It's safe to say that while we are all in lockdown finding things to occupy the children can prove difficult without the ability to venture out. Not only that, some supplies of certain foods are becoming difficult to get hold of and we are shopping far less frequently and having to be frugal with what we cook and eat.
But there is a silver lining to all of this. More family time means more time to develop skills in the kitchen and a great opportunity to get the kids involved too.
As a BANT registered Nutritionist, I work with many families that include picky eaters and ones that rely on convenience foods. Cooking whole foods from scratch doesn't have to be complicated or time consuming (even if we do have a bit more time on our hands at the moment).
One thing is for sure, supermarkets are still full of fresh fruit and vegetables. This gives us a great opportunity to add colours to our plate, rich phytonutrients that can support our health and wellbeing. I understand that food is scarce at the moment, so do the best you can with what you have.
A great way to get kids eating new foods is to include them in the preparation process. This allows them to engage with the food, see how it is prepared, and more often than not they will try the food that they helped make.
OK, so I don't expect them to make a three-course meal straight off but start with simple, fun recipes that they will enjoy making and eating. This will help them understand that food isn't just fuel for the body, it helps improve concentration, can boost stamina and give us more energy. All things that kids need and by incorporating whole foods, they are naturally boosting their health.
It's very easy to pop to the shops and pick up a pre-made pizza or pick up the phone and dial for a takeaway but making your own is easy to do and the kids will love it.
The great thing about pizza is that you can be as adventurous as you like with toppings. I always suggest that we make a rainbow on our pizza, that way the kids are happy to add in lots of amazing colours.
Some great vegetable topping options are peppers which can be eaten raw or cooked and provide an amazing source of antioxidants and vitamin C.
Mushrooms are a firm favourite in our house. They are packed full of fibre and B vitamins and also contain copper which helps to make red blood cells and deliver oxygen within the body.
Olives seem to always make an appearance on our pizza. They are full of wonderful healthy fats that help to support brain health, heart health as well as providing fibre for gut health.
Although I mostly use a tomato sauce, adding sundried tomatoes and fresh tomatoes is another great way of boosting antioxidants as they are rich in lycopene which can contribute to strong bones, support brain health, improve skin health and heart health.
Another version we enjoy is our green pizza with homemade pesto topped with roasted broccoli, avocado and asparagus.
This recipe uses a simple flatbread base that only requires three ingredients and is easy for kids to make themselves.
You will need:
- 200g spelt flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- Salt to taste
- 200g yoghurt
- 2 tbsp tomato purée for a medium sized pizza
- Your choice of vegetables
- Cheese of your choice (optional)
- In a bowl add the spelt flour, salt and baking powder and stir through.
- Add the yoghurt in small amounts stirring as you go to form a soft, pillowy dough.
- On a floured work surface, split the dough in half and begin rolling the first ball of dough.
- Roll to your desired thickness (you can do this by hand if you don’t have a rolling pin).
- Place on a baking tray and top with about 2 tbsp of the tomato puree, some vegetables of your choice and maybe some cheese.
- Pop into the oven for around 15-20 minutes at 180c until cooked and crispy on the edges.
- You can also cook this in a frying pan.
To pan cook:
- Heat a little oil in a frying pan over a high heat.
- Roll to your desired thickness.
- Place the flattened dough into the pre heated frying pan and cook on both sides until golden.
- Remove from the pan add your toppings.
- Once the pizza base has been pan fried, top with the tomato purée or pesto.
- Add your vegetables of choice and cheese.
- Pop under the grill until cheese has melted.
Smoothies are a great drink that we can pack full of wonderful nutrient dense ingredients without really noticing. Spinach, kale, carrots, beetroot, courgette and avocado are all wonderful additions that will help to increase the nutrient content and make the smoothies delicious.
Here are three of my families favourite recipes and yes one of them is chocolate! Cacao powder is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to its nutrient content containing the highest amount of plant-based magnesium which helps in over 300 chemical reactions within the body. It also contains 4 mood-boosting neurotransmitter chemicals as well as being packed full of plant-based iron.
I know many people like to enjoy smoothies for breakfast but be sure to add in a good quality complex carbohydrate such as oats. Carbohydrate keeps you fuller longer, slows the breakdown of sugars and hopefully avoids the little ones raiding the fridge and saying “I'm hungry” every half an hour.
Green machine smoothie
- 1 pear
- ½ avocado
- Handful of spinach
- 1cm fresh ginger (Grated)
Add the ingredients to a blender and whizz until nice and smooth. If you don’t have pear, simply replace it with an apple or even a banana and use kale in place of the spinach.
- 1 banana
- ½ courgette
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- ¼ cup of soaked oats
- 1 cup milk
Add the ingredients to a blender and whizz until nice and smooth. If you don't have a courgette you can add avocado or cauliflower. You can also use almond butter or tahini instead of peanut butter.
- 1 banana
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 small beetroot (grated finely)
- 2 tbsp peanut butter
- 1/2 avocado (optional)
- 1/2 cup of soaked oats
Add the ingredients to a blender and whizz until nice and smooth. You can add a date in for added sweetness. If you don't have blueberries, simply replace with raspberries or even strawberries. Don’t worry if you don’t have either nut butters as this recipe works well without.
Note: To soak the oats, place ¼ cup oats with ⅓ cup milk for about 30 minutes until nicely softened. It’s best to use rolled oats, not jumbo oats.
Top tip: Smoothies aren’t just for drinking, you use them as your milk base for pancakes, waffles or porridge to make brightly coloured breakfasts.
Homemade super grain crackers
I think as parents we’ve become accustomed to hearing “I'm hungry” and “what's for lunch”. When kids get bored, they get hungry. Why not get them to make their own snacks?
These super grain crackers are easy to make and really versatile so throw in whatever nuts, seeds or dried fruit you have to hand. They are great to eat by themselves but also work nicely with hummus, topped with cheese, or even with peanut butter. I always make a double batch as they last really well stored in an airtight container. They are a great tactic to get the kids off your back and stop them from raiding the fridge.
You will need:
- 1/2 cup oat flour
- 1/2 cup buckwheat Flour (use more oat flour if you don't have any.
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Up to 2 tsp maple syrup (depending on taste)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Any additional add ins such as nuts, seeds, dried fruit (walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dried apricots-chopped, raisins, mulberries)
- 4tbsp of water
- Preheat the oven to 180c.
- Add all the ingredients into a bowl and additional add ins (except the water) and mix together.
- Stir in the water, a tablespoon at a time, to bring the dough together. You can always add more flour if too much water is added.
- Roll out the mixture on some baking paper and cut out shapes for your crackers. You can either use a round cookie cutter or a pizza cutter to make squares/rectangles.
- Place onto a baking tray and pop into the preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, allow to cool and enjoy!
Note: To make your own oat flour, simply add oats to a food processor and whizz until you get a nice flour consistency. This recipe is very versatile, so if you don’t happen to have any oats to grind you can use spelt, rye, wholemeal or buckwheat flour, as long as you keep the ratios pretty much the same.
Although we are living in a very uncertain time at the moment one thing is for sure, we have the time to create new dishes and nourish ourselves and our families with wonderful foods.
Neleta Winter is a BANT registered Nutritional Practitioner and Nutritional Chef. She’s the founder of Nourish & Flourish Nutrition where she runs food and nutrition workshops, talks and demos to show people that eating to nourish our body and mind is easy to do and of course delicious. She believes that healthy eating doesn't have to be boring, tasteless and you don't have to spend a fortune. By using everyday superfoods we can support and optimise our overall health and she creates recipes that the whole family will enjoy. Neleta also provides one-to-one consultations to help people find balance with food.