Are they eating well, am I giving them the best when it comes to nutrition. Is each of them getting what they need, is this food good for them? Mothers and caregivers are frequently burdened with doubt and worry when it comes to their families, and most of these doubts and insecurities revolve around food and nutrition, because there is nothing more important to them than the health and wellbeing of those they care for.
The feeling that you are solely responsible for the entire household can be a daunting one, and if left unchecked can play a negative role when it comes to the mental health of mothers. Having to constantly monitor, to restrict and choose what your family eats is a burden all mothers carry silently.This has been further exacerbated during the pandemic, with what is being called the ‘triple burden’ mothers face, with having to work, and take care of their families as well as being the emotional support for the entire household.
Motherhood brings with it a constant low level of anxiety that continues even after children have reached adulthood. This is especially so in Indian households, where a mother is not only responsible for her children, but also for the care of the elders in the family.
When it comes to what you eat, one size doesn’t fit all
In a family where there are children as well as grandparents to take care of, it becomes important to ensure they each get nutrition that is right for them. Where one might need more protein, another might need less salt. The burden in such cases falls upon the mother to ensure what is right for one, is not harmful to the other.
The working mother
Mothers who work feel the pressure of managing both work and home, having to play both roles faultlessly. To be able to provide three nutritious meals for the household on a daily basis, while also juggling full time work is a hard enough task as it is, without having to face constant guilt and judgement over food choices. It doesn’t help a mother’s cause when ‘store bought’ holds so little value and so much judgement.
The differing schedules
When different members of a household require a different diet, at different times of the day, it often falls upon a mother to make sure she is available for everyone at their convenience. Unfortunately there is a lot of societal pressure and built up notions about motherhood and how an ideal mother should be, thanks in no small part to the movies we watch, that glorify all things maternal, emotionally setting up generations of women to feel inadequate and guilty.
To add to a mother’s worries is the fact that constantly changing research is confusing when it comes to purchasing and cooking the right food for your family. Are eggs actually bad or good for you, is coconut safe to consume? It becomes hard to trust brands when you have to sift through information yourself before having to make a choice. Not only do mother’s have to decide what their family eats, but they also face criticism and a constant stream of advice which more often than not leads to confusion and second guessing.
Constantly playing bad cop
Whether it’s a grownup asking for dessert, or a child asking for a snack, more often than not, it falls to the mother to have to be the bad guy and say no. To please the family yet make sure they eat healthy involves a lot of give and take, and mothers are often portrayed as the bad guy in the process, making them feel the thanklessness of the entire process.
Let’s learn to eat healthy
It’s time to ease the burden on mothers, and this is only possible by first educating every member of the family about eating responsibly. It is important to teach children to eat a balanced diet, and in this department, actions definitely speak louder than words, which means that if everyone else in the family gives importance to eating healthy, then children will soon follow suit.
When ‘store bought’ is as healthy as homemade
Let’s face it, no one can be at two places at once, not even a mom. Having to rely solely on home cooked meals is going to get harder as time progresses, so making sure that packaged food is both safe and nutritious is vital to easing a mother’s burden when it comes to nutrition.
Most packaged foods in India are far from being healthy, with many even lacking a nutritional facts label. Improper food processing leaves packaged food sapped of nutrients, loaded with an excess of preservatives and additives to mask their flavourlessness. This can only change with the food processing industry adopting modern techniques to ensure that the nutrition in food is enhanced rather than depleted. We must take into account that regular processed foods contain too much salt and trans fats making them extremely unhealthy when consumed on a regular basis.
What the food processing industry needs is more research and attention to detail, not just bigger mega factories. With techniques such as cryogenics and cold pasteurization, it is now possible to retain more nutrition in food, and even increase the shelf life of food items. With use of better ingredients such as plant based low sodium salts, and cold pressed oils, it is possible to make sure that the food we eat remains healthy despite being store bought. With modern science at our disposal, it is possible to make food safer, purer and more nutritious, to ease the burden every caregiver faces when it comes to feeding those in their care.
Together, let’s make food healthier, because some choices set you free.