You've been through all the books, you have read every blog and magazine and you have decided to make a positive food and lifestyle change, starting with the kitchen cupboards. The family are on board (in your dreams!) and you are excited. Then you come home from an inspiring day out only to discover the kitchen cupboards are not as inspiring. Infact, it looks like this sort of change is more of a challenge. What are we going to eat? How on earth of you cook these foods?!
The best advice I can give you is to take it slow, and swap foods over one at a time. Removing over-processed nutritionally devoid foods, for nutrient dense ones can be a challenge, but so satisfying. Over the next few weeks I will outline my favourite (and easy) swaps and some simple quick recipes.
The first thing that needs to go are the over processed, high in sugar, salt and additives snacks. I know the temptation to give the kids a small packet of something in the cupboard to satisfy after school munchies is strong. However have a look at your snacks, do they contain refined sugar? More than 15g per 100g serve is too much. Are the snacks high in salt? More than 600mg per 100g of salt is considered high 1.
Are there artificial colours and flavours? For example, flavour enhancer MSG - (Monosodium Glutamate) E 621, this additive along with others has been linked to behavioural issues in children. It has so many different names like Glutamic Acid E 620, Yeast Extract, Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein, Textured Vegetable Protein, Malt Extract 2. Keeping a list of these names is a bit of a must have.
Hopper do a great list of additives to avoid for kids, and this handy cut out list to take with you to the shops. Being aware of what is in the snack foods is essential to begin making more informed choices to stock the pantry, knowledge is power! Also ditch the boxed fruit juices, they don't add anything nutritionally to a diet. Save fruit juice for a special occasion, water will quench a thirst, if not, then they aren't thirsty!
So, once you have had good look in the pantry and identified what needs updating and just plain tossing out, what do you add in? Here are some ideas to try:
Popcorn - try popping your own on the stove top with a little butter or in an air popper - there are lots of cheap ones available. 1/4 cup of popcorn unpopped makes enough for 4 kids, once popped mix through a 2 tsp of coconut oil and sprinkle Himalayan Salt on top.
Crackers and cheese - look for crackers with just sea salt and vegetable oil, the flavoured ones often contain lots of additives. A block of cheese cubed up is a cheaper option and with just milk, salt, water and rennet in the ingredients its a better choice to the processed string cheese.
Dips with sticks of carrot, celery, cucumber and cherry tomatoes. Hommus is an excellent dip with lots of protein and filling for a snack on the run. Also guacamole and homemade salsa dips are a great snack. Keep the veggies chopped up in the fridge for easy access.
Cubed up fruit is another quick snack, choose what is in season. Summer, try watermelon, rockmelon and berries. Autumn and Winter try apples, mandarin, figs, kiwifruit and plums in the fridge ready to snack on. Squeeze lemon over the apple to prevent it turning brown and oxidising.
Muffins are another quick snack especially when you have them stored in the freezer. I have a basic muffin base that I then add in various mixes of either berries, cacao nibs, banana or cranberries etc. I usually let the kids decided what they want to add.
Nuts and seeds, if you have no allergies and the kids are old enough (over 5 yrs old if unsupervised) they are an excellent filling snack. Nut butters are another lovely snack. Slices of apple topped with almond, peanut or cashew butter are yummy too. They old favourite of celery and peanut butter is my choice.
Kale chips are an easy snack too. I pop the kale washed, dried and torn into pieces (remove the stem as it is very hard to digest) then rubbed with olive oil, nutritional yeast and a little Himalayan salt on a tray and into the oven at 180 degrees C for 15-20 minutes or until crispy.
Berry Choc Chunk Bars for Kids from Nutraorganics, I keep these bars in my pantry and handbag for the kids (big and small!) when we are on the run. They have a range of other bars and superfoods too. They also don't have the nasty additives and colours.
Crunchy Cacao Granola as a quick sweet snack, on top of yoghurt or just on its own from the jar (my husbands favourite!).
Boiled eggs, sprinkled with Herbamare or Himalayan salt for a quick filling snack on the run.
Natural greek yoghurt with 1/4 tsp vanilla powder and a tsp of rice malt syrup or honey mixed through. Then topped with chopped up pepitas and sunflower seeds. It is a take on the commercial yoghurts but you can choose how much of the sweetener is added. Always use a full fat yoghurt, it tastes so much better and fills you up for longer.
There are so many healthy snack options, I can keep going with the list. For inspiration checkout the many sites on line and especially kid focused cookbooks. Sarah Wilson from I Quit Sugar has a great kids book as does Lee from Supercharged Food.
With all this information the most important thing to remember in creating and maintaining a healthy pantry is preparation and planning. If you have the tools there are so many options, use your imagination. Something may not work out exactly as planned, however keep trying as the learning curve you are on is worth the effort, not just for you but also for your family.
What positive change can you make in your kitchen cupboard today?