Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month? Originally started in 1973 as a week long event, it became a month-long occurrence in 1980. Started by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), this campaign is all about making the right food choices and creating healthy habits. I believe that it is important to raise our children with healthy eating practices since the food they grow up with influences their eating for a lifetime. We as South Asians are at an advantage because our cultural food is generally healthy and unprocessed (unless you pour on the oil and routinely eat jalebis and gulab jamuns). I also believe, like our first lady, Michele Obama, that gardening is a great way to get children started on healthy eating and combat childhood obesity and illnesses.
We are at the end of March and Spring has definitely and officially sprung, and so now may be a good time to start thinking about gardening for the summer. Gardening is a wonderful, healthy way to teach kids about nutrition without beating it on their heads or lecturing to them (anyone with a “tween” or a “teen” knows that it doesn’t work!). Getting them to plant vegetable seeds indoors that can be transplanted outdoors, and giving them a small space to garden in—be it a plot of land, or a part of the balcony for pots—will create a sense of ownership and pride. Proposing exciting projects like how to grow a cucumber in a bottle or creating a bean tower will get them going and keep them interested. Kids aged 9 and up can garden on their own without needing much help and younger ones will need supervision and guidance, but the benefits are well-worth the effort. For example, parents can start and the young ones can help in the creation of a Pizza Garden with the goal of a summer garden, pizza party! Even a child of 3 or 4 can be part of the gardening experience–nasturtium seeds are big enough for them to plant and once its grown they can even eat this edible flower. They can dig, get muddy and enjoy it too! I have known toddlers who started eating and enjoying tomatoes after having helped grow cherry tomatoes in a pot! Methi seeds and dhaniya seeds grow with little effort and care and yield quick harvests—a good way to introduce kids to yummy daal with these healthy herbs and teach them about the different parts of the plant that can be eaten. These are just a few ideas…so go ahead and get started and you will discover many, more ways of using gardening as a way of introducing good nutrition to your children and while you are it enjoy the bonding and gardening time with your kids!
Signing off until next time,
Brunda Moka Dias