Contributor: Chef James Hollister
With the multitude of branded mainstream food items that are largely full of undesirable additives everywhere we look, go and shop, combined with today’s hectic lifestyle and children’s natural attraction to fatty, sugary and generally unhealthy snacks, it can be quite a challenge to find healthy bites for on-the-go eating, lunchbox meals and in-between meal snacks.
Although there is a growing range of “sugar-free”, “low-fat”, “roasted not fried”, “gluten and dairy free” food items available on today’s supermarket shelves, very few are nutritionally balanced, even fewer are certified Organic and there is still a lot of headway to be made in terms of knowing the exact origin and content of the foods we eat and, more importantly, with which we satiate our children’s appetites.
Sadhguru put an interesting context to the term “You are what you eat”. He likened the saying to him telling a crowd of people that he would hold up a banana in front of them claiming that he would “turn this banana into a man.”, at which point the crowd would surely deem him insane and disperse. All he would have to do prove his point to the crowd is eat the banana; the macro and micro nutrients would be digested and used by his body to heal his cells and create new ones that would form his physical existence. When we think about our nutrition and especially the nutrition of our children, it is essential that we protect ourselves and them from harmful substances and ensure that they get maximum nutrition from the food that they eat. It is the habits that we form as children that we carry for the rest of our lives, which makes it all the more important that the next generation forms healthy eating patterns from an early age.
What’s the best way to ensure that the food that we give to our kids is giving them the most nutritive value possible without them pulling “one of those faces” and asking for an unhealthy alternative? Make it at home and involve them in the process. From experience, the best way to get our sons and daughters eating healthy alternatives is to get them involved. When they make their own sandwiches, squeeze their own orange juice or wash their own apple it makes all the difference. They become physically and emotionally connected to the food and the whole ritual and process of buying, preparing and eating it. A child will remember the time they made pizza with their Auntie, or the biscuits their Grandma taught them to bake, but it’s unlikely they’ll remember a packet of crisps handed to them to stifle their hunger until their next meal.
Dave Asprey, creator of Bulletproof Coffee and the Bulletproof Diet, and who has some great, solidly scientifically founded tips on nutrition in general, also has some interesting views on getting kids to eat healthy foods; he suggests the “Popeye” technique. Instead of trying to convince our kids to eat healthy foods because it’s good for them (Booooring), it is necessary to appeal to their imagination and, without lying (obviously), give them an overstated perception of how good foods can be – they can give you superpowers! Just like Popeye with his spinach. Okay, they’re not going to be competing for Mr.Universe aged 7 just because they’ve eaten a few spinach leaves, but they will have created a positive mental association with healthy food and will be far more likely to enjoy it and continue the habit of eating it into their adulthood.
I was at my local Organic farmer’s market recently and they had some cracking carrots:
Here are some easy, simple suggestions for items ideal a packed lunch, car snacks, after school treats, morning juice, or whatever situation you find yourself needing to satisfy hungry tumtums, all with the emphasis on getting the little ones involved in using and consuming clean, healthy ingredients.
Carrots are naturally sweet, have a lot of crunch and are one of the few vegetables that children generally don’t dislike. Ask your son(s) and/or daughter(s) to help you peel the carrots. The awareness of the dangers involved in using a peeler is a good exercise in risk management, which, studies have shown, is beneficial to cognitive development and also gives children confidence as they have been given permission and handed responsibility by their seniors. Carrots have a fairly neutral flavour and and combine well with both sweet and savoury seasonings. Get them try a baton or two with a little organic molasses and cinnamon, or lightly seasoned with pink himalayan salt and cumin. They may prefer just plain as their palates are still delicate, but you may discover a new found favourite. Either way it is great practice to encourage them to explore their palates from an early age. Carrot peelings are a great addition to your compost heap as they break down quickly and have a relatively high sugar content that will accelerate fermentation.
Carrot, Orange and Raw Honey Juice:
Juice your carrots using a juicer, mix with some orange juice and dissolve a small amount of honey into the carrot/orange juice. If you don’t have a juicer you can use a nutribullet or a standard liquidiser to make your carrot juice by blitzing thoroughly some roughly chopped carrots in the orange juice and honey, then passing the juice through a sieve. I’ve left quantities out intentionally. Everyone is different, so it’s important that you taste the juice and let your kid(s) taste it too. Let them decide how they like it and adjust it accordingly. DON’T throw away the pulp! You’ll need it…
Also keep a little pure carrot juice for:
Bio: James works as a freelance chef, offering consultancy to foodservice outlets covering all aspects of kitchen management and direction, focusing particularly on waste reduction, local, sustainable and organic sourcing and nutrition, and dietary balance for menu creation. As the father of an 8-year old daughter, James is devoted to spreading awareness for the importance of eating organic, and creating healthy eating alternatives for families everywhere. Instagram @chefjameshollister