than a complete nutritious meal. One of the objectives of mid-day meal at Akshaya Patra is to provide a balanced diet to the children as a healthy eating habit.
- Praying before eating
We count it as a healthy eating habit. Akshaya Patra wishes to educate children apart from feeding them. One of our practices is to ensure that the children say their prayers before starting to eat food. This helps them realise the value of food and that they should be thankful to the Almighty for providing them with food.
- Eating together
Families must eat together at home and friends must have lunch together at school. There’s nothing more joyous than enjoying a great meal together, discussing about taste and favourite foods. At Akshaya Patra, eating together fulfills our objective of supplying mid-day meal in a healthy environment.
- Eating slowly
It’s vital to have the habit of eating slowly as it helps in controlling weight. This ensures that they chew their food properly leading to better digestion. Eating fast causes obesity. Studies have shown that nearly 60 percent of overweight children aged 5 to 17 had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and 25 percent had two or more. Also, obese kids have an 80 percent chance of staying obese their entire lives.
- Attractive foods
Another healthy eating habit is to include colourful foods, vegetables and fruits in children’s meals. This encourages children to enjoy food and look forward to meals. At Akshaya Patra, we prepare a variety of food for children to ensure that they really enjoy the experience of having mid-day meal at school.
- Water instead of concentrated drinks
In modern day meals, we have got into the habit of consuming concentrated juices or cold drinks or soda instead of water. While fresh juices do have some merit, most preserved juices have more calories than we know. But water should be the choice during meals for children since it boosts immune system and digestion.
- Learning when to stop
Another healthy food habit is knowing when your stomach is full. Toddlers and younger kids find it hard to understand the signals that their stomach sends to their brain. Children should be taught signs of fullness clearly from the time they learn to eat their own food.
- Healthier snacks
Today, there are several varieties of snacks available for children, many of which are not healthy. Snacks such as fried foods, packaged foods, noodles, potato chips etc are readily available but are far from healthy. As a healthy eating habit, children must be taught to consume fruits, juices, nuts etc. as alternative snacks.
- Less sugar and salt
At Akshaya Patra, the amount of sugar and sweets is an important parameter of a nutritious diet. While we always send extra salts with our transport vans, we teach the children to avoid using too much salt and sugar in their meals. Salt and sugar are the leading causes of heart-related diseases as adults and must be cut down right from the childhood.
- Discouraging eating meals before TV
Eating dinner or lunch before television is a common practice among modern families. However, this kills the joy of eating and distracts children from truly savouring their meals. Children often complain of hunger afterwards if they have consumed their meals while watching TV.
There are millions of children still who don’t get healthy food. They need to be reached and fed. We encourage you to donate to NGO towards unlimited food for education so that we are able to take our mid-day meals to more and more children.