Introducing Becky, recently qualified as a Nutritionist, Mum to 3. Her passion for healthy eating is infectious, Catapult couldn’t resist stealing some of her expert knowledge to share with our followers.
As a mum to a 7 year- old boy I, like everyone else, spend a fair portion of time thinking about what to feed him next and will he and his sisters eat the same? The peace- keeping cog in my head turns over as I stand with the fridge/freezer door open trying to ignore its infuriating beeping. I get there (hopefully because of the tips I want to pass on!) and another meal passes, but it is the groundhog day event of life – what to feed them next, is it healthy, is it balanced, inexpensive and relatively easy to replicate?
WHAT DO KIDS NEED IN THEIR DIET?
Children have a higher energy requirement for their body size compared to adults and they need foods that provide energy, but are also nutrient rich:
- 50% carbohydrates in their daily diet
As an adult you may believe in limiting your carbohydrates and avoiding them where possible. Your child however needs them fundamentally as they provide energy that fuels their metabolism, supports growth and keeps their brain and nervous system working. The trick is to get the type of carbohydrates right, choosing complex, and unrefined versions like those listed below. The ideal is 5 portions a day and a portion would be around ¼ of a cup.
In my experience leaving the serving dish on the table whilst the children eat allows the child to measure their own appetite needs and you can gage more effectively their capacity for such foods.
- Whole wheat or spelt pasta
- Brown or wild rice
- Sweet potato
- The Rainbow of fruits and vegetables.
These kinds of carbohydrates break down more slowly in the body than the refined ‘simple BEIGE carbohydrates’, which are broken down very quickly in the body and lead to blood sugar spikes, which can affect your Childs’ mood, behaviour and tiredness levels.
RULE OF THUMB: EAT THE RAINBOW AVOID THE BEIGE!
SOURCES TO LIMIT:
High sugar kiddy cereals
Much is in the press now about the harm in excessive consumption of these processed refined foods, the sugar content and the inflammatory effects of them for starters. Read as much as you can to make informed choices for yourself and your family. Also, a lot of these types of food contain wheat, which can be inflammatory on our digestive system, but also the protein Gluten which many people find hard to digest and which is increasingly being credited with causing issues like bloating, constipation and IBS in children.
NUTRITION TIP – LOOK BEHIND THE LABEL:
There is also huge value in reading behind the label wherever possible. If you see anything ending in ‘ose’ (sucrose, maltose, dextrose, glucose, lactose, fructose) you are reading about sugars which you want to try and limit. Ingredients are listed in weight, meaning the nearer the start of the list, the higher the content of that product is in the food.
2) 20% Protein in their diet daily.
We are made of Protein. Children and adults alike need it to build and repair muscles, teeth, bones, nails, and for brain and nervous system support. Proteins are made up of amino acids and some of these the body cannot make on its own so we need to get these from foods. You should try and feed your child 3-5 portions of good quality proteins daily (around 20%) Proteins are broken down more slowly in the body and the body has to work a bit harder to do it so you do not need to overdo levels.
- Lean meats (chicken, turkey)
- Some beef, lamb, pork
- Grains and pulses (assuming tolerance)
- Eggs – the perfect protein
- Nuts if no allergies. (Keep these in jam jars on a shelf where you regularly use as they can be added to so many things and are great snacks on their own.
- Fats: Aim for 30% daily
Children need to eat good fats for optimum visual and brain development. They also burn more body fat than adults for each calorie used up and especially need essential fatty acids, which the body cannot make, you see it advertised a lot in packaging so look out for ‘Omega 3 rich’. If you child does not enjoy fish, you may want to explore omega 3 rich eggs (brand: Intelligent Eating Omega 3 Free Range Eggs).
Omega 3 SOURCES:
- Nuts like walnuts
- Dark green vegetables.
Other excellent fat sources:
- Lean and red meat,
- Full fat
- Organic dairy produce (if tolerated)
- Coconut milk and yoghurts,
- Nuts and seeds.
Not forgetting an excellent fat and apparently the most photographed thing on Instagram: The humble Avocado.
RECIPES FOR HEALTHY KIDS
I look for breakfast ideas, which are school run time efficient, and which my children will enjoy regularly. I try out recipes from books as I am not a chef, and look out for the foods I have listed above. Hopefully you will find these tried and tested ones are worth trying yourself!
BEST BREAKFAST FOOD FOR KIDS
Amazing Oats! - High in the soluble fiber beta glucans, as they are eaten they become gel-like in our digestive tract, (imagine a paste) which binds to excess cholesterol in the gut and drags it out of the body. It is Low glycemic. Which helps with blood sugar balance and a bowl is full of great Vitamins and minerals. Soaked oats make them easier to digest and help maximize nutrient absorption:
1 bowl oats
Cover the oats with either milk or use a good quality almond milk (Ecomil, Rude Health)
1tbs unsweetened coconut flakes
1tbs flaked/chopped almonds
1tbs pumpkin seeds
1tbs lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
Cover and fridge and in the morning, you can heat them on the stove as you would ‘normal’ porridge – they take very little time to heat up as they have been soaking- or eat cold.
Try adding grated apple or mixed berries for sweetness.
*A teaspoon of good quality maple syrup may also be required as your child adjusts to a different less sweet breakfast
Eggs! The perfect protein. I find this makes scrambled eggs a bit creamier and more texture, which my children like. For one child I use:
I tsp butter
Small matchbox sized feta crumbled.
Chopped raw spinach/chopped peppers
Almond milk to loosen.
Salt and pepper to season.
Melt the butter; add the ingredients and mix together over a moderate heat.
Jamie Oliver’s Protein Bread with avocado and marmite
A recently used recipe since purchasing his brilliant new book:
1x 7g sachet of dried yeast
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
250g gram flour
100g ground almonds
100g mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin) *ideally soak these for a few hours for better absorption
1 sprig rosemary
4 large eggs
- Preheat oven 190 degrees. Line a 1.5 ltr loaf tin with greaseproof paper Fill a jug with 375ml warm water, add the yeast and oil then mix with a fork until combined, then set aside.
- Place the flour, almonds and seeds in to a bowl with seat salt and make a well in the middle
- Finely chop and add the rosemary leaves
- Crack the eggs and beat then pour in the yeast mixture
- Whisking as you go gradually bring in the flour from the outside until combined – it is more like a batter than dough.
- Pour in the prepared tin and smooth out.
- Bake for 45 minutes until golden.
* I have found this keeps easily for 5 days in foil, I toast a slice and spread with marmite and chopped avocado for my children and it is enjoyed.
I know you may think this is grade 5 eating for kids, but it is worth a try as I find children frequently enjoy stronger flavours than you think:
Smoked mackerel pate with rye bread/oatcakes/ crudités.
3 smoked mackerel fillet
125ml full fat natural yoghurt
1 garlic clove
1-2 teaspoons of horseradish
¼ freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until at a thick dip-like consistency.
HEALTHY AFTER SCHOOL SNACKS FOR KIDS
This is when my children are at their most hungry, and thirsty! Aim for protein led snacks, and bring water as mine often mistake the thirst for hunger.
- Cut up pieces of apple and mixed nuts in a tub. I use walnuts, almonds and brazil nuts (off school premises –nut free school!)
- Granola Bars (Taken from Natasha Corret’s book ‘Honesty Healthy’) *you can play around with the types of berries you add, and I like to add coconut shavings.
Servings: Makes 12
200g jumbo rolled oats
200g dried dates, chopped
100g dried figs, chopped
75g goji berries
75g dried blueberries
2 tbsp raw flax seeds
Pinch of cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tbsp lucuma powder (a sweetness)
2 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp agave syrup
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C / 300 F / gas mark 2.
Spread the oats on a large baking tray and bake for around 20 minutes or until golden brown, turning them over every 5 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray.
- Place the dates and figs in a pan and cover with water to double the depth. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding extra water if the mixture gets too dry. This is going to be the syrup, so you want to reduce the dates and figs to a sloppy, sweet liquid. The cooking time will depend on how dry the fruit is – the drier it is, the longer it will take. Once the mixture has turned into syrup, take the pan off the heat.
- Add the goji berries, blueberries, raisins and flax seeds and leave the mixture to rest for 10 minutes to let the berries and raisins swell and absorb some of the syrup.
- Stir in the cinnamon, vanilla extract, lucuma and maca if using, pumpkin seeds and agave syrup or honey. Add the oats, a little at a time, stirring after each addition to make sure they are completely coated in the syrup.
- Spread the mixture evenly on a large rectangular baking tray to a thickness of about 1.5 cm / ¾ inch. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden.
- Remove the granola from the oven and cut it into 12 squares. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, carefully transfer them only a wire rack and leaving to cool completely.
- Sausage Rolls
These are a great occasional option. Whilst higher in saturated fats, these are very filling so smaller quantities may be advised.
Good Quality sausage meat
1x celery (finely chopped)
x2 apples peeled, cored and diced
Mix together the above ingredients in the magimix
Season with pepper
Add the above ingredients.
Sprinkle in a tablespoon of flour and some milk
Roll out the Puff pasty (gluten free option by ‘Genius’ is available) in to long rectangles 40x20 cm and add the sausage mixture along the length of the pastry and roll in to a long roll.
With a fork make lots of lines along the join and paint with the egg wash to glue the join together.
Cut in to 2cm pieces. Score each diagonally and paint with egg wash.
*This recipe also works well using apricots, different herbs and sprinkling the tops with sesame seeds
180 degrees for 25 minutes.
- Sliced apples and peanut butter (‘Whole Earth Peanut Butter’ is a clean brand)
- Some pre packaged choices (I do find these work out more expensive than trying to make my own): Itsu Seaweed, Bear Yo Yo fruit snack, Kallo Rice cakes.
SWEETS AND TREATS
I don’t subscribe to the ‘never feed children crisps and sweets’ rule because in my experience with my 3, it is unrealistic, unless they have allergies or intolerances of course, it’s a treat. My view is like most things, in moderation. There will come a time when my children go to the newsagent after school without me hovering behind them so I just try and help them choose well now.
Look behind the label – avoid any containing MSG and other food additives or colourings (like Annatto) where possible. You will probably know if they are a trigger for your child, but food related migraines are linked to these types of ingredients. If you can try and find brands which use 4 or less ingredients:
Tyrells (plain: Potatoes, sunflower oil and salt, or vegetable crisps.
Munchy seeds (assuming no allergies)
Hectares sweet potato crisps.
The darker the better with chocolate, a good cocoa percentage is above 70%. Whilst not in huge amounts, good dark chocolate does contain levels of beneficial minerals potassium, zinc and selenium and it has antioxidant properties.
Recently my children have been enjoying this Raw Chocolate Fudge recipe:
- 100g of coconut oil (odour free)
- 100g of almond butter (or any other nut butter)
- 50g of raw cacao
- 100g of honey
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
A pinch of sea salt
- Place the nut butter and coconut oil in your food processor and mix.
- Sieve in the raw cacao, then place the rest of the ingredients in and whizz for a few minutes until totally gooey.
- Scoop out of the food processor with a spatula and place into a small (coconut oil greased or laid with grease proof baking paper) baking tray, then place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Cut up your fudge into bite size bites then pop them back in the fridge until you want to eat them.
(Taken from Madeleine Shaw’s book Get the Glow)
There is a wealth of research as to why high sugar fizzy drinks need to be limited or ideally, taken out of child’s diet. They are widely regarded as being nutritionally empty and when consumed regularly, have been linked to behavioral issues, liver damage and insulin resistance among others.
These alternatives may help:
- Water (of course!)
- Sparkling Water and Apple or orange juice (not from concentrate) mixed together (yes its still a sugar but aim for good quality freshly pressed apple juice 1/3 glass full with 2/3 sparkling water)
- Water flavoured with fresh lemons/limes/mint
- If you have a juicer, an entry-level juice for children, which is not too bitter, is Carrot Apple and Ginger. Gradually with any juice try and reduce the sweet element (e.g. the apple/pear) and increase the bitter, adjusting over time means children’s’ taste buds are not given a shock!
SHOP brand: Cawstons Press Sparkling apple juice
I hope some of these tips are useful and thank you for reading!
Next time: More tips to help streamline your children’s’ feeding requirements!
- Cupboard Icons –cupboard clear out – A list for healthier alternatives as cupboard staples
- How to make the most of your freezer. The best nutrient rich freezer ingredients to buy from the supermarkets and ones to store for your family meals.