Get a group of mothers together and you can be sure of two things
1. There will be liquid consumed. If its before 5pm strong shots of coffee will be skulled and if its after 5pm… well then it’s obviously wine o’clock.
2. Conversation will ultimately turn to food. And that’s for sure.
Very rarely will you find a mum who’s happy with her child/toddler/baby’s food intake. We have all become masterminds at hiding veggies and “marketing” the food as something way more fun then it really is. We try recipes knowing our kids won’t even put it on their forks and we have all thrown away food or eaten it ourselves simply so it and our efforts don’t go to waste! I picked the brain of Chloe Sacks, Accredited Practising Dietitian, Accredited Nutritionist and mother of three gorgeous active boys and asked her the questions I thought you all might want the answers to. I also have asked her to include some recipes to help us all!
Do you have fussy eaters?
One of my kids is fussy – every family seems to have one! He is your typical “white” eater – likes pasta, noodles, bread (preferably white/baguette/bagels!) and turns his nose up at veggies, fruit, meat and even now milk and yogurt – and they are white!!
So I mix extra veggies and cheese into soups, risotto, spaghetti and pasta bake (see recipes below).
I try involve him by making dinner together e.g. tacos (with red kidney beans mashed into the mince!) and having fun with food – if you put little bowls of chopped tomato, avocado, grated cheese, grated carrot, shredded lettuce and cucumber ribbons on the table they love helping themselves to the “rainbow”. Pizza making can also be fun – offer varied and different toppings. Go grocery shopping with them, enagage them and ask their opinion about different foods and how they relate to him/her e.g. “carrots help your eyes see!”
I make smoothies with milk, yogurt, fruit and LSA mix – a touch of pink milk powder always helps!
Growing veggies, fruits or herbs in your garden can give your child a sense of ownership and pride, and encourage them to try new foods.
Or add a sense of fun with novelty pasta shapes, cookie cutters to shape sandwiches and fruit (think watermelon “gingerbread” men) or with some “face” plates.
Progress your child through small steps – the worst thing you can do is pressure them, and make mealtimes an ordeal. I usually start by talking about the food – say broccoli. “What is this called? … What does it look like/remind you of?… Hold it – is it hard or soft? Juicy or crunchy? Have you seen Mummy eat this before?” This should help make the new food seem more approachable. Then tell them you are going to put some on their plate, they don’t have to eat it, its just going to sit there. Once they are comfortable touching it, having it on their plate, they will be ready to put it against their lips, or lick the food, or even hold it in their teeth. Remember, it can take 20 exposures to a food before kids will try it – small steps!!Work with what they do like – so if they like potato chips or wedges, try sweet potato wedges, or if they like peanut butter try celery with peanut butter, and if they love purple, let them dip veggie sticks or pieces in beetroot dip. Present foods in different ways e.g. apple can be grated, stewed, peeled into a long “snake”, thin slices with a ricotta dip etc.I don’t tell them “eat this, and you can have dessert”. Then you send the message that this food is not enjoyable, and dessert is necessary for anyone to be able to eat this! Rather say “Oh, you’re not that hungry tonight, that’s OK we’ll leave this here in case you feel hungry later”, subtly implying that dessert will not follow because they are not hungry enough to eat their dinner.Set a good example – if they see you eating and enjoying foods, they are more likely to try them. Families that sit and enjoy meals together tend to develop better eaters.
Offer small portions – big helpings can be overwhelming.
Feed kids before they get tired.
Let them play with their food – yes it’s messy, but exploring a new food is an important part of their sensory development and prelude to tasting and eating.
Make sure they are HUNGRY – otherwise it will be an uphill battle. Watch the between meal snacks – and the drinks! Fussy kids tend to fill up on juice and milk, and not be hungry for meals.
How do we know what kind of portions they should be having?
Before the age of five, kids are very good at intuitively eating the amount they need. As they get older, they tend to loose this ability somewhat – probably not helped by meals being scheduled around school and activities, and parents cajoling them into eating! If you are worried that your child is eating too much, even though the food is healthy, it can help to see a dietitian who can advise you as to recommended daily food intake and the expected weight/growth range for your child.
My kid are pretty good meal eaters but I struggle with easy healthy snacks, any ideas?
Uncle Tobys muesli bars – the new recipe has less salt, more wholegrains and 1.5 tsp of sugar per bar
Apple slices spread with sunflower seed butter
Cheese and corn thins or seedy Vita Wheats
Cereal – e.g. Crunchola, Cheerios
Crackers or wholegrain wrap with sunflower seed butter (nut free)
Turkey slice wrapped around cucumber stick
Celery spread with cream cheese
A pickled cucumber
Veggie sticks with tub of hummous, cream cheese, cottage cheese, beetroot or pumpkin dip
Be Natural Roasted Chickpeas or the Happy Snack Company Roasted Fava beans
Slice Burgen fruit and muesli bread with thin spread ricotta
Toasted grain muffin/corn thin spread with Leggo’s pizza sauce and topped with slice low fat cheddar and grilled
Ricotta with a few drops vanilla and a drizzle of honey
Milo with milk – Milo increases the calcium of milk by 70%
Frozen juice pops or cubes
Custard with berries or banana
Paddle pop – milk based and contains 2.5 tsp sugar
Multigrain bread spread with ricotta and decorated with Hundreds and Thousands
Banana “ice cream” – pop a frozen banana into the blender until it has the consistency of soft serve. Add honey, peanut butter or Nutella to taste.
Eton mess – meringue smashed and mixed with strawberries and Greek yogurt
Best buys – bread, milk, cheese, yogurt. (I always get told to go to a specialty store from experts but find them too expensive.. Whats the best for me to choose at Coles or Woolies?)
Bread: wholegrain/multigrain is best as most of the vitamins, minerals and fibre is contained in the outer portion of the grain which is absent in white bread. Wholemeal is your next best choice.
We enjoy Lawsons or Helga’s breads Mixed Grain or Quinoa varieties.
Milk: Full fat for children under 2 years old, otherwise light milk. Flavoured milk is very sugary, rather buy Milo and add a little yourself or Sipahh milk straws.
Cheese: Ricotta cheese has less salt than other varieties, and is creamy, mild tasting and easy to spread – great for kids. Boccocini or cottage cheese are also good choices.
Avoid processed cheeses like “Laughing Cow” – unless you want water, skim milk powder and whey powder and 65% real cheese. Go for a natural Australian cheese such as Coon or Bega.
Yogurt: Greek yogurt is best – higher in protein and lower in sugar. I like Tamar Valley, Farmers Union or Chobani. You can always add your own berries, cinnamon, vanilla or drizzle of honey for sweetness.
Is it ok that my kids still love drinking milk? How much should they be having?
It is recommended kids get 1.5-3 serves of dairy a day (ranging from ages 2 to 11 yrs) to get the protein, calcium and other minerals and vitamins they need. A serve is a cup of milk, a tub of yogurt or a slice of cheese. Kids can have cows milk from the age of one as smoothies, with cereal and porridge, soups and in custard and desserts e.g. rice pudding. Excessive milk drinking in toddlers should be avoided, as they often wont have an appetite for meals. Speak to a dietitian if you are worried.
Ok, I’m inspired.. A couple of easy and delicious recipes that are winners in your house?
Tuna pasta bake
(I often make double of this and freeze prior to baking).
500 g pasta – penne or spirals, cooked
1 jar Barilla pasta sauce
1 large tub cottage cheese
½ can (200 g) light evaporated milk
425 g and 185 g cans of tuna in oil, drained
1 brown onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Large wedge of kent pumpkin, chopped steamed and mashed
Grated cheese for topping – about ½ packed cup
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Sautee onion and garlic until soft. Remove from stove. Add tuna and mix. Add to cooked pasta, then add sauce, cottage cheese, milk, pumpkin and mix well. Spread into a large greased baking dish, top with cheese and bake for around 30 mins.
1 cup Arborio rice
Tin chopped tomatoes
1 brown onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup grated cheese
200 g smoked salmon “cooking” pieces or 200 g tinned tuna in oil, drained
2 zucchini, or ½ cauliflower, steamed and mashed
Preheat oven to 180 degrees. On medium heat, sautee onion and garlic until soft. Add rice, stir one minute. Add stock and tomatoes, and bring to the boil. Turn stove off, stir in salmon, tuna or leftover cooked chicken, zucchini and cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes. I add steamed diced veggies such as broccoli, corn and carrot and stir in to serve.