Most parents find themselves at a complete loss when it comes to feeding their fussy children.
But in most cases, there are a number of very simple tactics that can boost your child’s nutrition, enhance their interest in new foods and transform their diet completely.
Sydney-based PR guru, Roxy Jacenko, struggled with the diets of her own children, Pixie, five, and Hunter, three, and said she had ‘issues’ getting them to eat ‘anything other than junk’.
But after seeing paediatric nutritionist, Mandy Sacher, Roxy said they ‘transformed’ and now love to eat healthy, nutritious foods.
Sydney-based PR guru, Roxy Jacenko, struggled with the diets of her own children, Pixie, five, and Hunter, three, and said she had ‘issues’ getting them to eat ‘anything other than junk’
But after seeing paediatric nutritionist, Mandy Sacher, Roxy said they ‘transformed’ and now love to eat healthy, nutritious foods
‘She really helped me when I was on my own,’ Roxy told FEMAIL.
‘Following an initial consult and the complete review and subsequent binning of almost everything in our pantry (even things that one would think are super healthy and low in fat and sugars) the kids are transformed.
‘Gone are the days of fish fingers and chips or sausages and chips! Now it’s about variation and brain food!
‘We are so excited. As a parent, she has helped me so much, Google was my port of call until I was recommended to Mandy by a friend.’
Mandy, who runs Wholesome Child and recently penned a book of the same name, said her passion for childhood nutrition was cemented when she became a mother herself and noticed all the so-called ‘healthy’ products aimed at babies and kids.
Mandy (pictured), who runs Wholesome Child, said her passion for childhood nutrition was cemented when she became a mother herself and noticed all the so-called ‘healthy’ products aimed at babies and kids
Mandy said there are some simple tactics for understanding children and their eating habits
What is the ideal lunchbox?
* Make sure you include protein in the form of meatballs or something like roast beef or chicken
* Include a slow release carb – no white bread, white or refined crackers. You want wholegrain sourdough bread, wholemeal pasta, brown rice or sweet potato
* Healthy fats are important – kids thrive on them as it’s good for keeping them satiated throughout the day. Things like avocado and pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds through a trail mix are a good idea.
* Add popcorn to make the trail mixes interesting and exciting or add snacks like protein or bliss balls
* Two to three vegetable servings are important – this is why it’s great to load pasta sauces and the such up with vegetables
* Fruit is a great idea but not for lunch. Instead offer fruit for recess. At lunch time the kids will eat the fruit first and feel full but this is short-lived. Save the fruit and focus on the protein at lunch
* Calcium rich foods are important but it doesn’t have to be in the form of cheese
* Compartment lunchboxes are a great idea
‘If something says “healthy” on it why would mums think any different?’ Mandy told FEMAIL.
‘But in reality, many of the “healthy” products at the supermarket are actually loaded with preservatives, sodium, sugar and fat.’
Mandy said there are some simple tactics for understanding children and their eating habits.
‘Children are very sensory and it’s all about the bright packaging and crinkly paper so it’s hard when it comes to giving them homemade food – it immediately seems boring and bland,’ she said.
‘It’s important to note that food isn’t about taste a lot of the time – it’s about what it looks like, how it sounds and how it smells.
‘If we start our kids off with highly sweetened foods then it’s going to make things difficult in the future. For example, if you give them sweet yoghurt early on they have no opportunity to try natural yoghurt and therefore won’t like it.’
When it comes to boosting nutrition, Mandy said parents don’t need to do anything drastic.
Instead, it’s about making simple, slow changes over time.
‘Plan meals and if you can, make one or two recipes over the weekend or double batches of meals you know they like (including snacks) so you don’t need to pick up last minute unhealthy snacks during the week,’ Mandy said.
When it comes to boosting nutrition, Mandy said parents don’t need to do anything drastic. Instead, it’s about making simple, slow changes over time
Pictured is what Mandy says is an ideal lunchbox ratio
‘Use leftovers when you can and instead of deli meats, which are high in sodium and not ideal for kids, make roast chicken or lamb, save some and use it as meat for sandwiches.’
Mandy said many people are unaware of how unhealthy some products are.
‘For example, there is a very popular wrap on the market that is marketed as wholegrain but there are over 10 additives and preservatives in it,’ she said.
‘Next to it there is a wholegrain wrap with just three ingredients. Parents may not be making their own wraps but this one simple swap can make all the difference.
‘Another example is cheese slices which are a hit with kids. There is one brand which has 1,700mg of sodium per 100g while another has just 300g of sodium right next to it.’
When it comes to ‘disguising’ vegetables in meals, Mandy is all for it.
‘My advice is to boost their everyday meals with vegetables so load up your pasta sauces with pureed vegetables, make pizza bases with sweet potatoes or use things like black beans in your brownies and muffins,’ she said
‘Some people are anti this but when you give them a muffin or cake they don’t know eggs are in it either,’ she said.
‘The idea is you are boosting their diet and nutrition in simple ways because in many cases, kids are not getting their daily quota of vegetables.
‘My advice is to boost their everyday meals with vegetables so load up your pasta sauces with pureed vegetables, make pizza bases with sweet potatoes or use things like black beans in your brownies and muffins.
‘It’s important to still offer the vegetables in visible form though as they need to see that vegetables are part of a healthy, balanced diet.’
What did Roxy learn from Mandy?
• including protein in the lunchbox and mid afternoon tea as it helps balance out sugar levels, stops children snacking and asking for snacks before dinner
• reducing sugary treats and replacing them with healthier versions like healthy banana bread, choc chia pops, vanilla muffins with cauliflower and black bean brownies
• boosting their veggie intake
• reducing their dairy – too much milk can interfere with their appetite and make them less hungry
• having time to eat together, even if not possible every day at least on weekend or getting one member of the family to sit with them
•cooking together – having fun in kitchen
• ensuring healthy versions of their favourite foods are available
• letting them choose from the book which recipes they would like to eat
• talking about food in a positive manner and making them feel good about themselves
• lots of praise
• making mealtimes pleasant and fun
For breakfast, Mandy says parents don’t need to cut out their kids’ favourite sugary cereals entirely – especially if their children are fussy.
‘A lot of kids aren’t starting their days off nutritiously so to transition them it’s great to do fun things like making a healthy smoothie or delicious almond and buckwheat pancakes or pikelets,’ she said.
‘If they love honey on toast, simply swap white bread for a good quality grain bread or find a way to mix the honey with peanut or almond butter for protein.
‘Many cereals have 5 – 14 teaspoons of sugar per serving which is not ideal but the first step with cereals is to mix their favourite sugary cereal with a healthy version from the supermarket.
‘If you can cut out 10 teaspoons of sugar from their day that’s 70 per week which is a huge difference and you barely have to change a thing.’
‘If you can cut out 10 teaspoons of sugar from their day that’s 70 per week which is a huge difference and you barely have to change a thing,’ she said
These two treats (recipes are in Wholesome Child) are loaded with nutrition but still look appealing to kids and taste delicious
With Roxy’s children, Pixie and Hunter, Mandy took Roxy through an eight step program (which is included in her book), to help to transform their eating.
‘Healthy eating is presented as difficult and time-consuming a lot of the time and many people use the whole “do it entirely or don’t do it at all” line which is not the case at all,’ Mandy said.
‘With Roxy’s kids it was about increasing protein in their lunchboxes and making sure there was a protein-rich snack in there to stop their cravings for sugar.
‘We swapped white bread for wholegrain bread, got rid of refined sugars in the pantry and drew up a menu plan that saw them eating three meals and two snacks every day.
‘Healthy eating is presented as difficult and time-consuming a lot of the time and many people use the whole “do it entirely or don’t do it at all” line which is not the case at all,’ Mandy said
With Roxy’s children, Pixie and Hunter, Mandy took Roxy through an eight step program (which is included in her book), to help to transform their eating
‘We also got them cooking so instead of playing with an iPad or watching TV at the end of the day they were exposed to new foods and got them interested in trying new things. This is a great way for families to connect and for kids to see a recipe from start to finish.’
Through her new book, Wholesome Child, Mandy hopes to help parents increase the quality of their children’s diets and shares her favourite healthy recipes.
‘Young bodies are growing and you want them to be eating foods that are as close to nature as possible – and it doesn’t have to be a drastic change,’ she said.
‘It’s about breaking it down into small changes and steps, making food fun and helping them love food.’
Wholesome Child is available on Mandy’s website and will be available in book stores from September 1st.