Bloom

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At the beginning of a new term parents are often primed with nutrition goals, and the energy to fulfil them. But sometimes, particularly as a school term progresses, it can feel like you are a B track stuck on repeat – making the same lunch box, over and over again.

Pretty soon either you or your children tire of this lunch rut, or you may start to realise that through this lack of variety, your child is missing the mark on Australian Dietary Guideline # 2 – exposure to and enjoyment of wide variety of foods.

When you want to make changes, it can seem a world away to reach some of the insta-perfect lunches online – especially if you have a fussy eater in the family, or don’t have huge amounts of time on your hands for cartoon style lunch box prep. But here are some tips that get you moving in the right direction for both variety and nutrition, but don’t require hours of painstaking preparation.

 

Think outside the (lunch)box

It doesn’t have to come in a packet to be a recess snack… Look at the types of foods your children will choose for themselves when they open the refrigerator, and aim to add these fresh foods to the lunch box. If you or your kids do really like packets (for portability, freshness or keeping foods separated), buy some reusable or biodegradable ziplock bags and put real food in. My lunch boxes will often have throw in fridge staples of berries, mini cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, cheese sticks or yogurt portions.

If you are choosing pre packaged snacks, try to stick to those that contain core foods (like fruit, veg, dairy, whole grains), and fit the healthy canteen guidelines of <600kg (~140 Cal) and 3g or less of saturated fat per serve. This doesn’t mean a food is automatically the most healthy choice, but it does mean the food will contain more nutrients if it contains some core foods, and the portion size of these foods is more acceptable. Ideally try to get foods with the highest fibre content too, if it’s listed on the label, aim for 2g or more per serve. Here are some of my favourite lunch box packaged snacks to throw in at the last minute.

It doesn’t have to be sandwiches… Use breakfast items or dinner leftovers for lunches. Think omelette rolls, half an avocado squeezed with lemon, cereal and berries to dump into a yogurt pot, leftover cold meat, eggs, quiche, salad, roast veggies or left over pasta, soup, curry, etc served in a thermos. Jump on pinterest and search non sandwich lunches – theres a whole host of ideas.

 

Get the kids on board

Ask each child to write a list of everything they are happy to have in their lunch box, food group by food group (use the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating -AGHE- picture as a prompt), and from breakfast items or your regular dinner rotations. Help them be as specific as they can, so you know how many different options are on offer. For example from the Dairy group the list might include – Fresh milk in a bottle, UHT milk box, Flavoured milk box, cheese slice, grated cheese, cheese stick, string cheese, bocconcini balls, cow cheese triangles, babble cheese, natural yogurt, flavoured yogurt, custard pots, chia puddings….. list everything they like to eat from each group to maximise your options! Stick this list up on the fridge for easy reference, and to allow the addition of new items as you progress.

Get kids involved with the preparation. I know we’ve said it before, but it really does help! On the weekend, see if you can make a healthy baked item with your kids – muffins, biscuits, scrolls, brownies, quiches etc, to freeze for the week ahead. Getting kids involved increases their ownership of that healthy food, and the likelihood that they will eat and enjoy it. Try to make a different recipe each weekend to find new family favourites. Try recipes that don’t have too much added sugar, and include ingredients like wholemeal flour, oats, fruits, veggies, eggs, yogurt, olive oil or ground seeds for nutrient boosts.

If kids are making their own lunches, ask them to pick something out of each category of the AGHE plate for their lunchbox – so 1 fruit, 1 veg, 1 carb option (worth a couple of serves), 1 protein, 1 dairy. Spy any gaps – in food groups, or the amount of food they need, and either they or you can throw in an extra choice if needed.

 

Food chaining

This is a term which describes the technique of applying very small changes to the types of foods a child will eat, to increase the acceptability of new foods and improve variety. It’s a system that works well with extremely picky eaters, or highly sensitive or selective children, like kids with ASD, or kids with a past history of medical conditions that affected their feeding, like food allergies or reflux. You can read more about it here.

With some children you may need to make what feel like sideways steps with nutrition, to make gains in variety. By this I mean choosing foods that aren’t necessarily more healthy, to increase the variety of food eaten. While at first their nutrition might not seem to be much improved, if the approach is consistent and progressive, it will eventually lead to eating more of all types of foods, including healthy foods.

So for these kids’ lunch boxes, think swapping foods for “close cousins”. Plain water crackers for water crackers with sesame seeds, or plain rice crackers, then onto puffed rice crackers or puffed vegetable crisps with sesame seeds, then something slightly different again. These are small steps, but they slowly introduce children to a wider variety of food. (If making even these very small steps is too difficult or distressing for your child, or you feel like this approach is something that you could benefit from some guidance with, see an Accredited Practicing Dietitian or Speech Pathologist in your area who is trained in the SOS Approach to Feeding).

Finally – if your kids are naturally less adventurous with food – it’s ok to take small, but consistent, steps to improve things. Over time, these small changes will make way to bigger changes in dietary patterns. With consistency, encouragement and a greater involvement with foods (see our post on “From fussy to fabulous – Helping your child enjoy new family meals”) children can successfully broaden their variety and improve their nutrition, to be healthy, feel great, and grow well.

Now that’s winning.

x Angela @ Bloom 🌿


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I was recently asked a few canteen questions by a journalist – “How often is it ok for parents to organise a canteen lunch without feeling guilty? How do you navigate the school canteen menu to work out the healthy choices, and how can parents deal with pressure from kids to order unhealthy choices?”. So here’s a little bit of background for you on how to make the best choices when it comes to your school canteen.

Before we begin, it needs to be said – we need to remove “guilt” from all the vocabulary that surrounds eating and feeding our families! Parenting is a tough gig, and Bloom is not in the business of putting added, unnecessary pressure on our family feeding relationships. From our inception we have always wanted to place “being real over being ideal”. So with that in mind, here a few tips to navigate the schools canteen minefield!

How often it’s best to order from your canteen depends on the choices available to you, and the choices you make. Ordering meals and snacks that reflect good eating choices mean you can confidently use the canteen to meet your little one’s food needs more regularly, if thats what you’re keen to do.

Most Australian schools follow, or aim to follow state canteen guidelines. These generally use a traffic light system to indicate healthier and unhealthy choices ( NSW has recently released a different balance system using health star ratings).

The red, amber and green categories in the traffic light system give you a good guide, and many canteens display their menus this way. Red foods should not be available on the regular school menu, outside of a few discreet occasions. Amber and Green foods should be the choices available to families, where amber is to “choose carefully” and green is “go”! There are different cut offs state by state, but they are relatively similar, and no matter where you live, the more green choices you make the more nutritious your family’s canteen food choices will be.

So at the canteen, as with healthy eating at home, the more you base your meal and snack choices around fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and wholegrains the more nutritious the food will be.

Menus obviously differ between schools, but try and centre canteen choices around options that feature whole foods as the core ingredients – vegetables, fruits, lean protein, dairy, and whole grain cereals.

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) food plate gives a rough visual indication of what proportions to base kids canteen meals (or lunch boxes) on – try and make at least 1/3 -1/2 meal veg and fruit, then split the rest 1/2 wholegrain cereals, 1/2 combined lean protein/dairy. Check it out here.

If your canteen sells meals like: vegetable based stir-frys, jacket potatoes with vegetables and lean meat toppings, meat and salad sandwiches, wraps or wholegrain rolls, and sushi rolls these are some really good options. For snacks, items like: fresh fruit salads, fruit snack packs, smoothies, yogurts, or veggies with dips and crackers are great choices you can regularly make with confidence.

To avoid conflicts, uneaten lunches and to improve kids understanding about the importance of the foods they eat, children should definitely be involved in the choice of their foods from the canteen. Parents can provide a selection of 3 or 4 options they are happy for their children to choose from, and let kids choose their preference from there. Eg “Today would you like sushi, stir-fry, fried rice or a chicken and salad roll?”.

This method fits really well with Ellyn Satter’s  Division of Responsibility in feeding, “the parent provides, child decides” – this still applies even if you are not preparing the food yourself.

And as far as how can parents deal with the pressure from a child to order unhealthy items?

If you’re using the canteen regularly, you need to approach it the same way you would filling a healthy lunch box, and make nutritious choices.

Talk openly about it with your child, and set an agreement in place. School kids can understand that food is fuel for all the great things they want to do, and you need to fuel your body well.

Less healthy options should only be chosen occasionally, for example limit those items to say a “free choice day” once per term. (Even the reduced fat pastry items like pies and sausage rolls are best avoided more often than this. Even if they can just make it into the amber category, as they don’t provide any of the great nutritional benefits of vegetables, fruit, dairy and wholegrains.)

However, with good planning and food choices, parents definitely can pack quick, nutritious lunches from home at a much lower price. Want more info on how to pack a nutritious balanced lunchbox? One that’s healthy, but importantly quick and easy? Stay tuned for our next blog post…

Angela @ Bloom 🌿


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When it comes to children’s snacks, there’s no doubt that the vast majority of foods that you make yourself at home are going to be vastly superior to anything you buy from a store. I’ve now assembled a repertoire of snacks that I make myself that the kids (mostly) like. I try to vary what I bake from week to week and I usually bake that little bit extra to ensure I’ve got a few options in the freezer.

We’ve said it before here at Bloom and we’ll say it again, the best way to ensure that you are providing your family with a healthy diet is to plan for it. I always think about what snack I’ll be baking for the week and make sure I include it on my shopping list. I also have a plan for when I’m cooking that snack (generally a Monday, when I also prep my salad bases for the week). I generally pack two snacks – one sweet (this is my home baked option) and a more savoury option (this is more likely to be a store bought item such as wholegrain crackers and cheese), and there’s always fruit, at least one serve, if not two. When it comes to fruit, again planning helps. Children need two serves of fruit each day. I frequently serve fruit smoothies as an after school snack and we also like a fruit platter after dinner. If I know I’m not going to be doing one of those two options, then I definitely pack two serves in the lunchbox. I’ll also pack an extra snack if my kids after school sport. Then there’s always some verge sticks and a dairy item included.

All things considered, none of us are superwoman and there are times when we all need to reach for packaged snacks to fill that hole in the lunchbox. I know for me that as the term wears on, I simply tire of the routine, and find myself reaching for a few more store bought snacks as I just need a break from it all.

So what do you reach for in those times? Below I share with you my top picks for store bought snacks, and few I’d recommend you avoid.

1. Raisin Toast

I really don’t think you can go past raisin toast (or fruit bread as it is also known) as a back up snack. I’ve always got a loaf in my freezer. Sure it has some added sugar, but most of the sugar comes from the added dried fruit. It’s low GI, filling and has around 120 calories per buttered slice (1 slice is plenty for a recess snack). Tip top have also just realised a wholemeal Raisin toast and that’s certainly got my tick of approval

 

2. Cheese and Crackers

Again another snack option that you can’t really go wrong with. I’m not really a fan of the pre-packaged cheese and biscuit packs as they cost a fortune. Even when you’re low on time you can still still grab a handful of crackers and cut a slice of cheese (or a cheese stick if you really need to). Not all crackers are created equal though. You definitely want to focus on buying a wholegrain variety (look for those with at least 4g of fibre per 100g) and with a sodium content less than 400mg/100g (harder to find).
My top picks would be Ryvita wholegrain crisp breads (I’d suggest breaking two in halves as they are larger), Vita-Wheat crisp bread range and crackers (note these all exceed 400mg of sodium/100g,but most are under 500g/100g) and the Mary’s Gone Crackers range (although please note these are a more expensive option).
Team with your child’s preferred cheese and you have a filling snack option high in fibre, B vitamins, Omega 3 fatty acids (from the seeds), calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.

3. Roasted Chickpeas and Fava Beans

A newcomer to the snack market I think the texture of these products will appeal to many kids.
They come in plain (lightly salted), as well a variety of other flavours. I love that they come in individually wrapped portions so you can simply grab and chuck into the lunchbox. They also hit the mark for fibre content, sodium and overall calories, not to mention they also count towards your child’s daily intake of vegetables!

 

4. Popcorn

Another option that’s sure to be a hit with most kids that is filling and high in fibre. I’d recommend you check what type of oil your popcorn is cooked in (or better yet go for air popped, although many kids may find this too bland) and avoid any cooked in palm oil (a saturated fat we want to avoid).
Also look for those with a lower sodium content, ideally less than 400mg per 100g. I’d also stay away from any of the sweetened varieties, children don’t need the extra sugar in these products.

My pick would be Cobs natural sea salt variety. I buy it in the large packs and portion it out to save money, but if you’re really low on time you may prefer the individually packed option.

 

5. Muesli Bar

  

I couldn’t really compile this list without including a muesli bar, they’re a staple in many lunch boxes. There are a huge variety of muesli bars on the market and it can be hard to sort your way through them all and make a nutritious choice. In theory there’s lots to like about muesli bars. Made from wholegrain oats that contribute B-vitmains and fibre many have added dried fruit, seeds and nuts. All good. The problem is that they need something to stick them together. Here’s where the sugar comes in, and in many products it’s multiple different types of added sugar (one product I looked at contained glucose, sugar, invert sugar and honey and this is not unusual).
The second problem is that most schools in Australia are “Nut Free” which automatically rules out a lot of the products on the market. For the record I have less problem with the sugar in muesli bars that also contain a large amount of nuts, seeds and wholegrains. If the product overall is contributing lots of beneficial nutrients into the diet (think fibre, omega 3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins) I’m more likely to be lenient on the sugar content. As I heard another dietitian say, “I judge sugar by the company it keeps”. I find many of the nut free muesli bars on the market are just oats and a large amount of sugar and are best avoided.

My two picks for commercial muesli bars would be the Nice and Natural Super Grains muesli Bar (apricot, coconut, spelt, and chia) and the Freedom Foods Ancient Grains muesli bar. Both contain just over 1 tsp of sugar per bar and are good sources of fibre.

 

Finally a word about packaged snacks I don’t like.
The one thing I do try to avoid in my kid’s lunch boxes are highly processed carbohydrate based snacks. I’m thinking savoury crackers that aren’t whole grain (eg Jatz or Ritz biscuits, water crackers and rice crackers). Many of these products have a very high sodium content and simply aren’t filling. Although the calorie content of rice crackers is low, you need a lot to fill you up. My kids could easily devour a packet and be looking for more food. I also prefer to stay away from snacks with a lot of added flavours, e.g. BBQ/pizza flavoured biscuits. In addition to being high in sodium, they represent flavours that simply aren’t present in whole foods. Whilst there is no evidence for this, I think the more kids have these highly flavoured foods, the more they seek them out, rather than learning to appreciate the natural flavour of whole foods.
Similarly, I also prefer to avoid cartoon themed packaged sweet biscuits that are particularly aimed at children. Whilst the calorie content of many of these products are kept low thanks to their small serve size, the reality is that they’re not much more than refined flour, sugar and flavour. Many have an “improved” nutrient profile with the addition of inulin (a form of soluble fibre), but i really think there are much better choices you could be making for your child.
I’d be lying if I said I never bought these snacks. My kids like to have what they see other kids with, so occasionally I do buy them, but for the most part my kids know these aren’t regular choices for them.

If you’d like more information about making good snack choices for your child’s lunchbox check out the rest in our series on School Lunches and Snacks for kids.

Julia @ Bloom 🌿


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Google for some research on school lunches and you can find a vast array of content.

From a news channel running a story about the number of children who attend school with no lunch, or money to buy it, to images of a RRP $100+ shiny stainless steel lunch box, filled with almost nothing but kale, capsicum and carrots painstakingly cut into star shapes, to studies showing many Aussie schools struggle to meet government healthy canteen guidelines.

Good nutrition should be within the reach of all children, not only those with parents who have time to cut vegetables into fun shapes.

In light of this, here at Bloom we are embarking on a series of posts about kids lunches and snacks. About keeping it real, and getting it right, no matter if you’re short on time, sticking to a grocery budget, or navigating the canteen menu.

Check out Julia’s post on her favourite packet snacks to throw into a lunchbox when she’s short on time here… with more to follow on shortcuts to deciphering snack food labels, navigating the school canteen, and other school lunch hacks.

Let us know what you’d like to know more about when it comes to your child’s school lunch… look forward to hearing from you!

Angela @ Bloom 🌿


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It’s been said by government agencies that meeting recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake could be the single most important improvement we could make to our nutritional health.

Plant foods are rich sources of fibre, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and a whole host of bioactive compounds too numerous to list.

The simple way to get these nutrients into your diet, is to get vegetables or fruits into every meal and snack.

With a little planning, its totally achievable, and there are two good ways to keep yourself on target – a checklist or a visual picture.

If your a checklist kinda person – its as simple as 2 & 5. Two serves of fruits and five serves of veg (around 1/2 c cooked veg or 1 c salad is a serve). And try not to leave it until dinner time to catch up on your veggies – make them feature in other meals or snacks in the day! (Little people may need a little less, check out the AGHE for more info.)

If you’re more visual, look at each eating opportunity you have – both meals and snacks – and try to make sure almost half of what you consume (or feed your families) is made up of fruit or vegetables.

But to make all of this happen, fruits and vegetables need to be the bulk of your food purchases. So look at your grocery shop in the same way – is half your trolley, basket or delivery made up of fruit and veg? Lots of companies now deliver fresh fruit and veg directly to your door, so you can always have a good supply at hand.

We tried out this delish family friendly stir fry from our food delivery last week. We liked it so much we had it again this week, served with edamame on the side (for even more veg) and amped up the flavours with coriander, chili, and extra lime and shallots.

This week, plan ahead to make it happen- grow more, buy more, prep more, and pack more, to eat more fruit and veg!

 

🌿 Angela @ Bloom


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Women’s magazines, television advertisements, or Instagram.

There has always been a source of that picture perfect family image, sitting around a table, laughing, sharing wholesome food at a gorgeously set table. Everyone is eating, drinking, smiling.
No-one is crying, refusing their dinner, and there is not more food down on the floor than there is up on the table.

It can be difficult to swing the dinner pendulum from one end of the spectrum to the other (unrealistic) one. But there are some simple tips you can apply to dinner prep and meal time to make things run a little smoother, so that everyone eats, drinks and smiles… for at least some of the meal 😉

So what can I do?!

Prepare as much of the meal ahead of time as possible. It will decrease your workload around meal time, and help set a more relaxed tone in the eating environment. If possible chop, par-cook, or fully cook parts of the meal that can be prepared ahead, without tired, hungry little people clutching at your legs. If you are at home, this might be at lunchtime while little ones nap, or the night before or early morning if you are heading out to work.

While you finish cooking or assembling the meal, ask children to help out, with different tasks depending on their ages. Washing hands themselves, setting plates, cups and cutlery are small things, but if they can do these independently they are occupied, and have contributed to making things work, while you’re free to put the finishing touches on a meal.

Offer meals platter or buffet style, serving components separately where you can to allow kids to choose which parts of the meal they would like. For example, serving a new slow cooker curry on top of rice directly on a child’s plate may mean they refuse the entire meal. But having the curry, rice, naan and a child friendly selection of vegetables separately at the table may mean your child tries more. Even if they don’t choose a food first time around, having it remain available to them, and seeing others eat and enjoy it, increases their exposure to the food.

Allow family members to season a meal to their tastes. Many people leave out large amounts of hot spices from family meals, like pepper and chilli, but allow them to be added at the table. But try offering other seasonings too – like lemon wedges, parmesan, dukkah, fresh herbs, pesto, tomato relish, smoked paprika… the list goes on! You may be surprised what your children enjoy. ( It may not be the best example, but throw back to the days of adding tomato sauce to a meal that wasn’t quite your favourite as a child… get my drift?!)

Consider having one or two “non-threatening” foods available when trying a new meal with tastes or textures that may be challenging for some members of the family. If serving a new meal, offer an item like bread, grated cheese, or salad vegetables that your child can eat comfortably, and still participate in the family meal time.

Finally, and most importantly, don’t feel the entire success of a meal, and whether or not your child eats it, is your responsibility alone. ‘The parent provides, but the child decides’ is the central message from Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding. Once you’ve done your job as parent, providing a wholesome meal in a relaxed environment, the rest is up to your child. Try to sit back and enjoy meal time for what it is – a family sharing together. Following this mantra can result in children progressively eating more of the family meal, enjoying a larger variety of foods, and a greater feeling of contentment at the family dinner table for everyone involved.

Angela @ Bloom 🌿


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“Mama, what’s for dinner?”

For those of us who’ve ever had a fussy eater, this question can make you break into a sweat. You’ve spent all this time, and money, making a new recipe. A wholesome family meal, which looked fabulous on screen, sporting 5 shining starts and rave reviews from other people telling you how much their family liked it. But what about your family?

If you’ve every had this situation, and found it an epic fail, don’t despair. Take a few steps back and look at where the opportunities lie to improve your success rate; it could be about timing…

 

Being exposed to new foods at the dinner table can be too confronting for children who have difficulty with food variety.

The eating environment at dinner can be a little overwhelming for some young children; it may be loud or rushed, or they may sense their parents stress or expectations about the meal ahead. On top of all of this, young children can be very tired come this time of day.

To improve your strike rate with eating new meals, allow kids to be introduced to new foods well ahead of time, with no expectation that they have to eat it. This can be as hands on as you and your child are happy for!

Print out the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating . Point out different ingredients and talk with your child about which they have tried, those they like, or dislike, and why. See if you can pick any similarities between foods they either like or dislike. Ask what can be done to different foods to make them taste better to to them.

Give your child a grocery catalogue or a food recipe magazine and a pencil or Texta. Sit together and ask them to circle foods or recipes that they’d like you to try (you can get ahead of the game and tear out the confectionary and soft drink pages, or anything else you’re keen to avoid!). Older children may like to cut out pictures and stick them on to a shopping list.
Take your child to the fruit and veg shop. Ask them to collect the food that you need and place it in the trolley or basket. You don’t need to ask if they will eat it, the aim is to have them exposed to the food, learning its name, and touching it as it goes into the basket.

While you unpack groceries into the fridge and pantry, talk to children about the great things that eating good food does for their bodies. “This meat will help to make you strong”, “This brown rice will give you energy to run fast”, “This salmon will help to make your hair shiny”… whatever works for your child’s age and interests!

Kids can participate in meal preparation. Young children may have their high chair placed in a safe place within the kitchen so they can view food preparation, and be given small pieces of food and utensils to “help” and play. Older children can participate in preparing parts of the family meal, to have a sense of ownership over the food.

Food doesn’t have to come from a shop! A simple but effective way to have children become familiar with new foods is to grow them yourself. Kids love colour, so if you have the space, try to grow a range of different coloured fruits, vegetables and herbs in pots or your backyard. If ‘greens’ are a problem in your home, try milder or sweeter varieties to get the ball rolling, such as snow peas, cucumbers or even avocados.

And remember, there are lots of times in the day to try a new food or meal. If your child is happier and more willing earlier in the day, consider making brunch or lunch a key time to try new foods. Set up a picnic on a rug, or play restaurant at your child’s play table if you want to help them have some fun with new foods.

So, what to do when dinner time comes around? Check out out post on “Happy Meal? How to make dinner time more successful and enjoyable when feeding your young family”

Over the years we have helped lots of families improve their child’s eating. Feeding, just like family life, is about finding what works for you. For more great information, our e-book (coming soon) shares genuine advice and practical tips that have been a success for many families, including our own!

Do you have any good food familiarisation tips for young eaters? Drop us a line…

Angela @ Bloom 🌿

Note: some children have more serious, medical issues that will also impact upon their feeding. In the SOS approach to feeding these are known as ‘red flags’. You can read more about them here . If your child is showing signs like these, or anything else medically concerning, speak to your family doctor as soon as possible.


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Life as a Mum is BUSY.

With the average young child interrupting you every 2.5 mins (yes that’s a true fact!) it’s not surprising that you might be finding it difficult to eat properly.

Perhaps you’re a new Mum and between the sleep deprivation and the overwhelming sense that every hour in day is being used, your surviving on not much more than coffee and take away? Or maybe your children are at the toddler stage, and you feel like your life is an endless merry-go round of preparing meals and snacks and then cleaning up said meals and snacks, that the thought of making something for yourself is just too hard. Hello crusts off your child’s discarded vegemite sandwich!

Or maybe your kids are a bit bigger and you’re madly preparing lunch boxes in the morning to get everyone off to school and work but don’t prepare anything for yourself?

We’ve heard it before, you can’t pour from any empty cup, and part of looking after yourself is making sure your body is getting the nutrition that it needs.

If you’re currently breastfeeding your body is working extra hard to supply your baby with all the milk he or she needs. Breastfeeding Mum’s need around 500 extra calories every day. On top of that you also have greater needs for protein, omega 3 fatty acids, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc and a variety of B vitamins.

Don’t panic though if you feel your diet has been poor. Your body will draw from it’s own stores to make sure that you are producing breastmilk that contains all the right nutrients. There’s plenty of good evidence to show that even women who are poorly nourished, are still able to produce sufficient breastmilk.

That said, you need to eat well to look after yourself. Poor nutrition is only going to make you more tired and lethargic, and have you wondering how you are going to get through the day.

Another thing that is certain to cross your mind from time to time as a parent, is your own longevity. It’s only natural that we want to be around for them as long as possible. When we look at “Blue Zones” (those areas of the world where people are living the longest) diet -along with physical activity, maintaining a health weight and limiting alcohol intake- is one of the biggest predictors of longevity.

The one thing I know for sure after having 4 kids in 7 years, is that eating well comes down to one thing PLANNING. I also know that the easiest way to make sure you are getting your 5 serves of veggies each day is to plan to have a salad or soup at lunch. In fact I’ll go as far as to say that if you’re not, then you’re unlikely to reach your target. Not that there is anything wrong with a sandwich, you just need to make sure its LOADED with veggies/salad, remembering that 1 cup of salad greens equals 1 serve of veges.

I’m going to share with you my formula for making sure I eat well at lunch EVERY day.

In the warmer months a salad is definitely my go to option for lunch. If you’re thinking a salad is not going to fill you up, think again! One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen women make when they start trying to eat well, is to eat a salad consisting of not much more than lettuce, cucumber and tomato. Such low calorie options are only going to leave you hungry and looking for the nearest snack. Not only does your salad need to include veges, but also fats, proteins and long lasting carbohydrates to ensure you’re well fuelled until your next meal.

Now there’s no way I’ve got time prepare food everyday, so my trick is to prepare what I like to call a salad base once or twice a week, and then quickly add items to this at the time of eating that will wilt or brown if prepared ahead of time.

It always includes a wholegrain long lasting carbohydrate such quinoa, brown rice, wholemeal cous cous or israeli cous cous.

Don’t even have time to cook some rice or quinoa? Never fear those little pots from SunRice cook in the microwave in 40 seconds and are an absolute time saver.

Add a variety of vegetables.

If I’ve got time I like to add some roasted pumpkin, but I also use tinned beetroot segments, red onion, tinned chickpeas, tinned sweetcorn kernels or tinned lentils. Did you know that tinned vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh? That’s because they are picked and packed at their peak, so the nutritional content remains high. They’re a good choice for time poor mums!

I also like to dress my salad base (my favourite is a white balsamic dressing made with extra virgin olive oil, white balsamic, dijon mustard and seasoned with salt and pepper). You could also make your dressing ahead of time and dress at the time of eating if you prefer.

When I’m ready to eat the salad I add a base of greens such as rocket, baby spinach or kale, and little avocado.

My salads are usually meat free, occasionally I add tuna, but I always add some protein and fat with a variety of cheese, usually feta or grilled haloumi (hint: use your sandwich press to grill it super quickly) or boiled eggs.
Lastly I like to top my salads with pepitas, walnuts or pine nuts for a good dose of healthy fats and little extra protein.

 

When the weather is cooler, a soup is my preferred lunch option. Now here is where the art of planning comes in. I”ll make a large batch of soup on a Monday and serve this up for our family’s dinner. Then I’ll have the rest of the soup for my lunch across the week. Winning!

One of my favourite soups is a minestrone made with chorizo rather than bacon. It’s packed full of veggies and legumes and you can get the recipe here at Bloom. I won’t lie, my kids are fairly fussy when it comes to this soup, but the one thing they all do is pull out the chorizo to eat. I’m not fussed that they do this. Using their hands and utensils to explore the soup and pull out what they like, helps improve familiarity with the food ,and eventually they’ll learn to eat it. I also try to help them by playing games like “How many balls (chickpeas) can you find in your soup”? We always serve it with crusty bread, so no one goes hungry.

Finally, I usually follow my lunch with either a smoothie (banana, maple syrup and cinnamon made with cow’s milk is a favourite) or a fruit salad topped with greek yoghurt. This will get me right through to dinner, without the need for a snack in between.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get busy in the kitchen!

Julia @ Bloom 🌿

 


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Ingredients:

1 onion diced
2 cloves of garlic
1 zucchini grated
2 sticks of celery diced
1 potato diced
2 carrots diced
1 tin chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup risoni pasta
2 cups of chicken stock
1 x 660ml Passata
2 x chorizo sausages, diced

To Serve:

chilli flakes
fresh basil
grated parmesan

Directions:

Heat Large heavy saucepan over medium heat.

Add diced chorizo and cook until browned (about 3-4 mins). Remove from saucepan.

In oil from chorizo cook onion, garlic, carrot and celery until soft, about 4-5 mins.

Add grated zucchini and cook for a further minute.

Add passata, chicken stock, potato and chickpeas.

Add any extra water necessary to adequately cover veges.

Bring to boil and simmer for 30mins.

Add risoni and cook for a further 10 mins.

To serve top with chilli flakes, parmesan and fresh basil.


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Makes 21 serves

Ingredients:

13 medjool dates (pitted)
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup desiccated coconut (plus extra for rolling)
2 tsp coco powder
2 TBS of light coconut milk

 

Method:

Put all ingredients into your food processor.

Blitz until the mixture resembles a cookie dough consistency.

The mixture should be firm enough that you can roll it into balls easily.

Using your hands roll into small balls, and coat in desiccated coconut.

Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.


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This recipe is a little akin to a baked muesli bar.

It’s fairly energy dense (but also highly nutritious) because of all the seeds, so cut it into small squares to serve.

x Bloom

 

Makes: 20 pieces

Ingredients

125g butter melted
1 cup of cornflakes crushed
1 cup wholemeal flour
1/4 cup castor sugar
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup golden syrup
2 Tablespoons chia seeds
2 Tablespoons sunflowers seeds
1/3 cup pepitas

 

Method:

Using a food processor grind the chia, sunflowers seeds and pepitas until fine.

In a large bowl add the seed mix to the remaining dry ingredients.

In a saucepan over low heat melt the butter, golden syrup and castor sugar. Mix until castor sugar had completely dissolved.

Add the melted butter mixture to the dry ingredients until well combined.

Flatten mixture into a 20cm x 20cm square loaf tin.

Bake for approx. 15 mins or until golden at 180 degrees celsius. Cut into small squares for the lunchbox.

Keeps frozen for 3 months


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And so begins another term, and as I tune into social media tonight I once again see stories of parents being “food shamed” for putting “inappropriate” choices in their child’s lunchbox.

Earlier this year, one South Australian Mum took to social media to air her frustrations after finding THIS note in her child’s lunchbox.

So what do we think about this? Is there a role for the food police in our schools and kindys?

No I don’t think there is.

Let me take a step back and say straight up that YES we do have a problem in Australia with the food our children are eating on a day to day basis. Our most recent data shows that 1 in 4 Australian Children are either overweight or obese. Couple this with the fact that only 5% of children aged 2- 18yrs are eating the recommended 5 serves of veggies and 68% the recommended 2 serves of fruit a day, and it’s clear that something needs to change. In 2012 Australian dietitian Kate Di Prima surveyed 400 school lunch boxes and found that only 21% of parents had sent their children with home cooked foods. Packaged food was common, as were low nutritional value sandwich fillings such as vegemite or jam.

So clearly there’s room for improvement when it comes to lunch boxes, but whose job is it to make sure our children are eating a healthy balanced diet?

In South Australia the Right Bite policy is a government funded initiative that provides guidelines on can be sold at tuck shops. Most states across Australia have similar policies. Red is used to signal those foods that are high in sugar, salt or fat and should not be offered at school. Orange or amber foods should be chosen with caution as they also contain high amounts of sugar,fat or salt but with a slightly improved nutritional value, and green represents those foods that should be eaten and offered regularly.

I do believe our schools should be “health enabling”, and so I’m all for canteens and tuck shops that offer healthy food choices and avoid “red” foods. Our children are learning about food and we want to place them in environments where they can make good choices.

On the home front, however, I don’t think you can force families to adhere to guidelines.

As any dietitian will tell you, when it comes to analysing someone’s diet, it’s your overall dietary pattern that matters. No food is inherently “good” or “bad” for you, but rather it’s how these foods fit within your overall diet that matters. If your diet is generally high in vegetables, fruits, wholegrain cereals and lean proteins, then the occasional cake, chocolate bar or cookie is of very little consequence. A teacher taking a quick glance at a lunchbox is in no position to determine how a particular food item sits within that child’s overall diet for the day, week or month for that matter, and nor should they.

Not all cake is created equal either. How does someone tell the difference between a low sugar, wholemeal flour, zucchini containing chocolate muffin and a plain old chocolate cake? One is clearly a far better choice than the other.

Ultimately I think its up to us as parents, to make sure we are offering a variety of healthy foods across the week, and only offering the occasional treat.

We also want to encourage our children to have a healthy relationship with food, which means understanding that occasional foods are just that, occasional, but they are not “bad” for you when eaten as part of a healthy diet. I worry about children feeling guilty or bad for having a certain foods included in their lunchbox. No one should ever be taught to feel guilty or bad about themselves for their, or their parent’s, food choices. Our focus needs to be on educating children and families about healthy eating, but not food shaming them for the choices they ultimately make.

 

Given our children spend a significant proportion of the day and week at school, you certainly want to be focusing on nutritious lunch boxes that predominantly include whole foods from the core food groups.  I’d hate to think, however that we can never again send a slice of cake to school. Personally I like to send a little bit of leftover birthday cake on my child’s birthday, and I include home baked goods that I’ve modified to be nutritious options on a daily basis.

Keep occasional foods occasional and there won’t be a problem!

If you’re looking for snack ideas to include in your child’s lunchbox, head over to our recipe section.

Julia @ Bloom 🌿