Kids food

Kids food

In my 25-year career as a professional chef and now as a passionate health coach, I’m currently having one of the most illuminating discussions I’ve ever experienced surrounding the next generation’s relationship with food. As well as their understanding that what we eat can also be our medicine.

In my 25-year career as a professional chef and now as a passionate health coach, I’m currently having one of the most illuminating discussions I’ve ever experienced surrounding the next […]

It’s why I’ve been inspired to work with kids all over Australia to help ignite their interest in creating healthy, yummy dishes that are easy to make but also fuel their bodies and minds in a really positive way that allows them to learn, grow and realise their ultimate potential.

Along with the work I’m doing with my Healthy Every Day series in schools throughout Australia, it’s the fact that I’m the father of two growing young girls that has empowered me to want to contribute to and create an environment in which parents all over the country can enjoy supportive conversations about what our kids are eating. You see, taking back the power around what we choose to put in our children’s mouths (and the knowledge and skills we equip them with for later in adult life) is one key way that parents can have a positive, dynamic impact.

Indeed, the eating habits that we teach our kids from when they first start exploring solids until they get interested in making their own food as teens, stays with them for life. But this isn’t about lecturing or schooling our kids on what’s right and wrong. This is about creating an exciting environment that fosters a sense of responsibility so that kids are equipped to make healthy food choices for themselves.

For Nic, the girls and myself we take the approach that every meal is a celebration and food is a way to connect our family. One of the nicest ways to do this is by preparing meals together and then sitting down at the table to share tasty dishes and enjoy a chat about our day. I truly believe this is the first step towards giving our kids the tools that will ensure they make their own healthy choices, even when we are not around.

It’s a technique that’s worked wonders for my own two daughters, Indii and Chilli, who have been involved in creating yummy meals and playing with flavours ever since they were little. And I’m proud to say, they now know instinctually what foods make them feel good and make their choices accordingly.

As a parent, it’s been a really interesting journey because I’ve discovered that the more my kids understand the power of food as medicine, the less inclined they’ve become to eat (or crave) unhealthy food.

Plus, our family dialogue and intrinsic relationship with what we eat has allowed them to have a really dynamic relationship with the food they put in their mouths. For me, it’s really important that the girls are encouraged in the kitchen to try out new ingredients, recipes and just generally be adventurous. We also have lots of discussions and enjoy fun times together with a little 21st century hunter-gathering – foraging for fresh produce at a weekend farmers market or hitching a lift on a mate’s boat and heading out for a morning fish.

And now I’m proud to say that they enjoy sharing their knowledge with their friends. Both my girls don’t digest dairy well and Chilli also is intolerant to both gluten and wheat, which is why I’ve created a special grain-free muesli recipe that she just loves. It was also because of my daughters that I was inspired to create my new cookbook, Family Food, which has lots of quick, nutritious mid-week meals like cauliflower rice with garlic prawns and even a pizza with a paleo base. I also hope I can inspire other busy parents to pick up their utensils and get back to basics.

However, I fully understand how tough the juggle can be and how pushed, both financially and physically, things can sometimes appear. That’s why I want to encourage parents to get back to basics and start by cutting out the processed foods and takeaway meals and instead get into the kitchen with the kids. Not only will it help with budgeting and planning, but, more importantly, it’s a way we can all make a commitment to nurturing them with dishes that provide optimal nutrition and create physical, emotional and mental wellness.

For me, the most nutritionally sound way to achieve this is by following Palaeolithic principles. Basically, we enjoy a delicious diet of 100% grass-fed and finished meat and organ meats, pasture-raised poultry as well as their eggs, wild game, free range pork, wild-caught smaller species seafood with an emphasis on molluscs and bivalves, nuts, seeds, some seasonal fruits and lots of organic leafy greens and brightly coloured vegetables with fermented vegetables, included at each and every meal. We avoid grains, legumes, dairy products, non-organic produce, and genetically modified and processed foods. Ultimately, it’s about listening to your own body, and working with a trusted health professional. But I know that paleo has worked very well for both myself and my family.

So when push comes to shove, you’ve picked the kids up from school and you need to create a nutritious meal, quick-smart, what is it that we should be feeding our kids you ask? If all you do is select a few choice recipes, start creating meals from scratch, buy more veges and the best possible meat you can afford, choose organic wherever possible and avoid refined sugars and starchy carbohydrates, then most of the battle is won.

It also pays to try and replace cereal grains such as wheat, barley and rye as well as legumes with healthier options. Many people have trouble digesting cereal grains and the ones which are available in supermarkets today are now so highly modified by modern-day food manufacturing practices that they do not resemble the same kind of grain strains that were around at the beginning of agricultural practices 12,000 years ago. Grain proteins like gluten, as well as dairy, are also responsible for a host of allergies and food sensitivities that can lead to a debilitated immune system and poor overall general health. The reason a paleo-style way of eating avoids these is by enhancing and promoting better gut bacteria and, as a result, creating better energy, health and overall vitality.

That’s why as parents we all need to make a commitment to cook our own food, with our kids help, as much and as often as we possibly can.

It’s just as convenient (and so much more nutritionally empowering for your body and mind) to stop in at the local veggie store and butcher and pick up a decent cut of meat and some yummy nutritional powerhouse veggies that can be stir-fried together in a healthy oil (see options below) for 10 minutes and voila! You have dinner. Of course, lunches are another issue but with a bit of planning and preparation, you can make double portions so that you can stretch dishes out over a number of days. Why not also think about setting aside one weekend afternoon (at our place it’s usually a Sunday) to make some grain-free muesli and a few other yummy snacks that can be scoffed after school throughout the week, such as homemade paleo hummus. A little tub of this nutritious, delicious Turkish spread is also a great inclusion in lunch boxes with carrot and celery sticks for a snack or to accompany a chicken salad. And if you create a couple of big portions of dinner food, that also won’t spoil in a lunchbox, it’s another way of getting a bit more bang out of your kitchen time. I also find those small cooler-bags that can carry a frozen ice pack very helpful so that food can last the distance – I often use them myself when I travel long haul as I choose to put my health first and not eat cheap and nasty airline food.

One of the major reasons for taking my own carry-on meals, so to speak, and for creating exciting lunchboxes for the girls is because I’m a whole-hearted advocate of cooking your own food and encouraging your kids to do the same because that way you can also be absolutely certain of everything that’s going in there. Today, much processed food is cooked in vegetable oils such as sunflower, canola, rice bran, cotton that become rancid at high heat and which are very high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. Consumed in excess these omega-6’s can be harmful to our health and, because of the high levels in our modern-day diet, we need to look to minimise our intake of these — while at the same time increasing our intake of omega-3 essential fatty acids (the ones found in oily fish and supplements such as krill oil). These promote emotional wellbeing, create balance and are known to ensure optimal brain health.

So what are good oils? I choose to cook with coconut oil, duck fat, or tallow because these are all high in good saturated fats, which have been found by the latest scientific research to be vital in allowing us to feel satiated by what we eat. Research is also showing how vital saturated fat is for the health of both our brains and nervous systems. Just like adults, kids can benefit greatly by the addition of saturated fat to their diet. I save my good quality olive oil for creating yummy salad dressings, as it is unstable at high heat. And I also love macadamia and avocado oils because it’s very important to ensure that you have lots of variety.

And because variety is the spice of life, I encourage you to continue to be bold and brave with the foods you introduce your kids too. By encouraging adventurous palettes, you’ll ensure they have a lifelong love affair with what they put in their mouths and their physical and emotional health can benefit tremendously. Ultimately, as a parent it’s all about trusting that the invaluable food knowledge you give your kids will pay off when they are on their own and that they will be well equipped to easily make the right choices. Because after all, we all want to find better ways to live well and prosper!

Cook with love and laughter,


By p

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