What is a balanced diet for the family?
A balanced diet for a family is one that provides carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals in the right proportions throughout the day.
When the body receives a balanced diet
- We are energetic
- We can focus better
- Every organ in our body is perfectly maintained and can function perfectly
- Materials needed to repair damages that occur due to wear and tear as we go about our daily activities
When you plan a balanced diet –
- Make sure you begin the day with a healthy wholesome breakfast
- Plan 3 meals and 3 snacks per day.
- Keep the meals small so that there are no meal time battles. Remember children cannot eat too much at one time.
- Ensure that the snacks are nutritious. Do not serve just “something” or “anything that is available”. Remember that because children eat very little at meal times – they depend on snacks for a large chunk of their daily nutrition.
- Keep your meal plan free of empty carbohydrates like sugar and refined flour like maida.
- Steer clear of bad fats – also known as trans fats. Trans fats are present in almost all packaged food with a long shelf life. So – cook at home. Make your snacks at home too.
- Not all saturated fats are bad. Ghee and coconut are essential in small amounts
- Repeating the same carbohydrates throughout the week – like eating rice and roti/parartha/puri made of atta throughout the week – is not correct. Eating a variety of carbohydrates through the week and changing the carbohydrate source at every meal is best practice. So for example – eat suji for breakfast, amaranth for the morning snack, jowar for lunch and quinoa for dinner.
- Proteins must be eaten at every meal. It is important to explore various vegetarian sources of protein because it is difficult to eat non-vegetarian food at every meal.
- It is a good idea to include lots of nuts and seeds in the diet because they are easy to eat and full of every possible nutrient.
Do not make hard and fast rules for children when it comes to food.
Do not make rules like –
“Every child must drink two glasses of milk every day”
“One egg must be eaten every day” etc.
Such rules create tension and result in your child losing her/his appetite
What should the daily meals of your child contain?
Keep the meals small and interesting
Use millets and whole grains as sources of carbohydrates
Over a period of time we have started eating only wheat flour and rice throughout the week to get our carbohydrates. This is harmful as it exposes us to too much gluten which can cause allergies and also leaves us deficient in various other nutrients. When we use a mix of carbohydrates – especially carbohydrates from sources like millets (ragi, jowar, bajra etc.) we get many additional nutrients in addition to carbohydrates because these grains are also rich in proteins and minerals. In addition each of the millets is rich in a different kind of protein vitamin and mineral – so mixing and matching the grains we eat through the day ensures that all the nutrients are available all the time.
Eat dals (pulses) through the week for protein
Pulses are rich in protein – so are seeds and nuts. Quinoa is another very good source of protein. If you are vegetarian or vegan these can be very useful sources of protein for your child. If you are non-vegetarian you can mix and match these plant sources of protein with animal proteins in the form of milk, curd, egg, fish, chicken and meat.
Get vitamins and minerals from nuts and seeds
There are often battles in the house when children are forced to eat vegetables that they don’t like. Understand that it is normal for children to dislike vegetables. Do not panic about the vitamins and minerals that your child is missing out on. The vitamins and minerals are abundantly present in fruit. Include lots of fruit in your child’s diet. Fruit can be bitten and munched or incorporated into fruit salads and smoothies.Use nuts and dry fruits in your bakes and curries. Also mix them into your smoothies and fruit salads.
Include a variety of good fats
Fats are not bad. They are in fact essential. Deficiency of essential fatty acids can make your child sick and decrease her/his academic potential because fats are needed to make brain neurons (nerve cells). Fats from ghee (clarified butter) and fats from coconut oil have some very important fatty acids that our brain and our digestive system requires. Mixing the fats around – such that you are eating a different fat at every meal and practicing moderation which means eating fats in small quantities – is what really helps the body. So use ghee, coconut oil, olive oil and refined vegetable oil in various recipes through the day. Also get your daily dose of essential fatty acids from seeds like flax seeds and chia seeds
Ensure that your diet has a lot of fiber
Fiber is essential to keep us healthy. Fiber keeps the digestive system functioning well. Fiber also keeps the immune system alert and prevents infection. Fiber also has a role in keeping the heart healthy. Make sure your diet has lots of fiber. When you eat millet, plant proteins like dal and nuts and seeds, your protein needs will automatically be fulfilled.
Make water an important part of every meal
No matter what you eat – it has to be dissolved in water to reach the cells of your body that need it. So drink water whenever you eat.
Your daily meals should maintain the important organ systems of your body and also relieve stress.
The organs that must be focused upon are the
- Digestive system
- The heart and blood vessels
- The brain
- The bones and muscles
Indian Meal Plan For A Week
In the weekly menu planned by Simran we have allocated days to maintain each body system on different days of the week by eating different food.
Check out what you can give your child at every meal throughout the week in this chart
Indian Weekly Meal Plan Recipes
Read details of the recipes by clicking on the respective days below
Tips that will help you to plan a weekly menu
Begin by making a menu.
On the weekend set aside an hour to plan a menu for the week. Follow the sample menu shared in this article as an example of an Indian meal plan for a week. Assess your week- on busy days when you are going to get late coming home or when you have late evening calls or on a day when you want to plan me-time – plan simple dinners. Go with one pot cooking. An example of a multitasking one-pot meal is the Monday dinner.
Fix a certain breakfast for every day of the week. For example – idli on Monday, Paratha on Tuesday and so on. Try not to change the breakfast menu frequently. When you follow the same menu for a few weeks – you will be able to make breakfast in a matter of minutes because of your practiced moves.
Shop with a list on the weekend
Once you have a menu in place make an exhaustive shopping list based on the recipes. When you shop without a list – you will surely end up short of one or two ingredients. It is better to order the groceries online as much as possible so that you don’t have to go from shop to shop looking for ingredients. Shopping does not have to be time-consuming. All you require is good planning.
Use the weekends to do your baking
If you use recipes that use healthy flours like jowar, bajra, ragi, and amaranth and bake some healthy cookies, muffins and khakras on the weekend – you will be stress-free during the week when hunger strikes. The advantage with baking is that you are required only to mix the ingredients. The actual process of cooking does not require supervision. You can set the timer on the oven and just forget about it. Go about your other work or leisure activities and pull out your bake when the oven makes the “Ting” sound.
Make masala pastes on the weekend
One of the most important ingredients in cooking – is the masala used. The specific mix of masalas used in a particular dish gives it its distinct taste. And so to cook food that is tasty – you must have the masalas handy.For dry masalas – try out the mixes that are available in the market. It is much easier to use just one masala – rather than keep 10 different masalas.
So for example, if you are making rajma – the recipe is sure to have at least 10 different masalas in it. When you are making rajma on a busy day – you may add more or less of one masala and forget some masala – which may compromise the taste. Instead – if you use the ready-made dry rajma masala available from various companies – you can save time and get the right taste without stress. Try out the various brands available to zero in on the taste you like best.
Make ginger paste and garlic paste on the weekend in large quantities and store them in the fridge for use throughout the week. Ginger and garlic add instant taste to dishes and also have health promoting properties. So it is better to make your own pastes at home rather than buy them from outside. It is also better to make the pastes on the weekend so that a time-consuming task is knocked off busy days.
Rearrange your kitchen as per your menu
Keeping things handy is the secret to speed in the kitchen on weekdays. Spend a few minutes on the weekend arranging the jars in your kitchen.For example, if you are making poha on Monday, upma on Tuesday and Ragi pancakes on Wednesday for breakfast, arrange your jars such that the poha, suji and ragi are arranged next to each other in the order of use. Once Monday is over and the poha has been cooked take the jar and put it back into the shelf at the end of the row – so that the Tuesday jar with suji in it is now at the beginning of the row and most accessible.
Make batters for idli and dosa on the weekends
Soaking and fermenting dals and rice to make batters is a task that requires calm focus and must be done on the weekend to make life easier on week days
Make a menu that multitasks
A multitasking menu uses the same ingredients through the day to make various dishes. So for example, if moong dal has been boiled for lunch – it can also be used at breakfast to make dal paratha and at dinner to make a bake. Refer to the Monday menu.
Many ingredients are used in various cuisines and a mix and match of cuisines can keep things interesting for adults and kids. So for example chickpea can be made into an Indian gravy for lunch and a Lebanese cutlet for dinner. Rajma can be made the Indian way for lunch, it can be put into a tortilla at snack time and can be turned into a burger patty at dinner time.
Plan a one-pot dish for dinner
Do not plan an elaborate dinner. No one wants to cook after a long day of work, and when the dinner recipe is too complicated you are likely to resort to ordering in food by home delivery. Avoid that by planning a one pot bake where you just put things that you have cooked through the day into one pot – mix it up and bake it. This brings in the continental style of cooking – which makes things interesting while making everything easier.
Use all the cooking modes you have in the kitchen simultaneously
When you plan the menu – plan such that you are shallow frying on the first burner of your gas stove – while some boiling and steaming is simultaneously going on – on the other 2 burners. Also use the oven simultaneously. Having a workflow helps a lot in this as it helps you visualize and plan your work. Please take a look at the work flows attached.
Complete time-consuming boiling work ahead of time
Boiling things like rajma and chickpea take a long time and slight delays can really throw you out of gear when you are in a hurry. So get these tasks out-of-the-way beforehand.
For example, if you cook when you wake up in the morning. Boil your rajma and chickpea in the night while you are eating dinner. Leave the cooker unopened overnight. The food will not spoil unless the cooker is opened. Open the cooker in the morning when you begin cooking.
Do the same for potatoes, arbi (colocasia) and other things which need boiling.
Do not use large quantities of onion and tomato
Do not use large quantities of onion and tomato
Onion and tomato are both good for health and impart a nice taste to the food cooked. However, it is not necessary to use large quantities of onion and tomato. One onion and one tomato are usually enough for most gravies in nuclear families. If you use 4 onions and 4 tomatoes you will just be spending a lot of time peeling and chopping without making a significant difference to the taste.
Use recipes that use dry masalas
Many Indian and foreign recipes can be made tasty and appealing with the dry masalas. Tomato and onion may not be required at all. When you plan the menu – plan such that only one dish requires ginger, garlic, tomato and onion to be fried, because this is very time-consuming. Ensure that the other recipes of the day are using dry masalas like Jeera or spice mixes like panch phoron to elicit the taste – so that you can start cooking those even as you are chopping and peeling the onions and tomatoes.
Make smoothies and fruit salads
On rushed days – making a smoothie that has 2 or 3 fruits, a whole bunch of dry fruits and seeds and otherwise difficult to incorporate items like amla can quickly fulfill your nutritional needs without taking up any time cooking.
Smoothies are great as snacks before extracurricular activity classes.
Make multitasking gravies
A gravy that can be prepared once and used at different meals with slight modifications – can be a great boon.
Check out Simran’s multitasking cashew and almond gravy in the Sunday menu which is used with paneer at lunch and with egg at dinner to make paneer curry and egg curry respectively.
It is important to know what goes into your child’s body. And you can only be sure of what is going in if you are cooking at home yourself. So stop fearing cooking. Follow these tips and execute this Indian meal plan for a week and watch the changes in the health and energy levels of your family.