We’ve all been there; either our child is super fussy and will only eat a few things or they’re going through a phase and only want to eat toast or pasta for every meal. Us mums will always worry that they’re not getting enough of the nutrients they need and so we try anything and everything to get them to eat something else – bribes, distracting them, you name it! But they’re smart little devils aren’t’ they?
We chatted to Kanika Hughes, Nutritionist and Founder of Leela’s Lunches, who provides easy tips to health-ify basic snacks and treats that are the staple in most British homes. Instead of us feeling frustrated that our children won’t eat everything we want them to, Kanika suggests there are easy ways we can make their favorite foods healthier. And the bonus? They’ll be none the wiser for your stealthy additions and you can breathe easier knowing that they’ve had some of their five-a-day! Here’s a round up of how:
Ditch the packaged pancake mix and make your own pancake mix – we love this because it’s super convenient and it hardly takes any time to put together!
You will need:
6 cups unbleached flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups non fat milk powder (this contains an extra boost of calcium!)
½ cup sugar (try using coconut sugar or stevia as a healthy sweetener)
3 tablespoons baking powder
1.5 tablespoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
Sweet potato purèe
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 6 weeks.
In a large bowl, mix together the pancake mix, water (in the ratio of 1-part pancake mix, 1 part water and half part sweet potato puree.)
Add a pinch of ground cinnamon and stir until just mixed through.
Heat a griddle on medium-high and cook the pancakes by the ladleful, in either butter, ghee or coconut oil, until golden on both sides.
Serve with maple syrup, or for an extra boost of antioxidants why not make this:
Berry Maple Syrup:
Make a simple homemade berry juice (by simmering and blending either raspberries, blackberries, strawberries or blueberries,) then mix with maple syrup in equal ratios. Or you could try mixing Ella’s fruit pouches (that feature berries) with maple syrup.
Pour the fruity maple syrup over the pancakes, or on waffles or French toast. It goes down a treat!
You can also cook oats in homemade berry juice for a nice antioxidant kick in the morning, or add a few teaspoons of oat bran and wheat germ for an added fiber boost.
Provided you’re eating at home and your children are not allergic, you could also pop in a few teaspoons of ground almonds for added protein and good fats.
Mac and Cheese:
This children’s favourite can be made much healthier by choosing whole-wheat pasta and by adding several undetectable vegetable purées.
Choose from a white bean purée, cauliflower purée, sweet potato or tofu purée as all of these can be mixed, undetected, into the cheese sauce! (You see – we’ve got one up on them already!) Start with mixing in a few teaspoons of the purée, adding more as your child gets used to the taste.
Then make the cheese sauce by toasting the flour with butter in a pan until golden, then whisk in the milk, add cream cheese and then cheddar cheese into it. Spoon in the purée of your choice, season with salt and pepper, and mix with whole wheat or brown rice macaroni. It’s super healthy, super quick and it’s a winner with the little ones!
We were brought up scoffing jelly, so it’s safe to say our children love it too – but the sugar, artificial colors and flavours in most are enough to make our tummy’s turn! However, don’t despair; here are some great ways to give jelly a super boost by adding antioxidants, potassium, folate and flavonoids – all great stuff for our kiddy winks!
Take a 3 oz pack of the best jelly you can find (red flavours are better to hide ingredients in)
Add 1 cup or 215ml of decaffeinated green tea, boiled and strained for 5 minutes
Take 1 cup or 215 ml of cold blueberry juice (by boiling and straining as above)
Make the jelly according to the instructions, substituting boiling decaffeinated green tea for boiling water, and adding the cold blueberry juice in the place of cold water. Who would have thought? Believe us, they won’t know the difference!
Store bought Chocolate desserts:
If you’re a fan of British icons like Angel Delight, you can also add a superfood kick to this. A top tip is to simply add a spoonful of well mashed ripe avocado, and mix into the pudding. (You can even add sprinkles on top to distract from any slight textural changes) but the fussiest of eaters won’t be able to tell the difference!
And there you have it… there are simple ways to disguise super healthy ingredients into everyday breakfast, lunches and desserts. The most important thing to remember is not to worry too much; more often than not, fussy eating is a phase and most children grow out of it – It could last a few weeks or even a couple of years but eventually, they do start to try new foods and they’ll soon be devouring their veggies before you know it!
Kanika Hughes is a chef, nutritionist and co-founder of Leela’s lunches, a company that caters freshly made, wholesome hot meals, sugar free treats and snacks to young children throughout Dubai. Check out www.leelaslunches.com to learn more.
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