Our children can be picky eaters at the best of times! If you have identified some problem foods that need to be removed from their diet for awhile, you’ll need some tips and strategies.
Remember you’re not the first parent to face this, and many savvy parents before you have paved the way with fabulous ideas to share and make your job a whole lot easier.
Here we will focus on some common foods that may be reactive, and also offer some meal and snack ideas that appeal to kids and are wholesome and nutritious.
- Find the best milk alternative for your child (discuss this with your naturopath if you’re not sure): Soy, Rice, Oat, Almond, Coconut, Cashew, or make your own from a blend of nuts and seeds (easy peasy). You may want to ease them in to the new flavour by mixing 50/50 to start with.
- There are an abundance of coconut milk yoghurts and icecreams now available, as well as sorbets which are dairy-free
- Cheese is a hard thing to ‘replace’, but if you’re making a sauce or pesto then ground/blended nuts (such as cashews) and Brewer’s Yeast together can make a lovely dairy-free savoury tasting option. Some people can tolerate goat’s feta (this still is dairy but has lower lactose and is often more easily digested than cow’s milk), but savoury options like tofu, nuts and seeds, are important, and ensure good calcium with unhulled tahini, leafy greens, fish, nuts etc.
- Butter – flaxseed/olive/safflower oils, coconut oil, avocado, hummus, tahini. Often butter is better tolerated than milk or cheese even in dairy-sensitive people. A small amount of organic butter is still a good whole food.
- Vegan recipes and websites are worth exploring, as vegans eat no animal products.
- For much more info on non-dairy sources of calcium, read our article here.
Wheat or Gluten
- Remember that wheat contains gluten, but if you need to be ‘wheat-free’ you can still have rye, oats and barley. Being ‘gluten-free’ excludes these grains and their flours too. GLUTEN is a protein found in wheat. It is also found in lesser amounts in Barley, Oats and Rye. Not all people who react for example to bread and pasta are ‘gluten intolerant’, sometimes people are just reacting to wheat.
- Find a good WF/GF bread that your child likes to eat, most of these are good for toast but often not so good for sandwiches, depending on your child’s palate!
- GF wraps are available for lunchboxes
- Crackers – rice crackers, rice wafers, corn thins, unflavoured corn chips
- Muffins/Scones/Cakes – replace white flour with half rice or soy flour and half oatmeal. Many great gluten-free flour mixes are available ready-made for baking. Ground almonds etc can also be an excellent addition to baking recipes.
- Cereals – Bircher muesli or other wheat-free muesli, rice and buckwheat porridge, millet porridge.
- Safe grains include rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, corn.
- Safe flours include all of the above grains, plus coconut flour, tapioca, soy, chickpea, pea .
- Paleo recipes are great as they offer no-grain alternatives, like using cauliflower ‘rice’ or using cauliflower as a pizza base!
- Rice malt and stevia are natural sweetener options for baking and sweetening. Stevia is a plant that is naturally sweet without having sugar. This is available as a liquid or powder. Other alternatives are Agave Syrup, Rice Malt and Rice Syrup. Xylitol is another natural non-sugar sweetener.
- Use pureed fruit in baking or to naturally sweeten muffins etc
- The more a child eats sugar the more sugar they will want!
- Molasses and Maple Syrup (pure) have higher nutrient levels (calcium, iron) than other sources of sweetness.
Tomatoes, Potatoes and the Nightshade family
- Use kumara instead of potato for making homemade chips and fries
- Use plum sauce instead of tomato
- Use the savoury flavours of onions/garlic and herbs with salt as a savoury flavour instead of tomato sauce for pasta or on pizza.
- Depending on the reason for egg being in a baking recipe, there are many different options for substitution, and its easier than you might think! While there are commercial ‘egg replacers’, sometimes baking soda+vinegar can be just as good, or pureed fruit (apple or banana).
- Flaxseeds, Chia Seeds and Psyllium can all be used as gelling agents in baking.
- Yoghurt, tofu and arrowroot flour are all egg alternatives for baking also.
- Scrambled tofu can be a good alternative to scrambled eggs, add a pinch of turmeric for a good golden colour!
Low-reactive Ideas for Snacks and Meals
- GF/DF pancakes can be made with your choice of ingredients, eg. GF flour, almond milk, egg (or appropriate egg replacement).
- Poached eggs on your option of WF/GF toast
- Scrambled eggs or omelette with tomato, chives, lots of fresh herbs, herb salt or kelp and black pepper.
- Porridge made with oats, LSA, soaked millet or quinoa flakes, dates, dried apricots, cashews, almonds, sesame seeds, cinnamon, stevia/honey and soy/rice milk .
- Wheat-free muesli with fruit and yoghurt
- Fruit – any type, stewed, made into spirulina smoothies with berries and banana.
- Mini buckwheat pancakes with unsweetened acidophilus yoghurt, honey and fruit.
- WF/GF toast with topping of: Marmite/vegemite, avocado, almond butter, tahini, honey, hummus.
- French Toast (bread dipped in egg/milk, lightly fried) with herb salt or blueberries and pure maple syrup as a treat. Avoid refined sugar like jam and chutney in mornings.
Lunchboxes and Snacks
- Children often prefer separate pieces of vegetable than everything all mixed up together – avocado, carrot, tomato, alfalfa sprouts, carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, celery sticks, capsicum pieces.
- For more protein add a small tin of salmon, cooked chicken, falafel patties, chickpeas, kidney beans or hard-boiled eggs.
- Fritters – potato/corn/salmon/tofu
- Mini-meatballs made with organic beef lamb or chicken mince, grated carrot and fresh herbs etc.
- Sushi: or use nori seaweed sheets to wrap up anything! Noodles, salads, chicken, tofu.
- Rice paper wraps: often known at Vietnamese or “fresh” spring rolls, these are easy to use and fun to make. They are kind of see-through and make a convenient little parcel for munching. Fill with grated carrot, shredded lettuce, tofu/chicken/fish.
- Tuna/salmon/hummus/avocado served on rice thins/corn wafers
- Corn fritters made with GF flour (eg. rice flour)
- Frittata with kumara, veggies, etc
- Mixed nuts and seeds; pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, almonds, add carob pieces for sweetness
- Carrot and celery sticks, raw broccoli with hummus and/or pesto dips
- Blueberries: frozen berries can be easily thawed with a bit of boiling water from the kettle.
- Smoothie – rice milk, fruits, greens, natural yoghurt, flaxseed oil.
- Vegetable juices
- Boiled egg
- Home-made mini-muffins (sweet with fruit or savoury with vegetables/seeds) made with wheat-free flour, eg. quinoa/rice
- Club sandwiches are always a winner!
- Organic unsweetened yoghurt with fresh fruit
- Fruit salad – apple, pineapple, kiwifruit, banana, pear, peach, plum, water/rockmelon, nectarine, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, etc
- Fresh fish (salmon or tuna steaks, snapper, terakihi, etc) baked or panfried with lemon juice, herbs, pepper, cumin etc. Serve with potatoes or rice and veggies.
- Noodle soup – use vermicelli/egg noodles/soba/udon noodles with mixed vegetables and meat (optional) or add miso paste.
- Steamed vegetables, pesto and protein option with GF pasta or rice noodles.
- Stir-frys with meat/tempeh and any chosen vegetables, wheat-free noodles or rice
- Burritos/tacos/tortillas made with corn tortillas – filled with beef/chicken or legumes and salad
- Roasted vegetables including chopped potatoes, kumara, pumpkin, parsnip, carrot, capsicums, fresh asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, garlic bulb, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, pine nuts, rosemary, rice bran oil, cracked pepper, sea salt, paprika, cumin seeds etc…bake for 30-50mins. Optional: roast meat.
- Mild Thai green curry with chicken or fish, steamed vegetables and brown rice
- Pasta with pesto, any chosen fresh and frozen vegetables, chicken/fish/sausages/tempeh, herbs and oily dressing with flaxseed/olive oil/vinegar.
- Spaghetti Bolognese (or meatballs) with lots of veggies on GF spaghetti.
- Grilled chicken with baked potatoes filled with hummus, feta, chives
- Soups, casseroles or broths
- Polenta shapes
- Water is just fine! Flavour if desired with a slice of lemon or cucumber, a sprig of mint or lemon balm.
- Herbal Teas: Children often enjoy herbal teas, especially if they pick the herbs themselves from the garden. Lemon Verbena, Lemon Balm and Mint are all favourites. Red bush tea is mineral rich. Licorice tea is naturally sweet.
- Always dilute fruit juices at least 50% with water.
Please contact us if you’d like any more recipe or food ideas, or if you’d like us to direct you to some of our favourite recipe websites.
Like any change, it can feel overwhelmingly hard at first, but soon becomes second nature. Children are adaptable, despite what they may tell you, and better health and wellbeing is always worth the effort!