Junk Food In Tiffins: To Give Or Not To Give?

Today's kids refuse to eat healthy food, and the only way to make them eat something is to give in to their demands of junk food in tiffins. 

Today’s kids refuse to eat healthy food, and the only way to make them eat something is to give in to their demands of junk food in tiffins. 

Time travel back to my childhood in the 1990s

After the hard work of the boring 5 periods, each of which seemed much longer than 45 minutes, and hands painted with the ink that had spilled while trying to make it to the ink pens, came the saviour. Recess. Hands were washed, and tiffins made their way out of bags.

Bhindi wrapped in chapatti, bread jam, stuffed parantha. For a few lucky ones a treat came in the form of rajma chawal and aloo puri. Birthdays and festivals were different, where vegetable cutlet and maggi found its way to our tummies. And a piece of barfi or ladoo just brightened our day.

The remaining 4 periods in school passed comparatively easily, with tummies full and minds hovering over what Maa might have cooked for lunch.

The only accompaniment we were aware of in those times was tomato ketchup. Those cousins who had stayed abroad often demanded mustard sauce, earning our idolization!

Cut to now : 2016

I am a mother to a preschooler, and my attempt to feed my son healthy food is in vain. The tiffin sees the light of day only if I have sent chocolate cookies or smileys and fries, wafers and muffins, pastas and wraps.

Any kind of fruit, nuts or sabzi is looked down upon. The first question he asks after seeing me after school, is why I packed what I did that day. I feel sad that he does not eat the tiffin I had planned keeping in mind his health.

Hard pressed for time, working moms – my heart goes out to you. Managing the tiffin of a school going child is a task in itself. The planning for tomorrow starts as soon as today’s tiffin is packed. How do you do it all super moms?

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There is a variety of food available today, that is acceptable to kids in the tiffin. Let us look at some of these.


Frozen food was unheard of when we went to school. The only frozen food we knew of was ice cream. And this delight was reserved for special occasions. When we asked for chips, our moms used to cut potatoes, dip them in besan (gram flour) and fry them – and that was a treat. Now, only a tiffin full of fries made from frozen ready-made potato fries can make any child smile. Be he a first grader or tenth grader!


Ketchup, ketchup and more ketchup. That was the only kind of dip available. That too, we had to beg our mothers to get. Their only concern, “you’ll have a sore throat if you eat too much of that!” Now all kinds of dips in different flavours – jalapenos, garlic, sweet chilly, yogurt based, chocolate based – are available. Just quiz your child on the number of dips they can name. You’ll be shell shocked.


The only bread available at my home was commercially available white bread. Or milk bread from the local bakery that was not always available because of heavy demand. Now even brown bread is passe. Breads of all descriptions – panini, focaccia, multigrain, wholewheat, garlic, cheese, fruit, oats – are available. There is an endless list of them.

With spreads ranging from different flavoured cheeses to nutellas, making a sandwich to suit the kids’ palates is nothing less than a science experiment.

The only sandwich my generation was aware of was bread and butter accompanied by cucumber and tomatoes. And burgers were all about aloo tikki between the buns. Who knew about mayonnaise, and its variants?

Junk has become delectable and  inevitable.


I abhorred them. Tasteless, colourless, boring. Now chocolate, banana, strawberry, with nuts, without nuts, shaped like moon, stars – you name it, you get it. They are so tempting, that they are a regular favourite in tiffins.

Popcorn and wafers

They never featured on the ’90s tiffin list simply because of nutritional values. They were never a substitute for real food. Rarely, wafers bought from a small local shop, or some brands available at that time, like crax, uncle chips, binny chips, were given only as incentives when we did something right. Remember the jingle, “bole mere lips, I love___!”?


It was every child’s delight to sneak sharbat or home made lemonade in water bottles to school, and share their secret with a friend. Today’s school going generation is addicted to colas and artificially flavoured drinks. Things we only saw on vacations.

Looking at junk

The question is unavoidable –  how much is too much when it comes to junk? Kids as young as 4 are suffering from obesity. Type 2 diabetes. Blood pressure. The problem is mostly – eating habits.

Mothers try to learn endless recipes from friends, television and internet. They curate the best of menus comprising greens and soups and nuts. But do the kids accept it? In the end a mother succumbs to the pressure – she just wants her child to eat. She gives in to the sobs of her kid demanding junk. Barring a few, hardly any child enjoys snacks like chiwda, khichdi, upma, idli, or veggies like baigan, lauki, spinach in their food. Serve a pizza. You will be the best.

As a solution, many schools have now asked the parents to send two tiffins with children, one comprising home cooked food, and second one with pre-cut fruits. The question is – how practical is it to force feed healthier options? With growing advertisements about various kinds of fast food biggies and other junk like fries and candies and chocolate surprise eggs, now the kids not just know what they want to eat, but also the brand which they prefer.

Globasity‘ has become an epidemic. And I as a mother, am worried about my child being a part of this junk culture.

Image source: pixabay


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