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Getting practical. Most of us know that being healthy is the way forward when it comes to food for our kids. However, it isnt always easy. So, this piece is a quick look at some easy, healthy and kid friendly ‘swaps’ and tricks that can make it just that bit easier…
Most parents have the best intentions when it comes to their child’s eating, however, if your child is anything like mine, it can often be a struggle to convert good intentions into a finished meal. In fact my son was a full on nightmare when it came to eating for a good few months which caused a lot of worry and anxiety.
However, what I’ve learnt (especially since having a child who really struggles with food) that healthy doesn’t necessarily need to be just kale and it doesn’t mean deprivation or missing out on the ‘naughty’ things in life.
There are always options.
We don’t believe that any food group or type should be “out of bounds’ (unless of course there is an intolerance or allergy), in fact often the forbidden is even more appealing. So, it’s just about being smart – there are always healthy options whilst still giving your child things they want.
So, here are a list of some of our very easy and favourite healthy swaps. These are tasty, super healthy and make your child think they are not being deprived by missing out on the ‘naughty’ things in life. Even better if you start them as early as possible your little one won’t even know the difference.
Start as you mean to go on as they say!
Pizza —-> Cauliflower Pizza
My son loves pizza – and that is fine now and again, the trouble is he likes it A LOT, so, we have switched a doughy white pizza base to pizza made from a Cauliflower base. First of all – it tastes nothing like Cauliflower (who knew?!) and secondly, once you’ve done it once, it’s actually quite easy to do. If you’re feeling tight on time you can now buy the base and add your own toppings – much better than store bought. I tested out a few recipes and below is my favourite (it’s also one of the easiest I found to do and if I can do it, it really must be idiot proof as I am no master chef!)
Fries —-> sweet potato baked fries
Once again, pretty simple. All kids like fries, just make your own with slow release lower glycemic index sweet potato (I also like to keep the skin on for extra goodies). These also miss the deep fat fryer. Once again, I tried out a few recipes and not only was this relatively idiot proof, but the fries came out nice and crispy too!
Crisps —-> popcorn or baked veggie crisps and avocado mash.
Both are easy swaps to make. Popcorn is great when you avoid the type that is super processed with lots of added weirdness. All you need is organic popping corn, if you want to add some additional flavour you can try cinnamon and coconut flakes/sugar if you want to sweeten or some garlic powder and a bit of Himalayan salt (although you need to watch the amount of added salt for small people)
To make baked veggie crisps it is as easy as slicing your veggie of choice thinly (making sure all the excess moisture is removed) and bake at 160 degrees until crispy (around 15-20 mins), adding some olive oil and baking at a high temperature in the oven. I serve mine with mashed avocado too which usually goes down well – just add a bit of lemon juice, finely chopped coriander and a bit of grated garlic.
Sweets —-> Goji berries/frozen berries
Goji berries are in fact known as ‘nature’s sweets’. (These are small however and can be a choking hazard so make sure your child is old enough and is watched while eating these. If in doubt just avoid until they are a bit older). If you have a younger child and are worried about choking risk then freezing organic berries (cut in half to minimise choking risk) another tasty option – especially on a hot day.
Chocolate —-> dark chocolate
My son loves chocolate (probably because I do too – guilty!). There is a big difference however between the store bought milk chocolate full of other ingredients and good/high quality organic dark chocolate. If you start them from the beginning on the good quality stuff (which is high in antioxidants) that is what they will like. Just watch out as it does contain caffeine which is not good for growing people. A little goes a long way in this case.
Fruit Juice —-> Coconut water
I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up fruit juice was considered ‘healthy’. However we now know that they are usually very high in sugar and fructose specifically – not good for little people, for inflammation, blood sugar stability or little teeth. Aside from water my son loves Coconut water which has the bonus of being full of electrolytes – perfect for a hot day.
White pasta/bread/rice —> wholegrain:
Small switch but stops that high glycemic index (where it is broken down very quickly giving you a big sugar hit) and provides a slower more balanced release.
Ice cream —-> home-made frozen fruit smoothie-pops:
My son’s favourite is a strawberry yogurt style one. All it is, is fresh organic strawberries coconut milk and yogurt (you can choose coconut yogurt if you want dairy free). If you have an older child (over one) then you can add honey. For the ‘How to’ see below. Even better you can mix and match the fruit depending on what you/your child likes.
Cake and biscuits —-> healthy banana bread:
Everyone loves a bit of cake now and again but instead of a sugar, preservative and additive laden store bought cake, quick and easy to make banana bread that packs a punch on the fibre front, is naturally sweetened and uses wholewheat rather than refined flour – the perfect substitute. See below for our favourite recipe which is easy to do – requires one bowl and once again is virtually idiot proof which is just what I need!
Veggies —-> hide them by chopping super fine!
When my son is going through a particularly picky phase (it happens) and I want him to have more dark leafy greens (which he is particularly resistant to) I simply hide them. For example if he is having pasta – I chop kale very finely and hide in the sauce. Similarly with an omelette I make sure I add whatever dark leafy green chopped super finely and hidden away within other goodies. One tip is to use the finest side of a cheese grater. What they cant see cant hurt!
How to: some of recipes we tried and tested:
Cauliflower Pizza Base:
Full credit for this recipe goes to dearcrissy.com (although I did add a couple of adaptations which are explained below…)
Step one: take a whole organic medium sized cauliflower and make into rice. You can use a food processor but the risk is that it goes into mush so I used a cheese grater. Pre heat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius and grease a baking sheet.
Step two: She says to microwave it (I don’t have one) so I just boiled mine for a 5 minutes (you dont want them too well done) and used meat stock for a bit of flavour. I did make sure to fully drain them out and pat dry (it is crucial to really dry them off.
Step three: take around a third of the cauliflower ‘rice’ and combine with 1x organic egg and some Parmesan cheese, plus crushed garlic, rosemary and oregano. If you want to add salt (I try and avoid when cooking for my son) now is the time to add and mix together thoroughly.
Step four: Place your ‘dough’ onto the cooking sheet and spread until you achieve around a 9 inch circle (make sure not too thin otherwise it can burn) and do as evenly as you can.
Step five: bake for around 15 minutes – once that is done add the toppings of your choice and put back in the oven for a further 5-8 minutes then enjoy!
Baked Sweet Potato Fries:
Full credit for this excellent and easy crispy fry recipe to gimmesomeoven.com (as we know I am not a chef but I tried a good few out and this one was definitely the best and easiest to do).
Step one: take 455g of organic sweet potato and cut into evenly cut fries (the ‘even’ part is key to make sure they come out crispy). Essentially you want them to all cook the same and the recipe suggests ¼ inch thick (that to me was a bit too precise – so I just made sure mine were broadly the same).
Step two: you want to rinse off excess starch so you soak them in cold water for at least 30 mins but ideally longer (up to overnight). Then rinse off and dry thoroughly.
Step three: Coat them in 2tbsp of olive oil and then combine a dry mix of ½ teaspoon of garlic powder (makes them taste great), ½ tsp of cracked black pepper, 2 tablespoons of corn starch and ½ tsp of paprika.
Step four: Ideally use parchment paper that can withstand a temp of 220 Celsius and make sure that is greased. If not just grease a baking sheet. Add the fries evenly in a single layer (you can always use two smaller pans)
Step five: bake at a high heat for around 25 minutes – once the top starts to crisp (around half way through) turn them over (this part does take a bit of time and watch you dont burn yourself!)
Step six: once they are nice and crispy take them out and let them cool for at least five minutes before they are ready to go. I prefer not to season with salt for my son but if you choose to (we prefer pink Himalayan salt) then thats up to you.
Creamy Fruit Smoothie-Pops:
First and foremost, I make all types of these as really you can add whatever fruit you want. My son loves strawberry but I sometimes add in other fruit like blueberries and raspberries too so you can really do what you like.
Step One: wash and chop up half of your strawberries around 16 oz in total (or fruit of choice) finely.
Step Two: take the other half and place them in a blender with coconut milk (125ml), yogurt (5-6 oz) and honey (50ml) if your baby is over one. Blend until smooth and then add in the chopped strawberries for a bit of texture.
Step Three: pour into the mould and add the sticks (I get mine in a big pack from Amazon) and freeze for at least six hours until solid. Top tip to get them out of the mould – run the bottom of the mould under a bit of warm water. Enjoy!.
Full credit for this recipe goes to ‘Cookie and Kate’. Easy to do, taste great, as healthy as cake ever gets and thumbs up from my very picky son:
Step One: preheat the oven to 165 degrees Celsius
Step Two: take a large bowl and beat together coconut or olive oil (70g) and honey or maple syrup (170g) with a whisk. Add in the beaten eggs (x2) the whisk in mashed bananas (2 large) and milk.
Step Three: Add the baking soda (1 teaspoon), vanilla extract (1 teaspoon), salt and cinnamon (1/2 teaspoon), and whisk to blend. Lastly, switch to a big spoon and stir in the flour (230g of whole wheat flour), just until combined. Some lumps are ok! If you want to add in any extra goodies do so now
Step Four: Pour the batter into your greased loaf pan and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon. If you’d like a pretty swirled effect, run the tip of a knife across the batter in a zig-zag pattern.
Step Five: Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the loaf pan for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes before slicing.
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