Abha Jain on school dabbas and dilemmas



Abha Jain, a stay at home mum began an enterprise early this year that would help out many other parents, particularly mums in solving the dilemma of packing delicious and nutritious food for kids to school.

A positive story that shows mums can turn their life phases to fill that need where most other moms may feel the void. She also shares a few tips on healthy eating and to resolve a few dilemmas in the kitchen.

“I am mum of 2 boys, 5 year old and almost 3 year old. I remember the fragrance and taste of stuffed tomato that my mom used to make is still fresh and lingers on. Being a mum of two very young kids, balancing needs of family and my venture has been the biggest challenge.

Like all mums, I too was already sending hot lunch for my older son. I thought how about doing the same for other school going children. It would be a huge respite for mums as they won’t have to cook early in the morning and children will get the advantage of healthy, fresh and hot meals in school, in an eco friendly steel box. That is how I met my venture partner, Raksha Alva who also had similar idea in her mind.

We have a set monthly menu with not a single lunch item getting repeated. Each meal is a well thought combination of protein, vitamins, carbs, calcium and minerals. We get freshest of ingredients on a weekly basis. With utmost importance given to hygiene, morning time goes into cleaning fresh produce, chopping, soaking pulses/lentils and preparing everything from scratch without using any processed or store bought sauces or purees. Each steel tiffin is packed with hot meal and kept in insulated lunch bag and delivered 30 mins before lunch time in each school .

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Raksha and I do the cooking. We do have a helper for chopping, cleaning and packaging. The response have been overwhelming and parents have really appreciated this novel idea of giving their kids exposure to healthy and multi cuisine menu options.

One  must understand that lunch time is also play time for children, so mums should pack something that is not messy and a child can eat independently and quickly. One example would be vitamin or protein packed parathas that can be made with sneaking in dal or pureed veggies in the dough.

Also one can include more grains like millets in the form of veggie tikkis/cutlets that can be best finger food for younger children. Mums particularly are shouldered with the responsibility of healthy eating habits to be cultivated for kids. And this begins when the kids are at 6 months. I rarely gave any store bought baby or pureed food to both my children. They always ate what we ate as a family. I never cooked separately for them.

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I feel letting kids enjoy taste and texture from an early age and making meal time a family affair definitely brings positive vibe wherein everybody enjoys and appreciates the effort that goes in preparing food.  My sincere advice to parents is cook more of your own food and shop less of store-bought processed foods that are loaded with preservatives. A kid takes time to develop taste of any new food so we have to keep trying and emphasize on the nutrition aspect. A kid as young as 3 also understands the difference between junk and healthy food. Making kids learn about advantages of eating fruits, vegetables, pulses, milk products at an early age goes a long way in creating good food habits. Involving your children in cooking can be effective too.

To talk on two kitchen tips, it would be -while cleaning vegetables and fruits, soak them in water with a capful of vinegar and lemon juice for around 30 minutes and for longer shelf life of pulses and lentils, put dried neem leaves or stems in  storage containers.

Also when it comes to eating habits in the family, do remember that over feeding gives a wrong signal to the child. Simple and home cooked food that is made with love should be enjoyed and not forced upon. A child knows his capacity and if he is hungry he will eat well. Sugary and processed packaged foods should be a rare treat. Anything is moderation should be the ‘mantra’.

I would like to re-quote the words of Julia Child, American author,  chef and TV personality” You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients.”

On being asked her favourite cuisine, she ended the conversation by saying, “ Well it will be difficult to choose one. In Indian, I would go with dal makhani and missi roti. Other favorite is thai green curry loaded with veggies.”

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