Tips for Healthy Meal Planning for Kids in the Times of Pandemic

A nutritious diet for kids is very important as most of the physical and mental development takes place at this age.

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Creating a menu, planning the shopping and batch cooking will provide nutritious meals especially for children.
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The pandemic has changed the way we live, work and study. With online schools and work from home, it has been quite a feat to arrange and plan things at home, the hub for all activities.

Apart from sharing laptops, managing Internet connectivity and creating spaces to work and study, there has been a sea change in the way we cook and eat.

The option of ordering food from outside has vanished, choices restricted and we are forced to manage homes and kitchens without helpers.

Parents are finding it very difficult to adjust to everyone’s schedule at home with no timetable and help. Many are juggling office and home responsibilities which is quite stressful.

Therefore, we need simple yet practical solutions to help us sail through these times. Creating a menu, planning the shopping and batch cooking will provide nutritious meals especially for children.

Importance of Healthy Diet for Kids

Tips for Healthy Meal Planning for Kids in the Times of Pandemic
(Photo: istock)
“A nutritious diet for kids is very important as most of the physical and mental development takes place at this age and becomes crucial when kids are homebound with less physical activities”
Avni Kaul, Nutritionist, Wellness Coach and Dietician

Kids need a healthy breakfast to start their day. As school is happening online proper mealtimes aren’t followed. However, the circadian rhythm needs to be maintained for good health. It emphasises that what we eat and when we eat is equally important. Kids may not understand this but they need to educated to comprehend the perils of not following it.
"Avoid excessively refined carbohydrate foods like kulcha , bhatura , pizzas, pasta as these boost up the energy levels which cannot be burned off without much activity", advises Avni. Include complex carbohydrates and good quality protein like egg, chicken fish milk and dals in smaller portions to make it easily digestible. Serve a diet rich in calcium and iron to meet the growing body’s need. Balance the food your kids eat with moderate physical activity while at home.

Breakfast

This is the first meal of the day. Skipping breakfast can have an adverse effect on both general energy levels and cognition of school children
“A good breakfast must provide 1/3rd of the total daily energy requirement”, explains Avni. Poha, vegetable upma, wheat bread, steel-cut oats, whole wheat paratha, paneer sandwich, a glass of milk can be included. Fruits like papaya, berries and guavas are also good.

Recipe: Beans on Toast

Beans on toast
Beans on toast
(Photo: iStock)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rajma boiled and drained (save the water)

  • ½ tsp carrom seeds

  • 1 onion finely chopped

  • 1 tbsp chilli sauce

  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup

  • ½ cup chopped coriander leaves

  • Salt to taste

  • 2 tsp oil

  • Bread slices as required

  • Butter for toast

Method

Heat oil. Add carrom seeds. Add chopped onions. Cook until onions are translucent. Add salt and the two sauces. Add water as required. Cook to the required consistency. Remove from heat. Garnish with coriander leaves. Toast the bread slices with butter. Serve hot.

Lunch

Simplify meals without compromising health. Try combination of foods. Most of our traditional recipes are balanced and provide essential nutrients. Idly/dosa with chutney and sambar, paneer/egg bhurji/palak paneer and roti, rice with rajma/veggie dal, veggie besan chillas/ stuffed parathas/vegetable khichadi with raita.

Try these rolls. You can serve this with a potato curry, an easy version of kachori with aloo sabzi.

Recipe: Channa Masala Roll

Tips for Healthy Meal Planning for Kids in the Times of Pandemic
(Photo: iStock)

The Filling

  • 2 cups coarsely ground boiled black gram

  • 2 tsp of cumin seeds

  • 1 tsp coarse powder each of fennel and coriander seeds

  • 1 tsp each of turmeric, chilli powder, anardana powder

  • 2 tsp of chickpea flour(besan)

  • Salt to taste

  • 3 tbsp of oil

For the roll

  • 5 rotis

  • Sweet tamarind chutney

  • Green chutney

  • Onion rings and tomato slices

Method

Heat oil 2 tbsp oil. Add cumin seeds and let them splutter. Then add the black gram. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients accept chickpea flour. Cook until oil starts separating. Add the chickpea flour and cook for 5 minutes until it is dry. Remove from heat.

Heat a tawa and apply some oil. Place a roti on it. Apply any chutney. Place the filling in the centre and fold into a roll. Toast the roll by adding some oil. Serve hot with onion and tomato.

Evening Snacks

A healthy evening snack ensures good sleep. Therefore, while planning a snack include foods that are rich in calcium, protein and iron. Here is a list.

  • Fruit/boiled chana/sprouts chat can be a good option for a mid-day snack or evening snack. Adding lemon juice enhances the absorption of iron.

  • Bhel puri with boiled sprouts, corn and potatoes, finely chopped tomatoes, onions and garnished with green chutney/tamarind chutney.

  • Sattu, ladoos, peanut chikkis, baked mathris/crackers topped with chutney and masala corn/peas

  • Crushed mathris(baked) or crackers topped with yoghurt, green and tamarind chutney could be a non-fried version of papdi chat

  • Hummus/ hung curd dip with cucumber or carrots

  • Beans on toast with boiled rajma/corn

  • Buttermilk, lassi, milkshakes, sattu sherbet

  • Dry fruits, sesame, melon and flaxseeds

  • Roasted chana, makhana, peanuts

  • Fresh seasonal vegetable burgers made at home

Dinner

Keep dinner light and nutritious. Khichadi, mix veg pulao vegetable daliya, with raita, kadhi or soup, dal dhokli could be some options that do not take much time to cook and experimenting with ingredients to maintain a variety. One pot meals or soup meals can be helpful.

Handy Tips

Plan a week’s menu and create a grocery list. On weekends do the pre-cooking. It saves time and reduces chances of unhealthy eating. Include plenty of whole grain products, millets, seasonal vegetables and fruits.

  • No fire breakfasts on weekdays are easy. Select from options like smoothies, whole wheat sandwiches, boiled chana chat and more.

  • Plan menu around one family favourite. If your family is fond of parathas, you can have different vegetable parathas two days in a week with raita or chutney. Similarly, you can do with different types of rice.

  • Batch cooking can help you to save time. Always cook extra dal/rajma and store the rest. Use boiled rajma to make beans on toast or a salad.

  • Chop vegetables like beans, capsicum and carrots and shell peas. Store in the fridge. You can make vegetable pulao or khichadi in no time.

  • Make chutneys, dips and sauces. Making sandwiches become easier. Your kid can also assemble.

  • Invest in a sprout maker and you can make three types of sprouts at one time.

  • Make cake pre-mixes. Baking cakes becomes easier

  • Try innovative ways of using leftovers. Make a grilled sandwich with the leftover pavbhaji. Grind leftover rotis to a fine powder, roast in ghee add jaggery, cardamom powder and make halwa. Knead leftover dal/ vegetable and wheat flour to make parathas.

Follow Regular Mealtimes

It is essential to maintain regular mealtime especially when at home. Good habits are formed in childhood. Maintaining discipline ensures a healthy life by regulating digestion, assimilation and absorption. Irregular mealtimes increase the stress on body systems that can manifest as acidity, gastritis, constipation and more.

Reducing Intake of Junk Food

Kids will give up junk food if lectured too often. In fact, they would rebel, especially teenagers. Instead of cutting all the junk food, slowly cut it down without being obvious. Find alternatives to junk food that are tastier and healthy. Children follow elders so change your eating habits if you indulge in junk food. Diet education has become crucial at this time. Kids need to understand the effects of consuming junk food on the body.

Have a diet moderate in sugars and salt. Refrain from giving large amounts of sweet desserts, soft drinks, fruit-flavoured drinks, sugar-coated candies, chips, as they have little nutritional value and can further lead to health-related issues, suggests Avani.

Prolonged exposure to screens for a long can make eyes tired and dry time increases the need for certain nutrients. "A diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, C, lutein and Zeaxanthin are beneficial for eye health.” She explains.
Fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts, peanuts and cashews contain Omega 3 and vitamin E. Fruits like oranges lime, guava and papaya are great sources of vitamin C. Leafy greens like spinach, fenugreek, mustard greens are rich in lutein and Zeaxanthin.

Are Supplements Required?

Supplements are required for kids who are weak or suffering from malnutrition. However, supplements should never be taken randomly, advises Avani. “Always take your supplement after consulting a nutritionist and as per directions on the label.” Follow the physician’s instruction while taking supplements. For better absorption take the supplements as recommended empty stomach or with food like the fat-soluble vitamins.

Taking proper care of health depends on the combination of the right diet, exercise and a good lifestyle. Being homebound in the present scenario should not be an excuse to eat excessively and be sedentary that can cause weight gain and other complications. Discipline is the key to health and good habits formed in childhood help tremendously.

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