Top tips for healthy family food!

Healthy eating tips for families

Hello, my name is Angela!  When I saw Babi Pur’s callout for guest bloggers on healthy family eating I thought, that’s one for us!  We’ve been a family of three for nearly 18 months now and I started my blog http://thereandbackagainamotherstale.wordpress.com/ when my daughter, Joss Daisy, was very small to share ideas on family cooking, being creative, balancing work with home and entertaining little ones.  I will start by saying that the mantra ‘everything in moderation’ is something I subscribe to, so I think we have a healthy balance in how we eat and the family lifestyle we lead.

These are my family’s eight top tips for healthy family eating:

1)    Have a family fruit bowl

Joss seems to be part-girl part-fruitbat.  We made a conscious decision to offer fruit after meals when we started weaning Joss and the habit has stuck.  Now that she is eating really well she has started to seek out snacks during the day.  We like to keep a well stocked family fruit bowl that is out all day and I offer Joss the bowl so that she can choose a piece of fruit for herself.  The choice is really important to her, and she’s developed some firm favourites, plum especially.  A friend of mine started doing this recently with her four year old and again offering the choice meant that her little boy was happier to opt for a fruit treat.  Those of you with older ones might like to stock your fruit bowl with some raisins and dried fruits, I would do this myself but Joss would happily eat her weight in raisins!  Sometimes a new fruit crops up, like a pineapple, which is good for sensory development too!

1 Fruitbowl

2)    Have fun with food

Little ones love mark making, so let them have fun with sauces whilst eating dinner.  Rather than mix Joss’ pasta with her tomato sauce I sometimes keep the two separate and she tends to eat more as she likes to ‘dip dip’ the pasta in the sauce.  Using cookie cutters to make sandwiches more fun is great, on nights where I make homemade pizza I use a gingerbread man cutter for Joss’ portion too.  If you haven’t already check out Pinterest for ‘fun kids meal ideas!’

3)    Eat seasonally

Related to having fun with food, it’s better for our family budget to eat what’s in season, and what better than to find some of your food yourself?  We currently have a huge 1 kilo bag of blackberries in our freezer, picked on our evening walk over about two weeks, Joss started to really take notice and now points out little patches of bramble on our walk, so even though she was too little to get involved in the picking she has some idea of what it’s all about even at 17 months!  We also made friends with our local greengrocer and Joss likes to help me choose the veg for the week, getting her involved in planning and preparing food is really good fun and seeing a friendly face helps too!

1 Blackberry

4)    Remember everything in moderation

We offer Joss most food groups in moderation, including treats and sweet things.  Now she hasn’t had chocolate buttons yet, a rite of passage surely? But she does happily tuck into the odd bit of cake, ice cream and biscuit.  I’m conscious that this may be a little contentious, but I also don’t believe in using food as a bribe, means of discipline or quietening tool unless Joss is noisy because she’s hungry, I understand why others do this, it’s just not for me!  Back to cakes and sweets, I eat these things as a treat, hiding in the kitchen eating them when she’s in bed isn’t going to be good for either of us, so we all have the odd bit of sugar and fat in moderation.  More about fats…

5)    One meal for all, adapted for little ones

I’ve blogged before about Joss’ weight and the need to make sure her meals pack a punch.  We try to eat together as a family because Joss eats better as part of a group, I don’t cook anything different for Joss, and as we decided baby led weaning was for us, we’ve never prepared separate food for her.  This has cut down the salt content of the meals I cook which is good for all of us.  What I do differently is add good healthy fats to Joss’ meals.  If we have mashed potato her portion has a little butter and grated cheese added, her veggies are topped with cheese or I make a quick white sauce with full fat milk.  If we have salad she has avocado with her portion, if we have something she can dip she has full fat natural yogurt.

1 Baby led weaning

6)    What about budgeting?

We’ve been on a bit of a moneysaving challenge recently, saving for a deposit for a house.  It’s not for everyone, but we’ve been preparing a budget meal for dinner three nights a week, using mainly store cupboard ingredients.  I was nervous about getting a nutritional balance right for Joss, but by adapting meals for her needs Daddy and I have lost a little weight, gained a little spare cash and Joss is enjoying tasty healthy food too.  This has challenged my thinking about portions and protein particularly.  If we have meat I now make a 500g pack of mince go for four meals by adding lentils to my bolognese and oats to mince and dumplings.  Our store cupboard meals are generally vegetarian, like making sweet potato or carrot bean burgers with potato wedges, but there’s no compromise on taste, and again Joss like to dip her burger and wedges into yogurt so she gets plenty of good fats too.

1 Sweet potato bean burger

7)    Can you find opportunities for them to eat with other children?

Once a week Joss goes to a childminder and has the chance to enjoy a meal with other little people, fun for her and she seems to thrive in this setting.  We also go to a few baby groups where fruit and healthy snacks are shared at the end of the session, it’s lovely to see her tucking into grapes and pineapple with the other children and I’m sure she enjoys sitting at a big table with other little people that eat at her pace!

8)    Don’t be scared to eat out in restaurants!

Unless you’re going somewhere really hideously posh for dinner there’s absolutely no reason to avoid eating out with little ones.  Giving them new experiences is a good thing, but think about where you might go and what’s on offer.  I have no issue with fast food in moderation, but I can think of places to eat that are nicer and more fun.  This summer the Out to Lunch campaign graded food outlets according to child friendliness and healthiness for kids.  You can read the list for yourself, but things to bear in mind might be freshness of ingredients, portion size, salt content, whether things are fried or baked.  Again in moderation the odd trip out won’t do any harm but if you eat out a lot as a family you might like to seek out some of your own healthy venues.  One last tip, at this age Joss doesn’t need a children’s portion, we often share two adult portions between the three of us which helps Daddy and I make healthier choices too!

1 Restaurant

A final word, thanks to Babi Pur for having us, keep up the good work!

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