Five tiffin box ideas for your child

Swati Bhushan, Chief Clinical Nutritionist, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, shares five ways to give your child a healthy and a nutritious lunch box

Lunch-Box

Many times, kids turn fussy when it comes to eating their lunch boxes. Sometimes, they come home with a half-eaten or untouched lunch box. Snacks in a lunch box should comprise of healthy, and nutritious components. However, making them compelling is the priority.

In observance of National Nutrition Week, let’s look at five super easy and healthy lunch box ideas to fill your little one’s hunger as well as make them content.

Say YES to whole fruits and NO to cut fruits:

At times, the school’s stress the parents to provide fruits and salads in tiffin boxes. However, we should understand that nutrients get oxidised if fruits and veggies are cut and stored for a longer time. Apart from deterioration of nutritional content, these also attract infectious germs. Too much moisture and humidity in the air can cause food to spoil quickly.

Prevent packing raw and semi-cooked food to keep infection at bay. It’s wise to provide whole fruits like apple, banana, peach, pear, plums, jamuns and cherries, which are packed with various disease-fighting Antioxidants and thus help in boosting your child’s immunity. Soak whole fruits in salt water solution or white vinegar water solution for five minutes and wash off with cold water thoroughly.

It will wash off the dirt, and residues of germs pesticide if any. Avoid watermelons during this season; also avoid non-seasonal fruits, as these can get infected with worms.

Say YES to stir-fried vegetables and NO to Bread Sandwiches: Stir-frying is quick and easy in morning hours; it preserves the nutrients which get lost while cooking, as these maintain their colour, texture, and flavour. Long cooking times and over-cooking food destroys its nutritional value and thus preferring this short time method can be a boon to your child’s health.

Cut vegetables in medium sized diamond shapes or squares, during monsoons, you can avoid using tomatoes, so the preparation remains fresh. 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 variety in spices like ajwain, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, among others, and oilseeds too, as these are a healthy source of minerals like iron, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, and zinc; and these also aid in digestion.

You can also stuff these stir-fried vegetables in parathas, top these on whole wheat pizza or toss with whole wheat pasta. These can be an alternative to bread sandwiches, which have raw cucumber, raw tomatoes, paneer, and mayonnaise, which gradually turn moist and can breed microbes.

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 foodborne illnesses.

You can replace sprouts salad with raw onions and tomatoes with other food preparations which will remain fresh. Steam the sprouts, grind them and incorporate with a variety of whole grains, and millets like ragi, quinoa, oats, and barley among others, or Brown Rice to prepare pancakes, which will last longer.

These can also be combined with vegetables and shallow fried to make cutlets. Presence of dietary fibre in these preparations will help prevent constipation and minerals like calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, and magnesium will help immune system function at its best.

Say YES to air fried, baked or steamed dry Snacks and Say NO to Fried Snacks: Humidity slows down the body’s digestive ability, making the digestive system vulnerable to infections. For instance, fried snacks, like potato wada, medu wada, bread rolls, and puris among others, can cause bloating and gastrointestinal disturbances; and therefore, avoid packing oily and fried food.

Moreover, extremely high temperatures used in deep frying method causes the production of trans fats (bad fats), which can take a toll on your child’s overall health. Instead, opt for roasted, baked, air fried and steamed snacks like roasted makhana and corns, baked or roasted potatoes, steamed muthias, and baked khakras.

Restrict the usage of Maida, Sooji, and Besan, instead incorporate 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: In monsoons, there is a risk of dirt and worms on Leafy Vegetables, which can lead to stomach infections. These vegetables are grown in swamps, and lack of sunlight, during monsoon, causes the growth of bacteria on them. Though extremely nutritious, it is best to avoid Spinach, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Cabbage and other leafy vegetables in this season.

Pack healthy vegetables like lauki/doodhi (bottle gourd), turai (ridge gourd), tinda (round gourd), parwal/potol (pointed gourd), kantola/bhat karela (teasel gourd), corn, beetroot, muli (radish), kaddu/bhopla (pumpkin) cooked in various 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 kid’s tiffin boxes during monsoon.

The author is a chief clinical nutritionist at Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi