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Have To Give In To Packaged Snacks For The Kids? It's Not The End Of The World

Just read labels right.

17/01/2017 1:26 PM IST | Updated 18/01/2017 2:32 PM IST
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An honest and guilty confession: we try, but we are both not the supermoms who are ready with a healthy homemade snack for our kids as they skip into the house from school. But we do have resolute no-go areas—such as excessively sugary drinks and preservative-filled artificial snacks. We did find our nutrition ninja fighting skills severely tested around the time both our children were turning three years old. This is because they learnt to question everything we told them. And thus we have also learnt with time to show some flexibility (Meghana's mother would call it laziness!) on refined flours and reasonable amounts of sugar these days.

An aloo tikki cooked in partially hydrogenated oil is a worse tradeoff for our kids than a bowl of extruded multigrain snacks...

Every parent wants the very best in life for their child. Food is at the heart of this daily endeavour. But sometimes the best is not available, or too expensive, or takes too long to cook. We live in an extremely busy world where time is at a premium for most of us. Unconsciously, the arbitrage we often find ourselves making is to spend an hour reading or running around with our kids, whilst sharing a store-bought oat bar with them, instead of a more elaborate home-made evening snack.

In doing so, we often go head to head with our parents' ingrained belief system that home food is always better than packaged food. As young mothers fighting the perennial battle of the bulge, we have realised (some would say far too belatedly!) than a paneer pakora or aloo tikki cooked in partially hydrogenated oil is a worse tradeoff for our kids (and our body fat percentage) than a bowl of extruded multigrain snacks, especially if they are baked and not oversalted. Needless to say, if you can skip both and just eat a fruit for snack-time, it is even better.

Being a parent has made us think harder about food choices for our entire household. It has been a learning process, and one that has changed the direction of our own eating habits for the better. So here is a small mental checklist of ingredients we look for and those that we avoid. I hope it's handy when you are at the grocery store next time!

What is good to have?

  • Whole grains or wholegrain flours.
  • Sugars from natural sources (jaggery, honey), natural brown sugar, natural sugars like Stevia and Xylitol, natural fruit sugars (apple puree, raisin juice).
  • Real fruits and vegetables.
  • Good fats like butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil.

What to avoid?

  • Refined over-processed flours.
  • Refined white sugar, aspartame and synthetic "sugar free" options.
  • Artificial colourings and flavourings.
  • Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
  • Additives and preservatives (if you don't understand what the label says, Google it!).

Do schedule in that extra 10 minutes into your grocery shopping time to read the labels and figure out which products are worth putting in your shopping cart. We spend hours researching the brand and features of our technology gadgets and automobiles, but an inadequate amount of time on what is actually going into our tummies. Happy shopping and happy healthy eating.

Snack idea: Fruit popsicles

These make for great summer "anytime" treats or an after-dinner sweet for those trying to cut sugar from their diet.Below are a few variations that are always found in our freezer:

  1. Fresh juice popsicles: All juices frozen solid into an ice cream mould.
  • The pink ones: 100% watermelon or 100% pomegranate juice.
  • The citrus ones: 100% orange or 100% mosambi juice.
  1. Fruit yogurt popsicles: Banana, mango or strawberry blended together with yogurt and frozen in an ice-cream mould until solid.
  2. Pretty fruit popsicles: Put in berries, pieces of peaches, kiwis and other fruit. Pour 100% white grape juice to cover all the fruit and freeze in an ice-cream mould until solid.

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