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"A good school is like rich soil where the seeds of knowledge are sown into the child by the teachers"

Healthy Food Habits

AUTHOR:  L.SRINIVASARANGAN, ADMINISTRATOR

Food is very essential for energy and for our existence. Tasty food tempts us to eat more. Taste is one of the special senses/feelings, just like vision, hearing, smell, touch or pain. Each and every person has their own favourite taste. Dogs like bones, Parrots like chillies, Rabbits like carrots. Children become aggressive and stubborn in getting chocolates, ice creams, cakes, sweets, snacks etc. Taste will help us choose the right quality food. It can also become a culprit in making one obese. Taste differs from person to person and also from time to time, even in the same individual. Normally, desires and aversions are developed with habit, i.e., what some find delicious might not be so for others.

Even though appetite is entirely different from taste, for a good intake it seems to be essential. The average human tongue is 4 inches long with about 6000 taste buds and the stomach is about 12 inches long & 6 inches wide. A normal human stomach can go from holding 50 ml. when empty and up to 4 litres when full. It is little wonder that many of us consume more than we need, on a daily basis, as our eating habits have changed, without us even realising it. But honestly, stuffing oneself to its full capacity is not safe and healthy. Abusing stomach is not advisable, because it is needed for quite a long time, for any person.

Parents can definitely help their children to develop healthy food habits, early in life that will bring lifelong benefits. They can encourage their kids to evaluate their food choice and physical activity habits. The food can be looked in 2 ways – (1) how it tastes, and (2) how it affects the body. Most children and many adults also, generally care only for the taste of the things they eat. This is not correct.  What is delicious to the tongue may not be healthy to the body, most of the times. The very first thing the children should be taught about their food is that they should never be guided by their tongue. They should be advised — “One must Eat to Live. Not Live to Eat”.

Parents have to ensure also that their children never skip breakfast. Even just a banana and a glass of milk kick-start the body and make it easier to maintain lasting energy throughout the day. Breakfast increases a child’s aptitude for studying. The brain is most active in the morning time and therefore the children who eat a healthy breakfast have an improved concentration and mental performance. They will be more attentive in the class; thus they tend to perform better than those who miss the breakfast.

Children should always be given healthier snacks. It’s not simple to encourage the children to eat a balanced diet, while the fact remains that only the “Balanced Diet” gives the child strength to every muscle and limb.  It is quite easy to reach for chips or biscuits when children feel like nibbling on something, but these snacks tend to be low in nutrients and high in calories. Instead, keeping the cupboards stacked with healthier snacks such as fruits, popcorn, unsalted nuts and unsweetened yoghurt would be better. “Health is like money, we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it” .Today, more than 95% of all chronic disease is caused by wrong food choice, toxic food ingredients, nutritional deficiencies and lack of physical exercise.  Healthy eating is not something undesirable or unappealing – actually it is quite the opposite! It means caring for yourself and your family, both body and mind, with nutritious food. A healthy diet will make the child glowing with vitality outside and in. It promotes restful sleep too, which is also a must for children.

Many of the packaged foods we buy today are aimed at convenience and involve minimum preparation time, on our part – but they’re not actually that healthy. Junk food would be a lot easier to avoid, if it actually tastes like junk. But unfortunately, it tastes good. The problem with such foods is that they often contain high amounts of preservatives, man-made colourings, rich in fats, cholesterols and other added harmful chemicals. Junk food is engineered to addict anyone to chemical ingredients. Moreover, eating lots of sweets, road-side unhygienic food, carbonated soft drinks, pizza, pasta etc. have poor nutritional value and can leave the children feeling physically and mentally sluggish. Bigger snacks … Bigger slacks. When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need. Remember, we have at least 100 + weekends plus good many number of long/extended weekends, year after year. One should not (mis)use the weekend as an excuse to compromise on the good food habits.

Eating slowly is great for weight control at any age. It is a fantastic way to teach kids that it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the message from their stomachs that they are full. As much as we’d love our children to finish their meal in minutes, rather than hours, it is much more essential that they learn to slow down and chew their food properly and fully, instead of swallowing in a hurry.

Parents have to be a good role model in developing Healthy Food Habits of their children – When “i” is replaced by “we”, even “illness” becomes “wellness”. It is ideal to eat dinner together. Make dinnertime a family time – When everyone sits down together to eat, there is lesser chance of children eating the wrong foods or snacking too much. Of course, the quality time with the family will be indeed an added bonus. If parents can encourage their children to eat regular meals with them at the table, it can, not only reduce snacking, but also would teach valuable social skills to them. Water is the drink of choice at meal times and juice /sweet drinks have to be kept as occasional treats. Water is essential for life – it is required for digestion, absorption, internal movement of nutrients, elimination of waste and more importantly to regulate body temperature.

Do not waste food. Food is the most abused drug in the world.  Indians waste as much food as the whole of United Kingdom consumes. The actual worth of money per year in India from food wastage is estimated at a whopping Rs. 58,000 crore. Food waste primarily revolves around any form of food, raw or cooked, used or unused – discarded or intended so. Our street and garbage bins, landfills have sufficient proof to demonstrate this fact. There are organisations that accept extra food to feed to the hungry and needy.  Find out the right one and do your part, please.

We must plan to restrict TV, Video Games, Cell phone usage and Computer time of children. These habits lead to a sedentary lifestyle and excessive snacking, which increase risks for obesity. It is tempting to eat dinner in front of the television, to wolf down lunch at desk, and to grab snacks on the run. Kids would prefer to be offered a colourful snack of different fruits and berries, or vegetables chopped into interesting shapes. Parents should make “Eating”, an enjoyable experience for their kids, by offering a variety of healthy foods.

Too much of even a good thing is bad. Don’t reward children with TV / Video games, candy or snacks for a job well done. We must find out other ways to celebrate good behaviour. Exercise is the most under-utilized antidepressant. We should always ensure that the children are excelling at exercise and other physical fitness activities, to keep them fit physically & mentally. Eat Clean. Look Clean. The first Wealth is Health. Children do not have to EAT LESS. They just have to EAT RIGHT.  “ What lies behind us &  what lies before us are tiny matters …. compared to what lies within us ”. Remember … “The best and most efficient pharmacy is within our own system.” Healthy eating is the best recipe for a Long and Happy Life.