Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Reading food labels - fat, sugar, salt yum!




I've never been a great interpreter of food labels but I found this handy guide in a British book called Annabel Karmel's Complete Family Meal Planner which explains what they actually mean by low fat, low sugar and low salt. The recipes in this book were pretty lame (chicken rissoles shaped like teddy bears anyone??) but I think this will stick with me.

So looking at the per 100gm serving
low fat is 2gms or less
low sugar is 2gms or less
low sodium (salt) is .1gms or less

high fat is 20gms or more
high sugar is 10gms or more
high salt is .5gms or more

I thought I'd road test some things that Leo likes to eat to see how they stack up and it's an interesting result:

Sultana Bran Buds (aka cereal with tanis) - per 100gms
1.5 gms fat - tick
25.1 gms sugar - big cross eek
.13gms sodium -little tick

Cruskits - per 100gms
12.6gms fat - little cross
3.3gms sugar - little cross
.7gms sodium - cross

Mother Earth Baked Fruit Sticks - per 100gms
2.6gms fat - little tick
33.6gms sugar - big cross
.2gms sodium - little tick

Ok, I've got to hunt down some better snack foods...damn!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wednesdays Weekly Winner - Chicken stirfry with noodles!

I'm not sure if anyone else gets this but sometimes when I'm cooking dinner, I have the sinking feeling that Leo is going to reject it without trying it and we'll have to resort to Plan B - a toasted sandwich for supper so he doesn't go to bed hungry. This doesn't happen often but when it does I feel unjustifiably crushed.


I got this feeling last night when I was wokking up a storm but lo and behold chicken stirfry was a success! Even the carrot was eaten. I really must start getting some photos of this but here is the ridiculously easy recipe. Warning - this recipe uses some very lazy cooking shortcuts:

Eleanor's easiest chicken stirfry
- One packet of free range chicken breast cut for stir-fry
- One packet hokkien noodles
- One packet "stirfry or salad" vegies from Coles (finely shredded carrot, broccoli stalks, red and white cabbage and spring onion)
- Crushed garlic clove and grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons shao shing wine or sherry
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Sesame seeds, fried shallots and sweet chilli sauce to serve

Prepare hokkien noodles as per packet instructions
Stir-fry chicken in the vegetable oil in batches until all cooked and remove to a bowl
Stir-fry vegetables with garlic and ginger until softened, then add wine, soy and honey
Add the chicken and noodles to the wok and mix until all ingredients are hot and mixed through
Serve with sesame seeds and fried shallots (and sweet chilli for grown ups or adventurous adults)

To be honest I had to do a lot of the feeding for Leo which is a bit insane for a two and a half year old but considering he ate it all and most of the noodles got into his mouth - it was worth it!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesdays weekly winner

I thought it might be good to start reflecting once a week on what the nutritional successes were in toddler feeding and this week seems like a good one to start! I have many ups and downs each week with my cooking and rather than beat myself up for the failures I thought I’d outline the winners in the hope that they might provide inspiration for others (let’s not mention the CSIRO’s epic fail recipe – cheesy vegetable muffins).

This week we had two big winners in pumpkin lasagne and dried apricots – hurray! The apricots were a success because he was sitting in a Wiggles Big Red Car when they were offered but the pumpkin lasagne was eaten on its own merits.

I’ve learnt to make pumpkin lasagne in record time as long as I remember to roast some pumpkin earlier in the week – here’s the recipe.

Eleanor’s pumpkin lasagne
- Half a butternut pumpkin cubed and roasted
- Two handfuls of chopped baby spinach (optional)
- Fresh lasagne sheets
- Low salt tomato based pasta sauce
- B├ęchamel/white sauce or ricotta mixed with one egg and parmesan.

Preheat over to 180 degrees.

In an over-proof dish, layer the pasta sauce, spinach, pumpkin and lasagne sheets, starting with the tomato sauce. Top with b├ęchamel or ricotta mix.

Bake for around 30mins or until top of lasagne is golden brown.

I’ll be more organised and put some photos up next time!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New vegie tactics - the countdown

A colleague at work told me about a great trick that they use on her 3-year-old niece to get her to eat the rest of her vegies - they get her to guess how many mouthfuls are left and then count them down to see if she was right.

I'm not totally sure about this one as I do subscribe to the fact that you should let little ones choose how much they eat but I also know that if we went with this approach all the time Leo would pretty much never eat anything green.

We sometimes hide bits of meat under mashed sweet potato so that there is some incidental mash eating during dinner and that has been reasonably successful for us - anyone got any new tactics to share??

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Getting their hands dirty!


I found another great book in the library called Small Fry which has great ideas for getting kids involved in cooking. Best of all it has ideas for little ones aged two to five rather than just bigger kids that can be trusted with a knife! The recipes aren't as interesting or nutritious as some other books but the ideas for kids activities are great (there are recipes for playdough and finger paint too).

At the moment Leo helps with mixing eggs to be scrambled or making corncake batter but if I'm making anything harder than that, I just give him a bowl with dry pasta to stir and pour into a saucepan that is well away from any source of heat.

Small Fry has a recipe for sweet potato and rocket frittata which wouldn't pass muster with Leo but he did used to enjoy the following recipe:

Eleanor's Green Frittata

- 3 or 4 eggs depending on size of saucepan
- handful of broccoli florets
- handful of frozen peas
- handful of finely chopped baby spinach
- handful of cheddar cheese
- teaspoon of butter/margerine

Boil brocolli for about 5 minutes and then add the frozen peas. When the water comes back to the boil, drain vegetables and run under cold water. Mix cooked vegetables with eggs and spinach in a bowl.
Heat butter or margerine in a saucepan over medium heat and pour egg mix into the pan. Sprinkle cheese over the top.

When the frittata is set on the bottom, pop it under a preheated grill until the top is set and the cheese is golden brown.

Get the kids to help with the washing up!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The holy grail - which nutrients toddlers need

After significant research, I think I've found the answers I was looking for on what nutrients toddlers (and grown ups) need. As it turns out, there were no real surprises and here is the list according to Antonia Kidman and her nutritionist lady friend (and verified by the CSIRO):
- Carbohydrates
- Protein
- Good fats (essential fatty acids)
- Vitamins A, B, C, D and E
- Iron
- Calcium
- Zinc
- Magnesium

That's it! I don't know what else I imagined there would be but I think I thought there would be something I hadn't heard of.

Even more useful Antonia and her buddy have listed lots of foods that contain each of these things. It was very exciting to realise that Leo eats something out of each group and amazingly you could actually cover all groups by eating the following foods:

- Oats
- Milk
- Tomatoes
- Vegetable oil
- Sesame seeds
- Potatoes
- Egg
- Peas

Obviously it is heaps better to eat the full range of fruits and vegies but I found making this list super reassuring as these are all things that it is totally easy to get Leo to eat. Hurrah! He's not going to get scurvy or gout or osteoporosis!

Unfortunately all my new found nutritional self-confidence was brought back down to earth when I read that the CSIRO suggests that kids should eat a vegetable from each of the five color groups (green, yellow, white, orange and red) every day. Hmmmm, this is going to take a bit more work...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Butter beans are yummy, wait I meant yucky

I ran into a fellow Leo-mother the other day (there seem to be more little Leo’s in Brunswick than anywhere else) and she was telling me how her Leo had been in love with butter beans – she could serve them in any dish and he thought they were fantastic and particularly good for stabbing with a fork. However, in a matter of days he had turned from loving butter beans to hating butter beans – aaargh!

I’ve had the exactly same experience with risotto which once used to be the magical food in which all vegies could be hidden. However at some point this has turned around and now all risotto will be ignored. Admittedly, our Leo did have a run in with a very hot risotto one time which may explain our situation.

So I am left wondering – can a food come back into favour?

Having read a couple of books about feeding kids lately, I know the official answer would be that little ones should be offered foods repeatedly so they can become familiar with them. I haven’t actually seen this method work with Leo recently although he did try some carrot yesterday before spitting it back out.

I’d be very interested to know whether anyone has a success story!

Monday, September 6, 2010

CSIRO research – parental pestering pays (aka the carrot challenge)

I’m still working my way through the very informative but very long-winded CSIRO Wellbeing Plan for Kids. As I dragged myself through it, I stumbled across a very interesting fact – research from the UK has shown when child were offered a food every day for two weeks, 'liking' improved in 62% of children.

Admittedly I’m a bit dubious about this stat after further consideration. My first instinct was – “great, I’ll just give Leo cauliflower every day for two weeks and then he will like it”. After further thought, I figured that if I offer Leo cauliflower every day for two weeks then he might like it a little bit more than he did before. After further thought still I realised that there is a 40% chance that this experiment will lead to no change at all.

Nonetheless, I have embarked on a two week carrot challenge. Gaz and I are going to offer Leo carrots every day for two weeks and see if he likes them a little bit more in the end.

This experiment is now in it’s third day and Leo now says “Mummy and Daddy like crunchy carrots” but he has not yet put one in his mouth. That said, I have had great success hiding carrots in muffins, soups, Bolognese sauce etc etc. If all else fails, I can still play carrot ninja.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Travelling with Toddlers and their Tummies


I think pretty much the only time I am asked for definitive parenting advice at work is when one of my colleagues is about to fly somewhere with their little one. Leo is a pretty well travelled toddler having flown twice to the UK (once with a side trip to Croatia) as well as a couple of little domestic flights in Oz. I’m certainly not claiming any expertise from these trips as ultimately each kid and flight is going to have its own hazards but I definitely have tactics.

Mostly our flights have gone smoothly but air travel is not a situation you can control. I will spare everyone the graphic details of Leo’s upset tummy on the first leg of our last flight to London. Let’s just say I will be eternally grateful for the laundry services at the Incheon Hyatt Regency in Korea for ensuring that Leo and I had fresh and dry clothes for the next 11-hour leg of the flight.

So back to the tactics, the main one that I’ve got was passed on by an older and wiser parent who said make sure you have one new toy for every hour of the flight. I think that’s a bit of a stretch on a 22 hour flight but it works if you subtract the hours that the toddler may be sleeping. I would certainly suggest that a trip to the $2 shop before your trip is time well spent.

Second, a friend of mine who reluctantly bought her three year old a DVD player convinced me that this was a sensible idea. I initially baulked at the thought (isn’t there some rule about watching tv and toddlers??) but now am a big fan of this purchase. When we were travelling the Wiggles Movie allowed us many a long and relaxed dinner out with friends and family. You may have to endure some scornful looks from other diners but it is worth it for the sake of actually getting to eat dessert!

Most importantly when going on big trips – bring lots and lots snacks!! I’m not sure if this is a common experience but Leo regressed to only eating food that was 100% familiar to him while we were overseas so my boxes of sultanas, bags of dried apple and muesli bars were essential eating…until they ran out. Unfortunately everything in Croatian shops seemed weird to him – the fruit tasted funny, the bread was weird, the cereal wasn’t the same. In good news, I learnt that toddlers can totally survive on bread, biscuits, sultanas, pasta, pesto and milk for a week.

Next time I’m asked about travelling with kids, I think my main tip will be to chill out because I couldn’t help but freak out when Leo turned fussy. Looking back, it was much more important that we enjoyed the good times than worry about whether Leo had eaten his greens for the week.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Antonia feeds vegies to toddlers!

So I know I probably should have worked out the joy of libraries many years ago but I have only recently discovered the joy of borrowing cookbooks. What a boon! Considering I’m only ever taken with a cookbook for approximately 3 weeks, this seems to be an ideal, not to mention affordable, arrangement.

So my first selection has been “Feeding Fussy Kids” by Antonia Kidman and a lovely nutritionist (two thumbs up) and the CSIRO Wellbeing Plan for Kids (lots of general info but not so handy for recipes).

I think I am pretty innovative when it comes to hiding vegies but Antonia takes it to another level.* The best thing about this book is that it is genuinely aimed at toddlers. I’ve seen a lot of other cookbooks for littlies which are really about school age kids who might even consider eating a salad if pushed.

The best thing in Antonia’s book is the “vegie laden pasta sauce” – what a Nigella-style title! I’ve thrown a slightly adjusted recipe below – as well as being great on pasta with cheese it’s really good as a pizza topping, as a base for Bolognese sauce and I’ve even used it in a shepherd’s pie with great success.

There were also a lot of clever looking smoothies, many of which include some silken tofu. I haven’t tried any of these yet so I will reserve my judgement.

Eleanor’s vegie pasta sauce
- One tablespoon olive oil
- One small onion finely chopped
- Two cloves of garlic
- One teaspoon of dried rosemary
- One teaspoon of dried oregano
- One cup grated or finely diced pumpkin
- 700ml salt reduced pasta sauce
- 2 cups V8 juice
- Half a cup of red lentils
- Half a cup of water

Fry onion garlic and herbs in olive oil over low-medium heat until softened. Add the pumpkin and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Add all other ingredients and increase the heat to high. When the sauce comes to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 20-30 mins.

If your little one is brave with green stuff, stir through a cup of chopped baby spinach at the end.

* Please note that I’m more than aware that Antonia probably didn’t actually contribute to the writing of this book but I like to imagine of her lying back on a white couch in her designer gear wondering how best to get nutrients to my child.