Goodness of green

There isn't any food healthier that leafy green vegetables! Here's all you need to know about the benefits of greens for your child.

By Malini Gopalakrishnan

Goodness of green

Getting children to eat healthy, nutritious food is one of the greatest challenges for the modern-day parent. In a fast-paced world dominated by unhealthy eating habits, processed foods easily take precedence over good, wholesome food. So, how do you get your children to gulp down the good green stuff over chips and chocolates? We ask a few parents who’ve managed to practice this to perfection. Check out a few handy tips.

Set an example

Pallavi Kashyap, mother of a pre-schooler, says, “My husband and I are extremely health conscious. We never stock up processed or junk food. Our kitchen is always filled with fresh fruits and vegetables. Even the food we cook at home is cooked in very little oil, with mild seasoning. Since my daughter has been used to eating like this from the beginning, she is perfectly fine eating her veggies. I think children learn a lot from the way parents live and behave.”

Green tip: You can’t expect your children to eat their veggies if you don’t.

Make food fun

Rukmini Rajagopalan, a fun-loving mother of two children, believes that a little extra effort by parents or grandparents can go a long way in helping children to start enjoying their meals. “When my daughter was a little kid, my mother would sit by her side at the dining table and do a bit of storytelling. On most occasions, that story would relate to the meal my daughter was having. For example, she would say the rice is a paddy field and the vegetables are the sun trying to reach across the field, little by little. The meal would be over before you knew it!” Now, isn’t having your child eating a healthy meal faster than cooking instant noodles? Rukmini adds, “I do my bit by arranging food in a way that is interesting, like making a face or a flower, etc. It makes food fun,” adds Rukmini.

Green tip: Meal time storytelling can help overcome the early struggle.

Smack on the snacks

Growing children have quite the appetite! Instead of letting them snack on the junk, incorporate healthy foods into the mix. Sangeetha Anand, mother of a 7-year-old, who used to love feasting on junk some years ago, came up with a different strategy to keep the balance. “My daughter Vidhisha is always hungry, especially when she comes back from school. I always keep a healthy snack ready for her. It could be as simple as thin slices of carrots, (carrot-sticks as we call them), seasoned with salt and chaat masala or fresh sprouts salad with tomatoes and onions. Snacks need not be processed and packaged,” she insists. Adding to this idea is another trick from super-mom Pallavi, which deals with developing tastes early. She explains, “As soon as I started solid foods for my daughter Trisha, we had her eating vegetable and fruit mashes. I feel that giving her good healthy natural food instead of baby food really helped her develop a taste for her veggies.”

Green tip: Cultivate good eating habits early

Get the kids involved

Madhuri Mettu, whose children are now in high school says, “Right from their young days, my children used to love the idea of going to the market. I used to take both my children along to help me pick vegetables. After we got back home, we would sit and plan the meals for the week. I would let them chop beans and carrots for me, using blunt knives. They would then look forward to eating the meal they ‘helped’ me prepare.”

Green tip: Spark your child’s interest in the kitchen.

Vegetables are an essential part of the daily diet, not just for your children but for you as well! So, out with the junk and in with the fresh and nutritious! Yes, that goes for you too, parents.

Doctor’s verdict

Children of the present generation are definitely not eating healthy, As a result, we see a noticeable deficit in micronutrients. Important micronutrients like Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, magnesium, potassium, calcium etc. come largely from vegetables and fruits. Ideally, children should be eating half a plate of vegetables each day as a minimum. However, only a handful of children get that sort of nutrition. A shortage of the micronutrients is manifested in developmental disorders, attention-deficit disorders and lack of co-relation. This eventually leads to poor performance in academics. The young mind must get a sufficient amount of nutrition for healthy development. As a rule, parents should see that their children get at least one cup of vegetables a day if not more. Include leafy greens which are rich in nutrients like iron, calcium and fibre; coloured vegetables like beet root, bell peppers, tomatoes and carrots are rich in antioxidants in their diet. - Dr Sujata Stephen, Nutritionist, Care Hospital, Hyderabad.

The Green facts:

  • Green leafy vegetables are a rich source of Calcium, Beta Carotene and Vitamin C.
  • In India, nearly 30,000 children under five years of age go blind every year due to Vitamin A deficiency. Carotene in greens gets converted in the body to form Vitamin A, which prevents blindness.
  • Leafy vegetables are particularly rich in mineral nutrient and iron. Deficiency of iron leads to anaemia, a common health problem in children.
  • Greens also contain some of the B-Complex Vitamins.
  • The recommended dietary allowance of green leafy vegetables for pre-school children (4-6 yrs) and for boys and girls beyond 10 years of age is 50g/day.