Fast acting carbohydrates, sugar, preservatives and many additives in food can have concerning detrimental effects on children. But often we have no idea that foods we presume are good for us, are filled with additives. Monique le Roux Forslund, author of Healthy Food for a Healthy Baby (Struik Lifestyle) offers some guidelines to ensure kids get the best start in life.
DID YOU KNOW? Children often enjoy putting thing in or picking them out of containers, or spooning something from one bowl to another and back again. This can keep them busy for ages and is a good exercise to encourage concentration and develop eye-hand co ordination.
RECOGNISE INDIVIDUAL NEEDS
Importantly, it's key to recognize that each child is different and individual diets may need to differ to accommodate a particular child's temperament, preferences and energy levels. As a Montessori teacher, pre-school principle and mother of three, Monique has first hand knowledge of the impact food has, not only on the individual child but also on a group of children. 'I have seen time and time again how sugar and other fast-working carbohydrates can cause children to become over-active and struggle with concentration.'
MAKE FOOD FROM SCRATCH
One of the best tips is to make food from scratch. This way you know exactly what's going into a meal and you can also guarantee it's fresh with natural organic ingredients and no harmful additives. Organic produce is the best choice. It has greater nutritional value, few additives and less chemicals, MSG and pesticides than other, often cheaper products. Children that grow up on a natural diet with vegetables, fruit, berries, meat, fish and herbs, learn from an early age to appreciate good food with natural flavours.
BE MINDFUL OF GLUTEN
So many food products contain flour, most of which is highly processed and from genetically modified stock. Wheat is most often grown with lots of pesticides. It's no wonder that research shows an increase in diabetes and obesity in recent years. Flour plays a large role in today's weight problems as well as other medical issues. Studies show that autistic children and children with ADHD can benefit if gluten is omitted from their diet. Many alternative options are available like organic buckwheat and quinoa flour or even grain free (see Monique's cinnamon pancake made only with egg).
If you're making all your food from scratch you may want to prepare meals in advance. A blender and steamer are very useful for food preparation and ice trays are invaluable for freezing small portions. Another useful tool, especially when introducing new flavours, is a closed ball tea strainer to contain fresh herbs. When freezing food, freeze it as soon as it has cooled down; try not leave it for longer than 30 minutes at room temperature. Use ice-cube trays for pureed food, that way you can remove small portions at a time. Another option is to use a non-stick baking sheet: add a tablespoon of puree in several heaps on the baking sheet, cover with an airtight bag and freeze. Write the type of food and the date on each rather than relying on your memory. Defrost over a low heat to keep nutrients intact. Never refreeze food, throw away any leftovers.
WATCH OUT FOR FOOD ALLERGIES, HYPERSENSITIVITIES & INTOLERANCE
Common allergies in babies under a year old come from the protein in eggs, grains and milk. These may present as a rash, itch or upset tummy. It's a good idea to only introduce one new food at a time, that way you can monitor any reactions or signs of intolerance. Egg white and cow's milk should preferably only be introduced after baby is a year old. Other foods to watch out for are citrus, strawberries, shellfish and grains.
Common allergens are peanuts, nuts, eggs, milk, fish, shellfish and certain fruits and vegetables. Allergies should be taken seriously and require immediate attention from a physician. Food intolerances like gluten and lactose sometimes only manifest over time and can be more difficult to discern.
1 Tbsp buckwheat flour
1 Tbsp quinoa flour
150ml cold water
100ml oat or coconut milk
1 Tbsp coconut oil or rapeseed oil
In a saucepan, beat together the buckwheat and quinoa flours with the water. Bring to the boil, beating all the time. Pour in the oat or coconut milk, as well as the coconut or rapeseed oil. The longer the mixture boils, the thicker it will be, so keep an eye on the consistency and add more water if it becomes too thick. Remove from the heat when it has reached the desired texture.
HEALTHY CINNAMON PANCAKE
Makes 1 portion
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
a pinch of cinnamon
Using a fork, whisk the egg and cinnamon in a cup. Melt the butter in a frying pan and pour in the egg, stirring it a little, then fry over a low heat until the egg becomes firm. Turn over and fry the other side. Serve as is, or with banana or berries.
for 8 ' 11 months
Makes 4 ' 6 portions
2 Tbsp chopped fresh coriander
juice of half a lime
' onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 Tbsp peeled and grated sweet potato
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
150g fish fillet (choose 1 or even 2 types)
1 tsp psyllium husk
unsalted butter for frying
Blend all the ingredients, except the fish, husk and butter, in a blender until quite smooth. Coarsely blend the fish separately. Mix with the other blended ingredients, as well as the husk. Wet your hands with cold water and roll the fish into balls, then flatten them slightly to form fishcakes. Chill before frying.
Heat a generous amount of butter in a frying pan and fry the fishcakes over a low heat until they are cooked through, about 5-7 minutes per side.
Serve with vegetables or Brussel Sprout Puree.
BRUSSEL SPROUT PUREE
Makes 2 to 4 portions
5-8 fresh Brussel sprouts
5 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Wash and remove the outer leaves of the Brussel sprouts. Pour water into a saucepan to a depth of 3 ' 5cm and bring to the boil. Place the peppercorns and bay leaf in a ball tea strainer and add the strainer to the saucepan along with the Brussel sprouts. Boil for about 10 minutes until tender. Pour off the water, add the butter and blend with a hand-held blender.
For more recipes and advice get hold of a copy of Healthy Food for a Healthy Baby (Struik Lifestyle) by Monique le Roux Forslund.
Monique is author of 4 books centered around nutrition including the bestselling Low-Carb Living for Families. She is a licensed health coach, fitness instructor, teacher and mother of three, with well over 20 years experience working with children. Currently she lives in Sweden with her 3 children.
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