Introduction

Introduction

By
Louise Fulton Keats
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742707198
Photographer
Ben Dearnley

When I was a child, my parents were pretty firm about sticking to a routine where as a family we would sit down together each night, share a meal and chat about our day. I remember occasionally thinking how boring that was, at least compared with some other children I knew who were lucky enough to have dinner in front of the television, often eating at a different time from their parents. Yet, fundamentally, I also knew that it was a good thing to do, that it was valuable for all of us, that I was fortunate to come from a family who set the table and made the effort; I just didn’t know why.

As a food and nutrition writer, understanding the ‘why’ is now part of my work. The subject of family meals comes up time and again across a range of research subjects – from baby’s taste preferences to teenage alcohol abuse – and, repeatedly, the same conclusion is reached: family meals produce extraordinary outcomes for kids. Not only do children who sit down with their parents eat more nutritious foods, they’re also more likely to perform well at school, and are less likely to end up with an eating disorder or a drug or alcohol problem. Best of all, as teenagers, they’re more likely to say that their parents really know what’s going on in their lives.

There are huge benefits to be gained from including your child in family mealtimes from the outset, as soon as she begins eating solids. For a start, she’ll be seeing food in its whole form, instead of just as a purée. This will help build her familiarity with different ingredients and reduce her chances of being a fussy eater down the track. It will also help her develop a taste for your home cooking. Plus, it spares you from the bane of every busy parent’s life – having to prepare two different dinners each night.

My great hope is that this book might help more families sit down together for a meal and share the same foods. When I think of how this simple act can profoundly affect the health and happiness of an entire generation, it seems to me that it’s a goal worth prioritising.

Having said that, I’m also conscious of the food we provide our children being yet another source of comparison in the super-competitive world of parenting, where so many of us feel like we’re always falling short. I confess I often feel the pressure of trying to recreate the near-perfect home environment that I grew up in. I can now see just how hard my parents had to work to provide it. So, although there are unquestionable benefits arising from giving your children nourishing, home-cooked meals, and sitting down at the table with them to eat, I don’t believe it should come at the cost of your enjoyment of parenthood. So if what gets you through the week is your Saturday movie night with a pizza and a glass of wine, keep it up!

My overarching philosophy is that cooking for your children should be simple and relaxed. As a working mum, I certainly don’t have time to make complex dishes. I hope this book gives you the confidence to navigate those early years of feeding your children, without feeling like you have to cook special, individual meals for every member of the family. Thankfully, the best thing for them is also the best for you – sharing one meal.

Using this book

Unless otherwise noted, all of the recipes in this book are suitable for babies aged 6 months and older. Each recipe provides adaptations for both younger babies (6–9 months as a guide) and older babies (10–12 months as a guide), as well as toddlers (1–4 years as a guide).

Where a recipe adaptation refers to ‘your baby’s milk’, you may use either expressed breast milk or formula milk. It is fine to use a little cow’s milk in cooking from time to time, however it is not as nutrient-dense as your baby’s drinking milk, and it definitely shouldn’t be served as a drink in your baby’s first year.

The key thing to remember when cooking for babies is to take care not to use any ingredients that aren’t suitable for them, such as honey, raw eggs, salt and any choking hazards.

Serving sizes: Because babies, toddlers and older children eat such widely varying amounts, the serving sizes given in this book are for adults. In the case of baby purées, it’s quite useful to have an adult-sized serving for your baby, because you can set aside one portion and then freeze the remainder in separate portions for later meals. In the case of your toddler or older child, you may like to adjust the quantities according to her usual appetite.

Seasonings: As a general rule, the recipes in this book don’t include salt and pepper. Added salt is bad news for younger children in particular – their less mature kidneys can’t cope. Furthermore, too much can give them a taste preference for salty foods, which can have long-term health implications. Pepper is great nutritionally, but many children find it too spicy. However, you might wish to add a little, gradually increasing the amount, to help your child develop a liking for it. After setting aside your child’s serving, by all means season your food as you normally would (although most adults would benefit from a lower-salt diet too).

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