If you can put food on the plate in “pretty much its natural form”, then you are eating “living food” that will be more sustainable and nutritious. Banting may be the buzzword, but Kath Megaw, a paediatric dietitian and co-author of Real Food – Healthy, Happy Children, says it’s “real” food that we should be eating.
“The reality is that when we allow our children to gorge themselves on processed foods, we’re effectively letting them pour petrol into a diesel engine. And the price they pay is immense.”
The unnatural food just makes them sluggish, irritable, hyperactive and hungry for more, she says.
“Living food comes from nature. Think fruit and vegetables, red meat, chicken, fish, nuts, seeds and berries. If it looks like it comes from nature – or at least from a farm – it’s a leap in the right direction.”
Real Food – Healthy, Happy Children, available next month, will help families break the processed food cycle. It’s compiled by a team of mothers, cooks and food lovers: Jane-Anne Hobbs (Scrumptious), Phillippa Cheifitz (Lazy Days) and Daisy Jones, an investigative journalist.
Megaw herself has more than 20 years’ experience as a paediatric dietitian, but much of this book is the result of experimentation on her own family over several years. “The first thing I did was ditch the fruit juice,” she says during a sneak preview of the book held in Cape Town.
The next step was to make small tweaks to the pantry and what the family was eating. She introduced a treat box with seven items that could be consumed during a one-week period. Each child could have one or more treat from this box.
The lesson was that if you ate everything in one go, you would have to wait until the next cycle to stock up your treat box. The children soon learnt to manage their treats, and eventually they lost interest in the snacks they had saved up.
“We eat easily of refined foods because they are easy to access. So we need to give them sweets in nature’s way, such as an apple straight off the tree.”
The book engages with several, often-controversial nutritional challenges with topics ranging from “life without sugar” to “ADHD and nutrition”. Of course, Banting has to feature, given its massive following at present. But Megaw looks at ways of increasing the fats while keeping some of the carbs. She also cautioned against replacing processed foods popular with the old ways of eating with other “Banting-friendly” alternatives.
Given the furore that erupted after Professor Tim Noakes’s advice to a mother on social media to wean her baby on to the Low Carb High Fat way of eating, Megaw’s book offers a more holistic approach to healthy eating. She says the blanket approach to eating does not apply to children.
Children with epilepsy, for example, have shown phenomenal results with the ketogenic diet where the fat, and not the glucose from carbohydrates, is used for energy.
However, the book is not just about nutrition. It’s about understanding what is going on socially, emotionally and developmentally at each stage of your child’s life and how their food choices can respond to these needs. It’s about making BEST choices: for their Body, Emotions, Senses and Taste.
There’s even a section on “girls loving their bodies and boys and supplements”.
Megaw has five guiding principles: eat living food, drink only water, let your family eat fat, ditch the “wonder” bread and avoid sugar. Children should not eat excessively high fats, but they should eat frequently.
Fortunately, Real Food – Healthy, Happy Children is packed with recipes for family meals that can be adjusted if there is a toddler in a family, or if you need something to pack more punch for an active teenager.
* Real Food, healthy, happy children by Kath Megaw is published by Quivertree Publications