Here we take a look at some Ayurveda-inspired food ideas for kids’ nutrition. We also take a look at some healthy meal suggestions and ways to improve children’s digestive power (called agni in Ayurveda).
We all want our kids to be healthy and well-nourished. As per contemporary medicine, nutrition for kids is based on the same principles as nutrition for adults.
They require necessary vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats with a caloric intake suitable for their ages.
It is important to note that dietary habits established in childhood often carry into adulthood.
Thus teaching children how to eat healthy at a young age will help them stay healthy throughout their lives.
In Ayurveda, we all talk about prakriti or body constitution in adults. Is this applicable to children as well? My answer would be Yes!
Dietary habits established in childhood often carry into adulthood.
While explaining the concept of prakriti, Ayurvedic scholar Vagbhata in his medical text Ashtanga Hridaya, has mentioned that the prakriti of a person is determined at the time of conception.
Vagbhata has even mentioned a wonderful simile to explain this.
He says, just as a snake carries its poison from birth, the prakriti or bodily constitution of a person is also established from birth.
So it is believed that a child has their own prakriti or constitution that is established at birth.
Therefore, when we talk about Ayurvedic nutrition and healthy food ideas for kids, we should keep in mind that each child is different and has their own bodily constitution according to which they should eat.
Despite the differences in each individual’s constitution, there are some common Ayurvedic steps which everybody can follow or incorporate into their life as required (this goes for children’s nutrition as well).
Agni or Digestive fire
Ayurveda mentions the word agni as an important factor of digestion and metabolism in our body. Thus, agniliterally translates to ‘digestive fire’ in Ayurveda.
Ingested food is to be digested, absorbed, and assimilated. This task is essential for staying alive and is performed majorly by the agni.
Agni converts food in the form of energy, which is responsible for all the vital functions of the body.
Therefore, Ayurveda considers that dehagni (the body’s agni) is the cause of life, complexion, strength, health, nourishment, luster, ojas, teja(energy) and prana (life energy).1
Herbs and Ayurvedic medicines aren’t necessary to improve digestion in kids.
However, you can use the minimum amount of safe Ayurvedic spices and herbs like pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger while cooking. This improves digestion in children.
Other things to follow for improving the agni(digestive power) are the following.
Make sure they eat at regular hours during the day.
Maintain a healthy gap of 2 or more hours between meals and snacks.
Include healthy spices in meals and promote healthy and nutritious snacking.
Avoid heavy foods like cheese, yogurt, deep-fried foods (these are harder to digest).
Give water boiled with cumin seeds or coriander seeds for drinking.
Ayurvedic nutrition deals with the detailed nutritional aspects of food.
It also takes into account our food intake and manner of eating, the nature of the foodstuff, agnibala (enzymatic the activity of digestive metabolism), the process of cooking, blending, time of year, and surroundings and settings, etc.2
Children tend to imitate their parents. Be a role model for them. You can’t expect your child to eat healthy if you yourself don’t have a healthy diet.
Family meals can be a comforting ritual for both parents and kids. Try to have meals with the entire family at least once a day. Involve your kids in meal planning and cooking so they enjoy the entire process.
Ayu. 2010 Jul-Sep; 31(3): 395–398. doi: 10.4103/0974-8520.77159PMCID: PMC3221079 PMID: 22131747 Akash Kumar Agrawal, C. R. Yadav, and M. S. Meena
J Tradit Complement Med. 2015 Oct; 5(4): 228–233. Published online 2015 Mar 24. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcme.2014.12.009PMCID: PMC4624353 PMID: 26587393