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If there is one thing to remember in the quest for nutritional fabulousness, it's that.
Nutritionist, author and mother of two Honor Tremain knows just how hair-tearingly frustrating the whole "food thing" can be for parents.
The key, she says, is to keep it simple. “Look to your grandparents for some solid old school food tips,” she says.
It’s time to get back to the days when we grew a lot of our own fruit and veggies, relied on whole foods and steered away from processed, GMO and packaged foods.
The good old meat-and-five-veg and one-to-three serves of fruit each day were golden rules to live by, she says.
"The simple foods are the best: a diet based on fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, healthy grains and legumes with treats or processed foods only occasionally.
"The science is all there. This works. And when our children are having a balanced diet without processed foods – when we are keeping it simple and real and whole – then everything is better."
Honor's tips for busy (and food-fatigued) parents:
- Go with whole food – they are foods that have not been touched by processing in any way, that don’t have numbers. A whole apple, a carrot, cherry tomatoes.
- Pack things like veggie sticks and fruit pieces in the lunchbox.
- Try homemade meatballs, sushi, meat pies and sausage rolls.
- Nuts are a fantastic source of protein and a sustainable energy source.
- Try hummus and crackers.
- Toast and organic honey with LSA (Linseed, Almond and sunflower meal) sprinkled with it is a yummy, real food sweet option for occasions.
- Sprinkle sesame seeds or the LSA mix on honey or jam sandwiches for protein.
- Yes, you read that correctly – jam is okay occasionally. Keep it organic and market-bought or homemade is best
Giving in isn’t always easier, particularly in the long run, but is understandable especially when we are so time poor and we just want them to eat everything on the plate or in the lunchbox.
Behaviour, concentration, learning and overall health is all reliant upon this good nutritional stockpile the body makes every cell from.
So what about the fussy eaters?
With a Bachelor in Health Science, Honor doesn't buy it. Not entirely, anyway.
"Parents need to harness their belief in themselves and remember we are the guides,” she says.
"Giving in isn’t always easier, particularly in the long run, but is understandable especially when we are so time poor and we just want them to eat everything on the plate or in the lunchbox.”
But when we sacrifice healthy foods for foods they like, well who’s going to pass up Tiny Teddy’s over broccoli? Not many.
"It takes up to 10 introductions of the same food for some children to even consider eating it. That is a general rule for all kids and all age groups – up to about teenagers.
“Remember this when broccoli is on the menu."
It seems like a daunting prospect! But like anything, it's all about baby steps towards a goal.
Honor's tip to encourage more veggies and healthier eating is to start by looking at the sweet foods children eat each day. Identify what sweet tasting foods are being eaten or drunk – especially the processed and packaged kinds – and limit or remove those from their diet.
Offer the savoury foods first and (most importantly) do it with patience.
"Calmly be their guide. Let the child know they will have their lunch or their dinner first, and then they will have their sweeter foods after, you can use fruit as the sweet reward or even watered down juice.
"Gradually, this will start to change their palette, their taste for sweets and then they will begin to accept veggies and savoury foods more easily."
Honor puts a lot of the angst and stress of kids' eating down to clever marketing.
She says cutting through the fads and the confusion can be tricky – but that's where keeping it real comes into its own.
"A packaged snack that is posing as nutritional and says it has ‘the goodness of five apples’ is never actually going to be as good as just having one real apple.
"And there is nothing easier than fresh fruit – grab an apple or a banana and there it is, a simple, easy, healthy snack; and it is real!"
The argument for whole food is even more compelling when it comes to behaviour and good habits.
It takes up to 10 introductions of the same food for some children to even consider eating it. That is a general rule for all kids and all age groups – up to about teenagers. Remember this when broccoli is on the menu.
It all starts with breakfast.
"Breakfast sets the tone for the entire day,” Honor says.
"If your child has a junkie or a sweet breakfast then their little bodies will be searching constantly, for that sugar. With a sugary breakfast, they have a spike in their blood sugar but it isn't a real sustained energy like that of protein, so it drops –and they chase that sugar and energy high for the rest of the day, demanding sweets or processed foods.”
The result, she says, is kids then don't have a sustained, reliable source of energy to draw upon becoming more distracted. Their concentration can suffer and their behaviour and capacity to engage and learn takes a big hit.
It's not just sugar, either. Additives and preservatives hiding in packaged and processed foods can be just as detrimental – if not worse.
Tummy pain, headache, skin rashes, concentration issues – all things which can come from additives; especially ones listed in the 220s family, can wreak havoc on your child’s physical and emotional health.
"Again, if you are serving ‘real whole foods’ and keeping an eye on the ingredients of everything you put in your shopping trolley then you stand a better chance of ensuring your children have everything they need,” Honor says.
"Look at labels and ask yourself, does that look real to me? How many numbers are in that list? Does that make sense?
"We are so overwhelmed with being told and marketed to about what our kids' needs are that we can sometimes lose sight of our own common sense.
"It's time to take back the power we should have over our own health and that of our family.
"It doesn’t have to be difficult or confusing. Talk to your grandparents about it. Ask questions. Find out how to get back to what's real – the basics."
And while our grandparents got so much right, one outdated philosophy still lingers and we should reconsider it - 'Make sure you eat everything on your plate.’
This came from post war times when there was not enough to go around, but these days it’s not always a good idea as it encourages overeating and the inability to listen to your early ‘full’ signals, which many adult obesity patients complain they have completely lost.
So, listen to your kids when they say they’re full, they probably are.
Simple Healthy Daily menu ideas for you and your kids:
Eggs and bacon with toast for breakfast or a protein rich smoothie (see recipes)
Fruit, veggie sticks, nuts or protein balls.
Sandwiches, wraps or foods containing some protein: such as ham, egg, fish, hummus, falafel, chicken, seeds or nuts (depending on your school).
Meat and 5 veg.
All recipes were created and designed by qualified nutritionist Honor Tremain and are from her book The Complete Diet in Paradise.
Raw Chocolate Super Food Protein Balls
- 450-500 mgs medjool dates, soaked in water for an hour, to soften.
- 2 tablespoon raw cacao powder
- 1 tablespoon tahini or almond nut butter
- 1/4 cup crushed pistachios
- 1 tablespoon raw cacao crunchy nibs
- 1/2 cup desiccated coconut, for rolling the balls into
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon probiotic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon greens powder
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon organic turmeric powder
- Pinch black pepper
- In a large bowl, remove the pips from the dates and place dates in bowl.
- Add all other ingredients, accept for coconut and mix thoroughly with your hands until all evenly mixed through.
- On a separate large plate, lie out the coconut, and make little balls with the cacao date mix and then roll in the coconut.
- Bulk make these and place in a container and freeze in freezer.
Makes 24 balls roughly. Prep time: 10-13 minutes
(If your school is a nut-free zone, remove the pistachios and nut butter, using Tahini instead.)
Vanilla Strawberry Smoothie
- 1 cup of milk of choice, or coconut water
- Ice cubes (optional)
- 1/2 cup of fresh strawberries
- 1 teaspoon, organic vanilla extract
- 1/2- 1-scoop protein powder (Natural protein powder such as Sunwarrior is good)
- 1 tablespoon of LSA meal or 1 tablespoon of cooked quinoa
- 1 tablespoon, cashew nut butter
- A small amount of raw honey or other natural sweetener if needed.
- Blend all the ingredients together.
- Serve and enjoy!
Serves 1-2. Prep time: 4 minutes
Olive Parsley Hummus
*High Protein, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten free
- 425g of cooked (soaked overnight before cooking) or canned organic chickpeas (soaked and rinsed).
- 1 or more, fresh lemon, squeezed (depending on taste) or 1/8 cup of balsamic as an alternative.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ teaspoon, organic dried turmeric powder
- 1/2 cup organic cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
- 5 large Kalamata olives, de-pipped
- ¼ cup parsley leaf
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Rinse chickpeas well, soak overnight in clean, purified water and rinse and cook in the morning (if dried) or rinse well if from a can.
- Add chickpeas to all other ingredients, and blend well in a blender.
- Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.
- Add more olive oil and lemon juice to smoothen the texture if desired.
- Serve with gluten free crackers, vegetable sticks or lavash bread.
Serves 6-8. Prep time: 6 minutes. Cooking time if using dried chickpeas: 1 hour.
Banana Coconut Cinnamon Ice Creams
- 1 ½ large over ripe bananas, chopped
- 250ml organic coconut cream
- 1/2 tablespoon, rice malt
- 1 teaspoon, greens powder or probiotic health powder mix (such as Inner health for kids, Metagenics or Bioceuticals ranges.)
- 1/2 teaspoon, vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon, cinnamon powder
- Popsicle containers
- In a large bowl or blender, place all the ingredients and blend together until smooth.
- Pour into Popsicle moulds and place in the freezer for 4 or more hours.
- Once frozen, eat and enjoy!!
Serves 4-6. Prep time: 4 minutes, Freezing time: 4 or more hours