Remember how the smile felt when the aroma of French toast, sooji or chowmein hit your nostrils after four periods of grueling hard work — doodling, nudging friends, paying attention to messages on tiny chits and, of course, studies — in school?
Yes, back in the ’90s when “tiffin period” was the most-anticipated part of the day. Even mundane (read: healthy) meals such as roti-sabzi, boiled eggs, bananas, bread butter sandwich or jam bread were consumed without a fuss to evade irate mothers! Cut to 2015 — with working parents pressed for time and children being too choosy about their lunches, ready-to-eats and processed food have invaded tiffin boxes.
Favourite meal options now include chips, wafers, cupcakes, wraps, pastas, popcorn and mayonnaise sandwiches. Says Alpa Agarwal, mother of two tiny tots, “The kids can’t do without junk food. No matter how much I try to feed them homemade items like chirwa or parathas, they just won’t have it and bring the packed tiffin back home.”
Alpa adds, “The kids prefer chips, biscuits, popcorn and mayonnaise sandwiches, which weren’t considered as lunch options in our times!” But while most parents have succumbed to the rather unhealthy trend, some like Simran Chopra are trying out innovative ways to coax kids to have nutritious meals.
Says the La Martiniere for Girls teacher and mother of two, “I’ve seen my students get chips, cupcakes, soya sticks and sandwiches cut in different shapes. For my child, I’ve made a routine — three days of healthy food like suji pulao, idli, chillas and poha, and two days of soya sticks, pizzas, pastas and pastries.”However, with a rise in child obesity, health experts are warning against the trend of giving children junk food as lunch. Says fitness consultant Preetom Mukherjee Roy, “Child obesity is at an all-time high compared to even a decade ago, because parents used to pack nutritious food for lunch back then.
Children now have greater access to sugar-enriched food and snacks. This, coupled with a lack of physical activity, is leading to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and many other ailments among kids. Parents need to watch what they pack in tiffin boxes. Also, they should cut down the pocket money so kids can’t buy junk food with it.”
CT lists 10 food items that were not to be found in tiffin boxes two decades back:
Potato fries Potatoes only made it to our tiffin as part of a sabzi. Now, ready-to-eat smileys and French fries are a working mom’s best friend. Why? It doesn’t require much time to cook and keeps the kids smiling too.
Almonds Well, the only way some of us knew almonds was when it came embedded inside chocolate bars. But parents are now packing boxes full of dry fruits such as almonds as a healthy lunch option.
Flavoured corn flakes Unfortunately, we only knew of its poor, sticky, tasteless cousin. But now kids can choose from flavours such as strawberry, chocolate, honey almond, banana corn flakes and more.
Multi-grain bread There was no focaccia, garlic, multi-grain, honey eats or even brown bread to choose from. The only thing you would get back then was white bread or an occasional fruit bread. Take it or leave it.
Mayo/Nutella Is mayonnaise a form of butter? Nutella must be a new chocolate in the market! Yes, they were that unheard of. But kids these days can’t do without either. Quiz them about the different varieties of mayonnaise and you’ll be surprised! Cupcakes On a lucky day, we would open the tiffins to find a sandesh or rosogolla. Even that nyaka girl in class, who would go on and on about her vacations abroad, hadn’t heard of cupcakes. Now, kids can choose flavours too.
Dips The only thing we dipped our toasts into was milk or tomato ketchup. Cut to 2015, kids demand dips such as garlic, jalapeno, chocolate and honey for their toasts and nachos.
Chips, wafer No matter how loud we sang, Bole mere lips… potato chips never made it to our lunch boxes. But different varieties of chips and wafers have found their way into tiffin boxes now.
Burger Masala aloo between bread slices was considered a major treat. And they only made it to lunch boxes on birthdays or for pre-vacation “feasts”. Now, chicken and veg burgers have replaced that humble sandwich and how!
Pasta “What’s pasta?” would have been the reaction back then. But kids these days not only ask for pasta, but also specify if it should be made in red or white sauce.