For most of us, gone are the days of feast and famine. Life is a constant feast, especially at Christmas time. So with all the delicious festive foods around, how do we enjoy some festive treats but not go overboard? (go back and read part 1
)RULE 2: Choose your treats
I'll just have a handful of chips, a couple of glasses of wine, a little taste of trifle, a small piece of cake, oh I must try your mince tarts, I can't resist a few pieces of brie, steal a few fries off your plate, just one glass of soft drink and a little pudding and brandy custard for dessert.
All in moderation, right? Well sort of... this common phrase needs a slight tweak. Especially at Christmas time. You need to think of all your ‘special treats’ as one group. This includes sweets, chocolate, cakes, fatty meats, pastries, alcohol etc. Enjoy your ‘treats’ sometimes and in small amounts.
What are your very favourite treats? What are the things you just really, really, really enjoy? Don't waste your calories on someone else's favourites. Don't waste your calories on cheap chocolate or wine. Save your calories for the things you really love, save your calories for the really good stuff!
Prioritise your treats. Create a
hierarchy. Do you prefer cheese cake or is chocolate your favourite. If there is only chocolate cake today, save your calories for some delicious cheesecake that will be on offer tomorrow. Get specific. What is your favourite wine or chocolate. Which brand? Which type? Do you prefer Lindt dark chocolate balls or would you rather a piece of Toblerone? What is your favourite wine? Don't settle for less, save your treats for the best! Eating with awareness is important at Christmas time. Look at a table of desserts and chose your very favourite or if they are not your absolute favourites, wait for
tomorrow's selection. Remember desserts, drinks, many snacks and fatty meats all count as treats. Now that we have chosen our treats, how do we eat less but enjoy those treats more?
Part 3: Eat slowly and enjoy is next week.
The mince tarts are in the bakeries, the invites have started flowing, the champagne is ready to pop and the potatoes are being grated, ready to be smothered in oil. Hooray! The festive season is here!
How do we let our taste buds enjoy the next month without our thighs being punished? (Part 1 of 3)
Rule 1: It's all about balance
Balance your plate and balance your week.
Balance your plate
Fill your plate at least half full with fresh veggies. Whether you are at home or a party, fill up on veggies and have less of the grains and meats/meat alternatives. When asked to bring a plate, bring a salad, vegetable or fruit platter or veggie xmas tree (see picture) to help balance your plate at the party. When catering at home, make sure to have lots of healthy stuff to balance out the treats.
Balance your week
Start planning your week. If you know you have your work function at the end of the week, be extra healthy throughout the week so you can enjoy the evening without worrying about a few extra calories. It's what we do 90% of the time that matters. Eat lots of everyday foods and fresh veggies throughout the week and save your 'treats' for the parties!
Coming up in next week's blog...
Rule 2: Choose your treats
Thumper from Bambi teaches us "If you can't say something nice...don't say nothing at all". I've adapted this to create the Food Politeness Rule or in the world of Making Food Fun, where Golden rules start with a C, "Be Courteous".
"Be Courteous" means that when you try or eat a food and like it, tell the world. "Mmmm...this carrot is so crunchy", "I love peas" or "Broccoli is my favourite green". But, if you try a food and it's not your favourite, then you say nothing! You may leave the food on your plate and stay quiet about it.
This rule is very important in my cooking classes and around my table (remember I have four kids) as we want positive food peer pressure. So next time you hear your child say "I hate ____" kindly remind them of the food politeness rule.
Continuing the theme of talking food with kids. An article I read recently suggested that by giving foods fun names, kids are more likely to eat them.
Here are some fun food words we use in our house:
- We call vegetables; colours
- We call green smoothies; dinosaur smoothies
- Fish is; brain food
- Healthy food is; everyday food
- Unhealthy food is; special treats or party food
What fun food names do you use in your house?
I recently ran a healthy cooking incursion for 58 kids at a Northern suburbs school. They were aged 6-8, in grade 1 and 2 and had been learning about the food groups.
Most had very good understanding of which foods go in each food group and could easily identify healthy foods verses treats.
Calcium, vitamin C, fibre, nutrients were all correctly identified]. It was great!
But, when I asked why our bodies needed certain foods or nutrients there was only one answer: "because it's healthy".
So I tried delving deeper by asking "What does healthy mean?" and they struggled to answer.
This is quite common. We teach our kids what foods are healthy, we teach them that we want them to be healthy and they understand that being healthy is a good thing. But we forget to tell them why! What's in it for them. Why should they be healthy? Why eat veggies? The result is the word healthy is just academic, has no real meaning to kids and becomes quite useless in getting our kids to eat.
We need to give the word 'healthy' some meaning. Using the word healthy is not enough, we need to sell, to market healthy foods to kids just like the marketers of unhealthy foods do so very, VERY well.
So, don't tell them it's healthy! Motivate them with what's in it for them (not for you). The words healthy and nutritious are jargon for most kids. Meaningless. Kids don't care that eating vegetables will lower their risk of heart disease, cancers, diabetes and obesity.
So how do you do this? How do we market (healthy) foods to kids without telling them it's healthy?
First, we need stronger motivation than "healthy". In fact I think simply lose the H word. Link what your child likes doing or wants to improve at directly to the food you want them to eat.
- Green veggies will help you run faster
- Orange veggies will help you do better on tomorrow's spelling test
- Let's have eggs for breakfast because you have that big soccer game today
- I made fish for dinner and will give you extra colours in your lunchbox because you have that big maths test
- Eat some red foods and then show me how high you can now jump
Appropriate marketing and motivation is not just important for kids. All of the above is true for adults too. What motivates you when choosing foods? Looking good? Having lots of energy? For me it's being a good role model for my family. So take some time to think of what drives you. And how to market healthy foods to your kids.
Instead of nagging, use marketing. Instead of pleading, motivate them! Nagging and pleading may work in the short term but it's exhausting and frustrating. Market healthy food (but shhh...don't tell them it's healthy) to your kids. It will make meal times more pleasant and you will be raising healthy eaters who understand the value of a (healthy) diet.
Stay tuned for next week's blog: how to add fun to your food language and the "food politeness" rule.
5 essential ingredients to buy in bulk
Busy? Tired? Don't know what to cook at the end of a long day? Here are 5 ingredients to keep in the house so you can always produce a quick, easy and healthy meal for yourself and/or your family.
Eggs are nutritious, easy and versatile. Mix them with veggies and a little milk to create delicious scrambled eggs or omelettes. Poach, boil or fry (in a little vegetable oil) and serve on multigrain or rye bread with some salad. Or make a delicious frittata by mixing eggs, veggies (freshly grated or leftover steamed or roast veg), a dash of milk, some flour and low fat cheese. Prepare in 2 minutes, then bake for 45 minutes.
2. Frozen Veggies and canned tomatoes (preferably reduced salt)
One thing to improve any diet is to eat more fruits and veggies. Veggies are full of fibre, vitamins and minerals and they protect us from disease. They are low in calories so great for weight control.
If you don't have time to get anything fresh, don’t worry! Make sure the freezer is well stocked. Frozen veggies are still high in nutrients as they’re frozen straight from picking. To retain these nutrients make sure to steam or stir-fry rather than boiling your veggies.
Canned tomatoes can be the base for many quick, delicious meals; minestrone soup, pasta sauces, ratatouille and stews.
Aim for half your plate to be veggies.
3. Canned fish
Fish contains omega 3 fatty acids, which have been linked to disease prevention and are great for your brain, heart and eyes.
Try salmon or tuna on top of salad or pasta, make it into patties, or toast some in a sandwich or wrap. For sustainably caught fish look for the blue MSC fish symbol on the label.
4. Whole Grains
Whole grains are the favourite energy for your brain and muscles. This includes basmati or brown rice, pasta, polenta, quinoa, oats, polenta and wholemeal/multi-grain breads/wraps or crackers. These foods should fill about 1/4 of your dinner plate. Keep a stock of whole grains in your cupboard. Team them with some lean meat, fish, eggs and veggies for a nutritious and easy meal.
5. Legumes – canned or dried beans, peas, lentils and tofu
Legumes (any peas or beans that aren’t green) are considered both vegetables and meat alternative, making them perfect for easy dinners. Four bean mix with some balsamic vinegar is a tasty salad. Try a baked bean toasted sandwich. Firm tofu (found in the fridge section of the supermarket) is great in stir-fries with veggies. Lentils or red kidney beans are delicious in a quick sauce; just add some canned tomatoes and fresh or dried mixed herbs. Delicious with pasta, polenta or on top of rice.
What are your essential ingredients?
I've taught my kids about the different food groups and what's in it for them when they eat these foods. We have a nice magnet on the fridge that we often point too. "Look we've eaten lots of grains already today, so lets have some colours"
- Colours is the secret to success (whatever you want to be good at these are your super powers). We discuss how our bodies need over double the amount of vegies than fruit in a day
- Whole grains for energy and concentration
- Protein for strength (the lego for your body)
- Dairy for strong bones
We also often talk about balance. If you ate nothing but whole grains for energy, you wouldn't have enough lego blocks to grow. So how does this relate to meal times?
At home we tend to save dairy and fruits for snacks, so we aim for our dinner plate to look something like this:
1/2 your plate filled with different coloured vegetables. Aim for at least a traffic light of vegetables on your plate. Steamed, roasted, salad, stir fry, frozen (and steamed), in curries, sauces, soups. Involve the kids when choosing veggies. What greens would you like today? How about choosing something red for your plate?
1/ 4 whole grains. Try brown or basmati rice, wraps, pasta, potato, couscous, quinoa, polenta
1/4 protein. Include and rotate lean meat, chicken, eggs, fish, tofu, lentils and beans, nuts.
I have to admit that I haven't been planning my meals lately. So at about 3pm, I search the fridge, raid the freezer or make a quick dash to the shops. This week I've decided that I need to reduce my 3pm stress and the time I spend shopping and start meal planning again.
I aim for our dinner plates to be half veggies, a quarter meat/tofu/beans and a quarter wholegrains. I use my meal planning to get a balance between meat, fish and vegetarian meals.
What better place to write my plans than here: Monday
(we have leftover meat/eggplant sauce)
Make your own wraps: Home-made tortillas
with leftover sauce
, guacamole, grated cheese, spinach, tomatoes, red capsicumTuesday
(our only night without after school activities)
Roast chicken, roasted veg (sweet potato
, potato, carrots, cauliflower), mushroom sauce, steamed greens (peas and broccoli), zucchini fritters (if I have time) Wednesday
(children's request - we are taking a small break from frittata Wednesday this term)
Calamari, soy sausages and salad Thursday
(out latest night home so need something I can prepare)
Tofu san choy bow (I saw a recipe I wanted to try - I'll post it if successful) Friday
Cashew chicken, veggie curry and brown riceSaturday
(I'm working late, so need a meal I can prepare in advance and my partner can hopefully manage to put it in the oven)Tuna pasta bake (pasta, tuna, corn and tinned tomatoes or tomato soup) and saladSunday (I'm working and my partner is doing Ride Around The Bay) Cottage pie (made by my mum: finger's crossed. Surely my blog is an
appropriate place to ask her?)
We are considering changing our name from Making Food Fun (any ideas?). Let me tell you the story of how we came to be Making Food Fun and why we are considering a change...
8 years ago I opened my private practice. A keen, enthusiastic young mum and dietitian. We called it Food Forethought (think before you eat).
I enjoyed the work we were doing in group sessions and learned so, so much from feeding my own children, and over time the business changed. Eventually I closed my private practice to focus entirely on kids, family and corporate cooking and nutrition activities, from an individual focus to group focus.
When I was describing to someone what my new business did I described it as Making Healthy Food Fun. We dropped the word healthy as we felt it could alienate some people (especially kids). We wanted everyone
to join in and to enjoy making and eating a veggie filled wrap as much as decorating a cupcake. We soon created The Colourful Chef and the fun expanded.
So what's the problem with our name? Well, some people think that Making Food Fun is about making fruit and vegetables into the shapes of dogs, rocket ships and flowers to get their kids to eat - - it's not!
Healthy eating shouldn't be time consuming or difficult. It should be an enjoyable, everyday lifestyle. Making Food Fun doesn't immediately tell our audience that what we do is simply based on getting Australians to eat more colours (fruits and vegetables). This is both good and bad. Making Food Fun is about inspiring all people to eat more fruit and veggies, taking away the barriers and giving practical ideas and tips on how to easily feed your family. Taking family meal times back, making them less stressful and more fun.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on our name. Read the blog, see our Facebook page
. Are we Making Food Fun?
I just returned from a cooking session at a kinder. About 30 kids had fun with The Colourful Chef; smelling mint, touching lemons, trying to work out what garlic was and learning that yoghurt comes from cows.
We were making tzatziki dip. My kids love it and, despite being hard to spell, it's a fun dip to serve with veggies and some mountain bread.
All the kids prepared their own dish and when it came time to eat their creation ... uh oh, we struck a problem.
It just so happened that today was also Footy Day at this kinder. And, as a footy 'treat' they were having hot chips, right before our class started, in addition to their regular snacks. Full bellies meant when it came time to eat their veggie filled tzatziki wrap, they were less inclined to try the new food.
Think about the timing of your meals. Are your kids filling up on a big after-school snack and then not hungry at dinner time? Could you have dinner earlier or serve veggies and dip for snack and a smaller dinner?
Stick to water between meal and snack times and make sure you leave enough time between meals so that kids come to the table hungry. We want our kids to be filling up on nutritious foods, not snacking on too many treats - spoiling their appetite for the healthy stuff.
It is our responsibility as a parents to offer healthy foods to our kids at regular interviews. It is their responsibility to choose whether to eat and how much to eat (of each food on offer). It is not our responsibility to force them to eat.
While I do try to offer my kids healthy meals and snacks (with enough time between food to feel the sensation of hunger), some days they don't choose to eat everything. And some days, I just don't serve up the perfect meal. But don't worry, there's always tomorrow!
A single meal is not meaningful. It is the days and weeks of meals that matter. If your kids only pick at the veggies one night, try to include them in snacks (veggie sticks and dips) or their lunch box. Some nights my kids are not too keen on meat, if that happens I offer them an egg in the morning. If you think dairy was a bit lacking last week, then add some smoothies for lunch. My kids love grains and fruit, so I don't have to worry about those (protein and veggies are the ones we are currently working on).
Remember, kids eat more some days and less on other days. That’s ok, it’s their responsibility. Let kids eat according to their internal signals and grow into the body that’s right for them.