Last week I attended a seminar in Mumbai organized by Sneha, a Mumbai based NGO that focuses on Nutrition, Education and Health activities for mothers and children.
Originally begun by Dr. Armida Fernandez (former Dean of Lokmanya Tilak Hospital and Head of Neonatology in the same institution) it is to educate young teenage mothers, in the neighbouring slums of Dharavi, about the importance of hygiene and nutrition to maintain good maternal health. The organisation today has expanded its scope to address several other areas with the aim of creating a healthier population.
“Well, that doesn’t apply to me,” I thought smugly as I listened to all the speakers, having gone through motherhood all those years ago. With my own children grown up, I was convinced that I’d done all right and I was quite sure that every educated mother would be doing the right thing too.
But then, when I noticed the advertisements of all kinds of food – easy to stuff a hungry tummy like 2 minute noodles made up of wheat and packaged soups endorsed by film stars, I realised that eating right is difficult in the face of such aggressive marketing. After all when you’re home, tired after a hard day at work, isn’t it easier to stir up a 2 minutes Maggi rather than go through the process of roasting the semolina, chopping the onion and making a quick and wholesome upma? Suddenly, I realised that poor eating is not restricted to the poor or uneducated, but is prevalent even among the urban rich and educated who resort to the easy way out of convenience foods.
In our granny’s times when refrigerators were a luxury and ready to cook food unheard of, all that we got when we were desperately hungry were laddoos and snacks that were homemade and wholesome. Even these were not really encouraged and were meant to be taken to school for a short break or on picnics. If we were desperately hungry between meals, we were encouraged to eat fruit or drink a glass of milk.
I think it is the exposure to different culinary traditions, thanks to migrating populations, cosmopolitan societies and a general exchange of ideas via books and cinema that titillated our palates with the excitement of the unknown. After generations of being trapped in traditional cuisines, all of us are suddenly set free with a vast range of food available. To make matters worse, the ease with which food can be made and stored, made traditional and fresh cooking passé.
So, while we eagerly fill our pantries with industrially manufactured biscuits and stuff our freezers with ready to fry yummies so that we can satisfy our kids’ every hunger pang, we are unwittingly compromising on our children’s nutrition and contributing to their poor eating patterns.
Unfortunately, wrong eating habits are not confined to one generation but become the cultural norm and generation after generation follow the leader. Luckily it is not too late to reverse this trend and get back to eating healthy. While I am not advocating a Paleo Diet or a “cook just before you want to eat life style”, it would make sense to adopt a healthier eating pattern – one that comprises of all the food groups in the right quantities. Since, we are products of what we eat, we have to eat right, more so because, we want to remain healthy and produce healthy populations. Good health assures a disease free body and what is more important than giving your child the right food is actually educating them about the need to eat right.
As a responsible parent, it is important to teach by example. So, clear out your larder and eat healthy so that your child learns how to eat right.
As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of a nineteen week old grandson, Sunita Rajwade has been there and done that. A hands on mom, she has seen two girls grow successfully through baby hood, toddler hood, adolescence and adult hood; solving their maths problems and contributing to their angst of growing up with a mom “who doesn’t understand”. But now as a grandmother, she’s being appreciated for her “wisdom” and “understanding” and would like to share my experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grandmotherhood