If you’ve ever been in a public place when your toddler is having a full-blown meltdown, you’ll be familiar with a feeling of wishing there had been something you could have done to stop it before it happened.
Well, there is and you can. By simply giving them a snack and preventing ‘hanger’ (that awful combination of hunger and anger), you can prevent a tantrum and shop or fulfill errands undisturbed.
Here, speaking to FEMAIL, the paediatric nutritionist behind the diets of Roxy Jacenko’s children Pixie and Hunter, Mandy Sacher, reveals why hanger is the single biggest thing causing your toddler’s tantrums.
The food author also shares what you can do to prevent such hunger attacks, and the foods to feed hangry kids.
Paediatric nutritionist behind the diets of Roxy Jacenko’s children Pixie and Hunter, Mandy Sacher (pictured), reveals why hanger is the biggest thing causing your toddler’s tantrum
Mandy has been credited with overhauling the diets of PR Roxy Jacenko’s kids (whole family pictured)
‘Fatigue, anxiety and hanger are all intricately interlinked,’ Mandy (pictured) told FEMAIL – when a child is hungry, they feel tired and when they’re tired they become anxious
According to Mandy, tantrums arise because our toddlers don’t have the necessary skills needed to voice what they are feeling at any given time.
‘Fatigue, anxiety and hanger are all intricately interlinked,’ Mandy told Daily Mail Australia.
‘When a child is hungry, they feel tired. When they are tired, they become moody. When they are moody, this stimulates feelings of anxiety.
‘You might think it’s easy to throw a few lollies or an ice block at them, but this only leads to a spike in their blood sugar levels before they come crashing right back down.
‘As a rule of thumb, toddlers need three meals a day, alongside two snacks – they should never go for more than two hours without food – and ideally, this should be the right sort of food.’
‘As a rule of thumb, toddlers need three meals a day, alongside two snacks – they should never go for more than two hours without food,’ Mandy (pictured) said
Salmon and millet rissoles
Takes 60 minutes. Serves 36.
Mandy shared her recipe for salmon and millet rissoles with FEMAIL (pictured)
400g raw salmon fillets or 425g can of drained salmon (choose wild and canned in olive oil if possible)
¼ cup of raw corn kernels
¼ cup of grated carrots
1 leek, finely diced
1 cup millet, cooked
½ cup rice flour
½ tsp mixed herbs
2 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
2 apricots (optional)
½ tsp Himalayan sea salt
Rice crumbs to coat (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Place all ingredients together in a high speed processor and blend until a smooth consistency is reached.
3. Using your hands, roll mixture into mini rissoles. If mixture is too wet add more flour.
4. Cover each ball with rice crumbs.
5. Place balls on a greased baking paper lined oven tray and bake for approx 30 mins in medium oven, or until golden brown.
6. Alternatively, heat coconut oil in a large pan over medium heat and pan-fry rissoles for approx 3 mins each side until crispy and golden brown.
Mandy recommends you never go anywhere with your kids when they might be hungry – instead, feed them a snack beforehand (pictured: Roxy Jacenko and Pixie and Hunter)
‘If they want up and no longer want to walk by themselves, this is a good early indicator that they might be hangry,’ Roxy said (pictured: some of her snacks) – similarly, if they’re lethargic
So what can you do to prevent hanger attacks, and how can you pre-empt a meltdown?
First up, never go anywhere with your toddlers when they might be at risk of hunger.
‘Go into your brain and think, when did I last feed my child?,’ Mandy recommends. ‘Have a snack before you go and run your errand, rather than waiting for the storm to brew when you get there.’
Next, Mandy said it pays to know the signs that a child might be hungry – and that hanger is on the way.
‘If they want up and no longer want to walk by themselves, this is a good early indicator,’ she revealed.
‘Similarly, if they’re rubbing their eyes, or they seem lethargic or clingy, then these are also good signs.’
She added that a toddler will never say that they feel irritable – rather, they’ll do something like ask to be picked up in the supermarket.
These are all the indicators that you should give them a nourishing snack.
When it comes to what to feed your kids, Mandy is a fan of wholesome, nourishing foods – and ideally those which are rich with magenesium
She recommends you get active with your kids at the weekends to bake or make snacks – that way you’ve got options come the week (pictured: Pixie and Hunter Curtis)
When it comes to what to feed your kids, Mandy is a fan of wholesome, nourishing foods – and as little processed sugars as possible.
‘The kind of foods that boost mood and reduce stress in children are foods which are rich in magnesium,’ she explained.
‘Things like almonds, beans, legumes and leafy greens.’
But rather than carry around a bag full of spinach in your handbag for when hanger strikes, Mandy recommends pre-preparing snacks like her beetroot and spinach bliss balls or cutting up some carrots to enjoy with beetroot hummus.
‘You can even give them some leftovers to tide them over,’ she said. ‘Like strips of chicken from the night before’s roast dinner, or just get some wholegrain crackers with peanut butter.
‘Sardines are also an amazing option to get them into from a young age, while a banana will boost children’s serotonin levels.
‘I also love giving toddlers little things like mini quiches, mini muffins and things – which I recommend busy parents make the time to make with their kids at the weekends.’
Beetroot and spinach bliss balls
Mandy often whips up beetroot and spinach bliss balls (pictured) for when hunger strikes
Takes 45 minutes. Serves 30.
1 cup dates, chopped
¼ cup beetroot, finely grated
¼ cup spinach, finely sliced and chopped
1¼ cup almond meal
1 cup finely shredded coconut
1-2 tbsp chia seeds
⅓ coconut sugar (optional)
½ cup shredded coconut to roll balls in (optional)
1. Place spinach and beetroot into a high speed processor and process/ liquidise until smooth.
2. Add remaining ingredient and process until smooth.
3. Roll into little balls and cover with shredded coconut.
4. Place balls in freezer and leave to set.
5. Best eaten within 15 minutes of removing from freezer.
As for what to avoid, the paediatric nutritionist said that if you focus on high sugar foods when you give your kids snacks, then you can expect their blood sugar levels to spike and fall rapidly.
‘You should also give certain additives and things like food colouring a miss,’ she said.
Mandy also checks foods for Sodium Benzoate – a commonly-used preservative that’s been linked to hyperactivity and inattention in children.
This is often found in processed juices and is used to hide the processed taste and give them their colour.
‘Feeding them at the right time – and regularly – can reduce the severity and frequency of hanger attacks,’ Mandy concluded (pictured: Roxy Jacenko and kids)
‘I am not suggesting that you have to go all or nothing and cook absolutely everything from scratch,’ she said.
‘But equally, you shouldn’t rely solely on processed food. Instead, learn to read your food labels properly and make sure – when you’re buying – that you’re buying wholegrain crackers with no added salt, sugar or preservatives.’
Lastly, Mandy highlighted that while removing hunger or hanger from the equation when feeding your kids will not always result in zero tantrums, she also said that it will help.
‘Feeding them at the right time – and regularly – can reduce the severity and frequency of hanger attacks,’ Mandy concluded.
To read more from Mandy Sacher, you can visit her website here. You can also purchase her book here.
The book has a 20 per cent off discount for Mother’s Day if you use the code MUM20. It is valid until May 14.