Getting your children to eat well is a big concern for many parents. The struggle involves not just knowing what to feed your child, but how to get them to actually eat it. Meal time battles are a great source of stress, and it’s in response to this that paediatric nutritionist Mandy Sacher has created her book: Wholesome Child.
I’ve come across a fair few cook books aimed at children, but Wholesome Child is currently my favourite. This is not just a recipe book but an impressively thorough nutrition guide as well. It includes digestible information about the different food groups, additives and preservatives, good vs bad fats, sugar, and tips for dealing with fussy eaters. There are also lunch box ideas and meal plans. The recipes are aimed at children between 1-6 years of age, however my husband and I have enjoyed the dishes as well.
The book is structured around an 8 step guide of incremental changes that can be made to your diet, which will allow you gradually introduce healthy foods and phase out unhealthy foods. Dramatic diet changes are rarely well appreciated by young or old, and by making small steps it helps to reduce the negative responses your child may have.
Step 1: Whole Grains – Replace processed grains with whole grains and focus on variety
Step 2: Reduce Sugar – Set healthy limits and create structure
Step 3: Increase Vegetables – Get creative and persevere
Step 4: Boost Protein – Balance healthy animal proteins with vegetarian options
Step 5: Healthy Fats – Focus on good fats and avoid processed low-fat foods
Step 6: Balance Fruit – In the recommended amounts, it’s a healthy part of a child’s diet
Step 7: Rethink Dairy – Moderate milk consumption and focus on high-calcium foods
Step 8: Avoid Nasties – Eat real food that is free of preservatives, additives, artificial colours, GM ingredients and excessive sodium
With the focus on making small changes, these suggestions are ones you are likely to stick to. It also helps that the recipes genuinely taste good.
Generally the recipes are gluten free and low in dairy, and use alternatives to sugar such as maple syrup, and use coconut oil rather than butter. Most commonly they are recipes you and your children are already familiar with such as brownies, cupcakes, fish fingers and patties, but they are boosted with vegetables and other healthy ingredients such as seeds, good fats and other wholegrains.
Spread throughout the book are charts and tips which allow you to make modifications to the recipes, for instance a guide on how to bake with different flours is extremely handy if you wanted to adjust some of the baking recipes to suit what you have on hand. Initially I didn’t have the variety of ingredients Mandy suggests, so adjusted the recipes to use spelt or wheat flour where gluten free was called for, or puffed rice instead of puffed quinoa, and when carob powder is used I’ve just used extra cocoa powder. But because I really like all the recipes and plan to keep cooking them, I’ve been gradually adding to my collection of pantry staples.
My favourite sections include Mandy’s suggestions on dealing with fussy eating, her guide on additives and preservatives, and her thorough guide on sugar which includes an eye opening section on hidden sugars and suggestions on how to curb sugar cravings and swap the worst offenders for healthier, but still tasty, alternatives.
On top of all that, the book is just gorgeous. The rainbow charts, decorative details and vibrant photography make it a pleasure to read through. This is a recipe book that you can immerse yourself in, and I have done this on numerous occasions. I like to sit down with Ash and say “What would you like to make today?” So far he has picked out the veggie platter (that wasn’t a recipe but he liked the picture, pg 47), choc chia pops (pg 89), strawberry milkshake (pg 225), carrot and cinnamon muffins (pg 83) and flaxseed crackers (pg 185).
One of the big successes we had was the Mac ‘n’ Cheese, which I am excited to share the recipe with you.
Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Prep: 30 min
Cook: 30 min
- 2 Cups Brown Rice Penne
- 1 Cup Cauliflower Florets
- 1 Cup Zucchini, Peeled And Shredded
- 1-2 Tbs Coconut Oil
- ¾ Cup Milk Of Choice
- 1 Tbs Tapioca Flour
- 1 ½ Cups Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
- 1 Tbs Chia Seeds
- Sea Salt And Pepper, To Taste
- 1 Tsp Paprika Powder
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.
3. Place cauliflower in a food processor and process until it reaches a rice-like consistency.
4. Heat oil in a large frying pan and sauté cauliflower and zucchini for about 5 mins.
5. In a saucepan, warm ½ cup of milk.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining milk and the flour until there are no lumps. Then whisk this mixture into the warm milk. Continue whisking gently until milk thickens to the consistency of heavy cream.
7. Mix cheese, chia seeds, sautéed cauliflower and zucchini into the milk-flour mixture and season with salt and pepper. For a smoother consistency you can process using a hand held blender.
8. Place the pasta in a casserole dish and pour the cheese and veggie sauce over it. Sprinkle with paprika powder and shredded cheese (optional) and bake in the oven for 30 mins until the top is golden.
Tip: For a school-friendly version, place mixture in mini muffin holders and bake for approximately 25 mins to create mini mac ‘n’ cheese muffins. If your child does not like the sight of seeds, them leave out chia seeds and use chia powder instead.