Thursday, May 04, 2017

Vegan Chocolate

     It is important to have a delicious stand-by recipe for chocolate and other zero nutrition foods because, in the end…kids like it. They want treats that they hear about, see advertised or taste at friends’ homes and let’s face it, we’d rather they have homemade versions made with the best quality ingredients than made in a factory with myriads of chemicals, refined ingredients and processed fats, not to mention salt and sugar.
      I found this amazing recipe here (with much gratitude to Chitra Ganapathy), made it at home with no fuss, as we had the ingredients ready to be combined. It is super easy, vegan, healthy and guilt-free if you use the best ingredients. However, everything in moderation and this point needs to be explained to children. 
     When we make a batch, my son knows that he is allowed one per day, not at meal-time and one batch (around 15) per month. There are many days that he forgets that it's there so the lesson here is to not forbid or ban foods outright…educate your child why junk food is bad for them, make healthy homemade versions of them and also let them have the junk very rarely too, just for them to feel the consequences later. 
     Have your child(ren) make this recipe themselves and let them bask in their sense of accomplishment!
Homemade Chocolatewill melt at room temperature:
Cold-pressed Organic Coconut oil –  1/4 cup / 60 ml / 4 tbsp
Organic Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – 1/4 cup / 60 ml / 4 tbsp
Powdered Organic brown sugar – 2-3 tbsp / If not vegan, you can use the same quantity of forest honey.
Optional additions – dry fruits and nuts, seeds, orange or other citrus peels, get creative!
Mix the ingredients well with a whisk or ladle till there are no lumps. Pour into a chocolate mould (it won't come out easily otherwise) and place in the freezer for one hour to set. Pop them out of the mould and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Promoting Peaceful Eating Behaviour in Your Child......

PICKY or FUSSY EATING is relatively common and is characterised by a toddler or child eating a limited amount of food, particularly restricting vegetables. Picky eaters are unwilling to try new foods and have strong food preferences.

Characteristics of Parents of fussy eaters:

  • They are more likely to prepare a separate meal for their child
  • They may offer rewards for eating and limit privileges when their child does not.
  • They may comment negatively on their picky eaters food habits in their hearing.
  • They unconsciously create stressful mealtimes by nagging.
  • They may be force-feeding.
  • They may even be controlling food options because of their child’s weight (and again, negatively focus on the same)
  • Mothers who are unwilling to try new foods (neophobic) themselves coupled with Fathers who regularly eat unhealthy food themselves or vice versa.

Thus it is clear that the attitudes / behaviours of parent(s) at mealtimes (both the child’s and their own) have a tremendous influence on food acceptance in children.

Why is fussy eating a problem? Picky eaters have been shown to:

  • Consume fewer calories and therefore fewer nutrients for growth
  • Weigh less
  • Suck less vigorously for the duration of breastfeeding
  • Be at increased risk of developing anorexia nervosa
  • Be more likely to exhibit problematic behaviour both currently and in future
  • Eat limited variety of foods mainly those high in fat, sugar and salt and refined grains (zero-nutrition foods).
  • Require food to be prepared in very specific ways
  • Be less likely to accept new foods (food neophobia)
  • Have strong likes and dislikes regarding food
  • Develop this behaviour before the age of 5 yrs

Often-times, the reason why a child is being fussy is obscure and may be due to technical difficulties. These need to be diagnosed by a paediatrician. They may in fact just have trouble chewing. Such a critical element to good digestion and health, many children face this basic problem and mealtimes are a nightmare for them.

What are the reasons for a child not chewing her food properly?

1] The child may be exploring her power / control over intake...the parent can wait for a couple of weeks and give soft foods in the meantime.

2] If the child's speech is also delayed, in addition to frequently choking or gagging while eating food and spitting / vomiting out half-chewed food, then seeing a speech or occupational therapist is a necessity. This type of child may also have had difficulty breastfeeding and weaning onto solids.
3] Sometimes, children can have 'tongue ties'. Normally, the tongue is loosely attached to the base of the mouth with a piece of skin called the lingual frenulum. In babies with tongue-tie, this piece of skin is unusually short and tight, restricting the tongue's movement. This prevents the baby feeding properly and also causes problems for the mother. A small correctional surgery may be required which will help the child greatly.
4] The child's lower and upper jaw may not be properly aligned causing inability to chew properly. Do visit a dentist.

5] A toddler may just need to figure out how to chew. 

6] Anaemic children can have a reduced appetite and difficulty swallowing. Of course here parents need to find the true reason for the anaemia (maybe even worms) and resolve that first.

In case of 1 and 5, the following may help…….

  • From a Mother's forum...."We had her (toddler who wouldn't chew) holdup her hand and count up to 5 with one finger for each chew. It took us a minute to get her to do it but then she loved it and even went up to ten at times. "

  • Offer small amounts at a time and allow the child to feed himself. Cheerfully offer to feed him by hand if he doesn't. Place a piece of food directly between the molars as this will encourage chewing action. 

  • Give it time if there are no other problems. Allow your child to discover the joy of crispy textures. Be patient. Threatening, pleading, forcing will never work long-term for our beloved children. Positive behaviour, calm exterior (even if worried inside) and gentle encouragement can work wonders.

At this point, you may have realised that you will have to make some kind of effort to effect change. Trust me, whatever effort you put into changing your little one’s attitude now, will pay dividends when they are grown-up, living alone and willing to cook healthily for themselves. Even in the short-term there are benefits beyond improved overall development such as being calm and improved social skills. I am also talking to all family members here, not just the primary caregiver.

There are many ways to promote food acceptance among fussy eaters and even those children who eat well. Mothers are recommended to eat a variety of food during their pregnancy and then expose their child to a variety of food during breastfeeding as well.

Please don't refer to your child's fussy habits as such, don't complain about it to other people in front of them. Avoid labeling them (even apart from their food habits). Try to always praise them in front of others and you will see miracles. "My son loves cauliflower", "My daughter chews well", etc.

Don’t ban / forbid junk food immediately. Stop buying processed foods ASAP and cut down eating out but do so without drawing attention to that fact. Provide healthy, balanced meals and snacks instead (be ready with recipes and ingredients). Obviously introduce new foods only when they are well.

Children may exhibit normal exploratory behaviours with new foods such as touching, smelling, playing, putting foods in their mouth, and then spitting them out before they are willing to taste and swallow various foods. This can be encouraged. Show appreciation when they even just take a bite of a good they usually dislike.
If you make faces while eating your greens, don’t expect your child to love them. Eat your veggies (and all other foods) cheerfully and maintain a pleasant atmosphere while eating, even if it is only your child who is eating. They watch everyone at the table so it is important for everyone at home to be positive role-models.

Explore new flavours as a family – expose your children to a variety of colours, flavours and textures in food. Try buying vegetables you don’t know how to cook and look up recipes, for example. Introduce one new food at a time for young children.

Don’t offer food until your child is ready for it. If s/he just had a snack, they are not ready and mealtime might become a battle. On the other hand, don’t wait until they are starving either as they are more likely to ask for unhealthy foods that they crave. Use flavouring agents like lemon, coriander (and other herbs) and spices (eg. Garam Masala) that your child already likes in dishes containing new or disliked food.

If you’ve always made a repetitive, separate meal with little variety for your fussy eater, you need to stop. If your child is older, explain how difficult it is, etc. For your young toddler, fix a definite date in the near future to stop and start to put all these suggestions into practice right now.

So, here’s the clincher…you have to SELL the meal. Get your child involved in the making of his meal and actually point out why we eat food (to grow big and strong), what are the benefits of eating ____ (for our whole body and definitely not our tongue where food stays for less than a minute) and how a particular ingredient (like sprouts) contributes so many nutrients (many minerals, vitamin C, plant enzymes, etc.) vital for well- being. Don’t overdo / fake it – your kid is pretty smart.

This works for even toddlers still developing language but do put it as simply as possible with just a few focus points.  I told my 3.9 yr old (not a fussy eater), recently who does not really relish pineapple that it would help his cough, get rid of the bad bacteria and parasites in his gut and help him poop easily. I got him to eat a cupful.

Bottom-line, keep the faith, your child CAN change. She just needs you to facilitate this. If your efforts don’t bear fruit, relax…tomorrow is another day. Watch out for your own irritability cues (hunger, sleep, exhausted at the end of the day, being fed up). You will reap the benefits of this relaxed parenting approach in all areas of your relationship with your child. You will probably see how much the single issue of not eating well was affecting your entire relationship with him.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


The Kalpavriksha is a divine, wish-fulfilling tree mentioned in early Sanskrit literature and Mythology. While the idea of a Kalpavriksha is surreal, the title has been given to many trees over the ages. Our humble coconut tree is truly deserving of this title. Not to invalidate the claims of other hugely beneficial species, but to honour the most maligned one for sure.

We were taught in our Masters of Food Science and Nutrition program to treat the Coconut with suspicion and only in a few instances of liver and pancreatic disease were we ever advised to prescribe it. This is the way the entire world started to view coconut fat after a few studies showed that it increased cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease.

However, apparently these studies used partially hydrogenated coconut oil which, as everyone now knows, is a trans-fat. Similar studies also vilified all saturated fats around the same time. Can you believe none were conducted on unprocessed coconut oil let alone cold-pressed organic (which is the gold standard)? So we have been mightily misled as regards our South Indian staple’s actual healing power.

This table displays the nutritional content of different parts of the coconut used:

Form of Coconut
Calories (per 100g / ml)
Saturated Fat (per 100g / ml)
Dietary Fibre (per 100g / ml)
Protein (per 100 g / ml)
Other important nutrients
Fruit (CF)
354 Kcals
Iron, Manganese, Copper, Magnesium, Phosphorus, B vitamins,
Water (CW)
19 Kcals
Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Cytokinins
Milk (CM)
230 Kcals
Manganese, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus
Oil (CO)
862 Kcals
Phytonutrients, antioxidants and MCTs
400 Kcals
13g (can vary)
13g (can vary)
375 Kcals
Inulin, Polyphenols, Antioxidants

You may notice that there is only a mention of saturated fat. This is because coconut fat is mostly composed of saturated fat and for a long time, scientists believed all saturated fats were bad for us but in the past decade, we have seen a turn-around on that theory.

It is now known that all saturated fats are not equal. Those from plant sources are seen to be of superior quality containing beneficial phytonutrients namely polyphenols which have antioxidant properties. Cytokinins (especially in CW) such as trans zeatin and kinetin show anti-ageing, anti-thrombotic and anti-carcinogenic effects. The fatty acid composition of CO is unique with beneficial saturated fatty acids such as Lauric, Myristic and Caprylic Acids comprising the major percentage of Coconut fat. These are chemically classified as Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) and are credited with increased energy available for immediate use, favourably affecting blood lipid profile, help clear atherosclerosis and speed up metabolism. The coconut is also a good source of fibre, minerals and vitamins.

Although pretty much any component from the fruit to the flour is rich in healthy nutrients, the degree to which these are available to the humans who eat them depends on the extent of processing and chemical treatment they have been subjected to.

The following studies and their results deserve special mention:

Coconut huskfibre – A decoction from this part of the plant is shown to have antimicrobial, anti- viral, pain-blocking, anti –inflammatory and anti-helminthic (anti-parasitic) activities.
CM and CW both have the effect of healing ulcers and coconut milk is the more powerful of the two.
CO can be used on skin having the effect of the best moisturizer. Much better than commercial mineral oils as proven in one study. Mineral oils such as well known baby oils and lip balms are absorbed (may cause harm), they clog pores and don’t give your skin anything beneficial.
Dietary intake of CO elevates HDL (good cholesterol) and reduces abdominal obesity in both men and women.
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) of CO increase cognitive performance in Alzheimer’s Disease.
Oral intake of CO can be given alongside chemotherapy as it reduces the side effects.
CO has anti-inflammatory activity and has a beneficial impact during fevers .
CO has been shown to kill candida yeast infection (Urinary Tract Infections, Thrush).
CO has been shown to reduce ruminal fermentation and methanol production in lactating dairy cows. When methane emitted from cattle is labeled as a major cause of global warming, this particular effect takes on new significance.
CO promotes beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system when used in conjunction with exercise.
CO topically applied on wounds can improve healing.
Virgin CO improves liver fat metabolism.
Myth 1…. Only Virgin Coconut Oil is good……not true…just make sure you buy organic cold-pressed regular coconut oil. It is the best cooking oil as its MCTs don’t break down when heated and the oil’s antioxidant capacity is actually increased on heating.
Myth 2….  Long term usage of coconut oil may not be good for the heart since it is a saturated fat.  
There is a bias in ‘modern science’ against saturated fats which we are just getting over. We were taught to almost never prescribe this oil for fear of increasing heart disease risk. Coconut Oil in fact raises good cholesterol, HDL and beneficially alters the lipid profile of blood so as to protect the circulatory system and heart.
Myth 3…. Saturated fats present increase weight and may lead to obesity.
This is not true as MCTs increase the rate of metabolism so the body consumes more energy and burns more fat.
Myth 4 Coconut Oil is thick and not absorbed easily on skin.
It  is neither sticky nor greasy and is readily absorbed by the body.
Myth 5 Coconut Oil goes rancid very easily. Not true, cold-pressed coconut oil is more stable than other cold-pressed oils .

Children benefit greatly from coconut oil as they need moderate amounts of fat to fuel growth, generate hormones and absorb nutrients from food. Coconut water is said to be the most beneficial and can even cleanse your little one’s intestine of parasites. Active kids also need to rehydrate often and coconut water has the closest electrolyte composition to that of blood.
How to add coconut into your kids meals:
  • Use Coconut oil and flour in your baking and cooking.
  • Add the oil to curd (in a bowl without sugar).
  • Add the coconut fruit (meat) raw in smoothies, milk-shakes, soups, etc or can just be eaten raw.
  • The tender coconut water and the tender fruit make a great evening snack.
  • Coconut milk can be made at home and the residual meal can be dried and used in baking.
  • Coconut Sugar can be added instead of white sugar as your staple sweetener.
  • Use the oil, fruit, milk and flour in desserts instead of the usual suspects.

Benefits of Coconut for our Mouths:
The antimicrobial properties of coconut have now been proven so it makes sense to use it in our mouths for that purpose. To back it up, there are many blogs, articles and videos of people to whom these next 2 practices have made a difference. Everything from plaque removal and whitening of teeth to healing of dead teeth.
Coconut Oil Toothpaste: The ultimate recipe is 1 teaspoon of Coconut Oil + a pinch of baking soda + a quarter teaspoon of turmeric  + a few drops of peppermint oil.
Oil pulling : This Ayurvedic practice involves swishing coconut oil in your mouth for around 20 – 30 minutes after you brush your teeth first thing in the morning. All the bacteria and toxins from your mouth are pulled into the fat, cleansing it. Plaque in your mouth is not water soluble – it is fat soluble and so it makes sense that only a fat would have the capacity to rid our teeth of this build-up.  Studies have shown that at the very least, oil pulling with coconut oil is equivalent to using a mouthwash containing chlorhexidine, your choice.
If you now choose to go to your nearest organic outlet or online retail site, kudos on making a valuable addition to your kitchen superfood cabinet. However, we must use it sensibly and not overdo it, for that will cause an imbalance and has consequences for the body.  Use 1 – 2 teaspoons per day for children and 1- 2 tablespoons of it a day per adult and ensure your family is using other healthy un-refined fats like sesame (til), mustard, groundnut, ghee, etc. If you want to use it only on a weekly basis, that’s OK too. A blend of such fats in your family’s daily diet will supply all essential fatty acids and heal the body.