Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley’s book The Art of Eating Well has a cult following among health conscious parents, with its emphasis on nutritious, natural foods. In the second part of our two-part series, Jasmine shares tips on fostering healthy eating habits in children .
My sons’ diet staples are bread and pasta, yet you say no grains. Are they really the enemy?
Grains themselves present no harm, it’s just the way that they are processed. The nutritional value is stripped so that they can sit on shelves for years and be transported across the world. Back in the day we had mills in every town and flour had to be fresh otherwise it went off – but stabilizing it makes it nutritionally poor. Sweet cereals in the morning, followed by bread sandwiches or pasta at lunchtime, are filling but not nutritious. Wheat and gluten are cheap fillers and you can see this when you eat a massive bowl of pasta – you can go and go and not be satisfied, and then suddenly feel heavy.
So it is a no to bread? I can’t see that catching on at the school gates…
Not at all. Grains can be a gut irritant and your gut plays a central role in your immunity, but if you prepare them properly they won’t have such a negative impact. Soaking, sprouting, souring – that’s where sourdough comes from – all maintain the nutritional value in the grain.
What constitutes an easy but nutritionally dense breakfast?
Our simple flaxbread is made with ground almonds, flax seeds, eggs and butter – top that with a fried egg (and more butter) and maybe mash some avocado on top. Or make soldiers and spread a thick layer of almond butter on them. Sourdough bread with no-sugar jam or coconut oil is rich and satisfying. My best friend’s son Jaden is seven and loves egg pancakes; beat an egg and fry it really thinly so that it’s slippery and delicious, and top with a ketchup smiley face.
School lunches are a minefield. Is it fair to send them in with carrot sticks and hummus when their friends are eating stringy cheese from a packet?
You have to find a compromise. Of course you don’t want them to feel different, but look hard enough and you can get organic dairy cheeses in bite-size packs. Treats like yoyo bears and fruit purees are a nod to sweetness and come in a packet so kids feels like part of the group, but they are made without sweetener and preservatives.
Preservatives are slammed in the media, as are sugar and fat… there are so many messages it’s hard to filter the right ones.
There are systems the government is trying to put in place at the moment, but we’re all still scared of fat and yet we push refined foods like margarine as being healthy. Look at rice cakes. What is that? It’s puffed up air and we’re teaching our kids to snack on it… ‘You’re bored, ok stick a rice cake in your mouth’. How is that a good message?
Guilty. But hungry boys just in from school need something to keep them going without ruining their dinner.
You could give them apple slices with almond butter – that will provide building blocks for their body.
What about parties? I find myself fending my boys off cupcakes while all around them, other children are shoveling them in.
It’s a difficult world, you don’t want to be ‘that mum’ at the party, or for your child to feel like they are missing out. Perhaps accept that you can’t control birthday parties or school trips but at least you know that at home they have a good relationship with food so, on balance, you’re doing well.
One positive change we can make today?
Make sure they enough drink water, especially at school. Don’t let everything that goes in their mouth be synthetic or an explosion of sugar – start diluting squash or juice bit by bit to get them used to it.
Three family friendly health-switches?
Sesame Chicken Salad with Cucumber Noodles: Light, fresh and very filling.
Courgette with Basil and Cashew Pesto: Excellent with meatballs, grilled prawns or some pan-fried fish.
Dutch Apple Pancake: Great for a sweet breakfast or serve with full fat, creme fraiche to turn it into a homely dessert.
Read part one of our series with Jasmine on teaching kids to love vegetables