So many theories on breakfast and what should be eaten and when. My take is that it should hark back to my Grandmothers and be something that "sticks to the ribs". A hearty breakfast that breaks-the-fast of no food throughout the night. I find that if I have a decent breakfast it dampens down my "snacking gene" and sets me up for a day of eating balanced meals.
With my boys a big bowl of wholegrain oats with oat bran either as porridge or muesli (or both, if you're Joe!) gives them sustaining energy and fuels their bodies through until lunch when they are once again "starving" for their next meal. They are also getting a great serving of fibre which is essential for *cough* moving that food through the system.
Getting selective eaters managing a decent breakfast can be a challenge but it makes a big difference to how they are going to feel throughout the day. There are lots of different foods we can offer that provide long lasting energy and they are not all as boring as oats either!
Do you believe in breakfast?
My boys have a real mix of foods in their lunchboxes today. Had a bit of "gah, nothing to put in" and a bit of "lots of odds and ends to use up" so threw in a variety!
They have potato wedges, sweet potato falafels, cheese puffs, purple potato crisps and seed cookies. The ones on the plate get heated and put into a food thermos to give them a warm lunch.
The boys will love this as there are lots of small pieces to grab and go. It's a great way to get more eaten from the lunchbox. Kids are busy. Even Max who is 11 doesn't have time to sit and eat, he wants to slam something down and then go do what 11 y.o. boys do ?!? (probably better not to know ...)
When kids are not enthusiastic about eating their lunch providing bite sized offerings can be a great way to have them eat more. A one mouthful food that can be grabbed and eaten in seconds is far less intimidating than a big sandwich that they know will take them 5 minutes to eat. Variety can also work as there is a taste of this and a taste of that.
Have you tried bite sized portions?
OK I admit it, I'm obsessed with food! And I'm even more interested than that in nutrient dense, fresh food that fuels our bodies.
A lot of children are used to having a sweet snack in the lunchbox so I'm always looking for alternatives that give a nutrient boost, are very low in sugars (of all types) and yet still taste great.
These seed cookies tick ALL of my boxes. They are packed with nutrients (and no nuts so perfect for "nut free" zones), are easy to make and contain half a teaspoon of honey per 12 cookies. Oh, and most importantly, they taste great. In fact I needed to do lots and lots of taste tests ....
I will send out the recipe to subscribers in this week's newsletter. Not signed up? Go to the contact page and there is a newsletter sign-up button ... http://www.theconfidenteater.com/contact.html
Today in Max's lunchbox he has pumpkin soup. This goes in a food thermos that I bought from Moore Wilson's to keep it warm. I added some brown rice noodles that I had left-over. It's actually very, very rare for my boys to get soup in the thermos (and I know most people think thermos = soup) but generally they have dinner left-overs. Kumara chips, jacket potatoes, fish, eggs - whatever I have to throw in there.
Now this is an even stranger lunch as pumpkin is one of the few foods that Max doesn't like. He's never been a fan and although he'll eat a roasted piece begrudgingly it's definitely not his favourite. Then he asked to accompany me to the Food & Wine Show this year and we went along and did a lot of tasting. The only vegetarian dish at Simon Gault's table was pumpkin soup so Max had a try. And he loved it. Since then I have been making it for him once a month or so. Now anyone who has been to one of my workshops knows it's important to let kids try something - even if they've told you 100's of times they don't like it. Sometimes being in a new situation or with different people transforms a previously disliked food. Similarly we all have contradictions when it comes to food tastes. Liking a vegetable cooked one way or not another so it's important to try all the incarnations. Think how different mash is to chips to crisps to jackets and yet they are all potatoes ...
I've been down at Joe's school running cooking sessions the last two days. Very manic but tonnes of fun. We've had close to 150 kids take part from Yr 1 through to Yr 6. They were creating their own Rice Paper Rolls from scratch. Chopping the veg, soaking the papers, filling them with a range of veggies, herbs and marinated chicken.
It was a very popular activity and we had queues of kids waiting their turn. Joe kindly came to help mentor in the session for the younger kids. Once they had created their own roll they could take it to the eating table and dip it in the soy sauce if they wished. As always it's fascinating watching what kids choose when they have free reign and are being influenced by adults other than their parents and their peers! Lots were keen to try the daikon and there was general amazement at the magical transformation of the rice paper. It's a really fun activity to do with your kids and of course a great way to add a few veggies into the mix.
Family meals. Ah, one of my soapbox issues, and I have a few! And before you tell me how hard it is I know, I get it. I have two boys who between them do soccer, Cubs/Scouts, hockey, violin, orchestra, swimming and seem to have more friends than I've ever had. Not to mention work that for me is fortunately flexible but often has me needing to do things at weird times.
But in our household it's a priority and in some ways that's by popular request. Before we moved to NZ 4 years ago we were in Melbourne and Roy (hubby) worked in the country for a year. This meant he was home for weekends but not during the week. It was hard on all of us and one of the things we missed the most was family dinners. When we were deciding whether to take a leap of faith and move to NZ with Roy's work one of the things that sold the boys on the uproot was the promise of family dinners. I kid you not. We didn't realise how important these had become to the boys at 7 and 4 years old.
In order to make this happen Roy leaves for work before 7.00am so he can be home at 5.30pm and I often pre-cook meals so they are ready to just reheat in the oven when needed. Are we able to eat together every night? No, but we do try to make it a reality as often as possible. And as I said it gets prioritised so other things get shuffled if possible, not the meal.
I didn't realise how important it was to me until Max and I did the "Live below the line challenge" and couldn't participate in the family meals. It took away one of the most pleasurable times of the day. Where we sit together, chat and catch up on each other's days. Where we can laugh and relax and appreciate having family time. For non-confident eaters this is doubly important as they are watching everyone else eat and seeing their parents role model healthy eating habits, trying new foods and enjoying veggies. They also learn to appreciate mealtimes as family time, as a positive part of their day and as something to look forward to. Perfect for instilling a healthy attitude towards food and for creating an atmosphere that encourages eating appropriately.
There is a reason I named my company "The Confident Eater" and run a 6 Week "Confidence Program". It's because most of life's achievements revolve around confidence. Do we believe in ourselves enough to achieve things? And when we're not feeling confident is there someone there to hold our hand and give us that feeling?
Many people lose the desire to try new foods as they feel far more comfortable with the "tried and tested". No surprises and no risk of it not being nice. However, this is very limiting and if one of the safe foods suddenly becomes unacceptable we can end up with a smaller and smaller menu.
On Monday I had one of my cooking students over and decided to challenge his belief that he "hated" broccoli. It had been mentioned several times during other cooks but fortunately I had just created an awesome Broccoli Burger so we were going to cook this. I was confident throughout he was going to love it. He was equally confident that he really, really disliked broccoli. Following the rules of my kitchen we discussed how food often tastes very different if cooked in a new way and that we just can't decide to like or not like a dish without tasting. I told him he was going to love it and we approached eating it with that thought at the front of our minds. He did indeed enjoy it and even helped himself to a second one rather than eating more of the chicken we'd also cooked.
Now this would not have been a success with every child I have worked with but I was confident that he would enjoy it. And, because I was confident he was approaching the taste test with a positive mind-set. I know 100% definitely that should I have been at all hesitant and not confident that he was going to eat it and enjoy it this probably wouldn't have been a happy ending.
As hard as it is to believe as parents that things will change for the better at the table we need to be the ones setting the tone and convincing everyone that new habits are possible and are necessary.
Simple and practical strategies for expanding the menu for a non-confident eater. Check out our blog at the Healthy Food Guide .. http://www.healthyfood.co.nz/blogs/the-art-of-nutrition/2016/september/06/confident-eating
When I finally decided I was ready to have children (it took a while) I started to read up on babies as I just had no clue. As I began reading I realised how important diet was for developing children - both in the womb and once born. This set me on a path that has just grown in importance for me as I have studied and observed. As my boys got older and moved through playgroup, preschool, kinder and then school I became even more passionate about food for children as I realised that what we were doing was actually quite unusual. I also noticed that there were a growing number of children who really struggled to eat. The more I worked in schools, talked to parents and supported them to make more informed choices about food the more I realised that I could make a difference. Getting a child eating a wider variety of foods and especially fruits and vegetables became a burning passion for me. Once I realised that working with families who struggled the hardest was the most exciting and probably the most valuable thing I could do with my time I poured all my energy into it. To see a child overcome the fear of new food or eat a vegetable for the first time feels like a miracle to me and brings so much joy to everyone involved.
That is why I work with non-confident eaters. It's the most rewarding thing I've done in my life alongside raising my own boys.