Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Encouraging healthy food habits in children

‘‘My Sweetu eats only burgers and pizzas and keeps sipping cola! Such first world choices!’’
“My Princess eats everything like French fries, aloo subji and also aloo palak! Imagine! Such healthy choices no!”
“My Sonny boy eats green beans but only after having his share of chocolate cereal and juice! Am very particular about his diet you see!”
I can really go on! These are not concoctions from my imagination, but actual quotes by parents I know! I shudder each time I hear such phrases, all full of praise for the child! I had cousins who ate only potatoes for lunch dinner each day just because that is the only ‘subji’ they liked!
After having baby A I realized what important responsibility has been entrusted up on us new parents, of bringing up a child! Nurturing and nourishing their brains, bodies and souls!

Am sharing a couple of delightful yet effective measures for ensuring that your child eats the right stuff and the healthiest stuff!
1.       Read all labels: In today’s hectic times, convenience foods are really dominating all grocery lists, world over. It’s very tempting for young mothers to grab ready to eat food packets and feed their families in a jiffy. What we need to be aware of is the quality of ingredients that go in to making these food products. A simple rule of the thumb is if you begin reading the ingredient list and it exceeds more than 5 chemical sounding names of items you do not know, well shun it! There is a chemical storm brewing in it! Beware especially of the healthy sounding choices like fully natural, fat free, for fit and healthy etc More often than not these are misguiding appendages used to attract customers. A good example would be fruit juices. If a pomegranate juice packet’s ingredient list begins with apple juice, filtered water, corn syrup, sugar…well you know well for yourself that ITS NOT what you seek! Simple!
2.       Buy smart to eat smart: We often hear parents complaining that the child eats only a particular brand of junk food, or particular type of unhealthy food, pray! May I ask who fed this to the child for the first time! I know parents who routinely feed their kids with junk food and then rue the fact that they cannot get them to eat home cooked meals! Make grocery lists beforehand, now a days the grocery apps make life so simple! Add a variety of vegetables and fruits to the list, cut down on processed foods and make healthier choices as a family.
Once you have cleared your own home of all tempting junk, the children are obviously less tempted to make unhealthy choices.
3.       Homemade treats: Internet is such a boon for all time pressed parents, with a little planning and creativity, homemade treats can be prepared and stored in advance. Be it whole wheat cookies, chocolates, fruit yogurts, preserves! Even homemade ice cream tubs and kale chips will ensure smart and healthy snacking options for your family. If pressed for time, chop a few cucumbers and carrots and boil a few corn cobs, voila snack is ready!
4.       Kiddie chefs: Involve the children, even toddlers in the whole process of cooking, be it just playing with some dough, to actually peeling veggies, to cutting out cookies, once children witness the fun in cooking, they will look forward to eating their own creation! Also across genders it is such a wonderful life-skill that children learn, to feed themselves and make healthier choices.
5.       Goodie bowl: In all rush, how to ensure complete nourishment for the children each and every day? A simple idea is to fill out bowls for each child at home, even adults can have their own bowls. Small bowls filled with 2 almonds, 2 cashew nuts, few raisins, jaggery, dried fig and a walnut. You can soak all the dried fruits overnight and keep the lump of jaggery in another plate separately. Throughout the day, the children can keep munching on these goodies as and when they wish to! The only rule is to finish the goodie bowl before dinner. You can create variations by adding dates, pecans or even dried apricots. The seemingly costly food is actually cost effective, more on this in the next blog!
6.       First mover’s advantage: As parents, we have to be proactively offering healthier choices to our babies from their birth, be it breast milk, full fat ghee, lesser grains, more protein rich food, more leafy vegetables, fruits and real food! After all we are what we eat, so offer real food to your child, and nurture a real human being!
There are various diets and health trends which we adults tend to ape at various times in our lives. But if we create a healthy frame-work of food and exercise for our family, especially young ones, we are helping them immensely for their entire life. Avoid over processed foods, high sugar content and complex chemical laden products. We may leave a huge inheritance for the child, but bestowing a child with positive body image, healthy food choices and balanced body n mind, will indeed be the greatest gift ever! Happy parenting!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Making a choice

After a long hiatus I have returned to the blogosphere for good! J It feels nice to be back to that happy space, it feels home!
I have been away trying to recreate a level playing field for myself, shall continue to do so, n now back to what we all do best, talking about childcare.
Soon, very soon, Baby A turns 2! And boy am I excited?? Sure as hell! I am! Beyond the mythical ‘’terrible twos’’ I am eagerly looking forward to see my baby grow!
After baby A turned 18 months old, I noticed a few significant changes in her! Her personality was slowly emerging. Each trait was showing eager signs of growing much like young saplings. I realized I have to nurture a few habits and traits and weed out a few unpleasant ones and that pretty much is like gardening. Most young parents face this time, when children become increasingly independent yet at the same time, increasing clingy to their parents. When such a time arrives, along come whining, crankiness, bouts of temper tantrums and absolute stubborn behavior! Grocery aisles become nightmares, social occasions and long flights are some terrible dream come true for most parents. The cute coy baby is now an independent person with extreme ambitions and severe limitations. Parents also take time to realize and realign themselves to this change.
When baby A showed signs of being independent, I was happy and was keen on playing along on these lines. I did a few things which am sharing here.
1.       Walk the talk baby! When your child takes her first few steps, each parent is thrilled beyond measure, always encouraging the child to walk, take a few more steps. Within a few months the child begins to walk and run, then suddenly the ever encouraging parent is tightly holding the child’s hand, least she runs away! This adult behavior is extremely confusing for children! What we need to do here is, set in a few fun rules, when you walk on black road or the road where cars run, hold momma’s hand. And in parks and gardens you can run by yourself. Same applies while teaching the child how to walk and also after the child walks independently. So there is some sensible continuation to your demands on the child. Do not worry about your child soiling her clothes, or falling down when running around in the gardens or safe areas. That is how she will learn to depend on herself, which is very vital, literally and figuratively as well.
2.       Making choices: Mothers often see smartly dressed kids and feel embarrassed about their child’s messy dress. Well, as much the baby was a cute doll to be dressed up as a child, once the child is about an age where she begins expressing her likes, dislikes and feelings, it will be very important to slowly encourage to child to decide. Yes! never underestimate a child, her decision making power and ability. It is the beginning of a lifelong task, of making choices. Tend to this sapling well, you want it to grow and blossom! Ask your toddler’s opinion about the dress she wants to wear, about the food she wants to eat and be supportive about her choices. Baby A recently wore snow boots over a full sleeved black shirt n jeans on a very warm day! Well my first reaction was protest, but I realized that she now needs to learn the consequences of the choices she makes. She must have been really hot and sweaty that day in school but now she chooses wisely and picks cute shorts and summer dresses. Now the trick here is to present the child with sensible choices. That is how easy you can make for your child, but do not dump your choices on the child after a certain age, n no its not 21! Same goes for food, if your child chooses to eat less or nothing at a particular meal time, its ok to go hungry than dissolve the meal in tears and unnecessary stress for the parent. And going hungry is not any imposed punishment for the child, it’s a choice she made. Then abide by her choice because she is learning and currently is at par with the parent in terms of knowledge about her own bodily requirements. If she senses hunger she might not express it so evidently but the parent has to be watchful about signs like crankiness, distraction etc. More about encouraging healthy food habits in future blog posts.
3.       Don’t kid the kid: Most parents have a terrible hangover from the baby years and continue to baby talk with a toddler. I personally as a qualified linguist would refrain from using baby talk even with babies, but yes by toddler-hood, I would be adamant about stopping it. The fundamental understanding is, clear and articulate language usage is the final destination we are leading our children to, then wh
y take them through the maze of inane, inappropriate sounding words which mean nothing in adult conversation? The sooner and clearer the instructions the child receives in any language, the easier it is for the child to emulate that speech and speak coherently and express her needs clearly. Always converse with a toddler as you would with an adult visitor visiting your house or office. Be courteous and extremely polite with your child, never let civilized language run aground with foul words or bad tones or diction. The child is a very powerful sponge absorbing each nuance and even each lip movement you make.

4.       All play and no work makes a dull child: Parents of young children are busy people themselves. And child rearing is an unending chore by itself. By toddler-hood, it would be only fair to create a smart lil assistant in your child. No it’s not child labor here, it’s merely involving the child, making her feel important and a part of the family. Each person has a work share in the household, so does your baby! You can let her do simple tasks like fetching a spoon for granny or helping you pick up clothes or tidy the bed. You are leading the task no doubt, most of the times you are risking a double task for yourself as well, but all that is worth it, have some patience. It sure shall be rewarded one day when those scattered Lego blocks are aimed and land in the toy box, when all dolls and cars find a home in the toy shelf. Make it sound more like a game for the child than a chore and it shall be done! This implants seeds of discipline and helpfulness along with empathy in the child. She knows if she scatters her toys all over the house that means she has more trips around the house picking them up as well. And it’s a good fun activity as well!
5.       Power of silence: Well we are not always capable of raising peaceful Zen monks in our children, but when we encourage them to talk, encourage them to shout and play, we have to encourage them to be silent and observant too! If they whine and pester you each morning, ask them to just go silent and listen to the birds singing or a car whizzing by. Teach them the power of silence. During the evening stroll, while returning home, show them the stars, the moon and point out that the birds have all fallen silent, maybe fallen asleep…These connections seem small, inconsequential, but they are far more impactful than we can imagine. The child learns to connect to her peaceful side and also appreciate subtle sounds and phenomenon.
6.       Who belongs to whom? The sense of identity grows stronger as the child grows up. If she insists that mom n dad belong to her, teach her that toys belong to her, hence she must put them in place. Also if her surroundings belong to her, she must not create a mess there. This the child may or may not follow fully but you have to sow seeds of these small habits so one day when you send out your child in the world, she will have strong, well rooted habits of self-dependence, cleanliness, helpfulness.

Aren’t my kids too small for all this? Well no, they are in fact eager recipients and jinns awaiting tasks. So my dear Alladins, erm…mommies n daddies, explore the power of choices, give some amazing choices to your child, she will soon learn to not only make a choice, but also accept and live with the consequences of her choice, do not protect your child from the consequences of the choice unless it is extremely harmful or dangerous to life or limb! Because we adults operate from the focal point of caution and fear whereas children always operate from the focal point of exploration, curiosity and innocence. Nurture them to always operate from their natural focal point, one of boundless creativity and amazing potential. Trust them and respect their choices today, so that when they grow up and make choices, you are always partner in their decision, rather than another obstacle they have to overcome! Small seeds of yesterday, saplings of today will be giant sequoias of tomorrow! Happy nurturing!