Most children tend to have a short attention span and one of the greatest challenges is to keep them alert, active and attentive in class.
Teachers know from experience that one of the ways to keep them energetic all day is by getting them to eat nutritious and wholesome food.
However, the task is a delicate one. Get the children to eat well and you will have half the children trying hard to keep their eyes open in the post lunch session. Get them to eat a little less and you will have them looking restless and impatient to go home. The trick is to get them to eat nutritious food in right quantities so that they are energetic but not lethargic.
This seemingly mundane everyday job is very important for children’s development. Eat right is a concept that advocates right eating habits in children and is attracting a lot of attention, in the developed nations. Schools in the West have been running Eat right campaigns with considerable success for some time now.
In the West, managing children’s diet is often a part of a school’s many responsibilities. But in India, by and large, the norm is for parents to pack school lunch. That being the case, how can we ensure our children eat a healthful, well-balanced diet? Let us find out:
- First rule of the thumb is, junk food is not an option: Many schools have come down heavily on junk food and rightly so. Junk food is rich in calories but are devoid of any nutritional value and is not acceptable as the main item of school lunchboxes. It is extremely harmful for the children’s growth - both mental and physical. Think of the preservatives, additives and artificial colours in the junk food and you get the picture.
- So what constitutes a well-balanced diet? According to Wikipedia “A healthy diet provides the body with essential nutrition: fluid, adequate essential amino acids from protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and adequate calories. A healthy diet supports energy needs and provides for human nutrition without exposure to toxicity or excessive weight gain from consuming excessive amounts.” A great definition which gives us a good idea about what should be a part of our child’s lunchbox.
- Packing the lunch box: Let us look at some of the essential nutrients that should be a part of your child’s lunch box and their source.
- Amino acids: Nuts like almonds, peanut butter, cheese, soybeans.
- Essential fatty acids: Walnut, leafy vegetables, fish, olive oil
- Vitamins: Milk, butter, eggs, chicken
- Minerals: Our body needs Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Sodium and Potassium. Some of the sources are : tofu, apricots, yoghurt, bananas, orange juice.
- Fresh fruits: Always include fresh fruit but make sure they are free of traces of pesticide by washing them thoroughly.
- Water: Boiled and cooled water should always be a part of the lunchbox and children should be encouraged to drink water regularly.
The ingredients listed above are the essential dietary elements around which you can improvise using your knowledge of your child's likes and dislikes and also your culinary skills.
Disclaimer: This write-up is to only serve as a general guide. Consult your doctor or dietician for expert advice.