Guest blog by Sam Hadadi
Parents across the world will know that getting kids to eat healthily can be about as easy as walking to the moon. I mean, just how do you do it?
When my son was a teeny baby, I’d smile smugly as he squealed in delight and I served him plate after plate of pureed broccoli, spinach, peas and homemade fish pie. Now he’s turned one, and I’m not so smug. In fact, I have been known to cry over mealtimes.
If my son were left to his own devices, he’d survive solely on cake, Milky Bars and baby biscotti. Perhaps the stray blueberry or soggy Weetabix biscuit thrown in here and there, but you get the picture.
So, how do you get a child to eat healthily when they simply refuse?
For months, I tried all the tricks in the book. “Zayn, look, look at the aeroplane!” I’d sing, with a smile plastered to my increasingly miserable face. “WHEEE, look at the spoon as it flies!” Of course, that didn’t work. And smothering veggies in Greek yoghurt only fooled him for a few days.
Now, however, I have learned a few crucial tricks. Sweet potato wedges and chips (packed full of vitamins C, D and also iron) are, as the name suggests, naturally sweet. Babies and kids adore them, and are an easy way to get down one of their five-a-day.
Homemade baked beans are also a staple in our household, while home-baked granola, greek yoghurt and fresh berries also make the weekly meal plan.
However, if you’re in need of some inspiration, here are some of my favourite ideas:
You’ve heard it time and time again and now I’m going to echo the voices of everyone who’s said it before – breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Forget the sugary cereals which will leave you ravenous and lacking energy just a few hours later and instead pack up your kids on protein. Foods like boiled egg and soldiers or scrambled egg on toast are fantastic sources of healthy protein and will keep them going for hours.
If they have a sweet tooth (don’t we all?), then try serving up homemade granola with Greek yoghurt and fruit. This is my favourite recipe as it contains Chia Seeds, which are fantastic sources of Omega-3 (great for fussy kids!) and will keep you fuelled for hours:
1) Preheat the oven to 160C. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, coconut, nuts, fruit and chia seeds.
2) Next, melt together the coconut oil and maple syrup, then stir through the oat mixture until combined. Spread on a lined baking sheet, then bake for 20 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning.
3) Let the granola cook, then store in a Tupperware container. Serve and enjoy!
Lunchtimes can be pretty tricky when looking for healthy inspiration – just what do you do when you have to pop it all in a lunchbox, which is never going to see a fridge in a billion years?
Of course, if you’re at home, you can always make a frittata, omelette or baked sweet potato. But I’ve found it best if you make life easy for yourself.
Simply whizz up a healthy sandwich – pittas, wholemeal bread and rye are all fantastic, packed full of fibre and low in sugars – and let them enjoy.For an easy way to dose them up on their five-a-day, add homemade guacamole to bread and slices of turkey and tomatoes.
Kids love the creamy texture of avocados, which are chock full of good fats. Simply add homemade smoothies, fruit jellies, handfuls of seeds and dried fruits, or homemade oat cookies and let them enjoy!
I know, I know. Come the end of the day, when all you want to do is collapse in a heap on the sofa with a glass (read: vat) of red, the last thing you want to do is cook dinner. Especially when your kids are going to whine and refuse to eat it.
However, these healthy recipes are some of my family favourites. But, if all else fails, simply blitz together some cooked veggies, such as carrots and courgettes, in the food processor (hidden veg – miracles!), then add to chopped tomatoes and onions for a rich pasta sauce.
These are fantastic served with a batch of sweet potato fries. Watch them disappear in minutes!
Ingredients: Serves 4
1) Heat half the oil in a frying pan and cook the onion until softened and lightly browned. Place the mince in a bowl and season well. Add in the cooked onion, lemon and half of the coriander and mix with your hands. Shape into 4 burgers.
2) Heat the remaining oil and cook the burgers for 5-7 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.
3) Meanwhile, make the guacamole by crushing the tomatoes into a bowl. Add the chilli, coriander and avocado, then squeeze over the lime juice. Mix together until smooth.
4) Serve together with a salad or sweet potato fries.
Bean And Sausage Stew
Beans are a fantastic source of protein and fibre and, better yet, kids love them! This bean and sausage stew is deliciously comforting in the winter months.
Ingredients: Serves 4
1) Heat the oven to 200C, then heat 1 tbsp. oil in a casserole dish and brown the sausages. Set aside. Heat the remaining oil, then throw in the vegetables and fry until softened. Add the tomato puree, stir, then cook for a further minute.
2) Tip the sausages back into the pan, along with the beans, thyme and salt and pepper, then pour in the stock. Bring to a gentle simmer, then sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and optional cheese and bake for 25 minutes, or until the topping is golden.
Kids love baked beans, so why not serve them up homemade? Low in sugar and salt (unlike store-bought) and high in taste, these little pies pack a tasty punch.
Ingredients: Serves 2 (Adapted from Delicious Magazine)
1) Soak the beans overnight, then drain, place in a pan with fresh water and bring to the boil. Cook for 45 minutes until tender, then set aside for 30 minutes before draining.
2) Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions and bacon until cooked. Stir in the garlic, tomatoes, vinegar and 400ml of water, then throw in the beans. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 ½ hours, or until the beans are tender.
3) In the meantime, boil the sweet potatoes until tender, then drain. Mash with the milk and cream cheese until smooth. Pour the beans into ramekins so they are two-thirds full, then smooth the mash over the top. Microwave for 3 minutes or until hot.
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Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food.