I take family favourites and just make them healthier
NUTRITIONIST Mandy Sacher is no stranger to fussy children and mealtime chaos. But it’s not her two children who give her the biggest challenge. The Sydney author of Wholesome Child (pictured left) has helped thousands of Australian families tackle the tricky topic of family mealtimes. She says fussy eaters, time stress at mealtimes and lunch-box solutions are her most referred problems.
“Meals happen three times a day, so they have a big and constant impact,” she says. “What I hear most often is that parents have no time, there is a prevalence of junk food on the menu and a high degree of food refusal. Lack of dinnertime inspiration is another big one. One of the main things I help parents with is how to expand a child’s food options and my approach is to stretch them little by little.
“If you try to overhaul a family’s diet in one swift move, it becomes overwhelming for the family and too difficult to implement.”
Sacher’s one-on-one approach starts with a family providing a three-day food diary which allows her to see where the deficiencies lie and to create changes that won’t be too drastic.
“I take family favourites and just make them healthier, like fish fingers made with salmon, or chicken nuggets with the addition of cauliflower. I once had an extreme case of an eight- month-old child who was only eating red velvet mud cake. I got the parents to try my black bean brownie recipe and the mother later told me I’d saved her life,” she says.
Sacher says there are also many ways to make a main meal into a lunch box favourite — leftover mac’n’cheese into cupcake holders for the next day; roast beef sliced thin for sandwiches and wraps; leftover steamed vegies mixed with pasta and cheese or rice for fried rice.
“Try wherever possible to make a multi-tasking meal and cook double batches to freeze leftovers, it doesn’t take much longer than cooking a single batch,” she says.