Knowing what to feed your kids can be a minefield for parents.
Naturally as parents we want to feed our children healthy meals packed full of vitamins, calcium and other vital nutrients while still offering them the odd sweet treat and even occasional *whispers Maccy D’s!
This is where the conundrum comes in – how often should we give our children treats?
Well, worry no more as Dietician Laura Clarke of LEC Nutrition shares what she actually feeds her kids.
Over to Laura
When I am witness to my children enjoying and finishing a meal I have lovingly prepared, it makes me happy. Almost as happy as I am when I catch an episode of Peppa Pig that I haven’t actually seen before!
Most of us I’m sure, put some consideration, time and a little of our heart and soul into what we feed our children. And so we should – getting it right from an early age is proven to foster a healthy relationship with food for life and ensure they are growing and developing with the right pool of nutrients to draw on as needed.
There are those times when it feels like my children must have trekked through the Amazon to travel to the table – does it really take that long to come from the play area to eat and do I need to get their hearing checked? And then there are those times when I’m feeding my third child (aka the food recycling bin) a better balanced meal than my actual offspring. Oh the joys!
For those that know me, or for those who have attended my weaning workshops, they will know of my anecdotes of hiding behind the fridge door to spy on my daughter as I prayed she was putting something in her mouth! Things didn’t start well for us (probably because, as I realise now I was an uptight dietitian mum wanting my daughter to achieve nutritional perfection – a tough call for her poor thing). We’re now 5 years on and I’ve had more practice with the second child so I thought I’d reflect on how far we’ve come!
They eat salmon! I’m a massive fan of oily fish – so many benefits for brain function and heart health to name but a few and the research keeps on coming. Children that don’t eat it, should really be considered for an omega 3 supplement.
If they get white bread, they think it’s Christmas! I recommend starting on wholemeal bread otherwise there’s no going back. It’s an easy win for a portion of wholegrains, fibre to support their bowels and B vitamins to support their energy release and concentration levels.
Breakfast happens! In some ways the easiest meal of the day – must be that 12 hour fast that helps!
I’ve experimented with a few cereals and scrupulously investigated them as I too get swayed by fears on sugar and salt content (almost – that 4 year degree has got to be worth something, if only to make me feel in charge in the breakfast aisle!). I’ve gone for a combo of Crunchy Bran and Shreddies – to meet their fibre needs and fill them up, with a little sweetness to help them feel they’re not eating cardboard –that way, everyone’s happy!
We drive corn on the cob trains. Corn is a colourful wholegrain and also an example of a vegetable containing the amino acid glutamate which gives rise to the fifth taste we can recognise known as ‘Umani’.
What a great opportunity for the developing taste buds of our little ones. It also doubles up as a bus or train to drive around the table between mouthfuls and you can’t ask for more than that.
The lessons I’ve learnt
Come on – 2 more mouthfuls. If the plate doesn’t get finished I stop after only a small amount of coaxing! ‘Keep it in perspective’ has become my moral – the next meal will come around soon enough.
This does mean I have to stand strong when they sometimes plead for one snack after another but this provides a fantastic opportunity to practice some deep breathing exercises!
…Don’t turn up to school with the wrong snack. The look said, ‘Mum seriously I have a reputation to uphold – all my friends are having yummy things at pick-up and you’ve brought me a…. PEAR!!!’
After school they may well desire something a little more filling – with a touch of yumminess to keep everyone happy on the journey home – but it’s still a great opportunity to top up the nutrients.
Homemade flapjacks made with fruit or oatcakes and peanut butter perhaps?
Finally, nothing gives you that Friday feeling more than a little chocolate – and boy do they savour it because it’s not an everyday thing.
Kid’s lunch boxes: some excel themselves but with many, I often find there is a certain predictability to their contents. If it was anything other than a cheese or ham sandwich on white bread I would seriously fall off my chair. Often then accompanied with a carton of juice, a sugary tube of so called yoghurt, a gingerbread biscuit the size of their head and a grotty looking apple. I know there is that constant tussle between, ‘well, I know they’ll definitely eat that’ versus, ‘well, that was a waste of money’ but surely our children deserve the right to greater choice and variety.
Work on the art of negotiation: ‘Mummy I want a snack!’ leads to a banana being presented. ‘That’s not a snack’ wails my youngest. ‘Yes it is’, assures Mummy.
Another moto: get it in, get it done – not the most convenient of snacks sometimes (handing me mushed up discarded bits when I’m driving mmmm nice) but at least one fruit portion a day is oh so important. Other snacks have their uses and place (as above) but you can’t beat fresh fruit mid- morning.
And so that’s it… for now. More confessions to follow I’m sure. With all that oily fish I’m sure my daughter will be able to read this herself soon – so for when she does, Happy 5th birthday and thanks for putting up with your dietitian mum!
Check out Laura’s workshops HERE.