When the doctor told Sakina that her son Danyal was obese, she was shocked but not entirely surprised. Although he and his brother Akeel shared the same meal routine, Danyal had been putting on excessive weight, while Akeel was growing at a more healthy pace.
Who wouldn’t want to follow the Little Master Chefs and prepare healthier snacks? COPYRIGHT ADOBE STOCK CREATIVA IMAGES
‘Eat Healthy Stay Healthy’ – Participating children shared messages about adopting healthier eating habits. AKHB INDIA
Sakina, who lives with her husband and sons in Mumbai, began to carefully monitor the eating habits of both boys. The family doctor warned that if Danyal didn’t change his lifestyle and nutrition, he may develop diabetes and other illnesses.
It wasn’t until she started paying attention to their after-school snack choices that the problem became clear: Akeel would munch on a smart and healthy snack of fresh cut cucumbers at the kitchen table, while Danyal polished off a coke, a bag of chips and a chocolate bar in front of the television. The junk food hadn’t come from home; Danyal had used his pocket money to buy it.
But discovering this brought on a new concern. How would Sakina help Danyal to break his snacking habits?
That’s when she learned about Little Master Chef, a programme organised by the Aga Khan Health Board for India. Over the course of three days, the programme teaches children as young as five years old how to make fun snacks using healthier food.
“Childhood lays the foundation for adult behavior,” says Dr Sulaiman Ladhani, Chairman of the Aga Khan Health Board for India. “Childhood obesity with sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits, if not corrected early, could lead to lifestyle-related diseases in adults.”
The programme uses recipe demonstrations, quizzes, riddles and interactive activities to help children learn about healthy eating and nutrition. The delicious snacks they make include chana chaat, limbu pani, fruit chaat, and corn bhel. Children also prepare salads for display and make posters to share their new knowledge with the Jamat, urging them to adopt healthier eating habits.
“Children are the primary agents for change,” says Dr Ladhani. “Little Master Chef was developed to address the growing problem of childhood obesity, with the aim of motivating children, but also leveraging them to influence parents and elders.”
Seven-year-old Raiyan was a participant in Little Master Chef in Bangalore. “As a parent I found the programme very useful,” says his mother Shamsa.
“Raiyan was very excited about making his own bhel and kosambari salad,” she recounts with maternal pride. “He started asking about the nutritional value of every ingredient. It also motivated him to eat healthier and be aware of what he eats. Since the programme, we regularly discuss portion sizes and nutritional values of each meal.”
While the programme has been successful in encouraging healthier eating and better lifestyle choices, it does not promise a cure for childhood obesity.
“Obesity is a very complex issue,” says Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, Shahzadi Devje. A growing body of research shows that diet and lifestyle choices are among the most important determining factors in overweight and obesity, but “there are multiple factors at play, many of which occur within our brain and physiology. Some of these are out of our control, including genetics, medical conditions and hormones, to name but a few.”
For Danyal, Little Master Chef turned out to be the exact inspiration he needed. Seeing her son so motivated, Sakina began to make changes at home. Together, they reduced Daniyal’s intake of junk food, replacing it with fresh fruits and vegetables for snacks. Instead of watching television so much, the whole family now does more outdoor activities together.
While there’s still a ways to go before Daniyal sees concrete results, Sakina already appreciates how the changes are benefiting him and their entire family.
Healthy snack choices are within reach. Click here to learn about some nutritious options.
DESIGNED BY SAEED REZAEI
- ‘22% of Indian kids are obese, face health risks’
- World Health Organization, Report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, 2016
- Public Health Agency of Canada, Curbing Childhood Obesity: A Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights, 2012
Source: The Ismaili org