One of our wonderful IntoYou clients gave me a book called The Wholesome Child for Christmas last year. It was a fantastic read and has become our reference for cooking and meal planning in our household. One thing that struck me, however, was the volume of cooking and preparing. For me, who doesn’t cook, the recipes were complicated, and took ages to get my head around, and then they were mostly unsuccessful!
It’s a double-sided issue; since i don’t cook, my kids are used to seeing vegetables and eating vegetables, but i can understand how some parents would need to “grade” their children into eating raw food gradually. However we are not immune from HABIT, and even though we eat healthfully, we often eat the same veges. What i got from this book was that variety was imperative, so even though my kids eat veges, i still need to gradually introduce new fruits and vegetables.
By far, the most popular dinners in our household are spaghetti bol and “meat and 3 vege”. In each of these easy kids dinners, i have also included a “graded pathway” to help introduce new foods from what they are already eating now. For each of these options, there are a hundred different colours and versions: cucumbers for example, come in mini, telegraph, and mid-sizes. Then there are yellow ones too!
Roast Chicken, hummus, carrots, cucumber, broccolini, and cauliflower.
I introduced the kids to a very child-friendly, home made version of hummus first. One with very little garlic or lemon juice, that they enjoyed. I gradually increased the garlic factor until it’s full strength. Just recently, i added a steamed beetroot to make it pink!
If they eat carrots, then the possible progression goes > purple/white/yellow carrots > celery. Other root veges that look similar are potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and beetroot: http://www.eatdonteat.com/foods-in-the-carrot-family-including-parsley-celery-and-caraway/
Cucumber > squash > pumpkin. Cucumber is a huge family of veges that also includes zucchini: http://www.eatdonteat.com/foods-in-the-carrot-family-including-parsley-celery-and-caraway/
Chicken > pork > fish. White meats and mild flavours first, then introduce red meat (unprocessed, grass fed and organic is ideal – kids will absorb the antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides right along with the cow!).
Broccoli > broccolini > cauliflower > kale > cabbage. Progress from the mildest flavour, and what your child does already eat, to the strongest, and then play with COLOUR: https://www.foodbeast.com/news/kale-broccoli-brussels-sprouts-and-cabbage-are-all-from-the-same-family/
If your child already eats rice, then the progression is from light to dark > white rice > basmati rice > brown rice > wild rice > quinoa.
Once the variety in the rice is established, you can do blends like rice and grated cauliflower, or this meal which is rice and desiccated coconut. We used frozen veges and a dash of cumin and tumeric to spice it up, but you could use any vege and tamari sauce (soy sauce without the preservatives). When introducing a new spice, start with a pinch and work up over a period of weeks.
To get them eating nuts, first eat nuts in front of them (raw), offer them one or wait for them to ask. When they’re hungry and waiting for dinner is a good time! I find being reluctant to share always helps too: almonds > cashews > brazil nuts > macadamias > hazelnuts > peanuts.
Ham and Vege
Before i knew how harmful processed meats like ham, sausages, and salami were, we ate them a lot. I have since found alternatives like Great Sausages. Home made ham is often better too, with significantly less salt and chemicals than packaged ham. This stuff is leftover from Christmas dinner, and was made from scratch (except for killing the pig): ham > pork > beef strips > lamb.
Peas > corn > corn on the cob > sugar snap peas > snow peas > string beans > kidney beans > other legumes: https://www.wildflowers-and-weeds.com/Plant_Families/Fabaceae.htm
We got our kids eating tomatoes by putting them in the same punnet packaging as strawberries (even then it took Maia a few months to like them): red/orange/yellow tomatoes > eggplant > red/yellow/orange/green capsicum > COLOUR https://draxe.com/nightshade-vegetables/
Eating more fats
This photo is obviously not a meal, but it covers 2 important points.
#1: if your child won’t eat ANY veges, how to get them to start > HONEY (preferably raw with all the enzymes and bacteria included!)
#2: how to get more “good” fats. Sesame, chia, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds are regularly sprinkled over my kids meals, but they’re most successful when paired with honey and carrots! We have also used this trick with broccoli, red cabbage, and kale.
My kids are not vegetarians, but occasionally i get “caught out” with no fish in the freezer or eggs in the fridge. In this scenario, the fact that they eat nuts is a blessing.
Potato > sweet potato > yam > parsnip > beetroot : http://www.encyclopedia.com/plants-and-animals/plants/plants/sweet-potato
Eggs are a blessing because they last forever! Maia did not like eggs at first, and to this day will eat the white but not the yoke. However she will eat french toast > scrambled eggs > egg pizza (essentially an “open” omelette).
Occasionally i will buy a wholemeal pita bread, cut up a pile of different coloured vegetables, and let the kids go to town. They love choosing for themselves and will often choose new things just because of how they look! When making pizza, colour is everything! Challenge them to create a rainbow, or chose one item from each colour. The most fun of all, is the themed pizzas, in this case Christmas is red and green. Halloween is orange and black, and so on!
This is something that we are still working on with Maia, but Evie loves them. If i’m not going to use the leftovers in the school lunch box i use almond meal as breadcrumbs too, which increases the protein and healthy fat content. Patties are an excellent opportunity to get onion and garlic into them, but remember to start with a dash and build up! I don’t follow a recipe, but as a rough guideline, start with this:
1 Sweet potato > pumpkin
1/2 C Spring onion
1/2 Brown onion
1/2 Garlic clove
90g can tuna in spring water > salmon > anchovies
spices to taste.
breadcrumbs, almond meal, or rice breadcrumbs
Steam and mash the potatoes, stir in browned onion and garlic, and throw the tuna and spring onion in last with the egg. Add your preferred flour if the mixture needs thickening (wholemeal is preferable, and ground nuts like almond, chia, or sunflower meal works too). Form in to balls, roll in the breadcrumbs, and fry in coconut oil.
We started with regular spag bol and then moved to vegetarian for variety. In the either one, use Passata sauce instead of regular pasta sauces, because it is basically just tomato and salt! You can compliment the mince with grated carrots, red kidney beans, lentils and other legumes, fresh tomatoes, and one day leave out the mince all together.
White pasta > wholemeal pasta > gluten free pasta (gluten free is not the be-all and end-all, but it is variety!)
Tacos and burritos
You can get good quality, low (lower) sodium taco shells and wraps from the health food section of the supermarket. Mid to low sodium is less than 400mg per 100g. Also look for the number of ingredients, with less being better, whole grains being better, and absent added sugar. Once you’ve got that sorted, it’s another opportunity for the kids to get their hands dirty and eat colourfully!
Salsa is surprisingly void of too many nasties (but check the ingredient list anyway), avocado is a great healthy fat. We use mozzarella cheese for everything because it has significantly less salt than tasty or feta.
Mince > mince and red kidney beans blended > red kidney beans and lentils blended > any other beans!
The moral to the story is that eating is a constant evolution. Eating healthy doesn’t stop with broccoli and carrots, but continues to evolve through different food groups and variations of the same thing. For example, did you know that there are hundreds of different varieties of corn and potato? If you get your child eating just 3 kinds of each, you will have tripled their variety! Hopefully, you will find this concept simple and easy to implement! If you need help, book in with Jade.