Friday, June 29, 2012

{q + a} : feeding the kiddos

Hello lovelies!

 Here are the questions and answers about food and the approach we take that were asked especially after my post about additives in food. I hope you are able to find some of this helpful to you :o}

I am being truly honest here, even though I would love to tell you my kids have never had a happy meal - but that wouldn't be being honest and I believe in being totally truthful so here goes.
Before we go on, I am no expert on nutrition or anything like that. I don't claim to know everything about feeding children, I am still learning myself, everyday! I just receive a lot of questions about people wanting to know a little more.

q: why did you decide to go no additives?
a: The school counsellor at my stepchildren's school asked us if we had looked into their diet as their behaviour was very hard to manage at school and at home. She gave me the name of Sue Dengate's book, Fed Up, and Julie Eady's book, Additive Alert.
I picked them both up a few days later and couldn't put them down. Such eye openers. I had always been proud of the home-cooked and healthful meals I thought I was preparing for my stepchildren, but it turned out that a lot of the products we used were not the best choices. Butter with colours, preservative and flavour. Taco seasoning with MSG, peanut butter with 'antioxidants' - not the good kind. So we decided to overhaul what we bought and it has just gone from there.

q: did you notice any changes in behaviour when you stopped feeding the kids additives?
a: this is a tricky question - while diet was one of the first things we looked into, the child psychiatrist we were also referred to by the school counsellor made it clear that there were many other, complicated factors at work in regards to their behaviour. eliminating as many additives as I could helped a little, but in reality, their behaviour was not all because of their food. Providing them with healthier alternatives to the foods we were buying that were full of additives of some kind or another was beneficial for their health, even if not for behavioural reasons. For Noah and Chloe, they have always eaten no preservatives / low additives as they were born a few years after we made this change so I can't comment too much here about behaviour changes for them - except that if Noah drinks or eats anything with "natural colour 160b" or with certain preservatives he gets quite hyper and often very hard to reason with as well. Chloe reacts to preservatives and some colour with a flare up in her eczema. 

q: i am overwhelmed by all of it. how do you start?
a: I know, it can be REALLY overwhelming can't it. It is so easy to want to go to to your pantry + fridge and throw out everything that might not be great and replace it with better choices, but really all you need to do is one product at a time. The next time you run out of butter and need to buy more during your next shop, spend a few extra minutes searching for one that doesn't contain a colour, preservative or flavour. I enjoy making our own now but I still sometimes buy Mainland Buttersoft (reduced salt) as it contains no preservatives or colours and flavours. Just cream, water and salt. The next time you need peanut butter - perhaps try the all natural peanut butter that is just 100% roasted peanuts. It is not as sweet and salty as you are probably used to, but most commercial peanut butters contain antioxidant 319, a nasty toxin that has links to cancer, birth defects, nausea and dermatitis among others. Slowly is the way to go. You can do it :o}

q: do you ever feel bad that they're missing out on so much because you're crazy about their food?
a: no, I don't feel like they're missing out. I think my kids are pretty happy. I wouldn't say I am crazy about their food, either. I like to provide them with the healthiest foods possible and I make almost all of our food from scratch but they still occasionally go out to dinner with us or very occasionally get a happy meal. Sometimes they will get a treat from the bakery or some store bought biscuits or squeezy yoghurts or a cookie when we are out for a coffee. I just try and make the best choices when it comes to those things too - they don't get a soft drink with their take out meal. I choose bakery items that I know are not coloured or full of preservatives. The store bought biscuits or squeezy yoghurts are not everyday foods and are additive free or as close as I can find. Wednesdays are "milkshake wednesdays" in our house and usually this is made from scratch at home but sometimes we buy one. Most people don't even know that 90% of their diet is preservative and additive free because it's not really a big deal and I don't stop them from enjoying something we normally wouldn't have now and then. I am pretty happy if the week is over and I can honestly say that 90% of their food that week was home cooked from scratch or healthy or 'safe'. 

q: do you refuse foods from other people if they are bad foods?
a: I am fairly strict about what they eat but don't have to be as strict as some. Some have to be very strict about it, because their kiddos will react much much worse than mine would. I will refuse some things, some times, but sometimes I will allow something we normally wouldn't have because I have that luxury and my kids reactions are not very strong. It really depends on the situation, what else they've eaten, what the food being offered is etc etc.

q: what do your kids eat?
a: my kids eat normal, everyday foods. They love oats for breakfast. Toast with some raw honey. And occasionally have all bran or weet bix. We love waffles and pancakes and often have these on Sundays. We use real maple syrup - it's more expensive but you don't need as much of it because it is so flavoursome! They drink cows milk and almond milk. They love spaghetti bolognese {made from scratch with 6-7 different vegetables included, pictured above} and love it when we have pizza night {bases made from scratch most of the time, tomato paste, herbs, cheese and Chloe will have toppings like mushroom, capsicum, olives, red onion or tomato}. They like pastas, tacos, chicken and vegie soup, beef/chicken stroganoff, home made chicken schnitzels, grilled fish, stirfry veg and noodles, lasagne, roast chicken and beef, satay, home made oven baked chicken nuggets, a few Filipino dishes I make etc etc. Home made sausage rolls are usually a hit here and always feature at our parties! I make it super easy and buy the organic sausages from woolies {or sometimes just the preservative free} and wrap in puff pastry {check ingredient list of these, some are really bad!}. Roll up the sausages in pastry, brush with milk or beaten egg and place in oven until sausages are cooked and pastry is golden.

They also enjoy baked goods we make at home like scones, brownies, muffins, pizza scrolls, etc.
Noah is extremely fussy, and does not enjoy certain textures. He pretty much plain refuses to eat any cooked vegetables that he can see - but will eat them in foods knowingly if they're pureed or part of the sauce. I am BIG on hiding veg in dishes but almost make sure we serve up 'visible' veg too so he gets used to it. I encourage him to try them but he almost never will and always picks veg out of dishes like the above stirfry. He will eat raw carrot, celery and cucumber and these are also served to him most nights.
They like fruit and smoothies and I often add almonds or chia to their smoothies with no complaints. They love crio bru chocolate milk and the very occasional orange or cloudy{natural} apple juice {no added sugar, no colours, no flavours and no preservatives}. They usually prefer these watered down as well.

q: what do you use instead of cordial?
a: my kiddos have only had cordial a handful of times and they don't usually like it. I would maybe try a squeeze of fresh orange into icy cold water? Or dilute fresh juices either home made or bought {no added sugar, no colours, no flavours, no preservatives} with water. 

q: do you have any lunch box ideas, preferably not bready?
a: this is hard ha ha. I have 1 very fussy eater and he only likes bread or wraps for his lunch box lunches. He will always have a sandwich or wrap no matter how hard I try to get him to eat other things for school lunch. Chloe on the other hand doesn't really like bread at all and if I give her a toastie or a sandwhich she usually eats the filling and leaves the rest. So for her she eats a plate full of veggies and some cheese and crackers or a cheese and zuchinni muffin like above. She will also eat boiled egg mixed with mayo or tuna mixed with mayo as long as it's in a bowl and she can use a spoon. 
Other non bready ideas are pasta or rice salads and sushi rolls. Rice cakes topped with cream cheese or avocado.

q: what are some good healthy spreads to use for kids?  
a: Avocado is a great spread, natural peanut butter, cashew butter, vege spread {health food aisle - i don't like this so much but it is supposed to be a good replacement for vegemite}. Hommus. 

q: any suggestions for lunch box and after school snacks?
a: I try and bake at least twice a week, I will freeze individual serves for school lunches / afterschool snacks so there is always a pretty good variety going in the freezer. Usual lunch box / after school foods here are things like 
cheese and zucchini muffins
cinnamon rolls
fruit puree pikelets {I don't add the sugar}
mini quiches
pizza scrolls
pita bread chips with dip
rice cakes with avocado, peanut butter or cream cheese
veggie sticks and dip

I try to monitor the amount of sugar going into the lunchbox - for example I won't send Noah to school with 2 pieces of fruit + a yoghurt + a sweet baked good and instead will do 1 piece of fruit and a yoghurt and a cheese and zucchini muffin or mini quiche. Or do 2 pieces of fruit and some rice cakes with cream cheese and a small box of plain milk. Or 1 piece of fruit, one banana bread or oatmeal bar or choc chip scone and plain rice crackers, organic corn chips or home popped popcorn.
In addition to this he will have a sandwich {usually plain cheese, or egg and mayo or tuna and mayo - I wish he would eat these with some salad!}, sometimes home made dip and always some carrot sticks and cucumber 'coins'.
Noah eats most of his daily fruit at school and after reading Mandy from Little People Nutrition's post on serving sizes of fruit for kiddos, I try to change it up for after school snack. So at home for after school snack we usually have pita bread chips with dip or a small bowl of nuts and popcorn and recently we have been doing teeny little mini pizzas. If he hasn't had a sweet baked treat in his lunch box that day we will probably do a home made cinnamon roll or brownies or some rice cakes with natural peanut butter. I really try to mix it up while consciously thinking about what he has eaten throughout the day.

q: how do you make your own LSC mix {linseed, sunflower and chia}?
a: I make our own LSC mix to include in baking muffins or add to smoothies etc as we attend a nut free school and so cannot send anything I have used LSA mix in because of the almond. If you have a good food processor {I use my thermomix} you can make this yourself easily. Linseeds, sunflower seeds and chia seeds are readily available in most supermarkets these days and also from your health food shop. The quantities of each depend on what flavour you like. I find linseed is pretty strong in flavour for my kiddos so I would probably start with a little of this at first. The other two are pretty mild to me - just make up a small batch first to see how you go. You can also buy already ground chia and linseed at health food shops, and perhaps ground sunflower too but I'm not sure on that one.

q: how do you add LSC mix to baking etc?
a: I add a couple of tbsp into our favourite banana bread or muffin mix. I really just go by what I feel is a good amount / how much batter etc I have. We love our banana and LSC smoothies here {milk, banana, ice, LSC mix} and I often put couple of tablespoons into our banana bread, pancake/waffle/pikelet batter and I also make our own breadcrumbs for nuggets and add some of the LSC into that.

q: are you concerned about the latest info about sugar being a 'poison' and any other 'fads'?
a: I am trying to find a happy balance when it comes to feeding my kiddos, without being too overly stressed about everything. The sugar issue is one that has been on my mind lately - and I have always watched how much sugar we eat anyway but we still eat sugar. I have been experimenting with rapadura and coconut sugars and I find they work with some things and not so much with others. Their flavours are quite strong compared to our normal raw sugar so I am learning to adapt. If I can lessen the amount of sugar we eat over time I will be happy. For more information about this kind of stuff you can check out Sarah Wilson's site here.
I am also trying to decrease our wheat intake and introduce more gluten free foods and replace not so great for you oils like vegetable oil with healthier choices like coconut oil.

q: why do you still use colours in some of your things if you are against additives?
a: As I said above, I am super happy if 90% of their food in a week is safe, healthy, additive free and cooked at home from scratch. Occasionally, like at Christmas, valentines day etc, I might colour a pancake, waffle, cookie etc etc with a little food colouring. I am ok with this because it is seldom and because I am still making it all from scratch, so if the only 'bad' thing in it is a little colour, which they have only a few times a year - I think that's ok for our situation :o} You can also now buy 'natural colours' at the supermarket and when I make fairy bread etc I use the naturally coloured sprinkles. 

All in all I try to keep their food simple and varied. The variety could certainly do with improvement but Noah is super fussy so I am going slow with him. Chloe will happily try everything and will often have a taste of what hubby and I are having on date night {once a week we cook something for us that the kids might not like, ie curry etc and eat together after the kids have gone to bed} 
There is a lot of improvement I could still make but I am still learning. They probably eat too much carbohydrates or something like that. But my goal is to get even more back to basics, wholefoods and organic where I can, just be even more mindful of what we are eating and doing the best I can at feeding us the most nutritious foods. Getting there :o}

I know many of you have contacted me saying you want to start cutting out additives and processed foods out of your diets and it can be really overwhelming. Some of you have also said to me that you feel deflated because there is so much conflicting advice out there. I also feel that way sometimes - like nothing I do is the 'healthiest' choice for my kids. But at the end of the day I truly believe what Jude Blereau says - 

"Start off Simply, don't worry in the beginning about wholegrains or rapadura sugar, if you just make your own biscuits from scratch you're light years ahead of what they're selling in the supermarket." 

 This is so true and something important to remember. Start slow and cook from scratch more. It gets easier and then you start wondering what else you can make from scratch and it just keeps going from there.

Some links I love that you might find helpful too:



  1. thank you thank you for answering my questions(s)!! kat

  2. Thanks so much Bianca for sharing your knowledge. I'm sure I'll be referring back to this post like I do your other one regularly.

    Clare :)

  3. This is a great post Bianca, I love your approach - nice and balanced :-)

  4. This is such a fabulous post. I just had a baby and bought a Thermomix as I too want to eliminate all of those nasties and get back to basics. I also bought Additive Alert - such an eye opener.

  5. did you see the articvle in the current issue of offspring?

  6. im sorry. let kids just be kids. have fun and enjoy food. create memories and live a little! i used to like your blog, not so much anymore.

  7. Are you on some high horse or something? Think youre better than the rest of us who feed our kids normal foods? I agree, not a fan of youre blog anymore. Tired of being made to feel like the most shit parent.

  8. Great post! It's fabulous to see people feeding their kids good food so they can be the best they can be. (thanks for the pingback too!) Sonia x

  9. Fantastic post Bianca. It's great to see healthy as "normal" and not over the top. I guess my theory is "do what you can do" and when you can do more, then do more.
    If we just take one step at a time, then we are much more likely to stick with in the long term.
    Colours are a big thing for us at the moment, but I'd love to start understanding more of the numbers.

  10. Awesome post. I love your sensible, no nonsense style. I have recently Woken up to all the rubbish in our 'food' so your post has really helped me. Like you say, it's step by step! How sad is it that processed, packaged foods have become 'normal'.

  11. What a fantastic post. I'm also a mum keen on feeding my children a healthy diet and like you, am learning every day. I'm Kristin over at mamacino if you get the time to have a look...I look forward to reading more of your blog x

  12. Thanks for the great ideas and inspiration Bianca, this was a fantastic post and I have made some notes from it. I would LOVE your recipes for the zucchini muffins and that yummy noodle stir fry!! Thanks so much for taking the time to write such an informative post. x

  13. Love loved reading this post. It's right up my alley & I too have begun getting back to basics this year. So great to read what other mums/families do for their child/s nutrition. Well done! I love your blog! :) x

  14. LOVED it!! So so many ideas going through my head. Now to re read and take notes! xo

  15. Thank you for sharing. I read this and got cranky at the anonymous commenters who were so very rude to you, so I wrote a little post dedicated to them

  16. Thanks for another wonderful post. I am trying to eliminate a lot of the additives in my childrens diet also, so this is very helpful. Our children are a gift to us, and it is our duty to look after their nutritional needs. To those that feel the need to bite, it's probably only out of guilt. Rise above Bianca, as you are so good at doing :) xx

  17. As you know Bianca I emailed you about my experience with additives. Your readers including the RUDE ones can read about it here
    As for the rude commentors well, I would ignore them, they are posting anonymously which is never a good sign.
    Their kids will be the hyped up , overweight, unhealthy, tired, irritable children. It doesn't really matter how they like to spin in, Additives , colors, flavors are a FACTUAL issue of ill health.
    I'd hate to think what they would say to the failsafe parents out there !
    I will continue to cut the crap out of mine and my family's life as I have done for the past 4 years
    Its only because people are uneducated that they like to shout others positive changes down :-)

  18. Check out these top 10 additives to avoid

  19. Thank you for opening my eyes Bianca ~ I have also proudly been home cooking everything and not really realising what is in the foods. I am going to get hold of these books and do some research!

    And haters are going to hate ~ Just because Bianca lives this way doesn't mean she is saying you have to, she is just sharing her life and ways with those that ARE interested.

    Thank you again Bianca!

  20. Love this post Bianca. It is such an eye opener. I always cook healthy dinners but I never knew the 'snacks" I was feeding my kids were full of additives. I now check everything. You are a great mum, very inspiring! Your blog is fantastic, love every aspect of it. Thanks for sharing!

  21. A great post Bianca, full of wonderful advice. You are taking the 'overwhelming' out of knowing where to start when wanting to change the families diet to healthy and non processed/full of additives food. So many mums and dad are really getting back to basic when it comes to food and what we are really feeding our kids. So sorry for the rude comments you've received but it usually means you've pressed their buttons of guilt - heaping coals on peoples heads to the truth, be encouraged. xx I love your blog.

  22. Great post ! thank you so much. Its not about not letting our kids have anything that would considered treats or unhealthy..its just about giving them the healthy version of it! I know my kids don't care that our biscuits are home made, or that i say no to a bottled banana milk at the shops and tell them we'll just make when we can get home (simply just with banana and milk) infact they love it :D and there is more than life to sweets and unhealthy food, my kids won't hate me because I tried to give them the healthier option :/
    From what i read above your kids get given heaps of yummy food and has inspired me! especially with a very fussy 4 year old who tends to try the food if its home made (so she can see exactly whats in it) and a 22month old who will try anything!
    don't listen to the rude comments, i love your blog even more now.

    Claire Lenton

  23. oops, more to* life than sweets* ... a bit dislexic there

  24. This was a great post to read Bianca, thanks so much for sharing. I want to ask you for soooooo many recipes! I will wait happily and patiently though for what you have to teach/show us and make changes slowly. Dont they say 'slow and steady wins the race'?

    Just a quick question...what are your thoughts on soy milk? I cannot drink cows milk or really I cant have any dairy because of my sinus issues but I find soy or rice milk (havent tried almond milk) is something I can drink without all the issues that dairy give me however I have heard so many conflicting ideas re soy and I have no idea what Im doing! I would love to know your opinion on this. Thanks xo

  25. but I don't get those negative comments - you are not coming across as some over the top, health nazi who refuses to let their kids have any sugar at all like the mother of one of my son's friends who was so deprived he used to steal my child's lunch!!! I just wish I had had the time and my thermomix when my kids were a bit younger. I am reminded now how I used to make all my son's baby food etc from scratch and a lot of this had to do with cost which has become a bit of an issue for us again. All the processed and packaged food costs a fortune and now with teenagers (and their drop in after school friends!) I am really noticing it. This is how I justified my purchase of the thermomix :-)


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