Before you stop reading, we just want to make 3 points clear:
1. The book is not about Tim Noakes and what is widely known in South Africa as ‘Banting’.
2. It does not advocate a ‘diet’ mentality or nutritional bootcamp for children.
3. The restriction is not on all carbohydrates, but rather ditching the refined, processed, preservative-laden ingredients that are not found in nature.
Food24 attended the pre-launch of what we are sure will become a regular feature on many parents' kitchen counters come August when it is released to the public.
Real Food - Healthy, Happy Children is the brainchild of renowned paediatric dietician, Kath Megaw who has been helping solve children's eating problems for 20 years and is regarded as the country's leading expert in childhood nutrition.
Much of the book was born out of Kath's experience with her own 3 children - an active teenager, a pre-teen ballet dancer and a fussy toddler who loved sweet treats.
The book, co-authored by the much loved chef Phillippa Cheifitz, is filled with over 100 recipes (mostly gluten-free) that focus on ‘living food’. Think vibrant vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds and berries. The emphasis is in no way on high fat and as Kath explained at the launch – a child’s nutritional needs are different at every developmental stage - so a blanket approach like Banting isn’t helpful. For instance, babies gobble up puréed veggies like hoovers but when they are toddlers, become fussy and start saying no to things like broccoli because in actual fact their taste buds change and to them, the broccoli takes on a nasty, bitter flavour.
This is the role that Kath is there to fill - educating parents and helping them see the vitally important role that eating and diet plays in the progress of their offspring. She says that the principle is that 'If the food can arrive on their plates in a recognisable form from its source, it should be allowed to be eaten. Your children mimic your habits. You set their lifelong eating habits now. At home'. It’s about learning to feed them physically, emotionally, socially, and engaging their senses.
Kath attends many international conferences and finds it fascinating that for the first time ever - at a recent conference there was a whole section on sugar in paediatrics. A Professor she was listening to said that, 'if you are feeding your children fructose or any form of high fructose corn syrup, you might as well be giving them alcohol.' The reason? These sugars have the same damaging effect on the liver as alcohol. Read more about fructose here.
One of her strategies that has had much success is that of the Treat Box which is also touched on in greater detail in the book. This leaves the child to decide if he/she would like to ration their treats for the week or eat them all at once. This helps them learn that food is abundant and to let go of the notion of deprivation.
There is also a section in the book titled, Shared Tables which centres around the concept of eating together as a family. 'I really enjoyed putting those recipes together', says Phillippa. 'It reduces the idea of simply handing a child a plate of food and encourages interaction, which I think is so important'.
We at Food24 love the fact that the book is so interactive – with beautiful illustrations and easy-to-follow steps, allowing parents and children to page through the book, choose recipes, look at different ingredients and learn about them as a family. 'It’s a journey and we are all travelling along it together', emphasises Kath.
While many would argue that the low carb approach is ‘too expensive’ and not ‘realistic’ for children… it might be time to have a paradigm shift. Let me put it this way; many parents spend thousands on school fees each year hoping to give their brood the best education possible. Surely they would want to spend just as much (if not more!) on their child’s physical wellbeing and health.
The world has become a chaotic place where we are all expected to be busy 24/7 - leaving what many believe to be 'no time' to prepare nutritionally dense meals. The simple truth is that the energy it takes to peel an orange (bursting with fibre and Vitamin C) far outweighs the energy it requires to open a bag of potato chips. As a society we have become lazy about the way we eat. And thus quite literally, the way we keep ourselves alive and well.
Kath and Phillippa’s book is devoted to tricks and tips for busy moms and dads - so even if you think it’s impossible to give your child the nourishment needed to truly thrive , there is a way if you want there to be. And why wouldn’t you want to raise a healthy, happy child?
The book is published by Quivertree Publications and will be available in August 2015.
Other contributors to the book are fellow cookbook authors Jane-Anne Hobbs and Daisy Jones.
Follow Kath on Twitter @kathmegaw
- Tessa Purdon