The way in which children are fed on a daily is important to their health and well-being.
Once upon a time in India, our school children ate home-cooked food. Difficult to digest this now, isn’t it? Given how junk food and eating out has become a way of life for most Indian households, this sounds almost like a fairy tale! Indeed, an era not so long ago witnessed Indian parents allowing ‘treats’ to their school-going children only during the rarest of rare occasions.
Statistical data on junk food consumption :
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- 93 per cent children eat packaged food more than once a week
- 56 per cent children eat sweet food items such as ice cream and chocolates more than once a week
- 59 per cent children aged between 14 years and 17 years eat packaged beverages or food at least once a day.
- 83 per cent children drink milk food drinks and 69 per cent eat breakfast cereals such as cornflakes as their first meal of the day before heading to school.
- 91 per cent children carry lunch box from their homes but 40 per cent children consume packaged food to school almost daily.
Note that these statistics are just the tip of the iceberg. The data is likely to be far more disturbing if we examine a thorough case study on junk food consumption in India by compiling this year’s data.
Junk food consumption: How other countries tackle it
These are some interesting insights that show how other countries tackle the problem of junk food consumption:
- As early as 1948, Finland became the first country in the world to ensure that primary schools serve students a daily hot meals and this remains the case even today. The meals served to the students are balanced, locally sourced and mostly vegetarian. For dessert, fresh fruits like berries are served.
- Thanks to a tradition called ‘Pausenbrot’, German children usually don’t eat their meals at school. Put simply, while there is a long wait between breakfast and lunch, their meals are made and served at home. A typical lunch plate in Germany serves potato salad with meatballs or sausage along with a serving of vegetables like carrots and green beans.
- The Netherlands ranked at the top of a 2014 study for serving nutritious and healthy food out of 125 countries. The Dutch model of families eating meals together has demonstrated health benefits for children, Notably, Dutch children are known to have the lowest obesity rates in the world.
- Schools in Japan believe that lunch is part of the children’s education. Result? Serving a balanced lunch of rice, fish, vegetables and soups, the Japanese school lunch is known to be one of the best in the world. Children are encouraged to learn etiquette and manners as part of the lunch experience.
The examples cited above become a means for getting a real-life glimpse of how other countries are strongly advocating an age-old traditional model of families eating meals together and preparing everything at home.
Given the eye-popping rich spices that are part of the traditional Indian home cooking model, this should also shine the spotlight on how families can come together to entice children to eat more home-cooked food.
In a nutshell, the way in which children are fed on a daily is as important to their health and well-being as are the nutrients in the food they are served.