A cup of coffee for your little one?

A cup of coffee for your little one? 
Or how about tea? 
How about a chocolate milkshake then? Or may be some soda? 
Oh! And some cookies to munch on?
Well, that's alright then! 

We have all heard that caffeine stunts growth in children; and we have all believed in it too. We have even been passing this wisdom on for generations. We feel its better kids have a chocolate milkshake instead, or maybe a soda.....
I was myself against giving tea or coffee to my little one for a very long time; until, that is, I did my own research on the subject, only to find that there are no studies or research that proves this!

Tea and coffee contain 'caffeine' which is a stimulant and makes you mentally alert (probably why many of us cannot do without our morning cuppa :)) It also increases metabolism, elevates your mood; and helps in headaches and pain, in general. And as mostly everything does, it also has certain side effects; especially when consumed in large quantities. Irregular heartbeats, insomnia, increased anxiety being some of them. 

Normally, adults who regularly have coffee in moderation, do not feel them, but for children these may be more pronounced. They may become irritable, have disrupted sleep, elevated heart beats or an increase in blood pressure. So, yes, even if coffee doesn't stunt children's growth, it does have side effects that are not really good for children. So it is no wonder then, that we see parents all the time strictly avoiding tea or coffee when it comes to their young ones. Why consume something at a young age that has known side effects, right? 

Right! But, while it is commendable to see that we are careful about what children drink, not always do we pay a lot of attention to what they eat. Well most of the time we do, but not always. 

We are all aware that junk food is not healthy. Even children are taught in school to identify junk food and the fact that it is not healthy for the body. There are shows on TV for children that stress how junk and sugary food is bad for children and how they need to consume healthy food to grow stronger. Some of these programs also give interesting options to children to eat healthy food in a fun way. 
And yet, we hear some parents proudly saying "Oh, my son just loves a cheese burger!!" or "We just have to take our daughter out to have chicken nuggets at least once a week at her favourite place!" 
It is even more appalling to see some parents feeding junk food to their children when eating out, because "...its definitely tastier and it is easily available...so let him eat. At least, this way he won't stay hungry....."    

Now, while it is, maybe, alright to have an occasional burger and fries; when it becomes a habit, it is going to be nothing but detrimental for your child....

Junk food is more appealing and is widely available in the form of candy bars, chips, cheese puffs, chicken nuggets, French fries, cookies, cup cakes, shakes, soda etc. It is also easier to feed it to your children without taking too much time and effort - especially if you are eating out. Then there is also children's best friend - the TV - that shows them all the adverts for yummy looking junk food that entices them. 
However, as parents, we need to understand that junk food, while appealing to young taste buds, does not provide any real nutrition. In fact, it is loaded with calories and has less or absolutely no fiber content. It also has a low satiation value which increases the chances of overeating. It does nothing to build a healthy immune system for your child either. 

Then there is the fine line that exists between junk food and snacks. You may think a pizza is junk food, for example; and breakfast cereals, a healthy snack option. However, a pizza, when made using whole wheat base and fresh veggies, is not junk; while our beloved breakfast cereals are loaded with sugar! 

Fried food, processed food, food laden with sugar and preservatives is definitely not good for the body. And we all know that. We try and keep our children away from these as much as we can. But then, we all have little devils at home who refuse to eat anything but that sometimes! 

I know, been there........So then what? Is there nothing we can do? 

Well, let's not lose hope yet. There are ways in which we can replace the 'junk' in the junk foods with 'health.' Just a few small changes in our pantry can get 'healthy' food back in our children's lives. 

Let's see, 

When eating out:
No extra cheese: When you order that pizza, or the burger that you (or your child) absolutely must have, just go easy on the cheese. Try and take it with extra veggies; or in the least, avoid the extra cheese at any cost.  
No soda - try fresh juice instead: As an accompaniment to your food, try to have a freshly squeezed orange juice or any fresh fruit juice (without sugar or ice).  
No donuts - try whole wheat bagels: For dessert or out on a short break, why not try whole wheat bagels instead of donuts or cakes with sugary frosting? 
No sweetened beverages - try green tea or water: For a beverage, in addition to the fresh fruit juices, it can be a great adventure for you (and your children) to try green tea (yes, green tea is fine to give your child, in moderation, of course). Or you could just have plain water instead. 

At home:

No guilty stash at home - stock up on healthier options: Most of us parents have a ready supply for biscuits, fried foods or mixtures, chips, farsaan etc. at home. This is only going to help children eat junk whenever they want a snack break. Why not stock up on the small packets of flavoured oats or soups that are readily available in stores, instead? You could also stock up on whole wheat crackers or whole wheat bread sticks.   
No cookies - stock up on fruits instead: Most of us also have cookies or mithai and laddoos stored up at home to satisfy our mid afternoon sugar cravings. Children, who are watching us, obviously pick up our habit and gorge on these. It is best if we could stock up on fruits instead. Keep the fruit bowl always filled with a variety of fruits. Apples and pears for when the hunger strikes; oranges and sweet limes for a small snack break; grapes, bananas to munch on etc. 
No cheese puffs - try nuts n pop corn instead: Many children love to munch on something when watching their favourite shows. Instead of cheese puffs or chips that are usually the favourites, try a bowl of nuts that are crunchy, tasty and satisfying too; or may be popcorn (homemade and plain, no butter) that can be interesting and filling at the same time. 
No frozen pizza; don't order in either - make a fresh one at home and have fun while at it: Pizza is one of the most favoured foods for children today. We can use this favour to get them to eat fresh veggies. How? Well, either make pizza dough from scratch or buy a whole wheat base,cut up fresh veggies and shred that mozzarella to their heart's content! Now when the toppings are ready, call in your army of little helpers and let them decorate their own pizzas! Fun? You bet!
Its okay to indulge once in a while - so try doing it at home: We all have this great affection for home cooked food, especially when it is being made for our little ones. But we also love to binge eat once in a while. So why not indulge in so called "fast food" right at home, where we can control the ingredients and let the little ones indulge too? We can make and introduce the kids to a lot of kid-friendly options such as grilled veggie bruschetta, pav bhaji, bhel, ragda patties, or even veggie sticks with homemade hummus, carrot cakes, pumpkin pie, zucchini bread - the choices are endless! 

Parenting, we all know, is a game of 'wait and watch.' So, while kids will be kids (only too happy to munch on junk food day and night); at least we will be content to know that, we parents, are actively looking for ways to sneak in some nutrition as and when we can in their "junk" food. 

In the long run, a cup of coffee may or may not matter, really, but a cheese-burger with fries, if it forms a habit, definitely will! 


  1. Rashmi now i saw. Finished reading . Great dear.

  2. So true... Have seen so many parents boast or feel proud while saying that their kids need to have chips or fries and we cant help it!!! I think lead by example is important in this instance

    1. Yes, the only way is to lead by example. No matter how difficult it seems for us (and who doesn't find it difficult to say no to junk food!), but we need to be extremely careful what we do when kids are watching.....because they are always watching....


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