The 3 S's of Eating Right
A nutrition expert’s tips on how to make the most of every meal
Who wouldn’t like to raise a child who is not deficient in micro-nutrients such as vitamin D and B12, has high bone mineral density and is healthy in general? But for that, we have to adopt our heritage in its full glory. According to Ayurveda, sub-optimal digestion is the basis for every known and unknown disease. Falling ill with every change of season, constipation and irritability are clear signs of indigestion. Getting tired quickly, painful periods, acne, dependence on stimulants such as coffee or Red Bull and the inability to fall asleep are some others. The solutions, however, are so simple that you may be tempted to discard them instantly, but I am going to try nevertheless.
First of all, sitting on the floor cross-legged (sukhasana) is one of the best therapies for our joints. The spine aligns itself, the muscles of the back learn to engage themselves, the pelvic joint learns to open, offering stability, strength and stretching all in one. No wonder then that it’s also the preferred position for prayer and meditation. A stable spine means no paunch and optimum height growth; strong muscles mean good posture and better athletic performance; flexible pelvic joints mean less likelihood of falling and pulling or breaking anything in the body. And, of course, sitting cross-legged directs the flow of blood to the stomach, leading to optimum digestion—so more than one reason to sit in sukhasana.
2. Switch off
Whether it’s phones, iPads or TV, get off gadgets of all kinds while eating. Munching while viewing is not just scientifically linked to obesity, it may result in overeating or not eating well. If you go by the I.Family study [a five-year international scientific study on health, diets, fitness, local environments and peer and family influences of more than 16,000 children across eight European countries]: a) Just having a TV in the child’s bedroom is a cardio-metabolic risk [the chances of developing heart disease as a result of risk factors, including obesity and lack of physical activity], b) Children who watch TV during meals demand and drink more sugary beverages (colas, caffeinated drinks and shakes and juices), and are, hence, at greater risk of future health issues, c) Girls are at a higher risk of developing a negative body image with TV viewing during mealtimes, d) Excessive TV viewing is linked to family dysfunction.
So how much gadget time per day? Not more than 30 minutes (excluding homework and assignments on the laptop, if any), and not while eating. Mealtimes are for nourishment, not entertainment, and digestion is affected by distraction. Eating together also strengthens the bond between family members. It is not a task that you should quickly get off the list so you can post the next status update.
3. Switch on your senses
Watch the food and nothing else, eat with your hands, smell the aroma, chew slowly so that you can hear your-self eating and let the tongue guide you with the perception of taste. Keeping all your senses focused on food helps nurture your appetite, eat as per your body’s needs and, most importantly, allows kids to exercise control over the act of eating. Physiologically, it means that leptin—a hormone that signals that you are full—remains sensitive. Leptin resistance, like insulin resistance, is one of the known factors for obesity and non-communicable diseases. On a more spiritual note, it rings home the message that it’s about getting more from less. Not about consuming more, but receiving more, sharing more. The exact opposite message is sent when we focus on the outside and tell kids that they won’t be strong or tall or energetic if they don’t eat everything on the plate.
Rujuta Diwekar is a sports science and nutrition expert based in Mumbai.
Excerpted with permission of Westland (an Amazon company) from Notes for Healthy Kids by Rujuta Diwekar