The avocado is doing pretty well for itself in the food world right now. Not as well as, say Quinoa or Chia, which in recent years have successfully found themselves growing locally with Indian farmers.
But the avocado, also known in some circles as Butter Fruit, has become a favourite first food for health conscious parents. We don’t need to tell you of its health properties because a simple google search will immediately throw up everything from listicles about its 12 proven benefits to essays on its superfood status. But after some introspection (and paying close to Rs 250 per piece) one has to wonder whether it’s really worth the hype.
We start our children off with a simple avocado and before we know it we’re pushing quinoa, couscous, kiwis and American corn (anyone else notice that the Indian variety is getting increasingly hard to find?).
This isn’t to say that these grains, fruits and veggies aren’t nutritious. They most definitely are. Not to mention delicious.
But so is our local Indian produce! We’re talking here about things that we grew up eating. Most of our first food memories comprise of eating things like poha, idlis, and parathas for breakfast, sitaphal and chickoos for snacks, dahlia khichadi for lunch and a simple curd rice or roti and sabzi for dinner. And those are just the more common foods introduced to Indian children in the first few years. There’s also the delicious rotis and puris made from jowar and bajra, wonderful stews sweetened with pumpkin, delicious yams roasted on hot coals and so much more!
“Most parents do not realise that all they should be giving their children are bananas and apples that are locally produced,” says Meghna Yadhav, Head Training and Development and Child Psychology Expert at KLAY. “They think exotic, imported fruits build immunity. The food industry makes us believe that Kiwis and Avocados are great for our children. But it is better to stick to what has been traditionally available in our country.”
This is an opinion that is also expressed by Rujuta Diwekar, celebrity nutritionist and author often credited for actress Kareena Kapoor’s health and fitness before as well as after her child. “Think global, eat local,” she writes in her bestselling book, Don’t Lose Your Mind Lose Your Weight. “Stay close to your genes: as much as possible eat the food you and your family have grown up eating.”
If this means ghee laden parathas or banana chips deep fried in coconut oil, then so be it! Because raising healthy and happy children isn’t about counting calories but by assessing the nutrition they get from said calories. The trick is to keep your child’s food fresh, local and to avoid packaged foods that boast a handful healthy ingredients but are still laden with preservative, ‘nature identical flavouring’ (whatever that is) and fortified with iron, calcium and other vitamins.
Our children are growing a little every day. Some of it is physical, but a lot of it is mental and emotional. This is also the time when their food habits are taking shape and their preferences are getting stronger. So while it’s okay to give in to demands for pizza once in a while, helping them learn to appreciate a humble carrot panyaram (in the South) or muli paratha (in the North) will take them a long way.