March is the season of winter in some places, spring in some parts of the world, and summer in several parts too! One season is common to all in India – March is the season of exam fever all over the country! Rising temperatures, portions to complete, revise, projects to submit, cramming before exams, and raging hormones no less, all add to the Indian teenager’s agony. Standing at an important crossroad of life, today’s teenager and the family have a lot of stress to face through these weeks.
At such stressful times, it goes without saying that a healthy body and healthy mind are very crucial to crack the tests and come through happily. Parents are eager to know what can help in improving their children’s health and will do all it takes to better their child’s chances at success. I have had several parents ask me about ideal diet for children during study holidays and examination - time. An ideal diet at these times should include plenty of fibre, vitamins and minerals and less of refined starches. Greasy, spicy foods are best avoided too. Fruits, fresh squeezed citrus fruit juice without too much sugar, other fluids like tender coconut water do wonders to keep the body and mind stable and calm. It also helps to spend some time in playing a favourite game and / or doing breathing exercises like ‘Pranayama’ (after learning from a qualified teacher).
Let us begin with good food. Food that is nourishing, sustaining, and tasty too! Food that energises without being heavy, food that delivers maximum effect with minimum effort. What can fit this bill better than sprouts?
I am quite fond of sprouts for their power packed nutrient content. Sprouts are an invaluable source of protein in a vegetarian’s diet. Besides the protein punch, sprouts are also chockfull of Vitamins B (better digestion, stronger nerves), Vitamin C ( better immunity, healthier gums). Also present are Minerals like Zinc, Copper, Iron – These are needed for a growing teen for stronger muscles, more blood cells and hence more oxygen to body and brain! Sprouts are low on glycemic index too. They are the perfect food for holistic health – of mind and body.
While it is true that raw sprouts give all the benefits of vitamins, fibre, minerals, yet it is not an easy task to coax children to chew on them frequently.If you can get your teen to chew on a tbsp of raw mung bean sprouts daily, it would be wonderful. However. do not despair if she does not agree. I often choose the middle path – steam the sprouts, or microwave them for a brief while to take the raw offensive flavour out. Steaming sprouts also is good to help elderly or people with compromised immunity to digest it easily.
Eating cooked sprouts is better than not eating them at all. Eating cooked sprouts in a smooth flavourful palak gravy is even better. What say?
Parathas made with multi grain dough flavoured with ajwain paired well with this sprouts in palak gravy. It was school lunch fare and I am so glad to say that other kids at school liked it too. This is an ideal meal for children working hard at their academics at this time of the year.
- Mixed sprouts or mung bean sprouts – heaped, 1 cup
- Palak leaves – wash in several changes of water, drain, chop and measure – 3 heaped cups
- Onion – chopped, 1/4 cup
- Garlic – 1 clove, crushed
- Tomato – chopped, 1/2 cup
- Green chilli – 2
- Root ginger – chopped – 1 tbsp
- Salt – 1 heaped tsp
- Garam masala powder – 1 tsp
- Oil – 1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp
- Jeera – 1/2 tsp
- Pressure cook mixed sprouts or mung bean sprouts for as much time as needed to be just cooked. The cooking time will depend on the bean. Set aside, for pressure to release. Alternately, if you are using only mung bean sprouts, just steaming them for 3-4 minutes would be good too.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non stick pan or kadhai.
- Add in this order, each at a 30 second interval – garlic, ginger, green chilli, onion and tomato. Add salt, let the tomatoes mush up.
- Add chopped palak leaves. Toss the palak well in the pan, let it wilt and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Cool and grind to a smooth paste.
- To the same pan, add 1/2 tsp oil, Sizzle jeera in it.
- Tip in the palak puree and the cooked sprouts, add garam masala. Check for salt, add more if needed.
- Simmer for 3-4 minutes, switch off cover and let flavours mingle for 10 minutes or more.
- Serve warm with a lime wedge if you like, as accompaniment to hot phulkas or steamed rice. Yum.