Wednesday 12 August 2009

Healthy Eating With Kids

Despite my best efforts and aversion to all of the chicken and chips shops that abound locally, I have been finding that every time I walk past one of these establishments the baby screeches “CHEEKAAN CHEEKAAN!!” I admit I have a deep and very hard to shift love for junk food, but I have been able to indulge this at work and keep food at home a little healthier. I often lapse and end up serving sugary cereal for a snack or frying up some fish and chips for dinner. I still could not work out though, where my kids had developed this obsession with the chicken and chips shop. In the end I cornered my husband and he admitted that when in a rush they get lunch from one of these shops. When husband has to book a job during the day and leave the kids with my brother-in-law, he goes off and does the same. I was mortified. I don’t think he knows how bad this stuff really is for kids.

In the end I realised it had to be down to me. Although I keep minimal unhealthy snacks in the house (a multi-pack of hula-hoops crisps and some biscuits for guests – the chocolate covered peanuts are hidden in my room), this doesn’t stop people from going out to the chicken shop on the top of our road.

So I decided to make a list of what can be considered healthy snacks and keep supplies of it in the house and a list where people can see (and probably still ignore it). So far I have come up with:

  • Fruit of every variety, prepared in every way including dried and canned fruit – just keep offering it until they get into the fruit habit – my boys now clear a full fruit bowl out in about two days mash’Allah.
  • Potato cut into bite-sized pieces and then microwaved till cooked through (serve with beans and the beans song which winds my kids up marvellously).
  • Boiled egg (also recommended to me by an optician in Pakistan for my kids along with lots of salad and veg)
  • Fruit yoghurt and fromage frais.
  • Cheese – slices or mini portions, but not processed cheese or cheese-string type (which Little Lady loves and are very expensive)
  • Sandwiches (I am trying to wean them off of white bread and chocolate spread)
  • Left over rice with lentils or natural yoghurt
  • Mini chappaties (unleavened bread used in South Asia), whole wheat if you can stomach it.
  • Milk - organic is better as it seems to be kinder on my children’s teeth for starters, alternatively the Jersey stuff is amazing and puts a pink glow into their cheeks.
    Small boxes of raisins instead of sweets. This backfired when the baby started throwing tantrums because he wanted one packet after another.
  • Plain pasta without any sauce (they seem to prefer this).
  • Homemade burgers using leftover mince kebabs.
  • Pizza on a sub/slice of bread/roll cut in half and topped with tomato puree, cheese and whatever veg you have to hand.

One thing that has really helped me is the fact that my children’s school is very big on healthy eating, children are taught about it and get to try tasters of healthy food and school-dinners are junk-food free (including pack lunches and including chocolate spread sandwiches). This means that from nursery-age they become aware of what is healthy and what is not.

If you care particularly about the food you eat, two books I would recommend to learn more are:
We Want Real Food (2006) by Graham Harvey (a must-read and a real eye-opener) and Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (2001) by Eric Schlosser.

Also if you are looking for inspiration (better to look at than to make maybe), I have come across the phenomenon of “Bento” which is the Japanese tradition of packing a container to take away (to work or school) with different types of food. The ingredients and aesthetics of these are really very beautiful and would encourage any child to try something new or healthy.

picture source


  1. blog virgin12 August, 2009

    aaah that bento box looks so cute, i'd feel tucking into it after so much effort has gone in to create it! Can see my 5yr old showing it off to her friends at school she'd love it, might try it actually when they go back to school.

  2. blog virgin12 August, 2009

    sorry meant i'd feel 'bad' tucking into it. you can tell i'm new can't you!

  3. Asalaamu Alaikum

    Do they end up eating all the chopped up food..I'd be worried it would waste?

  4. mashaAllah the list of healthy snacks is v usueful for me i mean i've just had chip shop food and regret it,it started off with with a late visit to the supermarket with my sis and then we both decided we wanted chips!

  5. Great post; what's the 'beans' song?

    Mini-chappatis are a hit in our house, especially after Nani (my mom) gifted both of the girls tiny rolling-pins; they roll out their own little mis-shapen rotis which I cook for them. (On weekends, that is)

  6. Assalam-alaikam,

    Hi blog virgin,
    I really like the idea of the bento boxes, but they look like a bit of work. I supposed if you kept them simple. If your new, what’s my excuse? Blogger seems to bring out every typo in the world for me.

    Sister C,
    The fruit gets eaten, if there are any almonds left then they can go back in the storage jar and the left-over salad items get washed and chopped into the evening’s salad. I tend to make them a plate when I come back from work, but a tray like that is good to cut up in the morning and let them eat throughout the day. Although I have to say that the baby does try to waste some of the food if you don’t keep an eye on him.

    Sis EP,
    I know the feeling, I planned to have a salad for lunch yesterday and ended up having a big plate of vegeburger and fat chips. Well, today is a new day….

    Sis Mummyjaan,
    What a sweet idea, letting them roll their own. I might let the older two have a go, I definitely think it would encourage them to eat it all up.

    Oh, In forgot to add the link to the beans song, it’s there now ;)
    Jazakh’Allah-khairun for the reminder.