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Health Zone: Children's Well-Being: Teatime without tears; Try our guide to keeping the kids happy with a healthy eating regime they will actually enjoy.

Byline: Jill Foster

MAKING sure your kids have the healthiest diet possible is an uphill struggle - as every busy parent will testify.

You don't have time to start chopping fresh fruit and vegetables, you can't afford organic produce, and even if you do make a deliciously nutritious meal for your kids, chances are they'll turn up their noses at it.

But now, natural health and childcare specialist Karen Sullivan has devised a chart to help you provide your children with their favourite foods in the healthiest possible way.

Fish fingers, burgers, even chips can be made into healthy, more nutritional versions in less time than you think. And there are compromise ideas if you can't stick to the chart rigidly.

We asked Kay Fallon, a classroom assistant and mum of two girls - Louise, 8, and Joanne, 4, to substitute some of her children's everyday food for a healthier version.

Following the chart, Kay revamped some of her usual recipes and asked the children

for their reactions. "It didn't take much time to make these healthier alternatives," says Kay. "In fact, for some recipes it made no difference at all."

"The preparation took up the most time, chopping and peeling. On some days I just don't have time, particularly on Mondays when Louise has her swimming lesson. Busier parents - I only work part-time - may find them more difficult. But I suppose you could make a batch of burgers, pizzas or chips and freeze them.

"The recipes were very easy to follow, and I will continue to make the chips, the chicken nuggets and the fish fingers. I'll also use wholemeal pasta from now on because it makes no difference to taste or time.

"The children hardly noticed when I substituted some of the foods. There were a couple of instances where they said they preferred McDonald's or 'real' chicken nuggets - meaning shop-bought ones - but they ate the ones I made and enjoyed them.

"Having a compromise is handy. My children would not have gone anywhere near Greek yoghurt with honey but they loved the alternative of yoghurt with fresh fruit puree.

"But some of the compromises fared worse. They don't enjoy tinned fruit or veg, they always go for fresh. And to be honest, they would rather eat a breadstick than some shortbread.

"As for cost, apart from the organic foods - which are more expensive - I don't think it was even an issue. There was very little difference."


Day 1

I MADE the home-made burgers and chips and served them with vegetables. We'd normally have a roast dinner.

I found the recipes very easy to follow and cheaper than usual because I used mince. I suppose the burgers were a bit messy to make but the chips were very easy, and both children liked them.

The burgers made by hand were bulkier, which Louise noticed. I don't think the egg was enough to bind them as they were a bit crumbly. But I had a taste and thought they were lovely. The chips were tasty as well, I'll definitely make them in the future.

Preparation time: 20 minutes longer than usual.

Day 2

WE HAD Shredded Wheat Bitesize with sliced banana and wholemeal toast, which would not have cost any more than our usual Rice Krispies.

Louise took ages to eat the Shredded Wheat but both ate the wholemeal toast.

Joanne often says she does not like wholemeal bread, but if I put it in front of her, she'll eat it. She also liked the Shredded Wheat.

I gave them whole milk today but I think they are both old enough now to go on to semi-skimmed.

For dinner, instead of bought chicken nuggets, I tried the healthier alternative.

They said they still liked 'real' chicken nuggets - from the shop - but these were tasty.

For afters, instead of chocolate mousse, we had organic fromage frais with no extra sugar. It was slightly more expensive, but both children thought it was delicious. Preparation time: 10 minutes longer than normal.

Day 3

WE HAD Puffed Wheat with no sugar and sliced banana and they hated it. Their reaction after one mouthful - Joanne's in particular - was 'Ugh.'

So, because it was a school day and I did not have time to argue with them, I gave them both bran flakes. They had wholemeal toast. Again, if I just butter it and give it to them, they eat it.

In the evening, I made tuna and pasta bake - a meal I make quite a lot. But instead of white pasta, I used wholemeal. The kids didn't even notice. I think I will switch to wholemeal permanently now.

Preparation time: 0 minutes longer than normal.

Day 4

I MADE Ready Brek but their reactions were, 'Yuk, I'm not

eating this.' So I swapped it for melon and toast. They are allowed one glass of apple used to water down. But Louise asked me not to and then Joanne wanted it like that, too.

However, the rest of the meal has to be accompanied by water. The dentist saw them on Thursday and there was no juice in the morning, which I tooth decay. They are not allowed tea or coffee but they do have squash at school.

For dinner, I bought a wholemeal pizza base, topped it with with tomatoes, mozzarella and mushrooms.

Both girls liked it, although Joanne wouldn't touch the mushrooms, so I didn't put them on her side. Louise said it didn't taste as sweet as the bought one - perhaps they put more sugar in them.

Preparation time: 22 minutes longer than normal (seven minutes for breakfast, 15 minutes for pizza).

Day 5

I KNOW it's quite sophisticated for children but they really love hummus and pitta bread, so I gave them that for a starter. They also had breadsticks with sesame seeds and loved those, too. They don't eat many biscuits, perhaps one each when they get home.

Instead of bought fish fingers, I tried home-made ones, dipped in egg and flour and served with carrots, broccoli and home-made chips. It took slightly longer but wasn't a big hassle.

They then had an organic yoghurt for dessert and thought it was delicious.

Preparation time: 10 minutes longer than normal.TOTAL EXTRA PREP TIME OVER 5 DAYS: 72 minutes


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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 15, 2001
Previous Article:Health Zone: By Gum, It Works!
Next Article:Health Zone: Yo, It's Time To Dig Deep.

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