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Moms, Menus And Manners, And Great Indian Tamasha

How can the child learn all this if the mom (of either gender) don’t enforce / guide the child at an early age. Learn young, learn well - used to be the adage.

Photo Credit :

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In a manner of speaking, the female spouse is always ‘expected’ to set both menus and manners, although that’s changing now - especially with WFH (Work from Home) becoming a buzz word, either coz of necessity or a voluntary decision. Daddy’s pancakes are always better than Mommy’s Dosas, simply because pancakes are those gooey, chocolatey, sweet indulgences that mommies generally frown upon. Generally being the operative word. 

In many home I know, kids are offered Maggi in lieu of Baingan, Dal Chawal or even Roti-Sabji. "Kuch tho kha lega na, bachcha,” seems acceptable in most families. Yes, the COVID situation makes me (and every other parent on this planet ) respect every morsel / kind of food available and be grateful for a meal on the table. But somehow junk food has become a by-word for quick and fast nutrition. Meals made quick aren’t necessarily “fast food” (or vice versa). Some homes also have arrangements where the live-in cook (or in-laws) decide the menu for the day, and the time for it too. Gymming in the morning, followed by late breakfast, and late-in-the-night meals are the norm. Then what effect would the gumming actually have?

Eating out (yeah, apart from the COVID ban) is another norm. Despite the home cooks, despite bais (servants) who are available to prepare hot meals twice every day, despite lasagne becoming the new Roti or nachos taking the place of the humble nimbu pani in most home menus, variety is what drives the world. . Have parents’ personal biases towards food 

A recent survey that this author conducted with over 90 respondents pan-India - both MALE and FEMALE (and a few Indians staying outside India) shows the following results - respondents were between 25-55 yrs. old, who have kids aged anywhere between 5-20 years. 

  1. Close to 90% of parents in Indian Metros and Non-Metros eat out anywhere between 2-4 times a month : 32% of them eat out 1-2 times a month, 35% eat out 2-4 times a month, 28% eat out more than 4 times a month. Do the math, folks!
  2. Only 2 out of 5 times are family members willing to eat fruits and vegetables. 
  3. Only 76% of them are involved in actual meal planning and cooking at home rest of the meals happen with reheating frozen food or eating out. 
  4. 75% of respondents said they would use the microwave to re-heat food rather than stove top. 
  5. 66% allow kids to eat junk food once in 10 days, in moderation.
  6. 48% of respondents said they either have meals in from of the TV or bring gadgets to the dining table while eating.
  7. 65% of respondents (not just parents) felt that 1-3 servings of fruits and veggies are adequate per day while 67.8% of respondents said they actually ate only only 1/2-1 cup of fruits or veggies per day!
  8. 55% of respondents said they don’t follow a budget while eating out - it’s mostly whimsical. 

However, there were a few surprises too:

  1. A whopping 93% said they would ‘consider’ healthy alternatives while cooking meals
  2. Less than 10% of income is spent on eating out (but food more on taste, but less on nutrition)

Now let’s do the math - in figures and weight . A decent dinner in a fine dine restaurant for a family of 4 costs 4-6k per outing (without alcohol) in a metro and about 70% of that in a non-metro. For a family eating out regularly (irrespective of the income), eating out recklessly could only add more burden  (and obesity to kids)and demands in a covid-kind of situation on the parents from kids who can’t differentiate between needs and wants.  

Add to this the monthly rigmarole of birthday parties where Coke and synthetic-coloured fondant cakes (and with due respect to all bakers, yours truly also being one), plus the sugar that goes with it, can we see where we are headed? An era, where 44 g of Sugar is considered the new normal : 1 can of Fanta (the "much-loved" orange coloured drink) contains 44g of sugar and 55mg of Sodium (Source: https://www.coca-colaproductfacts.com/en/products/fanta/orange/12-oz/. 

If parents were to indulge in frequent parties where Coke and Rum flow in equal proportions, how can we expect the kids to stay away from a drink that’s sure to induce sugar coma (remember - 44g in a can of Fanta). 

Parents can Instagram all they want about the latest gym they go to or tag friends on a weight-loss / weight-maintenance journey, but in the process the kids are gaining unhealthy weight. This stats shows that Childhood obesity is now an epidemic in India. With 14.4 million obese children, India has the second-highest number of obese children in the world, next to China. The prevalence of overweight and obesity in children is 15%. In private schools catering to upper-income families, the incidence has shot up to 35-40%, indicating a worrying upward trend. The fundamental cause of childhood obesity is an imbalance between calories consumed and energy spent. Indians are genetically predisposed to obesity. However, the rapid increase in childhood obesity is largely due to environmental influences. Economic prosperity leads to a change in diet from traditional to ‘modern’ foods, rich in fat and sugar. Urbanization leads to an increase in sedentary lifestyles and a decline in physical activity.
 

According to WHO, childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. Prevention of childhood obesity is vital, especially since we know that the treatment of obesity is extremely difficult. Proven and simple strategies to prevent obesity include:

  • Increase fruit and vegetable intake.
  • Reducing TV viewing. Eating while viewing TV is a major cause of excess food intake. TV commercials lead children towards fast foods,
  • Reduce sugar intake. Sugar is now called the new ‘tobacco’ and must be limited at all ages. Water is encouraged instead of sweetened drinks.
  • Encourage physical activity. It is a struggle to ensure active lives in children, due to limited time and academic pressures. Parents need to facilitate physical activity in young children, and 60 minutes of daily vigorous physical activity in older children.

Where are our manners ?

Where are our manners where the phone is in our hands as we expect the child to complete the homework ? .Where are our manners when we bring the phone to the table while expecting the teen / the kid to get off the gadget. In non-COVID times, does the family really appreciate the effort put into getting a hot meal on the table - planned or unplanned menu, but Ghar ka Ghana when they are busy on conference calls or kids on headphones / gadgets.

How can we expect kids to do anything different, when it’s a case of “monkey see, monkey do” , or has it become “Money see, Money Do”.  “Swiggy it out, mom,” they say !! 

An occasional respite from cooking or ordering in is always welcome, even for the working mom or the stay-at-home parent. Yes, I know what you are thinking - everyone is not a chef, everyone doesn’t have time to plan/ cook meals every day, everyone doesn’t have the freedom to cook meals that they want, everyone can’t cook gourmet meals every day. 

Yes, but we can make the effort of sitting for 5 mins every fortnight taking note of the groceries at home and planning simple, nutritious meals - an activity if done well the whole family can contribute and enjoy. Yes, the plans can fail, miserably at first, the teenagers may refuse to eat the semi-bland food or the toddler 

By slathering butter or cheese (both essential nutrients) copiously on things they won’t eat otherwise, are we making our job easier or their lives (and hearts), harder? Are we shrugging our responsibilities to the maid / cook / in-laws / elders at home without taking time to revisit our child’s need personally and our own in the process ?  

We think by preventing kids from entering the kitchen (coz the maids are there) will help them grow better, concentrate on studies better. Not just in times of COVID / lockdown, but making this a regular habit of appreciating what’s on the table and what’s at home. How many households can be run sustainably  with each child being offered a different meal (just because the child turns up his/ her nose at anything other than his/her favourite)? Are we teaching them how to cope in the real world ?    

When do they learn to greet guests courteously, offer a glass of water to old grandparents without being asked to ? How will they learn that what’s made in the kitchen is good for me as well as my sister. How will they learn if the grandparents are seated at the dining table and the teenager refuses to eat anywhere but in his AC bedroom, that too out of bowl. How will they learn if the head of the family doesn’t take time to explain that the Rajma-Chawal came because the farmer decides to grow them in the first place? 

Do we expect Summer classes or Farm Visits to cover these gaps? Wasn’t there enough wisdom in dadi-nani’s cooking which was more sustainable, hearty and healthy in the long run? Growing up, we may not have had too many eating out opportunities, but just because they are available doesn’t make them healthy. 

How can the child learn all this if the mom (of either gender) don’t enforce / guide the child at an early age. Learn young, learn well - used to be the adage. Nowadays, even parents are reluctant to cook or discipline at home. Whether its eating out or dressing up (appropriately esp. for PTA meetings / School events), the kids are watching us.

Finally, as parents, are we Parenting or Posturing? 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Parents & Children Bond parenting

Kalyani Srinath

The author is L&D (Learning and Development) Professional, Food blogger & Commentator

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