Help! My teenager is a vegan

vegan cooking, ingredients, from scratch, recipe,

Recently I had the pleasure of cooking with a teenager who had recently decided to eat a vegan diet. 

Worrying

When teenagers make such decisions it can cause us (parent’s, carers and sometimes even teachers) a bit of worry. 

We worry about their nutrition… How will they get enough or the right mix of proteins, iron, vitamin B12?
Will it cost loads more to buy substitutes?
Am I going to have to cook several different dishes.

Information


I spent some time putting together some reading materials for this young lady which I know she will dip into when she’s alone later. It covers matters such as protein complementation, plant sources of iron and how-to get B12 on a plant based diet. I will share some of the nutritional information with you below.

We chatted informally while we cooked and I managed to drop in some useful nuggets of info.


We looked through s few cookbooks, some vegan, some not and discussed how we might cook certain dishes. 

Why

Many teenagers experiment with their ethical beliefs and dietary preferences. It’s a natural way of finding out who they are. Our job is to support them as best we can.

I’m not a dietitian, but I do have an understanding of nutrition. It was not hard at all to find some reading materials that would suit her. 

Turn it around

Showing an interest in food, ethics and diet in this way is a great way to get our young people into cooking and to start them taking an active role in their own nutrition. 

My advice…

Don’t fight it…. Go with it, support them on their journey!

Romanesco gnocchi vegan dairy free recipe sundried tomato cook from scratch


Pictured is the dish we made. It’s Romamesco sauce with pasta. Adapted from Joe Wicks recipe for Romamesco Gnocchi. Romanesco sauce if often made using peppers, for my recipe I have just used sundreied tomatoes from a jar. We added yeast flakes (excellent sauce of B12) instead of parmesan.

Romanesco gnocchi tasty alternative adapted vegan dairy free recipe sheet free

You can use my adapted recipe here if you’d like to try it. My (non-vegan) children love this sauce either on Gnocchi or stirred through noodles and it freezes really well in an ice cube tray for future use.

For other recipes – vegan and non vegan, check out my recipes page here

Some nutritional information to help

What about protein?

One of the important things to remember when following a vegan diet is that plant sources of protein do not contain a complete set of the Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) needed by the body.

Most plant based proteins are of Low biological value (LBV) proteins – an incomplete set of the EAAs.

A vegan diet can provide all of the essential amino acids necessary for good health by combining a variety of sources of protein across the meals in a day. This is called protein complementation.

Protein complementation

This means that the amino acids in one LBV source of protein may work together with the amino acids in another source of LBV protein to form a complete set.

Some examples are below: Beans on toast, rice and bean salad, lentil soup with toast, nut butter sandwich, cereal with almond milk. There are many more.

Protein complementation does not have to make use of food that is eaten in the same meal, but could be spread across a day or so for example.

There are some exceptions which do contain the full set  of amino acids and are known as high biological protein sources. These are quinoa and soya. Soya comes in many forms to be used in cooking such as tofu, soya beans, soya milk, tvp (textured vegetable protein). 

B12

The other nutrient which you should be mindful of is vitamin B12. 

B12 is not found in plant food sources. For a vegan, this could be found in fortified foods such as cereals which state that they are fortified with vitamin B12. Or they could consider taking a supplement. 
There is a good product called Energevita yeast flakes which contain B12 which can be sprinkled on top of foods such as salads or pasta dishes instead of cheese.

Marmite is also a good source of B12 a spoonful of which can be used in all sorts of cooking to add flavour and nutrition. I have even been know to drink a spoonful in a cup of boiling water!

Iron and Vitamin C

Vegans and vegetarians should also ensure that they eat a variety of foods rich in iron and combine them with a good rich in vitamin c.

Vitamin c helps the body to absorb iron which is more difficult to absorb when taken in plant based sources than animal based sources. 

Try not to worry

I hope this has helped you not to worry. Try to see this as a new adventure, an education and a way of expanding yours and their culinary repertoire. Vegan cooking does not have to be expensive, or include lots of unknown fussy, hard to find ingredients.

Teach your child how to chop an onion

teach teacher chop an onion how to dice claw bridge safety knife hold grip children cook cookery

How to chop an onion for beginners

Chopping an onion is one of those things that everyone has their own way of doing it.

If you have your own established way of chopping an onion, please carry on. My method below is not the only way to chop an onion, however it is an easy way to teach a child to do so.

Before you begin – please do read my previous blog on teaching your child to use a knife safely and effectively. You can find the link here

When doing this with very young children or those with stiffness of joints or difficulty gripping I recommend the use of a vegetable holder. It looks like an extended comb with a handle. 

Bridge hold

bridge hold claw grip onion teach teacher cookery hold safely safety knife lesson cookery kids

For others I start by teaching them two safe grips for the vegetable: Bridge hold – useful for cutting a larger/round vegetable and keeping it stable. Lay the veg flat side down (if possible) and make an arch over the food with your thumb on one side, fingers on the other. The knife goes under the bridge.

Claw grip

chop claw grip onion teach teacher dice safety vegetable knife chopping board fingers hand children cook cookery lesson

Claw grip – useful for fine dicing and slicing and often useful for long thin items such as carrots/celery.

Make your hand into a claw and grip the item like this using your finger nails as buffers for any possible slipping with the knife. 

To start off with…

Talk your child through the anatomy of the onion. Let them hold it and describe the textures, and shape. Identify the root (the hairy bit) and the shoot (the pointy bit). This is a good chance to teach children where their food comes from. Onions do no grow on trees, they are not made in factories, they grow in the ground.

You could also talk about the papery skin and it’s colour. This could lead into a discussion about different types of onion – how many members of the onion family can your child name?

This is a perfect lead into a bit of gardening – if you so wish. Or maybe a tip to the garden centre to identify other members of the onion family.

A note on how to hold the knife…

One more tip … Children often hold a knife or spoon by the very end of the handle. This gives them weaker/more wobbly control. R

emind them to hold the knife firmly, with the hand along most of the knife handle and as close to the blade as possible.

My safety knife and vegetable holder

* I totally recommend my safety knife, but can’t sell them to you as they are out of production.

Anyone know of someone who can help me with this?

I’d love to get them made, they are so useful…. I pretty much use mine all the time at home!

My cookery teacher job – a peek behind the scenes

private cookery lessons with Kate, Make with Kate cookery teacher kate ferrer behind the scenes job teach teacher

My cookery teacher job – a day in the life

Sometimes the young people I teach, their parents/grandparents/carers comment on how they’d love to do a job like mine. 

It is the best job in the world for many reasons, not least  because it’s creative, I’m my own boss, I’m helping others to be able to do what I love doing and ultimately I’m making a difference. 

This is all the tip of the iceberg; the fun and games you see above the surface. 

If you peer behind the curtain however, there is much more going on in the background that makes all of this possible. 

My Day – It’s not all cupcakes and pasta making you know!

Take today for example. My ‘day off’ as some would call it. 

8.00 am

I dropped the kids at school, loaded up my car with every piece of electric equipment in my store room, unloaded the car and assisted Dave/Bumpa who does our PAT testing to make sure that all of my electrical equipment is safe and fit for purpose. 

10.30 am. Following this; car loaded up and unloaded again, I finalised arrangements for my primary school job on Friday. This involved printing off and sharing risk assessments, planning documents, recipe cards and designing a worksheet. 

12.00  I then took a break to walk the dog and help unload our fish tank into our new home. 

2.00 pm Next I went to the primary school for a pre-event site check, sorted out my DBS check documentation, checked for electrical points discussed timings, allergies, staff and set up. 

3.30 pm Then I collected the kids from school, made and ate dinner.

6.30 pm I’m off out again to take the eldest to Boys brigade then sat in the car and did two hours of marking for school tomorrow. A usual Monday night for us until she’s finished. Sometimes – weather permitting, I squeeze in an evening walk/jog for half an hour around Westgate whilst I wait.  

Do I begrudge any of this?

Would I change a thing? 

A BIG NO.

I love every little bit!

The sad truth is … that despite Food preparation and nutrition being a compulsory part of the KS1, 2 and 3 curriculum in the UK, children and young people still get very little access to hands on cookery and food education.

This is due to heavy pressure on time spent on other ‘more important’ parts of the core curriculum, a lack of funding – it’s not a cheap subject to teach – large class sizes and lack of equipment or facilities.

There is also a shortage of qualified food teachers for secondary schools. This is often a subject taught by non subject specialists as a timetable filler. I don’t have a problem with this if the teacher is on board, keen and enthusiastic about it. Enthusiasm and passion go a long way in getting children started on the road to food discovery and enjoyment.

I hope my ‘day off’ has not put off any budding food teachers out there. I can’t think of a more important job to do than to teach our future generations how to feed themselves and others – properly.

If you have any questions about a job as a cookery teacher in a school or how to set up as a self employed teacher etc, I am very happy to help.  

You can find out more about training to become a teacher here. Training is essential if you want to work in a school and helpful, but not essential if you are setting up as self employed.

I’ll write up some future blog posts based on answers to your questions.

cookery teacher job teach teacher Clubs and classes childrens kent east kent thanet ramsgate westgate broadstairs margate birchington cookery craft cook learn to bake make holiday summer easter teacher school

What did you do today?

When your child wants to help in the kitchen…

help helping kitchen washing up children toddler preschooler cooking learn to cook mum dad family child children task age appropriate
Mummy … can I help?

Sometimes help in the kitchen from your child feels like the last thing you want or need. Pictures of the mess, and images of dinner just not getting cooked. Or perhaps dinner burning whilst you assist your young children may float through your already busy mind. Meanwhile you’re desperately searching for an excuse for your child not to ‘help’, or for something easy/ non messy / non dangerous that they could do instead.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are so many wonderful benefits that it’s a shame to pass up this opportunity.

 

  • Your child will gain valuable life skills
  • You’ll have a team of helpers for preparing meals
  • You’ll get to spend time together whilst getting a chore done.
My kitchen helper checklist

I’ve put together a guide to age appropriate jobs that children can help with in the kitchen without causing you too much stress or angst at a busy time of day.

It’s free, downloadable and printable – a perfect addition to your fridge door, or maybe inside the larder cupboard door. You can quickly refer to to it and assign a task. 

 

Use it like a checklist

You could also use it a bit like a checklist and cross off tasks that your child can now manage independently. The age guide is really just a suggestion as all children are completely different and will manage things at different ages, however it is helpful to give you a starting point.

cookery craft school summer learn children creative cooking cook recipe healthy activities childcare kent ramsgate margate thanet east kent broadstiars <<< Download here

The age bit is just a guide – we can all enjoy the toddler ones!

Don’t think that just because your child is now a tweenager they won’t enjoy playing with an off-cut of pastry – they will LOVE it. I’ve listed that job under toddlers and pre-schoolers because it is something they can do unassisted, but it is also something that everyone can enjoy doing.

It’s never too early to get your child involved with cooking.

In my opinion it is an essential part in having a healthy relationship with food for life.

Feel free to enjoy using the guide however it fits your family best.

As always I’d absolutely LOVE to see and hear from you how your family is getting on. I love to receive and (with your permission) share pictures of children cooking at home.

Here’s a pic of my lovely Mary bunny ‘helping’ with the washing up quite a few years ago now. I wish she’d still want to help me like this now!

help helping kitchen washing up children toddler preschooler cooking learn to cook mum dad family child children task age appropriate

Teach your child to use a knife safely in the kitchen

Bridge hold, knife skills, cooking lessons, primary school food lessons, safety, knife, kids, learn, children, teach, cutting, preparation, vegetables, fruit
“How do you teach them to use knives when cooking?”

This is one of the things I get asked most often. Along with “Do you use a special knife?”

I hope to answer some of your questions here, but look out for more knife articles and guides coming here soon.

Which knife do you use?

When using sharp knives, I demonstrate first, I teach safe knife handling techniques and I teach safe hold of vegetables.

Each child receives 1:1 attention until they are fully competent using a sharp knife, and even then they are never left alone, but watched closely.

If cutting soft fruit or veg, or with very young children, we sometimes just use normal cutlery knives – the children have to saw a bit, but I feel happier with them doing that a little more independently which builds their confidence.

However the sawing motion with cutlery knives has been irking me somewhat lately, it seems a bit unnatural to progress from that onto a very sharp knife that can slip through the veg so easily when they are used to the applying more pressure and a  sawing motion. I kind of wanted a happy medium to bridge the gap. (scroll down to the bottom to find the results of my search)

Parental nerves

I’ve also noticed that (as a parent) when I allowed my children to use sharp knives at home, my anxiety (even though I teach hundreds of children sometimes on a 1:26 basis at school to use knives safely) went through the roof and I felt like I wanted to grab the knife from my child and just stop the whole thing.

Kids do pick up on this – and it makes them nervous… which in turn can make things more dangerous. So really it is best to remain outwardly calm and confident, but so much easier said than done!

young person safe knife child family friendly cookery skills looked after children's home cookery lessons 1:1 food hygiene food safety independent living

Teach your child the basics first! 

It’s far more important to cover the following basics first regardless of which knife you use.

  • Start by showing your child around the knife. Teach them how to identify which is the sharp edge and which is the blunt edge.
  • Establish your household knife ground rules. Where are they stored? Who is allowed to get them out? Do they need to ask first? When are they allowed to use a knife in the kitchen?
  • Teach your child how to pass the knife safely to someone else.
  • Show your child how to carry a knife (if they are walking around with one)
  • Demonstrate the safe way to hold a knife.
    Children naturally start by holding kitchen implements at the very top end furthest away from the action. This gives them far less control and a clumsy motion – and we certainly do not want that when handling knives!
    So encourage them to hold the knife as close to where the handle meets the blade as possible with a firm grip using the whole hand and not just fingers.

 

Teach by showing
  • The best way to teach is by showing / demonstrating.
  • Show your child how to cut by placing the point of the knife on the board first and then levering the knife downwards from there.
  • Demonstrate how to hold the fruit or veg safely. I’ll show the main grips I use in more detail in another blog – coming soon in video format.
  • Encourage them to work slowly and methodically and to keep their eye on the job at all times. No talking whilst chopping!
Make it age / ability appropriate
  • Use soft fruit and veg for little children such as banana, cucumber, mushroom etc
  • Do not use very small fruit and veg (e.g. grapes) for young children or beginners – there is not enough for them to hold onto
  • Don’t worry about the pieces being too big, too small or uneven. It’s the technique, not the end result that is important to begin with.
  • Make sure that little children are working at the appropriate height so that the work surface is about waist height – I often use the kitchen table as it is lower and kneeling on a chair is often a good way to start at the right height.
  • Make it fun! If it’s tedious, or you are striving for perfection, your little one will tire of it and possibly not want to do it again. Celebrate successes and reward them for their achievements.

Here is a video my nephew Sam and I made together to show off his culinary skills.

cookery children fussy eaters food family shopping cooking healthy balanced meal cook bake learn lessons ramsgate kent thanet East Kent

There is so much more I can talk about on this topic, so watch this space for further articles.

If you’d like to make sure you see new articles as they are published, why not join my mailing list here: cookery craft school summer learn children creative cooking cook recipe healthy activities childcare kent ramsgate margate thanet east kent broadstiars

 

About my favourite Child friendly knife

Although it’s not essential to buy and use a child safety knife, the confidence that owning a good one can bring very quickly is wonderful. ]

If things are a little tense for you when your child ‘helps’ in the kitchen, this could bring you a bit of  reprieve whilst still allowing your child to help and teaching them all the good tips, skills and advice above.

The knife that I recommend is my favourite because it cuts anything and everything that you could possibly wish to cut in the kitchen (but not fingers) easily and effortlessly. Yet it is blunt and cannot easily cut your child’s fingers. In fact, it is so easy to use (even for onions!) I use it more often than not now at home… and my mum (who helps at my cookery classes) has asked to buy one too!

child safety knife knives kitchen cooking learn to teach child children kids kid safe safety

 

Here it is.

If you’d like to see this fab knife in action – take a look at this video of me trying it out. You can watch the video by clicking on the photo.

Whilst I am able to use my own stock of these when teaching, I don’t currently have a supplier and therefore unfortunately these knives are no longer for sale. I’m working on an alternative supply for these, so please do sign up to my newsletter for updates if you are interested and would like to know as soon as they become available.

 

3 new packed lunch habits you should get into

lunch box packed lunch family kids children back to school backtoschool sandwiches wraps planning easy quick habits healthy nutritious lunch
Some new habits

Packed lunches can be such a drag! Sigh! As a Mum, it’s one of the things I didn’t look forward to about the return to school in September. Packed lunch making can be monotonous, lonely and de-moralising, yet as a parent we want to give our child the best, and we are prepared to make the effort so that they can have a nutritious and tasty lunch.

So why not start as we mean to go on and get into some new habits this September. It is my personal goal to have an empty lunch box every day this term. What is your goal?

emptylunch box packed lunch family kids children back to school backtoschool sandwiches wraps planning easy quick habits healthy nutritious lunch

Make it a family thing

Firstly, no wonder we hate packed lunches so… we slave away every evening / morning packing, unpacking, washing and packing again. We rack our brains to send in new but nutritious products in our child’s lunch box, only to get half of it back again at the end of the day in a soggy, mushy mess in the bottom of the box. Seriously, if your children had to help would they be so nonchalent about it all? If you get your children involved, they become invested in the idea and want to make it work too. They might even have some cool suggestions of their own.

Here are some quick and easy ways you can get them involved:

  • Sit down with them and brainstorm some new ideas for sandwich fillings, yogurt flavours, non-sandwich products. (see planning tip below)
  • Ask them about what works/doesn’t work with their packed lunch
  • Do a tasting session – get them to try out some new ideas
  • Train them to empty their box and clean it out as soon as they get in from school
  • Get them involved in some baking sessions (see freezer tips below)
  • Teach them how to make a sandwich / wrap / salad pot
Planning makes packed lunches easier and more varied

You might already plan meals for dinner time and if you do, you’l know it takes the headache out of cooking dinner for the family, and it makes writing a shopping list easier and more efficient. Well, why not try out planning for your packed lunches. Here’s how I do my packed lunch planning:

My personal preference is for my children not to have the same sandwich filling, or even a sandwich every day. So I plan for them a sandwich / wrap only one day a week, then the other days could be; a salad pot, hot packed lunch, a picky picky lunch and a baked product lunch. This immediately brings variation to my children’s packed lunch diet and takes away the endless monotony of sandwich making. It also means that you can prepare ahead, so, for example if you ever have left overs from a family meal they can be frozen into packed lunch portion sizes for future use. You could make Mondays the Sandwich / wrap day and teach your children to make their own Sandwiches on a Sunday night.

hot packed lunch lunch box packed lunch family kids children back to school backtoschool sandwiches wraps planning easy quick habits healthy nutritious lunch soup

To help you with this I’ve created a packed lunch planner sheet. It includes tick boxes on each day for each section of the Eatwell guide so that you can keep on top of nutrition as well. It also includes a shopping list at the bottom so that you can write your shopping list as you plan.

You can click here to download it

meal plan family food packed lunch lunchbox lunch box cooking children drag back to school

Oh, and one last thing on planning…

  • Don’t throw away your planning sheets, keep them and reuse them in a few weeks time! So you’ll only need to do the planning once.
Make the freezer your new best friend

Many of us seriously under / mis-use our freezers. They are stuffed full of stuff we possibly may never eat and left overs we’ve forgotten about. Sometimes I could barely open the drawers of mine to get to the frozen peas (the main thing I use from the freezer!). A few months ago I had a really good clean out and dedicated drawers to certain things. For example, I made a drawer for left overs, a drawer for meats, a drawer for convenience foods and a drawer for packed lunch products.

Here are some ways you can use the freezer for your packed lunches:

  • Bulk bake and freeze in individual portions for packed lunches – muffins, sausage rolls, soups, stews, chilli, pancakes, biscuits

muffins bake baking biscuits home cook homemade lunch box packed lunch family kids children back to school backtoschool sandwiches wraps planning easy quick habits healthy nutritious lunch

  • Freeze drinks to defrost in the lunch box helping to keep the box  and your child cool
  • Clean out your freezer and get organised – label things really well – set up a system to help you with this. e.g labels attached to the fridge with a magnet?

freezer freezing freeze food organise organiser label freezer drawer lunch box packed lunch family kids children back to school backtoschool sandwiches wraps planning easy quick habits healthy nutritious lunch

  • Many things (more than you realise) even Sandwiches can be made ahead and frozen. They can then be left to defrost in your child’s lunch box during the day and will be ready by lunch. This means that you could actually make the whole weeks lunches on a Sunday night! Wow!
Lastly…

I hope these tips have helped you,

So, for the last year, I’ve been beavering away on a super package of packed lunch inspirations. It’s a bundle of ideas, recipes, worksheets and downloadable tools. It’s not quite finished yet, in fact I’m struggling to finish as I’m not quite sure HOW to package it. I need your help to get this thing finished… it’s too good to keep it hidden away on my computer.   Please let me know in the comments below if you’d like to access such a thing online in a hub of some sort, or receive it through the post in a little booklet, or even attend a course with a take away pack of inspirations, worksheets and recipes. What would you like?

Sign up here for the FREE planning sheet

meal plan family food packed lunch lunchbox lunch box cooking children drag back to school

If you found this useful, you could also check out my Three step guide to rebalancing your lunch box. It also includes a free downloadable packed lunch pick n mix sheet

Save money, time and feed your family better meals

A few months ago (it was the school holidays) I let things slip. In the relaxed and unstructured format of our holidays I broke away from my normal way of doing things. I forgot about family meal planning and just made it up as I went along. Which kind of made me feel liberated to start with but soon became a drag.

When I look back now, I can see from my bank statement that I was spending nearly double on my groceries, I was shopping several times a week for things I’d not bought in my weekly shop, and I had no idea from day to day what I was going to feed my family! Looking back, it felt like I’d fallen off the wagon. Things were out of control.

The meals I was cooking took forever as I faffed around not really sure what I was really making. If I’m really honest, those meals weren’t that great. I was making it up as I went along. It wasn’t until we got back to school and into our routines again that I was able to rationalise what had happened.

So, I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learnt from this sorry scenario. I’ve realised that in my normal way of doing things, I wasn’t doing that badly. If you’d like to know some of the routines, tips and planning I use in my rountine day to day life then read on.

Meal planning makes everything easier

Yes it’s a bit of a drag to sit down and do, but it doesn’t take long, and it doesn’t have to be done endlessly, forevermore … once you have a blueprint of meals that work, keep the meal plans from successful weeks and repeat them a month or so later. Life is so much easier when you don’t have to think too hard about what you are going to make for dinner that evening! Here’s an example one:

family meal planning budget meals cooking frugal list shopping list balanced diet meals dinner

I plan it according the the activites in our family during the week. So for example I never plan a meal for Wednesday evening because my mum feeds my children then as she collects them from school on that day. On Thursdays I pay for school dinners because we rush around to clubs after school, so I either cook a quick and easy dish or we have a packed dinner, wraps, stuffed pitta or left overs of some sort.

I stick to a format when planning 

This really helps to make the planning easy. I either plan my family meals based around the protein or the carbohydrate content of the meal. I try to use a different source of which ever one I’ve chosen as my focus each day. This ensures that we are eating a variation of nutrients and our meals do not become repetitive. The main reason I do it though is because it stops my mind going blank when I’m trying to meal plan. You could focus on protein planning one week and carohydrates the next. Of course each meal should have a combination of protein, vegetables and carbohydrates, it’s just a way of keeping things fresh, balanced and varied.

meal plan family meal shopping cooking dinner time evening meal family budget frugal planning

So, for example if I was focussing on protein, I might on day one have a fish pie, or oven baked fish, or a fish pasta dish, or fish fingers, or a tuna pasta bake. On the next day I might make a quorn based meal, or a lentil stew, or bean burgers as my focus accompanied by potato wedges maybe. On the Wednesday I might make a spaghetti bolognese or a chilli. Does this make sense?

Give it a go!

 

 

I write a shopping list

While I am writing my meal plan I write a shopping list. It helps to make sure I have everything I need for the meals I’ve planned. It also helps to write the list in my kitchen near to my cupboards so that I can check that I don’t buy what I don’t need! I use a notepad which has meal plan on one side and shopping list on the other. Soemtimes I set up a note on my mobile phone or tablet – this is particularly useful as it won’t get lost or left at home. Whatever suits you as the best way to work. Why not try out some different ways of writing your list until you find one that works for you.

My shopping list is organised and ordered 

Whilst I’m writing the list, I organise it into the sections that my favourite supermarket has. I even put the sections in the order of the aisles in my supermarket so that when I’m shopping, I can see what I need when I need it rather than having to search through the list repetitively and risk missing things from it. It really helps! It also speeds things up in the supermarket.

family meal planning budget meals cooking frugal list shopping list balanced diet meals dinner money saving organiser supermarket

I shop in a small supermarket

Yep! I shop in the smallest supermarket in my town… not an express or micro store, but a normal everday supermarket. It doesn’t sell a huge range of diverse foods, but it sells mostly what I need. It’s of a size that I know what they do and don’t sell, so if I do need something fancy, I occasionally need to make a trip to another supermarket. This really does not happen very often though. Would you believe me if I told you that I do my  shopping on a friday morning between dropping my girls at school, and my pilates class which starts at 9.30? I also shop for my business  and buy ingredients needed for the classes I teach. It is absolutely true! This is down to the fact that my supermakret is small and managable. I know where everything is, and I know exactly what I need. I’ve saved time, money and effort by planning using the above three tips. Yay!

What’s in the cupboards already helps to kickstart my planning

Before I start my planning I have a quick look into my fridge and cupboards to see if there is anything lingering that could be used up, or could inspire a meal for my planner. It’s worth doing. Sometimes it inspires a new meal, sometimes it saves money and waste. It’s worth a try.

The freezer is my friend

This has become true over the last year. No more does my freezer house ready meals and convenience foods which never get eaten and lie forgotten about. I have organised my freezer into sections. The sections are as follows – packed lunch bits such as frozen yogurts, bread, muffins, drinks etc. Frozen fruit and veggies – this means I can eat fruit and veg that are out of season and they don’t go off as quickly so I have a wider variety of fruit and veg in my house at all times. Convenience foods – because we all need a little stock for when things don’t go as planned or we are having a “meh” day.  Pre-prepared batch cooked foods – you know – left overs, or family sized portions of soup, chilli, fish pie, shepherds pie, lasagne – a great way of saving time – cook once, eat twice!  Your freezer sections might differ depending on what you use your freezer for… but that’s a whole other blog. Keep an eye out – I am planning that for later this year.

Vegetarian meals are healthy and cheap!

Why not have a vegetarian day of the week. Generally vegetarian meals are healthier (lower in fat and usually contain more vegetables), cheaper, easy to cook and someting different if your family is not accustomed to eating vegetarian cuisine.

Buying in bulk is a brilliant way of minimising spending.

I’ve started buying washing powder, cooing oil and washing up liquid in bulk. I rarely have to buy those items. I decant the washing up liquid into smaller bottles and keep the large ones tucked away out of sight.  Things like meat can be portioned and frozen, flour, sugar, oats, rice, pasta and cereals can be decanted into jars and tubs and stored much more eaisly in a store cupboard. They’ll last longer in these containers too. I’d love to hear if you buy anything else in bulk. Using this tip will not only save you money in the long run, but it will save you time and effort when shopping and meal planning.

I hope these tips help. You might want to use one, or two of them, or all. Make changes slowly and satep by step at a pace to suit you. remember, no one is perfect, but we can keep trying to improve things for ourselves and our families. Let me know if there are any tips that you use that could be useful to others.

Happly planning!

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My family friendly pancakes guide

Pancakes I love you so!

 

I’m a self confessed pancakes  junkie. I can out-eat my children in a challenge any day. There are no signs of my obsession waning any time soon either. I cook them most weekends and we usually don’t have any left to do anything sensible with like freezing them.pancake pancakes cooking recipe children family

 

So I’ve decided to share the love and publish my own guide – how to cook them, how to serve, them, how to let the kids help to make them and how to tweak them… oh and what to serve with them.

My pancakes guide includes:
  • My all time top four recipes for four different styles of pancake.
  • How to serve them to not only make an occasion of eating them, but to make it a truly interactive experience for all.
  • How to tweak them to suit different diets – or to add extra flavour or nutrition.
  • Loads of exciting flavour and ingredient combinations for toppings
  • How to freeze them so that you can eat pancakes all year round, even when you just don’t have the time.

Does that sound good?

Yes?

Click on the lovely pic below and you can download my fab guide for free.

pancake day pancakes family children cooking recipes ideas flavours topping freezing ingredients

 Enjoy! 

and get flipping!

pancakes pancake family food children cook

6 ways to tackle your fussy eater

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Do you have a fussy eater in your household?
Is dinner time a battle ground?
Do you worry about your child’s limited diet?
Mealtimes can be a massive battle ground between a fussy eater and their carers, but it doesn’t have to always be that way. 
So how can we tackle the problem of the fussy/faddy eater?

I’ve put together some ideas for fun tasks, and tweaks to normal everyday family life. Have a read and maybe try one per week. Changes in behaviour take time, but it’s so worth it to see and experience the changes when they do.

Before we begin, the precursor to this journey has to be to forget about mealtime battles.  When you start to relax your child will too and then you can start to have some fun.

  1. Give them some choice – Once a week, have a ‘bits ‘n’ bobs’ taster session.

    food choice fussy eater healthy ingredients Put a range of different foods out on the table and have fun trying different foods – this can also help with emptying the fridge of leftovers on the day before your weekly shop.

    Dips and dippers are an excellent start to this.

    You could try the blindfold game where one person is blindfolded and they have to guess the food they are tasting.

    A cheese board is another great way to start experimenting with different foods.

    Alternatively,  sometimes if I am introducing a new meal that I think my children will be apprehensive about I make a safe option to go alongside it. I then allow my children to fill up on the safe option whilst having a taste of the more exotic option. This is not a practical option every day of the week, but once in a while it is fantastic for your child to see you try something new, and to give them the choice to try it without the pressure to eat a whole plateful of the new food.

  2. Talk about food – Start a dialogue around food at the dinner table.

    Encourage your child to describe the food they eat. Ban words such as nice / nasty / yuk and yummy when describing foods. Encourage sensory adjectives that describe texture, flavour and smell instead.

    This not only helps to broaden their vocabulary, but gives them a new way of expressing how they feel about food rather than the all too familiar “I don’t like it”. They will start to be able to explain why they don’t like the food which may give you a greater understanding of their perceptions and preferences.
    You can find some sensory vocabulary lists (here) .  These are very useful as a way of helping your child to choose the right words to describe a food.A fun way to kick start the use of sensory vocabulary is to play the game where you have to describe a food to others without mentioning it’s name. You could even challenge them not to mention colour or shape. and rely on textures, flavours and aromas instead. For example. This food is crackly, salty and light as a feather. It does not grow on land, it is not an animal.   Can you guess what it is? Guesses welcome in the comments below.
  3. Remember that children have a different palette to ours.

    Some children are very sensitive to strong flavours and literally can’t handle the sensory overload.

    The ‘talk about it’ tip above will help you to understand what it is that they struggle with exactly and you can then work on introducing flavours and textures that start very mild and build up.
    Remember that your child’s palette will change over time so give them plenty of
    non-confrontational opportunities to try a tiny taste of something new, they may surprise themselves. An example of this might be curry. I always serve a bowl of natural yogurt with curry and my children help themselves to as much or as little as they need and stir it into their curry to reduce the spiciness of the curry. In my opinion the curry is not that spicy to start with, but to their taste buds it is.

     

  4. Allow your child to eat with more than just their mouth – never underestimate the novelty factor! 

    wonky vegetables presentation of food fun meal fussy eaterThe saying is true, we do eat with our eyes, even as adults. So it is useful to remember that it may be down to something as simple as the appearance that prevents your child from even trying a food. Once in a while (not at every single meal) have a bit of fun with appearance – make a picture on the plate with food- get your child to join in.

    There are loads of lovely ideas here that I’ve collected together on a Pinterest board for you to see. 

    Another lovely idea to try is allowing your child to have a special plate  – one that they have chosen themselves. Jane Fox of Created 4 U (a pottery painting shop and personalised online pottery service) says;

    I find when kids paint a personalised plate they are happy to eat off it all the time. My customer mums tell me all the time – if they’d realised a plate which the child painted with their name on made them happily eat pretty much anything, they would have come to the studio sooner

    In fact Jane and I are running a competition to win a plate that has been personalised with your child’s own drawing. You can enter here. 

    competition win healthy children fussy eater safety knife personalised plate win winner cookery eating family food parents children kids

  5. Get your child involved.
    DSC_0252Little chefs

    Get your child involved in the preparation. I have developed a kitchen helper checklist of age appropriate tasks if you’d like one, click herekitchen helper little toddler preschool child kids school age teenager chores help to cook how old list checklist age appropriate cooking learn to cook lessons mum family kids dad home help helper safe safely knife cut chop burn boil fry toast kettle

     

    As a cookery teacher of children of all ages, I have to say that simply preparing a meal for someone else has a massive effect on the fussy eater. I’ve lost count of the amount of times a parent of a fussy eater has said to me that since attending my cookery lessons their child has begun to relax around food and ask to try new foods – result!

    Family planning

    Look through recipe books together and talk about the foods. Get them to choose a few meals they would like to help make. Involve them in shopping for the food and preparing it. Give it a name – Tom’s fish pie.
    My children used to adore a game whereby they would write a menu for the meal I was preparing. They wrote place settings and seated ‘guests’ and took drinks orders. They would offer a choice of desserts and take orders for that as well. It was a way of them feeling that they had control over the meal, and it gave them some insight into what was coming.

    The onus of ‘will they eat it or won’t they’ was off and they could just enjoy the role play.

     

  6.  Remove the pressure – but don’t give up

    When your fussy eater senses that you are more relaxed about their food intake then they will relax too.
    Allow them a sense of control over food – let them serve themselves, choose ingredients, prepare them, experiment with them.
    Keep talking about food and building that dialogue using sensory vocabulary.
    Make a deal with yourself to back off a bit. Make all interactions with food as relaxed and fun as possible and encourage and celebrate trying foods but never pressurise or create a battle. 
     

    I hope that some of what I have said has inspired you to try something new at meal times. May this be the beginning of a family love affair with food and many enjoyable experiences for every member of the family.

    I have collected some resources for you to use including some sensory vocabulary flash cards that you can make use of. They can be found here 

Please do comment below with any tips or ideas you’d like to share with others.

Hiding veggies

Freebies veggies recipes
Hiding veggies in your child’s dinner is a tried and tested parental tip.

hiding veggiesBy “hiding veggies”, I mean mashing up cauliflower into mashed potato, blending veggies into a pasta sauce and sneaking disliked fruits into smoothies. There are endless ways you can do it – I confess, I’m no expert at it. 

It’s an excellent way to boost your child’s nutritional intake whilst maintaining peace and harmony at the dinner table….

or is it?

 

 

I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m going to suggest we take a step back and consider whether it is the best option for the long term and what we could be doing instead.

Here are my three BIG reasons why  I think we should NOT hide veggies in our children’s food and SIX things we could be trying instead!

  1. Trust
  2. Knowledge / education
  3. Longevity / the future

Ok, so we’ve all done it, I still do it from time to time, but here’s why I think it’s a really bad idea to rely on veggies undercover in your children’s meals.

Trust

Hiding veggies could be considered a form of trickery. In this case it’s trickery that has been implemented with the purest of intentions, but all the same it’s trickery, and your 5 year old would most probably see it this way too if they found out.

Just imagine; when your child discovers that you’ve been squirreling away (the hated) carrots in their favourite bolognese sauce for goodness knows how long –  in their eyes, they’ll wonder what else you have been up to that they don’t know about? It’s like finding out that your husband has been sneaking extra pints in on the way home from work when he says he’s been working late to earn money for your new extension, you might start to question what else he’s been doing that you don’t know about.

I believe we need to be transparent and honest with our children, they trust us 100%, they rely on us 100% and we are their world.

Over the next decade (and more) you are going to need to convince your children to do so much more than eat veggies and without that trust and an open and communicative relationship you may struggle with some biggies down the line. Keep it straight now and  perhaps you’ll have your child where you want them when they are a teenager wanting to go out with friends until all hours. If they are able to trust you, you’ll be able to trust them. It works both ways and you need set the bar on this one.

Knowledge and education

By sneaking the extra veggies into our children’s mashed potatoes, we are allowing them to grow up in blissful ignorance. They are ignorant of the fact that their diet is providing them with vital nutrition. They may grow up believing that even though they (think) they eat only one type of vegetable they are still perfectly healthy.

I know this is an extreme example, but children learn by example, by seeing and by doing. It’s all very well telling them that an “apple a day keeps the doctor away”, but will they actually believe this and value the part that fresh food plays in our diet if they don’t actually see or experience it?

Longevity

If you are an avid “sneaker- inner”, have a think about this;

What exactly is your plan for the future? When do you plan to stop sneaking those veggies in? What happens when your son leaves home and has to manage his own diet? Will he be blissfully ignorant and believe that his healthy body and brilliant immune system is down to his diet of mashed potato and sausages. No veg needed here, thank you very much? When are you planning to stop the veggies in disguise? How are you planning to make the transition?

It’s a great short term solution, but we do need to be realistic here that hiding veggies is just a short term helper.

We need to start laying foundations for the future and we need to start with honesty and integrity.

I’ve included six simple ways you can start  to move away from hiding veggies below:

  1. Educate
  2. Empower 
  3. Sneak the veggies in (in an obvious way) before dinner (and then enjoy a veggie free dinner?)
  4. Work as a team
  5. Talk about it
  6. Have fun Click here to download my list of foodie fun and games activities.
Educate

Knowledge is power and education is the route to knowledge.

Educate your child about their diet. Explain at meal times how different foods help our bodies, and if you don’t know something, look it up together – you’ll be modelling good research skills at the same time.

Here are some good books I use on a regular basis as a reference point:

Healing foods nutrition book reference recipes hiding veggies  family nutrition reference book recipes hiding veggies

You can use my short video here which explains the New Eatwell Guide. You could even show this to  older children, or you can drip feed information to them about why different foods are good for us… there’s truth in the old saying that you might have been told as a youngster the carrots help you to see in the dark… , the beta carotene in carrots does indeed help with night vision.

Show your child the new Eatwell guide eatwell_guide_colour and show how large the vegetables and fruit section is. Explain that fruit and veg of different colours bring different nutrients to our bodies and we need to eat as wide a range as possible to be as healthy as possible.

Empower them to solve the problem

Once they understand why they need to eat vegetables and fruit, or milk and cheese (or whatever it is they are fussy about) you can make this your child’s problem. Knowledge is power – so give them the power to work out a solution… give them a blank Eatwell guide and a list of foods and ask them to organise a day’s worth of food into the correct sections. Can they see if it is balanced?

Or, get them to count their vegetable intake on a chart and reward them when they meet a target set by you.

Sneak the veggies in but in a transparent way.

One of my favourite things to do whilst cooking is to chop up a selection of veggies and nutritous goodies. I  put them in a couple of small bowls and set them down beside my daughters whilst they are watching TV, doing their homework, reading etc. More often than not, the bowls are empty by the time I serve up dinner and Bob’s your uncle, they’ve eaten a couple of portions of veg!  The pressure is then off at dinner time. You won’t be worrying about whether they’ve eaten enough veg and they won’t need to dig their heels in.

Work as a team

Make your children part of your team. Consult with them on which vegetables they think would best compliment your planned meal , ask for their help in the kitchen, make it all part of your daily routine, get them to prepare the vegetables, the more contact they have and the more input, the more invested they will feel in the outcome. They will be more likely to try the food even if they don’t like it. This is not 100% foolproof, but it is a small stepping stone towards harmony at the dinner table.

Talk about it

Start having conversations about food, whilst eating it, whilst preparing it and whilst planning it. Encourage your child to use sensory language to describe foods and discourage “I don’t like” “yuk” and “yummy”.

Encourage informative language such as bitter, salty, bland, chewy so that you can all start to better understand your child’s tastes.

Make it fun

We want our children to grow up with healthy attitudes towards food and with that in mind, meal times need to be relaxed and associations with food should be fun and relaxed.

The best advice I know is that we need to take away the battle, relax and have fun.

Choose your battles wisely and concentrate on the fun stuff. I’ve put together a list fun ideas that you can try.

Click here to download my list of foodie fun and games activities.  hiding veggies fun food games and activities

I hope I’ve spoken some sense here, of course I realise there may well be people that disagree with me. I’d love to know your viewpoint on hiding veggies. Do you do it? Have you tried some of my suggested fun foodie games and activities? Are there some that you do already at home? Do you have a new suggestion you’d like to share? Please do comment below.

I’d love to hear from you!

Kate x

 

 

hiding veggies fun food games and activities