Hey guys! I have somewhat of a different, yet very exciting, guest post today! I know quite a few of my readers are either young mums and/or planning to start a family soon. As someone with minimal experience in child nutrition, I wanted an expert to weigh in. And when I say expert, I mean my sister Karina who has been a mom for just over 18 months. I am constantly in awe and filled with pride when I see what a great job she is doing with my nephew Sameer, especially when it comes to his eating habits. I’m thinking of making this a monthly feature if this is something you guys are interested in? Let me know! Anyways, let my sis take it away:
Hey Guys! This is Karina, Khushboo’s sister. In a world where packaged and processed foods are all around us, it can be somewhat of a challenge to get our kids to eat ‘real food’. Once my son was born it became important for me to raise him with healthy eating habits. I wanted to positively influence his food environment without being that mom. Up until now, it has been fairly easy to make sure he eats well. Today Sameer starts play-school and I received a memo that each month will involve Cake Day to celebrate birthdays of the month. Why oh why do kids so young need to be given cake?? I personally think they would be equally happy to celebrate with a cup of fun-shaped fruits and stickers. I cringe at the idea that my baby will be given sugar-laden cake but fortunately it doesn’t need to be all or nothing.
As Sameer grows up and attends more birthday parties & school events, he will undoubtedly be offered foods which I would not personally choose to give him. As his mom, it’s my job is to shape his food choices rather than control them. What you eat and what is offered to them becomes the norm and what they will be familiar with. If you make continually make small changes, ultimately it will be result in a big difference to your child’s health and wellbeing. Ultimately the goal is for him/her to learn how to make healthy food choices but still be able to enjoy less nutritious foods in moderation.
Here are three foods swaps you can make at home to help your kid eat more real food. I do not advise you try these all at once. It will take time for these changes to be accepted, especially with older kids. Fortunately taste buds do change and gradually your child will start to appreciate real food more.
1) Unsweetened yogurt instead of sweetened yogurt:
Yogurt is a great high-protein snack or breakfast protein breakfast…if you eat the natural unsweetened variety. Most brands of sweetened yogurt contain various emulsifiers, stabilisers, chemicals & thickeners. When I was growing up in London back in the day, my diet focused on fat-free foods rather than real foods (cringe I know). I would start my day with a vanilla-flavored Muller Light yogurt. When I moved to Dubai after getting married, I was mortified to find it in the supermarket’s section of products containing pork. Who would think yogurt would contain a byproduct of pork?!? Needless to say I have never gone near one of those again.
Additionally flavoured yogurts can pack in between 15-29g of sugar per serving! Just for a point of reference, a bar of Snickers packs in 27g of sugar. Instead try sweetening plain yogurt or creamy full-fat Greek yogurt yourself by adding in applesauce or a fruit puree. Alternatively you can add in honey/agave or let your kid add his/her preferred toppings like granola, nuts, coconuts flakes cinnamon or Sameer’s favourite – nut butter.
2) Natural nut butters instead of regular nut butters:
Peanut butter is a great source of protein & healthy fats, which explains why many parents consider it a nutritious food. However your kid (nor you) doesn’t need to consume dodgy ingredients like hydrogenated vegetable oils in the process. Simply buy a natural version (usually located right next to the regular jars of nut butter) or even try to make it at home. It’s really simple and a fun way to include your kids in the kitchen. Remember variety is key with kids so don’t just stick to peanut butter. Experiment with other nuts and seeds like cashews, almonds, hazelnuts (mmm think Nutella) and sunflower seeds. Editor note: Check out my post on tips on making homemade nut butter here.
3) Homemade granola & oatmeal instead of store-bought cereal
Given the sugar content in certain cereals, they can almost count as dessert. By opting for oatmeal or yummy homemade granola, essentially YOU control the sugar content and can use healthier sweeteners like honey, agave, maple syrup, and date paste which also contain some nutrients. We owe it to our kids to give them a healthy start every morning, especially if we want them to be happy, behave and learn well.
Another benefit of replacing packaged cereals with homemade granola & oatmeal is that the latter two breakfast alternatives provide a decent dose of fibre & protein. As a result, your child is less likely to ask for a snack one hour later- a huge win in my books! To get you started, here’s our current favorite go-to granola recipe:
Kid-Friendly Granola Recipe:
- 1.5 cups rolled oats
- 0.5 cups flaked almonds
- 0.5 cups pumpkin seeds
- 0.5 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil (melted)
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 cup raisins
- Preheat oven to 180°C and line oven tray with parchment paper (or foil)
- Mix together all ingredients (except raisins) until they are all evenly coated with the coconut oil & maple syrup.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and lightly toasted.
- Remove from oven. Once cooled stir in the raisins.
- Transfer to airtight jar & store for up to 10 days
Serve with fresh fruit and milk (or yogurt)…or plain!
It’s Khushboo again. Hope you guys loved reading this much as I did! My sis has a kid-friendly Instagram account with loads of meal ideas & tips so be sure to follow along the fun: @lipstickandlunch.
Parents, what are your tips when it comes to helping your child eat better?
Non-parents, what is your favourite granola mix-in? Almonds for me!