It is most mother’s biggest challenge – meal time and getting their little ones and/or bigger ones to eat a well balanced meal. My ‘angel baby’ has continued to live up to his baby name label long after being weaned off breast milk, and who now asks for a veg juice shot every morning, eats up his half a plate of green leafy veg, loves smoothies and granola, any kind of fish or meat and always tries something new before providing a comment such as ‘not to my taste, but thank you’. My other baby, a little more reluctant on the greens and veggies, is scared of carrots and anything orange, holds his nose when I give him the option of a green shot or veggies, makes a big fuss if there is something that is new and unknown and will eat a potato field of roast potatoes.
But on the whole, my children eat pretty well and I have learnt that there are few simple tips and guidelines to make sure they eat well:
- Focus on what they eat over the course of the week, rather than just one meal time. This not only takes the pressure off you, but it is fascinating to watch – they instinctively carb load or get their polyphenol fix!
- Engage and involve your children in meal planning, especially if they are old enough (school age); keep it simple, offer them options. If they feel they have had a choice, they are more likely to eat up! If you have multiple children, let them each choose one meal each a week. If they are older, perhaps let them cook one meal a week?
- Keep the weekly menu visible! Kids love to know what they are going to eat in advance.
- Let them serve themselves. They feel empowered and in control, rather than feeing forced and this works wonders if you want them to eat. You can be there to guide or pop on an extra broccoli floret.
- Eat as a family, around a table. Children copy what you do, not what you say and they love your full attention. I find my boys have always eaten more, with better manners when we eat together as a family around the table, with no distractions. And they talk! I find out most things over a family meal in terms of what is going on at school.
- If you have time, let them be involved with the cooking. I love that my boys think peeling veg ‘is cool’! Win/ win!
- Experiment. Variety is so important; try choosing and cooking one new recipe a week or at least every two weeks; this is good for your children and good for you! If you like a new recipe, you have more to add to your meal options when planning.
- A word on snacks; if your children eat well at meal times, leave healthy snacks accessible – fresh fruit bowls, raw veg sticks, homemade healthy treats. If they don’t eat sufficiently at a meal time, rather than allow or give snacks for fear they will go hungry, remove the snacks and bring a meal forward and promote healthy eating, rather than just snacking.
So, here are a few of our family favourite recipes:
- My Mumbo’s Bolognaise – good for batch cooking, freezing and with lots of hidden veggies and kids LOVE it!
- Special Fried Rice – quick and tasty
- Miso Salmon tray bake – a little more adventurous and was my experiment in half term but a complete winner
- Raspberry smoothie
- Quick snacks
My Mumbo was an amazing cook, but loved cream and butter! This is an adaptation of her recipe. Forgive the lack of precise measurements, but I have done for years by feel and taste!
- 1 red onion, chopped finely
- 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 big carrot washed and grated
- 1 big courgette washed and grated
- 2 packs of best lean beef mince
- 1 heaped tablespoon pesto (green or red)
- 1 heaped tablespoon tomato puree (‘bomba’ is best brand I have found)
- 2 tins chopped tomatoes (preferably organic)
- 1-2 glasses red wine (optional but does make a difference) or good quality stock
- gluten free pasta / whole wheat pasta / courgetti spaghetti
Put a good glug and swirl of olive oil in the bottom of a heavy pan and when liquid, add in the onion. Stir until soft and add the garlic for a minute or so. Add the carrot and courgette and stirfry for a few minutes until they soften.
Add the meat and break it up and fry until all the meat is browned and separated. Add the tomatoes, pesto, puree and wine or stock. Stir and let it bubble up.
Turn down the heat and cook for as long as you can! I like to cook in the morning and leave in my slow cooking aga oven all day. If you don’t have an aga, cook for at least 45 minutes. Take it off the heat and let it rest for the day and then reheat when ready to serve.
We have a variety of spaghetti options in our house – gluten free for my youngest, whole wheat for my husband and eldest and I love it on courgetti spaghetti!
One afternoon, my boys invited all their friends over (apparently discussed over packed lunch at tennis club) for tea and play. Fortunately, I had made a big batch of this earlier that day… when I called them in for tea – they all served themselves to pasta and then spoonfuls of the sauce. They practically licked the plates and had no idea how many veggies they had!
Special Fried Rice – for 2-3 hungry boys
This is taken from the brilliant book I bought when the boys were toddlers – the Madhouse Cookbook by Jo Pratt with a few healthier adaptations.
- 5-6 boneless chicken thighs (organic), sliced into bitesize pieces
- 2 tblsp gluten free soy sauce
- 2 tblsp raw organic honey
- 1 tblsp ex. virgin coconut oil
- 4 spring onions finely sliced
- 1-2 big handfuls green beans / mangetout / sugar snap peas chopped into halves / smaller pieces
- 1 carrot / courgette grated
- cooked rice for 2-3
- 1 tin unsweetened sweet corn or sweet corn cut off the cobb
- chopped fresh pineapple to serve
- 1 egg beaten
Mix the chicken with the soy sauce and honey. Heat the oil in the wok and then add the chopped and grated veg (including sweetcorn if raw) and stir fry for one minute. Add the chicken and the marinade and stir fry until the chicken is cooked through.
Add the rice, sweetcorn (if tinned) and stir fry until all hot. At the last minute mix in the egg and serve immediately!
Add the pineapple on top! I like to serve on a bed of spinach or watercress for extra greens.
Miso Salmon tray bake – Melissa Hemsley ‘Eat Happy’
This recipe was my experiment over half term and it paid off as it is a family favourite and we had clean plates all round! No leftovers! I didn’t have all the veg, so this is a slight adaptation to the original.
- 2 tblsp coconut oil
- Chopped veg: use a mix of aubergine, red peppers, courgettes
- Green veg: asparagus, tenderstem broccoli
- 4 wild salmon fillets
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tblsp mixed sesame seeds
Take a large roasting tin and heat the oil until melted; then add in your veg. Cover the bottom of the tin – I used 2-3 courgettes, 3 red peppers – season and add in to a hot oven for 15 minutes.
- juice of two limes
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 6cm ginger grated
- 4 tbsp miso paste
- 4 tbsp hot water
Mix all the ingredients together to make a paste.
Bring out the roasted Veg from the oven and pour over the paste. Lay the salmon fillets and the asparagus / broccoli on top of the veg. Drizzle the salmon with the sesame oil and the sesame seeds, season and then return to the oven for 8-10 minutes depending on the size of your fish.
I served with a herby quinoa and sprinkled with spring onions.
Honestly – delicious! I blinked and my youngest (the fussier one) had eaten it all up!
Raspberry smoothie – 2 -3 servings
This is great for an afternoon treat and snack. We had them during a table tennis tournament. I lost, but felt like I was winning! This is full of good fats which are so important for growing brains and a good portion of fruit too.
- 1/2 avocado
- 1 tblsp nut butter (I like almond, but you could use peanut or cashew)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- frozen raspberries (or any berries really)
- Milk (I like almond milk, but you could use coconut milk or even dairy milk)
- mix of pumpkin & sunflower & chia seeds to sprinkle
In your nutribullet (or blender), add avocado, nut butter and coconut oil. Put in frozen berries to half way up your nutribullet (or less if you don’t like too thick). Pour over the milk so that the ingredients are well submerged and blitz. You may need more liquid if very thick.
Serve with a sprinkle of seeds – this will ensure you / your kids chew to kick start your metabolism and digest the liquid food!
Other quick snacks
- apple slices with nut butter
- rice cakes with smashed avocado
- raw veg (carrots, courgettes, cucumber, celery, peppers) and full fat good quality humous (or make your own)
- fruit salad – chop up lots of fruit and keep in tubs in the fridge – pineapple, mango, kiwi, grapes, berries and let them make up their own little bowls. Top with full fat yoghurt plain if you like.
For other ideas, check out my instagram or facebook feed for more ideas, healthy cakes, treats and meals!