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Ten ways to make your kids eat more fruits & veggies

I am a mother of a four year old girl who has been a picky eater since the time she ate her first morsel of solid food. Some days were a breeze, but some were bad and most were downright miserable. Being a doctor, I know how important healthy diet and nutrition is, but children are not born with the wisdom of the benefits of healthy eating. It is a gradual learning process, for both children and parents alike. We as parents are well aware of the snowball effect a bad diet can have on our bodies and lives.

Making your child eat a healthy meal can be perplexing and frustrating for many parents. I have met many parents who are petrified at the thought of meal times. I have seen friends shedding tears and lamenting about their children’s eating habits. I was overwrought when my daughter turned picky and gave me a tough time. Children also become anxious when they see or hear that they are the cause of stress in their parent’s life.

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Being on the edge or hyper does not work with handling kids especially those who are picky with their food. First we have to understand that it is a phase that children are going through and they will eventually overcome it with time, love and support from the parents. Giving up and yielding to our children’s demands is the common path we take most times and we feel frustrated and helpless when it comes to parenting.

However, We must try not being too hard on kids and reminding ourselves to enjoy their childhood with matching playfulness and optimism. I attained nirvana when I saw my picky eater improving tremendously over time. Let’s pause and ask ourselves this question: “Is it worth the effort to cajole, negotiate and bribe our children to try to eat healthy foods (including vegetables) or should we give in to their comfort foods (e.g. Milk, formula, Junk)?”

The answer is a definite “yes”. There are a million reasons why incorporating vegetables in your little one’s diet is so important, but if you are not sure yet then below are the four most compelling reasons for you to ensure that your child eats at least 5 servings of fruits & vegetables a day:

It Aids growth
Fruits and vegetables are packed with essential vitamins and minerals, fibre, photo chemicals which are vital for our growth.

Prevents obesity
We all love the look of chubby kids, we always hear “aww, aren’t they are just adorable cotton balls”. However, this is not healthy in the long run. Incidences of obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the last 30 years. Obese youth are at a greater risk of cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. There is also an increased risk of suffering from pre-diabetes (a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk of developing of diabetes). They are prone to bone and joint problems, sleep apnoea and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem. A good intake of fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of obesity amongst children greatly.

Immunity boosters
Being absent from school is very common among children below the age of five due to recurrent illness, frequent visits to paediatricians and repeated courses of antibiotics begin to take a toll on the overall immunity of the children. Vegetables & fruits are natural immunity boosters. Children who consume 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day reduce the risk of catching infections from school.

Better digestion
One of the most difficult things as parents is to witness your kids suffering from pain and discomfort caused due to constipation. Children who are on a meat based diet with very low or no servings of fruits and vegetables are more likely to suffer from irregular bowel movement as compared to children who eat a good amount of fruits and vegetables. By increasing their intake it could reduce constipation and irregular bowel movements significantly

I hope you are convinced. If yes, then here are the ten simple ways to incorporate fruits & vegetables in your child’s diet

1. Try similar foods
Try to be slow and consistent when introducing new food in your child’s diet plan. While introducing a new fruit or vegetable, try something that tastes or looks similar to what your child likes. E.g.Sweet potato fries instead of French fries. Instead of crackers, try whole wheat or multi-grain versions Whole wheat pizzas with a variety of vegetable toppings instead of regular pizza. Do not force, terrorise or threaten children to empty their plates, this will eventually lead to eating disorders in children as they will associate meal times with negativity.

2. Eating at home helps
Planning meals ahead of time and eating more often at home helps a lot. Resorting to restaurant food and ready to eat meals is a no brainer but the serving size is typically several times more than a healthy serving at home. According to research, a restaurant meal often contains 18 percent more calories than home cooked food. Do not visit fast food joints which entice children with toys. This leads to impulse eating amongst them.

3. Take Lead
As an adult, set an example yourself for your little ones to emulate. Stop eating foods that you don’t want your kids to eat. If you are not the primary caregiver of your child, instruct and educate your nannies to serve only healthy foods to your little ones. De-clutter your kitchen of all the junk food, discard the energy drinks from the fridge, and get rid of all the mouth-watering bakery items, chocolates and crisps from the cupboards. Simply refuse to visit your favourite bakeries and dessert joints. Fostering healthy eating habits from early childhood is gratifying. However, there is no harm in treating your child once in a week with a small portion of their favourite foods.

4. Variety is the spice of life
Kids get weary and bored of eating the same food again and again. Introduce a “Rainbow Variety” of fruits and vegetables and ensure you don’t repeat the same food in two consecutive meals. Making a schedule and charting out the meal plan in advance is essential so that we don’t resort to unplanned treats. Planning the previous night for the next day is elementary in reducing the stress in the kitchen. Make a repertory of foods that the child likes and repeating it every week is worthwhile.

5. Sneak in vegetables in their regular diets
Incorporate vegetable purees to pasta sauces, add vegetables to their pilaf’s, dish out stuffed parathas, include a variety of vegetables like carrots, sweet potato, beet root and fruits like strawberry, banana etc. in their cakes and muffins.

6. Introduce rewards
Record every successful intake of vegetables in a reward chart and encourage every small victory with a prize (e.g stickers, bubble mixtures, finger paints, water colours, a new book or toy).

7. Role Play
Young kids love “pretend play”. Why not encourage them to become chefs for some time, run restaurants, cafe and supermarkets where they can serve healthy snacks.

8. Increase engagement & participation
In a safe environment, involve older children while cooking meals. Involve younger children making shopping lists and lead in grocery shopping. In this way you are helping them to learn to differentiate between good produce and unhealthy stuff. Stay away from the aisles selling candies, cakes, crisps, juices etc. Growing herbs & vegetables in your backyard and involving your child in gardening it can go a long way in encouraging your child to eat healthy produce.

9. Creative presentation leading to fun mealtimes
Making meal times a fun filled activity goes a long way in promoting healthy eating. Replicate the presentation of restaurant food at home. Children are enticed by creative plating of food. Creating their favourite characters like teddy’s, dinosaurs, cars with fruits and vegetables is time consuming, but worth the effort. Arrange play dates and picnics with other parents and provide healthy menus with vegetables as salads and soups.

10. Creative storytelling
“Talk” to your children about vegetables. Discuss its benefits. Girls from a very tender age become aware of their looks and admire all forms of beauty. Their world revolves around fairies, princesses & magic. Why not tell them an interesting story that eating vegetables will make them healthy and beautiful (e.g. Carrots are good for vision, spinach and green leafy vegetables for long hair etc.) Boys are packed with energy and talk to them about their superheroes eating healthy vegetables to stay strong. Why not create your own character for your kids? A “MangoMan” or “Princess of Brocolli” is not a bad thing if it gets your kids to think of veggies in a positive way.

There are no pre-set rules for healthy parenting. It is a journey which we all need to undertake. There will be days filled with joy and some with difficulties. Let’s try to give the best we can to our children.

All the best!

Best Breakfast for Weight Loss and Long Term Health

The breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is the first dose of nourishment that the body gets after a long wait (8-12 hrs) and it provides us with energy to meet the challenges of the day. Given the long wait, breakfast is the perfect meal where we can make it as nutritious as possible. The best breakfast is the one which provides you with an awesome dose of both macro (carbs, protein, fibre, fat) and micro nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc). It also should enable fast natural weight loss by keeping you feel fuller for a longer time and stop you from craving for more until before lunch.

So with this in mind, I explored and experimented with different breakfast options recommended by many but could not find something where I can say “Yeah! that’s an awesome breakfast”. So I started going through lots of materials to discover the best breakfast for weight loss in the world. It took many months but in the end I was able to create one and I am very excited to share it with you. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Best Breakfast for Weight Loss

The Criteria for The Best Breakfast for Weight loss

Given the challenges of the modern world, I identified 15 different criteria a breakfast must satisfy for it to be the best. The best breakfast should:

  1. Provide us with good amount of energy
  2. Provide us with good dose of protein, fibre and good fat
  3. Provide a good dose of micro nutrients (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants)
  4. Enable natural weight loss
  5. Be easy to prepare
  6. Be tasty to everyone (including kids)
  7. Easy to digest with little effort
  8. Allow using ingredients creatively
  9. Stop us from craving for junk foods (e.g. chocolates)
  10. Be free from artificial sugar
  11. Be free from processed foods
  12. Be flexible to vary its ingredients
  13. Be gluten-free or really low gluten
  14. Enable us meeting our daily target of fruits and vegetables
  15. Be vegan (so that everyone can eat)

These huge list of requirements ruled out many of the breakfasts we eat every day like cereals (main reason – high on artificial sugar) and breads (main reason – gluten content). Out of over 50 breakfasts I tried and read about only one met the criteria. What it might be? I hope you are curiously wondering. let’s take a look.

So what are the ingredients of the Best Breakfast?

Below is the list of ingredients which will be used in our best breakfast. As I have come up with the recipe, I have named it Choco Fruity Porridge. However, the don’t get mislead by the name, there is much more to it.

Oat Bran is the best grain among all the grains and hence it makes sense to use it in the best breakfast and we are doing so. Alternatives: Rolled oats or cereal flakes which are low on sugar.

Non Dairy Milk like Almond or Soy Milk. Alternatives: Water, Dairy milk. Use of water will reduce the taste slightly but it is still a good alternative. Dairy milk is not the best or recommended option. However, you can use it if you prefer it badly.

High fibre and low calorie fruits like Apple, Kiwi, Pear, Blueberries. You can choose any combination of fruits as you like but keep an eye on each of their calories because we don’t want to eat too much in one go. Any fruit with less than 100 calories per 100 grams is a good option. This rules out fruits like banana and avocado (these are great fruits and you can still use them once in a while).

High Fibre Vegetables with a sweet taste like Sweet Potato, Carrot, Frozen Peas, Frozen non-GMO Corn. Many people get turned off by use of vegetables in a breakfast meal which includes fruits as well. However, as we will be blending the sweetish vegetables with fruits to make a fine paste, this option is not as radical as it sounds. This concept of mixing vegetables with fruits is not new – lot of retailers are bringing out smoothies with such combinations all around the world. More about benefits of this later on.

Nuts almond/cashew/pistachio pieces and flaxseed powder. Flaxseed must be a critical ingredient as it is the best seed out there. You can also use other nuts and seeds as you prefer. I have taken almonds as an example here.

Cocoa Powder – This probably is the magic ingredient of this breakfast. It is not only the most nutrition rich food for fibre and protein, it also provide the chocolate flavour needed to attract kids. As this is the only ingredient which makes the dark chocolate healthy adding this to your breakfast removes the need for you to buy a (dark) chocolate ever again. Yay! Happy Teeth!

Here is a guide for ingredients and its quantities

Ingredients Quantity Measure
Oat Bran 40 grams ¾ of a glass
Almond Milk 200 ml 1 Glass
Apple 100 grams 1 Small Apple
Kiwi 75 grams 1 Kiwi
Blueberries 20 grams 15 blueberries
Sweet Peas 40 grams 1 Cup
Carrot 110 grams 1 Large Carrot
Flaxseed Powder 10 grams 1 Spoonful
Broken Almond 10 grams 5 Almonds
Cocoa Powder 20 grams 2 Spoonfuls

 

The Recipe of the Breakfast

OK, We now have everything we need. Let us go ahead and make the breakfast.

Step 1: Heat the milk in the microwave or on a hob for few minutes.

Step 2: Once it is sufficiently hot, pour it into a relatively big vessel (big enough to mixing all ingredients later on).

Step 3: Add the oat bran (or whichever grain flakes) into it and mix it slowly to remove all the lumps and keep it aside for 15-30 minutes. Keep it longer if you want the mix to be thicker.

Step 4:  Cut apple, carrot, kiwi into a small pieces and grind them along with heated frozen peas in to a paste in a blender. (Note: if you use normal peas you might have to boil them before blending)

Step 5: Mix the fruit veg paste, flaxseed and cocoa powder into the oat bran paste and mix well.

Step 6: Add the blueberry and broken nuts on top and your breakfast is ready. You don’t need to blend those fruits/veggies/nuts which you like more than others and want to feel them as you eat. Note: For small kids without teeth, you can add these to the blender as well.

Choco Fruity Porridge

Why is it the Best Breakfast in the world? – The Benefits

Sure, there are a lot of good ingredients going into the breakfast but we need to look more in detail to understand why it is the best. First, let us look at the breakdown of the macro nutrients along with respective glycemic load for 100 grams and also for a typical meal.

Nutrition Profile of the breakfast

Let us look at macro nutrients in each of the item added to our breakfast. For this article, I am going to take the nutritional information from commercially available products so that it is easier to relate to and buy similar products from your local market. You can click on each of the below product (name) to know the product I have used. The glycemic load information was sourced from nutritiondata.org

Macro nutrients in 100 grams
Ingredients Quantity Calories Carbs Protein Fibre Fat saturated Fat Sugar GL
Oat Bran

100

369

47

15.1

15.6

7

1.6

1

16

Almond Milk

100 (ml)

24

3

0.5

0.2

1.1

0

3

0

Frozen Peas

100

68

7.5

4.9

6

0.7

0.1

4.9

5

Carrots

100

41

10

1

3

0

0.1

5

3

Apple

100

54

11.8

0.4

1.8

0.1

0

11.8

3

Kiwi

100

55

10.6

1.1

1.9

0.5

0.2

10.3

4

Blueberries

100

68

14.5

0.7

2.4

0.3

0.1

10

4

Flaxseed Powder

100

559

5.6

19.6

18.1

47

6.1

2.8

0

Almonds

100

592

9.5

21.2

12.2

49.4

3.7

3.9

4

Cocoa Powder

100

415

14

23

33

21

15

2

5

Source: Products available on Tesco UK website. Click on each name to know product details.

However, we will not be having 100 grams of each and hence need to look into how much each of these contribute in a typical breakfast.

Macro nutrients in a Medium-Large Adult Meal
Ingredients Quantity Calories Carbs Protein Fibre Fat Saturted Fat Sugar
Oat Bran 40.00 60.00 18.80 6.04 6.24 2.80 0.64 0.40
Almond Milk 200.00 48.00 6.00 1.00 0.40 2.20 0.00 6.00
Frozen Peas 40.00 27.20 3.00 1.96 2.40 0.28 0.04 1.96
Carrots 110.00 45.10 11.00 1.10 3.30 0.00 0.11 5.50
Apple 100.00 54.00 11.80 0.40 1.80 0.10 0.00 11.80
Kiwi 75.00 41.25 7.95 0.83 1.43 0.38 0.15 7.73
Blueberries 20.00 13.60 2.90 0.14 0.48 0.06 0.02 2.00
FlaxSeed Powder 10.00 55.90 0.56 1.96 1.81 4.70 0.61 0.28
Almonds 10.00 59.20 0.95 2.12 1.22 4.94 0.37 0.39
Cocoa Powder 20.00 83.00 2.80 4.60 6.60 4.20 3.00 0.40
Total 435.00 546.45 66.71 22.27 26.90 24.60 5.31 36.85
for 100 grams 100.00 125.62 15.34 5.12 6.18 5.65 1.22 8.47

Source: Products available on Tesco UK website. Click on each name to know product details in the above table.

Breakfast-macronutrition-profileThe last two rows of the 2nd table table shows the awesome nutrition profile of this breakfast. 435 grams of food fetch you around 66 grams of carbohydrates of which 37 grams are natural sugar (not artificial sugar which makes a huge difference). Importantly it provides 22 grams of protein and 26 grams of fibre which is really awesome coming from a single meal. It also provide decent dose of good fat along with a small portion of saturated fat. 435 grams might sound bit large for a breakfast but as most fruits and vegetables are soft and tender we can eat more of them. You can always have lesser quantities of these if you prefer.

So how does this breakfast help you to achieve quick natural weight loss and long term health? Well, most breakfasts we commonly eat today is predominantly grain based and hence have high calorie to weight ratio (around 250-350 calories for every 100 grams assuming other ingredients bring down calorie to weight ratio) where as with this breakfast it comes to 126 calories per 100 grams. This is mainly achieved by making vegetables and fruits take up bigger portion of the meal (e.g. adding 100 grams of carrots increases the total calories of the meal by mere 42 calories which is awesome). So you can consume more of this breakfast and still not have to worry about over eating. As weight loss is all about calories in minus calories out, this will indeed greatly help in reducing your weight. More details in the following section..

Breakfast-macronutrition-profile-fruits-and-vegThe other problem with grain based breakfasts are that they lack in variety of micro-nutrients like (vitamins and minerals) due to lower portion of fruits and vegetables in them. So adding a good variety of fruits and vegetables provides you with a good dose of different micro nutrients essential for keeping away deadly lifestyle diseases like cancer.  Don’t forget that we need around 9 to 10 different varieties of vegetables and fruits (more vegetables than fruits) to be eaten everyday to achieve long term health and this breakfast certainly help us with a huge head start (nearly meets 50% of our target with just one meal). We however need to ensure that we use different fruits and vegetables everyday to consistently meet this goal. With normal grain based breakfast we struggle to get more than 3 variety of vegetables or fruits and hence there is a good chance that we fail to meet the fruits and veggies target for the day.

 

Breakfast-macronutrition-profile-carbsTo get a better sense of its goodness let us take a re-look at the nutrition for 100 grams of the same food (refer to the last line of the table). You can see that it only accounts for 126 calories per 100 grams with just over 15 grams of carbohydrates of which over 8 grams is natural sugar. So it has carbohydrates which provide instant energy (sugar) and also the rest which takes longer to digest (based on the low glycemic load of all foods).
Breakfast-macronutrition-profile-fat

It provides over 5 grams of protein and around 6 grams of fibre for every 100 grams of the breakfast which is really good. As most of the 5 grams of fat it provides comes from nuts and seeds, most of it is good fat (and has only 1.22 grams of saturated fat). Obviously, there is none of really bad trans fat in it. In short this breakfast is low in calorie but high in all the good stuffs. So while you can always have less of this breakfast, having more in quantity compared to other grain based ones will not overload your system will calories.

Finally, as most of the ingredients used are really great foods and as they are used in their raw form with little or no processing, you can get the most of its nutrition. Each food used will have its own long list of benefits and hence I don’t want to expand benefits of each of them here. However, I do want to stress a bit about cocoa powder.

Cocoa powder is the best ingredient of this breakfast not only due to awesome fibre and protein it provides but also due to its rich antioxidant content. It also removes the need for us to ever buy a (dark) chocolate again and keep our teeth safe and healthy.

It is a super awesome powder and I highly recommend using it. The only problem with the powder is that it is difficult to consume on its own as it has slightly bitter taste. However, given that this breakfast is already loaded with natural sugar you can make use of the opportunity to get some cocoa into the body. It is one of the best antioxidants out there anyway. It obviously have an overpowering chocolaty flavour and hence kids will surely love it (this has been the breakfast me and my 3 year old son have been eating almost everyday for past 4 months and we both just loves it). This also means that there is no justification for you to enter the chocolate section of any shop again. All chocolates including the dark variety is bad for your teeth so why take the risk when you are getting all the benefits of a dark chocolate with this breakfast anyway?

Creative Variations Options

As mentioned before, the recipe above is one way of preparing this recipe. However you can do it many ways and you can choose the one you like. Let me explore few of the options here.

What Fruits and Vegetables to use? – As long as the taste is within your control, you can experiment with different options. If you are going to use some really sweet fruits like apple or banana and also the cocoa powder then these are good enough to overpower any other fruits or vegetables if used in moderation. I myself have tried some bland variety of vegetables (e.g. cauliflower) in small quantities without any problems. The bottom line is as long as you have a good understanding of total calories of your breakfast, you are free to add any fruit or vegetables you like as long as taste stays good and not get too ‘veggie like’.

Crunchy Vs Soft – The above recipe results in a soft paste with crunchy feel is provided by the nuts. Why make a paste? One reason is to make preparation easier as blending saves time compared to cut each of the fruit separately. Making the food soft also means that biting of the food is not as important as otherwise. In this busy world we tend to focus less on food (and more on TV, mobile, newspaper) and tend to bite less. This poor habit will put extra strain on the digestive system and could result in partial indigestion. What is the use of having a nutritious breakfast which you cannot digest fully? A soft food also helps kids of all ages as well. You can always choose to cut those fruits/vegetables which you love and add them separately for you to get a feel of them every time you have it in your mouth. I love to add roasted peanuts, cut kiwi and blueberries for example.

Final Words

I believe this breakfast easily achieves all the criteria that I set for a breakfast to be the best. While I have not taken effort to justify it here, I hope this long article addresses each point directly or indirectly. However, if you feel it fails in any of the criteria or has important shortcomings then do comment below or write to us. While I have found it hard to find another contender for the best breakfast crown you know something that might be worthy of discussion. If yes, please comment below. Finally, I highly appreciate if you can tell us what you felt about this breakfast? did you like it? will you try it or change something about it before trying it? If you did try then let us know your feedback.

Thanks a ton for your time and I wish you have an awesome breakfast from now on!