Unlike many food sites these days we are, quite deliberately, not really anti-anything. Today we had leftover Easter eggs for pudding because everyone was behaving themselves for a change and, well, it’s time to get this chocolate out of the house one way or another.
So we’re not anti-sugar, we’re not anti-dairy, anti-gluten or anti-meat. Like my nan used to say, everything in moderation.
That said, we do like to eat together as a family, I do want them to develop healthy habits (and I do want to fit into nice clothes) so healthy eating is still high on the agenda, there’s just a bit of chocolate thrown in for good measure.
But what do you do when they really only want to eat pasta and sausages?
This post is all about a few ideas on healthy substitutes that the 3 of us employ to make sure that there’s a balance to all that egg hunting.
I don’t think I’ve ever come across a kid that doesn’t like pasta, it’s like the universal language of toddlers. Whenever you’ve got their friends over for tea you know you’re pretty safe with a pasta-based tea. I’ve always tried to balance the meal a bit with a side of salad or veg on the plate but recently I’ve also experimented with different types of pasta as an alternative to the white stuff.
Personally I’ve never been so keen on the wholemeal stuff although I know it works for some but I have to say spelt pasta has been a bit of a revelation. I think you really can’t tell the difference taste-wise (the kids certainly haven’t noticed) but it’s a healthier alternative which makes the meal feel that bit lighter.
Of course there’s also the infamous courgetti (which you don’t necessarily need to invest in a spiraliser to achieve, a peeler or just chopping finely works fine too) which personally I think is great but I’m yet to convince my 4 and 2 year olds that this is the case.
Part of our meal plan mantra is that we aim to eat 2 meat, 2 fish and 2 veggie meals a week. I concocted this idea myself when Max was small and, I have to admit, sometimes I wonder why I make myself stick to it when someone is moaning about fish or when the husband warily eyes my soup but I’m hoping it ultimately means we have a fairly balanced and varied diet which should be good for all of us *mum stare*.
I find the veggie meals the hardest to come up with, not because I don’t enjoy veggie meals (actually I prefer them) but rather in making veggie meals that are palatable to all and that don’t become repetitive. Some of our favourites include curry because it feels hearty whatever is in it, soup (husband aside), quesadillas (a relatively new addition) and copious pasta sauces such as hidden veg, homemade pesto, and good old macaroni cheese.
More recently we’ve experimented with meat substitutes. Some can’t take to tofu because of the texture issue, I like it personally but again I’m not sure the kids will be persuaded. What they don’t notice however, is whether it’s real mince or quorn mince, really absolutely no clue and I actually prefer the quorn version – less chewy, easy to cook and (brilliantly) very cheap. I’ve used it in spag bol, in chilli, in shepherd’s pie and nobody is any the wiser. Hoodwinked.
Veggie burgers are also a great alternative to the lardier meaty version (although some days it just has to be the lardier version) and there are some good recipes out there including this really nice (or “brilliant”) one.
Blogs and cookbooks from the likes of Deliciously Ella and the Hemsleys have really done a lot for the new wave of sugar substitutes. I sort of feel like I can’t move for mention of medjool dates in any pudding recipe I read recently and whilst I sometimes have a bit of an eye roll at some of this stuff I do think there are things to be learned.
One thing I have changed up recently is making my own granola. Reading that sentence back is a bit of an eye roll moment but actually it’s so bloody easy, you can make a cereal in which you control the sugar and it actually tastes better. With full disclosure I prefer it as I’m not a dried fruit fan and it’s hard to find good granola without it but actually we’ve all started eating it now and I’ve become a bit addicted to making it at the weekend. I usually use a John Torode recipe as the basis of my recipe but I reduce the amount of sugar he uses and substitute maple syrup which comes with a lower glycemic index if you’re into that kind of thing.
Maple syrup is one substitution but supermarkets are also stocking an increasing range of alternatives which can be used in your granola and also in your baking including agave and date syrup. My sister made me this cake for my birthday a few weeks ago (it was yum):
When we thought about it there are lots of other ideas too – baked chicken with curry sauce instead of pan frying (see the katsu recipe below we’re having this weekend) and using filo to top a pie instead of its heavier cousin puff. The ideas keep on coming so we’ll keep on sharing.