As the furore surrounding sugar and concern over our children’s diets rumbles on, four industry experts reveal how they feed their families – and it’s sensible advice we can all follow
Ever wonder what healthy meals or snacks the experts give to their children? Wonder no more…
Amanda Ursell is a nutritionist with a postgraduate diploma in dietetics. She is mum to Coco, eight, and Freddie, six.
Overall, my attitude is…’If I can put a home-cooked dinner on the table, we’re doing OK. My mum always did it and I try to do it as much as I can. Cooking for the children and making sure we eat together at night is really important to me.’
Breakfast: ‘Weetabix or porridge (I allow a tiny bit of honey on it) followed by boiled or scrambled eggs. I think a good breakfast is really important. I don’t mind doing different kinds of eggs at breakfast – generally one will want boiled and the other scrambled – but we all eat the same thing at dinnertime. I don’t want to give them the impression I’m a restaurant and they can order what they like!’
Lunch: ‘My children both have school lunches, but if I’m making a packed lunch, I’ll fill a brown roll or tortilla wrap (ones with a low glycemic index or GI, if possible, for a slower release of energy) with either reduced-fat Cheddar or houmous. I’ll include a banana or apple and a plain yoghurt.’
Dinner: ‘I stick to old favourites, such as fish or Shepherd’s pie, or if I’m really rushed, pesto out of a jar with pasta and veggies on the side. We always have a pudding, such as layers of plain yoghurt with berries with a bit of brown sugar (I pop it under the grill to brown it), pancakes with chopped banana or apple crumble and custard.’
Drinks: ‘Water or 150ml of fruit juice.’
Snacks/treats: ‘A hot cross bun or a fruit scone. My son is particularly active so these are a good source of energy and they feel like a bit of a treat. A scoop of ice cream always goes down well. My daughter has a sweet tooth and her idea of heaven is half an hour in front of a DVD with a bag of Haribo but that’s very rare!’
Absolute no-nos: ‘Sugary breakfast cereals and toast toppings, in the light of the revised sugar guidelines that came out last year – it’s recommended children aged four to six years old should have no more than 19g sugar a day (five sugar cubes), and those aged seven to 10 no more than 24g (six sugar cubes). Because of my job, it’s important I ‘walk the talk’ but if I’m honest, I really struggled to get to grips with the guidelines at first. Small changes really do add up, though, so persevere.’
Jane Clarke is a nutritionist and dietician and mum to Maya, 13.
Overall, my attitude is… ‘If you stick to the basics and do simple meals well, you can’t go far wrong. There’s so much more sugar around now that it makes us all super-aware of what we’re feeding our children and and feel horribly judged at the same time.’
Breakfast: ‘Stewed fruit and yoghurt or homemade granola, made with spelt flakes, nuts and dried fruit. Now Maya is older we do a pick-and-mix at the breakfast table with the granola ingredients.’
Lunch: ‘Homemade bread made into cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches, or egg mayonnaise and cress, or good old raspberry jam! Choose the best quality jam you can.’
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Dinner: ‘Pasta with a simple tomato sauce and vegetables or pecorino cheese and peas, or roast chicken with vegetables. Puddings are fruit compote with yoghurt or homemade apple crumble.’
Drinks: ‘Diluted fruit juice; homemade smoothies (I add spinach and fennel); water.’
Snacks/treats: ‘Medjool dates, homemade carrot cake or beetroot and chocolate cake. Perhaps some 70 percent cocoa dark chocolate melted over apple puree…yum!’
Absolute no-nos: ‘Fizzy drinks.’
Alison Clark is a registered dietician and mum to Leo, six weeks.
Overall, my attitude is… ‘When he’s old enough, I’ll be encouraging Leo to eat ‘all the colours of the rainbow’ when it comes to fruit and vegetables – aim for five portions a day, remembering that a portion size is the size of your child’s hand.’
Breakfast: ‘All meals should be based around carbohydrates for energy with some protein for growth. A boiled egg with a piece of toast is perfect.’
Lunch: ‘A sandwich with a protein filling (not ham – see below). Egg or tuna are good options.’
Dinner: ‘Iron is important for growth and development so ensure your child gets enough iron-rich sources in their diet. Pasta with a Bolognese sauce is great, but if you don’t eat red meat, darker-fleshed fish such as sardines and mackerel are also useful. Stewed fruit with plain yoghurt for pudding.’
Drinks: ‘Water; milk. Babies over 12 months can have full-fat cows’ milk, while children over two years can have semi-skimmed.’
Snacks/treats: ‘A hot cross bun, flapjack or dried fruit such as raisins or apricots.
Absolute no-nos: ‘All processed meats, including ham, due to the warnings about increased cancer risk. Sugary drinks provide empty calories and are a major cause of tooth decay – more than 128,000 children under the age of 10 have been admitted to hospital for tooth extraction since 2011, and it’s preventable.’
Dr Carrie Ruxton is a dietician and nutritionist and mum to Christopher, 15, and Erin, six.
Overall, my attitude is… ‘To avoid processed foods, like pizzas or ready meals, as they are typically high in salt.’
Breakfast: ‘Shredded Wheat, Oatibix and Weetabix as they are lower in sugar than other breakfast cereals. My daughter is a fan of Dorset muesli (unsweetened). Christopher is very hungry and works out in the gym daily so eggs are a must. They are high in protein and one of the few natural sources of vitamin D. Nowadays there are no limits to how many eggs you can have which is great news for us as we keep hens and eat one or two eggs daily each!’
Lunch: ‘Even though I’m a reluctant cook, at weekends I make simple meals from scratch using fresh or frozen ingredients, such as fresh pasta with a tomato sauce, frozen prawns and peas.’
Dinner: ‘Having been iron deficient myself a couple of years ago, I make sure the kids get red meat four times a week as this is the best source of iron for the body. My daughter has expensive taste and loves steak. But they eat lamb’s liver, too, which is an inexpensive option.’
Drinks: ‘Sparkling water added to a small amount of cordial.’
Snacks/treats: ‘Grapes, pears and the new Sungold Kiwi fruit as they have a mild taste. I allow sweets most days as my children are very active, but only ‘fun size’ chocolate bars as these are more than enough for a child and are kinder to teeth than chewy sweets. We go the local ice cream parlour on Fridays after swimming and if my daughter is hungry after school, I give her a Fruit Bowl school bar or peeler as these contain no added sugar and count as one portion of fruit. Raisins are also a favourite.’
Absolute no-nos: ‘I don’t buy fizzy, sweetened drinks and I’m not keen on chewy sweets – they get them at parties but I don’t have them in the house.’