‘Talking nutrition’ with an eight years old child

I started my annual vegetarian fasting on March 8, 2011. The first dilemma I had was how to get my boy to join me in a vegetarian lunch at a strictly vegetarian restaurant? At the mention of vegetables, he went, ‘WHAT? Green stuffs? I don’t want! But never mind, buy me fried chicken or something and we bring there and eat together.’

So, I explained to him that no animal sourced foods like cheese, eggs, milk and meats are allowed in vegetarian restaurants. He pondered and the sweet little boy told me, “Never mind…I follow you…” I am so proud that he willingly gives up his usual rice and meat lunch to accommodate me. It is not just the give and take attitude but also his willingness to give vegetarian foods a try that made him so grown up.

I gave him a plate of rice and he enjoyed scooping up the soy sauce soy pieces which look and taste like meat. He scooped something that looks like anchovies and a ‘fake egg’. Now the little boy is so amused with all these alternatives foods.

At his age, he knows what’s good and what’s bad. He understands that all those fizzy and gassy drinks are bad because of the excessive sugar intake. We have guided him from young that if there are homemade drinks available or fresh fruit juices, always order that instead of the coloured, gassy drinks with added sugars. Then again, we also have to be mindful that though fresh fruit juices may be healthy, if we give too much of that to our kids, they may develop a sweet tooth. Sugar, irrespective of the source, whether natural occurring ones or added sugar, is never a good option.

Parents ought to be mindful to make sure the children do not develop the sweet tooth habit from young. Once they are hooked to sweet, sugary stuffs even if they are fruits, they will tend to get hook to sweet things. This of course will lead to tooth decay, unhealthy eating and other health implications.

Kids have to be taught from young about healthy eating and how carbohydrate can make people fat and cause health issues like obesity and other implications. My boy will reminds himself that eating too much carbo will cause OBCT (as in obesity) and carbohydrate turns to flabs and fats while excessive sugar turned into carbo which will in turn give you OBCT.

Nowadays, with the rising price of sugar, more and more coffee shops and processed drinks are reducing the amount of sugar. The sugar reduction campaign does help somehow because our kids will be less inclined to take sweet drinks.

Although there are those recommendations for natural sugar versus added sugar, it is still best to opt for non added sugar products and that include all those health foods. Remember that it is never too young to teach our children about all these. Somehow, as they grow older, they will be more conscious and opt for healthier eating.

The other thing we can teach our kids for healthy eating habit is to read food labels. Sometimes, even we parents get confused with all the funny names they give to sugar like fructose, glucose and all the fancy stuffs they claimed as healthy foods like honey, corn syrup, caramel etc etc.

One of the easiest way to explain to my 8 years old is – if you take too much sugar, it will give you sugar high like a bomb explosion and then, you feel tired after the high like a balloon deflated. And remember, extra sugar stays in your body and turn into fats and made people OBCT. Also, germs will grow and dig dig dig into your teeth if you have sugar stuck to your teeth…..

As for me, after our lunch on the first day of Lent, I know I have convinced one little boy that vegetables sometimes can be fun to eat. He gobbled down deep fried yam, without realizing those are also vegetables. And he loves those ‘meats that grow on trees’. I hope he will accompany me throughout the 40 days of vegetarian fast.