How to cook one meal the whole family will enjoy with nutritionist Steph Geddes

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If there is one thing that I find most challenging as a parent, it is meal times! Even as a Nutritionist who loves to cook, I am not exempt from the confusion, frustration and exhaustion of trying to nourish little ones (let alone the adults in the family too). From understanding safe serving sizes and introducing allergens when they begin their solids journey, to the fussy toddlers who throw everything on the floor – I’m here to tell you that you are not alone if you find mealtimes a struggle. 

I understand the constant worry about whether your little one is eating enough and whether you are offering enough nutritious food to sustain their growth and development. As parents I think these worries are only natural and whilst you may still have these thoughts regardless sometimes, I hope the information I am providing below will ease your mind a bit about how to offer a nutritious meal that the whole family can eat (and hopefully enjoy), remembering that our job is to offer them food but ultimately, they will decide how much they want to eat.  

Here are my top tips for creating a balanced nutritious meal that the whole family can eat.

Aim to include a source of protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and vegetables at each meal to ensure essential macro and micro nutrients are being offered. 

  • Protein: meat, fish, poultry, legumes, soy, nuts, seeds, dairy
  • Complex carbohydrates: wholegrains (wheat, barley, rice, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, millet), or products made from wholegrains (wraps, noodles etc) as well as potato, sweet potato and corn.
  • Healthy fats: avocado, oily fish, extra virgin olive oil, ghee, coconut, nuts and seeds
  • Vegetables: anything in season aiming for a rainbow of colours, fermented vegetables are also great. 

Offer a variety of foods (particularly plant foods). 

Studies have shown us that variety in food intake is essential for not only reaching our nutritional needs but to support gut health too. We also know that it can take up to 15 times for children to be exposed to a food before they try it so ensuring we continually offer variety is important and will hopefully reduce the likelihood of them becoming fussy. 

Be sure to include safe/favourite foods. This is a good way to ensure that no matter what we are serving there is always something in front of them that they are comfortable/familiar with and that they we know they will eat even if all else fails.    

Get creative with ways you serve the meals depending on your children’s age so that you can offer one meal to the whole family and not have to cook separate things. Let’s use an example meal here so I can show you how I would cook this meal for my husband and I and also serve up to my toddler or a younger baby.   

Recipe: Mexican Burrito Bowl

Recipe here:

 Here are some tips if serving this to a toddler:

  1. Cut the sweet potato into finger length chips for easy grip (and peel first if your little one is sensitive with textures). 
  2. Offer some of the corn on the hob and some cut off.
  3. Keep some plain beans aside to try as well as offering in the burrito mix
  4. Very finely chop some coriander and stir through the yoghurt to still expose them to the flavours of herbs without the strange texture or overpowering flavour
  5. Cut the capsicum into thin finger length strips or you can also try grating it
  6. Ensure a favourite/safe food is offered

Here are some tips if serving to a 6-12-month-old:

Baby-led weaning: 

  1. Cut the sweet potato into finger size chips for easy grip (and peel first if your little one is sensitive with textures). 
  2. Offer the corn on the cob
  3. Keep some plain beans aside to try as well as offering in the burrito mix which may be easier to pick up with their pincer grip
  4. Cut the capsicum into thin finger length strips or you can also try grating it 
  5. Ensure a favourite/safe food is offered

Spoon feeding:    

  1. Mash the sweet potato once cooked
  2. Steam the corn and capsicum and blitz with the burrito mixture until smooth
  3. Mash your avocado into the yoghurt
  4. Ensure a favourite/safe food is offered

Lastly, sit down and enjoy this meal as a family. Not only is it a great time to connect with one another but leading by example and eating alongside your little ones encourages them to try their food and can reduce pressure and help them feel more comfortable at mealtimes.  

Steph Geddes is a Registered Nutritionist specialising in culinary nutrition with a passion for inspiring others to enjoy eating seasonal, nutritious food. Steph works as a creative recipe developer, corporate public speaker, cooking class teacher and ambassador. Her recipes and nutrition advice are featured in worldwide cafes to blogs, mainstream media and celebrity cookbooks. You can find Steph on Instagram: @nutritionist_stephgeddes and her website bodygoodfood.com.au

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