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Noor is gluten intolerant but her father has learned how to prepare alternatives Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai : An Indian couple living in Dubai have taken a decision to not feed refined sugar to their four-year-old daughter in a bid to inculcate healthy organic eating for their child.

Yasir Shaikh, a cybersecurity consultant and his wife Nehal Ahmed, a digital strategy consultant, prepare an array of home-made gluten and refined sugar free dishes for their daughter Noor Shaikh, studying in FS1.

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Yasir Shaikh with his wife Nehal Ahmed Image Credit: Supplied

“As a child I loved desserts. But growing up I realised refined sugar is not healthy. When given to children especially it can effect their mental and physical well-being. And so when my wife and I planned on starting a family, we took a decision that our child will be given organic healthy food. This meant we had to change our lifestyle. Our eating habits changed a lot,” said Shaikh, who even undertook a diploma course in hospitality, specialising in Patisserie.

“A year before my daughter was born I took this course in Patisserie just so I could make customised healthy organic desserts for my child. I finished just after my daughter was born.”

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Noor’s breakfast is similar to any other child her age, says her father Image Credit: Supplied

Ever since then Shaikh and his wife Nehal prepare fresh food which is gluten free and refined sugar free.

“There is no dearth of ingredients, flavours and sugar substitutes for our customised cooking. Date powder, coconut powder, cocoa have proved to be great substitutes.”

So is little Noor (fondly called Noozi by family, friends) denied a yummy meal just to be on the organic healthy eating path? “Not at all,” comes the quick reply from the father.

“My wife and I bake, cook everything that a child her age loves to eat. From waffles to pancakes to burgers everything is made at home organically.”

He said: “We don’t want our child to be introduced to packaged food which comes with unhealthy fats. If a child is eating too much of this it can lead to obesity. It is not healthy at all. As parents we are doing our best to keep her away from unhealthy food. Hopefully it stays with her as she grows up.”

Noor’s menu

Noor’s breakfast, according to her father, is similar to any other growing child. “She enjoys dosas (rice crepe), eggs. I make granola for her which she enjoys a lot. We also stock up on gluten free bread to make sandwiches for her. Pancakes are a favourite in the house. Again I buy gluten free flour to make pancakes for her. Noor loves gelatin so we make gelo at home. It’s really simple and easy,” he said.

Shaikh elaborated that considering Noor is gluten intolerant, she cannot eat the wheat based Indian rotis (round flat bread) popularly eaten with lentils, curries and gravy.

“Instead I found a substitute for wheat called Ragi (finger millet of a plant producing edible grain). Also when it comes to ketchup I substituted date powder for sugar. For meringue, a type of dessert or candy normally made from whipped egg whites and sugar – I use honey to replace the sugar.”

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Nutritionist’s take

Nour Al Mahmoud

Nour Al Mahmoud, a clinical dietitian and nutritionist at Prime Medical Centre, said that studies have shown that a high sugar-containing diet has negative impact on academic performance, learning abilities, and memory. “Children consuming high amount of refined sugar are at risk of developing metabolic outcomes like fatty liver disease, diabetes, and heart disease in addition to inflammatory conditions like asthma, acne, and even gout,” said Al Mahmoud.

She added that there are digestive issues also to worry about with high consumption of refined sugar as it has a negative impact on the gut microbiome and gut function. “It is recommended to delay the introduction of sugar to infants and children to allow healthy growth and development.”