Planning A Healthy Indian Lunchbox –
This week’s article is for those of you who have a tough time planning out what you need to pack for lunch for your child. We totally understand your situation and we want to help you with a few helpful tips to keep in mind so that you can easily plan and prepare a healthy lunchbox for your child.
This article will tell you how Indian cuisine and cooking has evolved over the years and what aspects have stayed constant. It will also give you an idea of how times are changing and how more of us need to become health conscious and give our children the right food.
Traditional Indian cuisine –
India is diverse in its geography and each area has its own specialty. A generalized view of the Indian diet includes rice, wheat, legumes in the form of dried beans peas, ghee, dals and pulses, and distinctive seasoning used to make masalas or curries.
The dietary fundamentals of south Indian cuisine include rice, coffee, fresh pickles, chutney, seasoned yogurt dishes (peregu chutny or pachadi), coconut milk, and fresh fruits and veggies. Northern dietary fundamentals include the use of wheat to make different varieties of breads like roti, naan, chapatti, puri, kulcha etc. With a sabji made to accompany the bread using eggs, garlic, yogurt raitas, dals, dried or pickled fruits and vegetables, and use of dry spice blends that are aromatic rather than spicy.
A discussion of Indian dietary practices is not complete without understanding a little bit about the long history of traditional medicine in India, the most important of which is ayurvedic medicine. The purpose of ayurvedic medicine is to ensure a long and active life through the use of diet and other therapies to restore and maintain balance.
There are many old and traditional dietary practices that have descended from our ancestors. In many these practices have a scientific relevance, for example to aid digestion of foods, a person should eat in a quiet atmosphere, sip warm water throughout the meal, and sit for a short while after dining. Another such example is the consumption of rice porridge and cow’s milk with almonds and saffron eaten during pregnancy is to ensure proper development of the fetus. These traditions and customs are still practiced widely in many parts of India.
The variety of food that you can find in India is unending, but there are certain Indian dishes that are found all over the country and are consumed by large number of people all across the country on a daily basis. Let’s look at some calorie, fat and protein counts for these basic Indian dishes:
- Roti: 85 calories per roti with a 6” diameter. Fat content – 0.5gms.
- Dal (urad) with tadka: 154 calories per 150gms. Fat content – 6gms
- Rajma/Chana/lobhia: 153 calories per 150gms. Fat content – 5gms
- Average mixed vegetable: 142 calories per 150gms. Fat content – 15gms (based on oil usage)
- Average chicken curry: 300 calories per 100gms. Fat content – 15 to 35gms (based on oil and types of cut – skinless, lean etc.)
- Plain dosa: 125 calories per medium dosa. Fat content – 3gms
- Idlis: 132 calories for two. Fat content: 3gms
- Curd rice: 190 calories per 100gms. Fat content: 7gms
- Coconut rice: 368 calories per 100gms. Fat content: 15gms
The Awesome Indian Diet –
As you can see, the calorie counts in most staple daily food items are suitable for a good balanced day’s food intake. With curd, lentils, chicken, fish and beans also being good protein sources with healthy fats, the typical Indian meal is low-fat and low-calorie. Each of these dishes also come from simple processed or mostly fresh produce foods. This means that they comprise of good carbs, healthy natural protein, and resistant starch (a component found to be beneficial in weight management diets).
Where the Indian diet goes wrong?
When it comes to evening snacks. Samosas, vadas, batatavadas, and other fried snacks are (a) fried in Vanaspati oil and (b) deep fried, making them extremely unhealthy for your cardiovascular health and weight management.
The Nuclear Family –
The recent trends show us an increase in the middle class section of the Indian society sticking to nuclear families. The big Indian joint family with uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents seem to be a thing of the past. According the census report of Delhi in 2011 the largest number of households (69.5%) have only one married couple which is a huge change.
Over the decade major social trends in marriage have altered the structure of families in most metro cities. Since both the parents are working these days in most of the middle class families they feel the nuclear family system works better for them.
The disruption of the joint family system however has led to the food culture to change drastically from your traditional sambar rice and aloo sabji and roti sabji to a more cosmopolitan diet.
This has in many ways affected what a child used to take for lunch 20 years ago and what a child takes for lunch now.
So for all the parents who are curious as to what to feed their child and what is the right amount of nutrition that their child should get, the remainder of this article will be able to give you a good idea on how you need to plan your child’s diet.
What is the recommended dietary supplements for my child?
A healthy lunch keeps active kids alert and focused and gives them the nutrition they need every day. So let’s look at the dietary recommendations for children given by the American heart association for children between the age of 4 and 18 based on the category of food and specific to the child’s gender.
How should I plan my child’s Lunchbox?
Healthy lunches and snacks help children concentrate, learn and play throughout the day. We know that children need to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables every day, as well as wholegrains, milk products (including cheese and yoghurt), meat and meat alternatives and water. You can include all of this in your child’s lunch box and still make it fun and interesting to eat.
Broadly there are 6 key elements that can make your kid’s lunchbox tasty, healthy and full of all the nutrients that will keep him or her active for the rest of the day.
1. Fresh fruit
2. Fresh crunchy vegetables
3. Milk, yoghurt or cheese (you can use reduced-fat options for children over the age of two years). For children who cannot tolerate milk products, offer appropriate alternatives like calcium fortified soy or rice drink, or soy yoghurt.
4. A meat or meat alternative food like some lean meat (for example, chicken strips), hard boiled eggs, hummus or peanut butter. If your school has a nut-free policy, peanut butter and other nuts should not be included in your child’s lunchbox.
5. A grain or cereal food like bread, a roll, flat bread, fruit bread or crackers (wholegrain or whole meal choices are best)
6. And last but not the least don’t forget water.
Given below are some good tips for a good lunchbox that you can keep as a barometer whenever you are flustered as to what to pack for lunch today –
A good helping of fruit and vegetables
Fresh fruit is easy to pack. You can also try a tub of canned fruit or chopped fresh strawberries, pineapple or melon. Raw vegies such as carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumber or capsicum strips are popular as a snack or in a sandwich.
Bread, rice, potatoes and pasta are good examples of starchy food. Have a variety to choose from such as wholegrain, whole meal or high fiber breads such as seeded rolls, Lebanese bread, pita, lavash, bagels; brown and white rice; or tricolour pasta.
Like tuna or salmon (fresh or canned in spring water or oils such as canola, sunflower or olive oil); boiled eggs; beans; or lean meat such as beef or chicken.
Reduced fat dairy food
Like reduced fat yoghurt, reduced fat cheese or reduced fat milk (remember to pack with a bottle of ice).
A bottle of water
To keep your child hydrated all day a bottle of water is very essential. One good tip is to freeze on hot days to keep the lunch box (and your child) nice and cool.
Look at food labels to help you choose the products that are lowest in saturated fat, total fat, sugar and salt. Avoid high fat spreads and try a little avocado, low fat mayonnaise, mustard or ricotta cheese instead.
Such as a small box or bag of dried fruit, rice cakes or unsalted and unsweetened popcorn. And remember: treats like chocolate or chips should only be included occasionally, not every day.
Awesome Vegetable smoothies your kids will love
For some more creative ideas check out this wonderful article on How to make vegetable smoothies your kids will love. It talks about the things you need to consider while making these smoothies for your kids. Here is a list of the things that are extremely critical to ensure that your kids love these vegetable smoothies
- Fun Names
- Serving size
- The right amount of fruits and veggies
- Right amount of protein
- Calorie content
Dont forget to check 3 amazing smoothie recipes at the end of the article.
Lunchbox Meal Planner –
For more help in planning your kid’s lunchbox here are really good websites that give you an insight into planning and execution of a good, tasty, nutritious and well balanced lunchbox for your child.
On this website, you will find kid friendly recipes, ideas for physical activity and practical ways to improve nutrition, as well as specific fact sheets for families and children.
The author Amy Locurto is a graphic designer and DIY lifestyle blogger from Dallas, Texas who specializes in crafts, party ideas, printable designs and recipes.
Parents magazine helps moms and dads navigate every aspect of parenthood from pregnancy through the school years. We get to the heart of the latest news and recommendations on kids’ health, safety, nutrition, behavior, and more to give parents the tools to raise healthy and happy children.
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