Last year when I attended the Adelaide Kellogg’s Bloggers Brunch there was much discussion surrounding the sugar, salt and, to a lesser degree, fat content of processed cereals. I kind of felt like maybe I wasn’t being diligent enough because I don’t tend to check these things on the packets.
But, then I had a long think about why I don’t.
For as long as I have had kids I have always made a significant effort to feed my kids good food. All of my little people are healthy and energetic.
By good I mean plenty of fresh food and as little as possible in the way of processed food. Over the last 12-18 months I’ve been kicking it up a notch, introducing more organic and wholefoods and limiting refined foods. By good I also mean a wide variety of foods and a shared family mealtime.
It also doesn’t mean that I sit in the corner and rock if the kids eat things here and there that don’t quite fit in my good food category, or I have to use a tin of something here and there in my cooking. I’d probably be in the corner rocking if I didn’t, let’s be realistic.
I love good food and I love being able to develop that in my children too. Although, kids being kids they still find it hard to stretch beyond a basic sandwich in their lunchboxes! We spend time together cooking, talking about food, visiting the market and perusing cookbooks and food magazines.
Since we moved to the city I have been taking great delight in kicking things up a notch. We have been eating more whole foods. Somehow I’ve managed to turn my whole family, including my husband, into lovers of brown rice, chick peas and lentils. I cook them from dried now that it’s an option rather than buy them in a tin.
More of our meat comes from the butcher and fruit and vegies from the market or F&V shop. We haven’t lived in town with a F&V shop in the last 12 years. I make local and organic selections whenever possible in preference to imported and non-organic.
Cereals come in bulk from my favourite wholefoods store where I can get them with as little as possible added during the processing phase. They have the most amazing porridge with cranberries and cinnamon with no added sugar or salt. It is divine.
I love it. The kids love it. I haven’t bought a box or bag of pre-packaged snacks since we moved (in the past shapes and muesli bars were the only things I would regularly); they aren’t in the pantry now so the kids don’t ask for them.
For snacks we eat fruit, brown rice crackers + vegies with homemade dips or cheese, greek or natural yoghurt with fruit and home baked snacks and treats. Nothing new, but I’ve been focusing on staying consistent and staying away from the shop bought processed stuff. You can find a selection of ideas here and here.
The change from run of the mill peanut butter to a 100% peanut no-added-anything option has been telling. At first the kids found it unpalatable but now it’s the norm and the brand we used to buy tastes like eating sugar coated peanuts. Gross.
To be honest I haven’t been cooking much that’s new or complicated lately, I’ve just been enjoying cooking the same things using fresher, higher quality ingredients than I have typically had access to previously.
I realise that processed foods are often cheap options when compared with the fresh options. That really makes me cross because it shouldn’t be that way. Some of the ways that I combat this are:
- Buying what is in season, it’s always cheaper.
- Better still if you have the option to get it from the source at local farmers markets.
- I don’t fix my menu plans for the week in stone. I’ll often go to the market and buy my fruit and veg before I decide what we are having for the week.
- Where meat is concerned I choose to buy the best I can, buying free range or organic whenever I can, but I buy less.
- In reality an adult portion of meat should only be 100-150g so if you need less than 500g of meat is heaps to make dinner for a family of two adults and two kids.
- Buying meat from a butcher gives you more control over how much you buy rather than having to work around the portions they prepackage in the supermarket. You might pay a bit more per kg but you aren’t buying extra that you don’t actually need so it balances out.
- Buy in bulk, you are eliminating all that extra packaging and cost. Invest the money you save in good storage containers for your pantry though J
- Bake in bulk too. I make double batches of cookie dough, roll the second in baking paper, stash it in the freezer and hope Steven doesn’t find it. When I make museli bars I make a second dry mix and store it in the pantry. The little things like this can make all the difference.
So, there in a nutshell, is why I don’t stress about the Sugar, Fat and Salt content of our diet. I keep it fresh and whole and cook from scratch as much as possible. I buy as little processed and pre-packaged food as possible and I make sure the kids know the difference between everyday food and treat food. We all know what proper good food tastes like and it means that the little guy knows when the pasta needs some pepper to give it a lift.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you keep the sugar and salt content of your families’ diet in check. Do you read all the packaging? Can you taste the difference when you eat something overloaded with sugar and salt compared to the unprocessed equivalent? What are your best tips for managing your families’ intake?