MEALBOX IDEAS TO ENSURE A HEALTHY DIET
Hacks to keep meals healthy and fresh
While it’s always a struggle when it comes to ensuring lunchbox ideas are fresh, as well as interesting, we have a few tricks to ensure you’re eating healthy this season.
Say yes to whole fruit and no to cut fruit:
At times, schools urge parents to provide a fruit and even salads in their child’s lunch box, taking a well-balanced meal into consideration. However, what we don’t realise is that the nutrients in these fruit and veggies, particularly if they’re cut up, get oxidised if stored for a longer time. Apart from the deterioration of its nutritional content, these cut fruit and veggies tend to attract infectious germs. Too much moisture and humidity in the air, particularly during the monsoons, can cause food to spoil quickly. Prevent packing raw or semi-cooked food, to keep infections at bay. It’s wise to provide uncut fruit like apples, bananas, peachs, pears, plums,
jamuns and cherries, which are packed with various disease-fighting antioxidants, and help boost your child’s immunity. Soak these fruit in a salt water solution or white vinegar water solution for five minutes and wash off with cold water. This will remove dirt, germs, and pesticide residue, if any. Avoid watermelons during this season, and avoid non-seasonal fruit as they tend to get infested with worms.
Say yes to stir fried vegetables and no to sandwiches:
Stir frying is quick and easy especially if you’re dealing with your morning chores and getting a head start to your day. Moreover, a quick stir fry is a sure shot way to preserve the nutrients that tend to diminish with routine cooking. This is because stir-fried vegetables maintain their colour, texture and flavour. Long cooking times or over-cooking comprimises the nutritional value of food. Hence, this quick-fix method can actually serve to be beneficial to your child’s overall health. However, cutting vegetables in mediumsized diamonds or squares can help retain nurtition better. Larger surfaces means greater loss. Moreover, avoid using tomatoes in your dishes so the preparation remains fresh for a longer duration. Use sesame oil or olive oil, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Sauté lightly and top with roasted sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds or pumpkin seeds. Use a variety of spices like ajwain, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, etc., as these are good sources of minerals like iron, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, and zinc;. Moreover, they also aid digestion. You can also roll them into in parathas, top these on whole wheat pizza dough or toss it with whole wheat pasta. These can be a healthier alternative to sandwiches, particuarly those which have raw veggies like cucumber or tomatoes, or even paneer, mayonnaise, etc. Ingredients like these tend to retain moisture and make for ideal breeding grounds for microbes during this season.
Say yes to sprout pancakes or cutlets and no to sprout salad:
Monsoon is the time when parents are most worried about their children falling sick, as the season brings with it cold, fever and gastroenteritis along with low immunity levels. Raw sprouts can lead to food-borne illnesses. Sprouts salad with raw onions and tomatoes, can be replaced
with other food preparations which will remain fresh. Steam the sprouts, grind them and incorporate them with a variety of whole grains and millets like ragi, quinoa, oats, barley, or brown rice, to prepare pancakes which will last longer. These can also be combined with vegetables and shallow fried to prepare cutlets. The presence of dietary fibre in these preparations will help prevent constipation and the presence of minerals like calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, and magnesium will help the immune system function at its best.
Say yes to air fried, baked or steamed dry snacks and no to fried snacks:
Humidity slows down the body’s digestive ability, making the digestive system vulnerable to infections. Fried snacks like batata wada, medu wada, bread rolls, pooris, etc., can cause bloating and gastrointestinal disturbances. It’s best to avoid packing oily and fried foods. Moreover, extremely high temperatures used in the deep frying method causes the production of trans fats which can take a toll on your child’s overall health. Instead, go for roasted, baked, air fried and steamed snacks like roasted makhana and corn, baked or roasted potatoes, steamed muthias, baked khakras etc. Restrict the use of maida, sooji and besan; rather incorporate fiber-rich grains, pulses and vegetables. Use your creativity to develop new recipes which your child will relish. These should be nutritious, flavourful and should remain fresh, preventing the chances of food poisoning during this season.
Say yes to seasonal vegetables and no to leafy vegetables:
During this season, there is an increased risk of dirt and worms remaining on leafy vegetables, despite being thoroughly washed. This can lead to stomach infections. Moreover, green leafy vegetables are usually grown in swamps and the lack of sunlight during the monsoons causes the growth of bacteria on them. Though extremely nutritious, it is best to avoid vegetable like spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and other leafy vegetables this season. Instead, cook and pack healthy vegetables like lauki or doodhi, turai, tinda, parwal or potol, kantola or bhat karela, corn, beetroot, mooli, kaddu or bhopla that can be prepared in a variety of interesting ways. These vegetables are rich in dietary fibre, contain anti-inflammatory compounds, enhance immunity and maintain a healthy gut. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are less prone to bacterial infestation and can be packed in tiffin boxes during the monsoons.