By Akhila Das Blah
It’s 4:30 pm and the doorbell rings. The food delivery guy is at the door with a cheeseburger that your teenage son has ordered for his evening snack, just as he comes in from a long day at school. Thanks to the increase in food delivery apps and the easy accessibility to restaurant food, many households have reduced the number of meals cooked at home. In fact, a lot of families tend to order food from restaurants for a minimum of a meal a day, if not more.
The reasons are many. A family in which both parents are working leads to limited time availability to cook meals. Families struggle to find household cooks that can meet their meal time requirements. Exposure to different cultures and the booming restaurant industry has led to a change in palate for the young Indian consumer. They are no longer satisfied with eating dal, roti and sabzi on a daily basis. Expanding wallets and a restaurant in every corner allows your family to satiate their every culinary desire.
Unfortunately, with all the benefits of eating out, there are also disadvantages. Studies show that frequent eating out at restaurants or indulging in processed foods leads to an increased intake of sugar, fats and sodium, which can result in childhood obesity. The quality and quantity of food eaten can affect mental functioning, emotional well-being, energy, strength, weight and future health.
As parents, our struggle is to find ways in which we can balance our children’s nutritional needs along with our hectic schedules and their tastebuds that seem to be only influenced by peer pressure and television advertisements. So, what can we do?
Talk to your children about the benefits of healthy eating
Don’t preach. Make it part of casual conversation. While you understand how much they like junk food or aerated drinks, tell them how it can affect their body, both mentally and physically. Discuss alternatives to eating out.
Get them involved in meal planning
If they are part of the menu planning process for the week, they are unlikely to turn their nose up at the food on the dining table. Ask them what they would like to eat. Make a meal schedule. If your child likes a snack after school, then plan for it.
Just because you are eating at home, doesn’t mean that you have to eat boring food. Research recipes for burgers, pizzas or whatever else they would like and how they can be made at home.
Take them shopping for healthy snacks and keep your fridge and kitchen stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed food that has too much sodium or sugar in it. Teach them to read ingredient labels when they buy.
Encourage them to cook
Getting your children involved in the kitchen is a great way to teach them to eat healthy.
If you have limited time, cook in large batches
Food cooked at home on the weekend and frozen to be reheated for later in the week is still much healthier than store or restaurant bought food.
Teach your child portion control
If your child eats out regularly, teach them to control portions. Most restaurants serve huge portions that are too large for a child to consume in one sitting. Encourage them to share with their friends or even bring home a doggy bag if necessary.
Teach them to make healthier choices when eating out
A burger and fries once in a while is okay but eating fries on a daily basis is not healthy. Roasted, steamed or grilled food options are always better than deep fried ones. Teach them about a balanced meal and to ensure that they are eating all food groups equally. A meal that is full of only carbs and fats is not a balanced meal. While encouraging healthy meals, allow for an occasional cheat meal. Children mustn’t feel deprived. It will only add to their craving.
Encourage family mealtimes
Make sure you eat one meal together as a family on a daily basis. It offers you an opportunity to have conversations and catch up on their lives. It also allows you to ‘teach by example’ as you model healthy eating habits.
As our lives get more hectic on a daily basis and we understandably reach for the more convenient options, we must take a moment to stop and think about the long term effects of our choices. So, this weekend, take a moment. Evaluate your family’s food choices and see how you can make small changes in your existing lifestyle towards a healthier future for your whole family.