Today we see a common problem among children of them wanting to eat chocolates and sweets most of the time or a tendency to eat large amounts of rice, bread, etc.
Childhood is a time of growth and the need for energy is great so the craving for sugar and starch is understandable. However a proper balance of nutrients namely carbohydrate and protein is very important to ensure good growth and also prevent unhealthy eating habits from setting in now. In such cases what we normally see is that the protein in the diet may be quite low and hence the children get hungry and the stomach feels empty an hour or so after a meal and they start looking out for chocolates and sweets.
I would like to explain what carbohydrate and protein foods are. Carbohydrates are sugars and starch. Sugar is found in fruits, regular sugar, jaggery, honey, etc. Starch is found in all vegetables and cereals - rice, wheat, corn, ragi, jowar, bajra, etc.Protein is found in dhals, pulses, milk, milk products, egg, fish, chicken, meats, and nuts.
The first thing to do is to check if in each meal the child is getting both a carbohydrate as well as a protein food. Only a glass of milk for breakfast is not balanced. Milk plus 2 slices of bread or cereal and milk or porridge with milk would be ideal.Similarly, milk and egg alone is not good as these are both from the protein group.Milk, egg and bread or chappathi would be ideal.Bread and jam or bread and butter alone is not good as the protein is missing. Egg or milk must go with it. Iddli and sambar or dosa are good as they are in themselves a rice and dhal combination. However, I would suggest a glass of milk even with idly and dosa for breakfast. Upma must be eaten with curds or a glass of milk.
Most often lunches and dinners are also poorly balanced. Lime rice, tamarind rice or pulav and subji or chappti and subji is again a purely carbohydrates combination. Protein is missing, dhal, pulses, non-veg, egg or curd must be given with the above.
Kindly note that raw eggs are useless in terms of protein as the protein part of the egg cannot be digested by the human body unless it is cooked. If eaten raw the protein is completely excreted from the body.
We have also seen that in many cases dhals and pulses are given very little importance. Dhals and pulses are very good sources of protein as well as vitamins and minerals.They should be a part of the daily menu in the form of dhals, sambars, and channa, rajma and moong palyas or curries. They must be eaten at least once a day and twice would be ideal.So ensure that your child is getting 2 – 3 glasses of milk a day, 2 servings of dhals / pulses, an egg a day (more egg white may be eaten but only one yolk / day).
Carbohydrate foods get digested in 1-2 hours after intake. Protein foods take 3-4 hours to be digested. If your meal contains only carbohydrate food you will feel empty and hungry after 2 hours and will be tempted to reach for sweets. If there is a protein food in every meal you will feel empty only after 4 hours and close to the next meal. This is the secret for resisting nibbling chocolates and sweets between meals. If you do feel hungry before the meal time, try to eat a fruit and wait for your meal.
Reduce the inflow of chocolates and sweets in to the house and teach the child to enjoy the fruits. Veggies are a must and a fresh salad should be included at least once a day. Try the above and keep the bad habits at bay!!