Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Brocizza to start the new year.

                             Pizza made with a Broccoli base; 

                         what else can it be called but Brocizza?

Nicole Avery, Melbourne mum and star of the very successful blog "Planning with Kids"has kindly put  my new pizza recipe on her blog. Check it out at
Whilst you're there have a look at her other recipes, which are fantastic, and loose yourself amongst her large array of great parenting tips.

May you be full of beans and Brocizza,


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Catering for dietary restrictions at kids’ parties: 10 hot tips.

A dairy, soy, gluten and sugar-free "ice-cream cake" replacement.

One of the hardest times for a child with allergies, intolerances or other dietary restrictions has to be party time. More than anything else, a party is judged from a child’s perspective by the sheer amount of cake, lollies and other goodies that can be devoured before you feel sick. Of course, as food sensitivities become more common, many parents kindly provide some allergy friendly alternatives, but this can’t be relied upon. And simply turning up and hoping for the best isn’t really a viable idea, unless you want to run the risk of your child leaving the party hungry and upset. To make parties more fun for everyone, I’ve compiled a few tips to help your child enjoy their friends’ celebrations without feeling left out or ill.

  1. ·      The first thing I do when I receive an invitation is always to contact the party parent and ask what food is being provided. Is it home made or from packets? What are the ingredients? If food is being catered, call the relevant organisation and ask them the same questions. You might think you’ll be perceived as a pain, but I have always found people to be very understanding. You aren’t asking them to change anything, just to let you know what your child can eat, so that you can plan ahead. Once they know your child’s needs though, they may even be more mindful in their catering and include some allergy friendly options.
  2. ·      Now that you know what party food they can eat, you know how much of a gap there is to fill. You can’t be expected to recreate the menu exactly, but often there are a few simple and common party foods that can easily be made allergy friendly and/or healthier. For example, fairy bread is never in my experience dairy and soy free. Apart from the butter, the bread will almost always have dairy or soy in it. So I often make my own version for Ethan, which looks the same but wont make him sick. Even better, I get to use my lovely Hoppers hundreds and thousands that are made without artificial colours and flavours. The more similar you can make the replacements to the original, the less left out and different your child will feel. Hence, the importance of asking what’s on the menu and planning ahead.
  3. ·      Sometimes other children will have similar food requirements and you can take it in turns with their parents to make supplementary party food. This is not always the case, but if your child does happen to have a classmate with allergies it might be worth teaming up with their parents. If nothing else, it’s always beneficial to have another person in a similar situation to bounce ideas off.
  4. ·      Allergies or not, it’s always helpful to fill your child up with a healthy meal before they go to a party. That way there’s less desperation involved when the food comes out. And importantly, they will be more able to control themselves around foods they aren’t allowed to eat.
  5. ·      For younger children, it’s a good idea to be present when food is being eaten. That way you can do any last minute packet checking, give them their replacements, steer them clear of foods they can’t have and remind them of any other limits you’ve put in place. As they get older of course they will have to learn to make sensible choices without you, but when they are young, they will need some adult guidance. If you can’t be there, perhaps ask another adult to supervise who will be able to make sure they choose wisely.
  6. ·      Cake is rarely free of the major allergens such as gluten and dairy, but may well be fine if the problem food isn’t a common cake ingredient (such as nuts). Asking, as always, is the key. I always make sure I bring my own allergy friendly cake, because that’s one part of the party kids really don’t want to miss out on. I make a big cake, chop it up, and freeze individually wrapped pieces until I need them. This is an awesome time saver.
  7. ·      Tell your child before the party what they can have so there’s no uncertainty or upset at the time. I always spell out exactly not just what they will be allowed, but how much. Just because the marshmallows don’t have dairy and soy doesn’t mean I’ll let Ethan eat the whole bowl! Then let them know what replacements you have brought so they know what to expect and that there are options for them.
  8. ·      Party bags are usually full of lollies, many of which are out of packets, thus providing no list of ingredients. What I tend to do is bring a few little toys and maybe one acceptable food item to replace the party bag lollies. I ask the parents for the bag during the party and do any necessary swapping whist they’re playing. That way the bag looks the same, but the contents are different (unless of course you have an enlightened parent who has only put toys in the bag).
  9. ·      When it’s your child’s party it’s nice to make sure you cater for others dietary needs too, as what goes a round comes around. Also, it’s really lovely to see kids who are not used to being provided for be able to eat the same as everyone else. Not to mention what a lovely break it is for their parents not to have to worry about what their children are eating.
  10. ·      Although allergies and intolerances can be annoying, sometimes it actually helps our children to be healthier. It means we do have to look at ingredients and consider what our kids are eating, rather than just assuming they can have a free for all of refined junk every time there’s a party. Children need to be educated about food, and this includes party food. Yes it’s ok to have treats every now and again, but these are not everyday foods and there are limits. And when party food makes Ethan bounce off the walls I point this out to him, because I want him to make the connection between what you eat and how you feel. It’s not something you’ll find in a pass-the-parcel, but knowledge about food and its affect on your mind and body is one of the most important gifts you can give your child.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Ethan’s Healthy Blog Post: a 6 year olds views on food.

When I told my son Ethan that I was writing a blog he wanted to know if he could write something too (well I think he meant dictate to me as he can’t write yet). So I thought why not? The views on food and health from a 6 year old could be entertaining and perhaps even enlightening. So here goes.

Me: What’s your favourite food?

Ethan: Lollies.

Me: What do you like about them?

Ethan: They’re sweet.

Me: Are lollies healthy?

Ethan: No.

Me: Do you know why lollies aren’t healthy?

Ethan: ‘Coz they can feed bad bugs that you’ve got and then it wont be healthy and the bad bugs will kill the good bugs and you’ll feel sick and your tummy will hurt.

Me: What’s your favourite healthy food?

Ethan: Corn.

Me: Do you know why vegetables are good for you?

Ethan: To make me big and strong.

Me: What foods can’t you eat?

Ethan: You can’t eat too many lollies or too much of anything. And dairy and soy can make me feel sick.

Me: Do you know why you can’t eat them?

Ethan: Coz you’ll feel sick. And if you eat too much sugar and you’re standing on the edge of a canyon and you go all silly and then you fall down and die.

Me: How do you feel about this?

Ethan: Not good. Coz I love that stuff.

Me: Do you think lots of other people have foods they can’t eat too?

Ethan: Yes I do, I think 9000 hundred trillion cazillion and 97 people in the world I think have got allergies.

Me: How do you know if something has dairy or soy in it?

Ethan: You have to read the ingredients.

Me: Is there anything else you want to say about being healthy.

Ethan: Well, if you’re healthy then you focus more, you’re stronger, you can run faster, you’re healthier, and last of all you can jump higher. You need to do lots of exercise and stay fit to be healthy. And you need to brush your teeth a lot to keep your teeth healthy. You have to eat greens and veges to be healthy. If something’s green and its food its good for you. If you eat greens you’re as healthy as pie (that’s just a joke). And carrots are good for your eyesight so then you can see in the dark. If you’re healthy you’ll live for longer so you can do more stuff, and if you’re tackling somebody then you will probably win if you’ve had more vegetables than them.

Me: Thanks Ethan, that's great.

Ethan has also taken a keen interest in my Instagram account, and has posted the following photos, of which he is very proud:

 Paddington Bear eating a chocolate coated strawberry

 Ethan strawberries maze.
When I asked him who was going to walk through the maze, he replied "my teeth".

Ethan's fruit display. He spent a long time rearranging our fruit bowl to create this lovely photo.

May you be full of beans,

Carla and Ethan.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Sweetness Without Guilt: The Norbu Lowdown.

We are bombarded with nutrition information left, right and centre. So much so that many people throw their hands in the air in exasperation and stop listening altogether. After all, if no one can agree, why not just eat whatever you want, right? Well, not exactly. There are actually some pretty solid pieces of advice that we would be wise to bear in mind. One of these is to minimise sugar intake (which I discussed in my post on the WHO sugar recommendations).

How do we reconcile this with the fact that we love the taste of sweet food and don't want to feel deprived? One solution that has fairly recently hit supermarket shelves in Australia is a product called Norbu. Under normal circumstances sugar substitutes fill me with horror. But Norbu is not in the artificial sweetener category, in which lie shockers such as Aspartame. No, Norbu is actually a natural sweetener, made from Monk Fruit and erythritol (derived from fermented, non-GMO corn). And it tastes very similar to sugar. It can replace sugar in hot drinks, cooking, desserts and baking. Sounds too good to be true I know. Which is why I contacted the people who produce Norbu and asked them some detailed questions, to put my mind at rest.

Before I add a new food to my diet I want to make sure it's healthy and there are no hidden ‘nasties’. When a product claims to be low GI, fructose free and contain nothing artificial, as well as not contributing to tooth decay and containing 96% fewer calories than sugar, you want to make sure there's no down side. I was recently lucky enough to ask Mark Chen from Flyjo (the company that sells Norbu) a few questions about their product.

Of course the first thing most people want to know is, are there any negative side effects? When I asked about this I was told that there can be a laxative effect when too much is consumed. The amount that can be eaten without digestive issues of course depends on the individual. If you have IBS or any other gut issues I’d probably steer clear of it. According to Mark Chen, compared to other sugar alcohols such as xylitol, the erythritol in Norbu is easier on the stomach and less likely to cause uncomfortable bloating. However, he suggests that people with sensitive digestive systems consult their doctor before consuming Norbu, just in case. 

Next, I was keen to understand a bit more about the ingredients, such as how their erythritol is made, and what exactly is the ‘flavour’ on the ingredient list. Apparently, non-GMO corn is fermented and then the result of that fermentation is spray dried to result in the granulated erythritol that is found in Norbu. And as for the flavor (which did worry me a bit), it’s just monk fruit. I was told categorically that “there are no other ingredients in the granulated Norbu besides erythritol and monk fruit”, neither of which are genetically modified. Yay.

So how does it actually compare to sugar in real life terms. Well, I think it’s remarkably similar in taste to sugar, although a bit subtler when dissolved in hot water. Compared to stevia-based products, the other fairly new additions to Australian supermarket shelves, I think it tastes better, and without any unpleasant aftertaste. As anyone who has ever done gluten-free baking would know, replacing ingredients with substitutes can change the finished product. Norbu, although able to replace sugar 1:1, has different chemical properties to regular sugar and so recipes might need some adjustments. The website has some recipes and tips to get you started.

Another thing I discovered (and like about Norbu), is that it is an Australian made product, produced by an Australian company and therefore adheres to FSANZ regulations. It is also the only table-top monk-fruit sweetener available in Australia, which sets it apart from the ever growing industry of sugar replacements on the market.

When deciding which sweetener to use there are a number of considerations. For example, some people want low GI, some limit fructose, many want to avoid artificial sweeteners, and others go for a paleo approach. Up until today I would have said that Norbu fits into all those categories except for the last. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Jane from categorizes the ingredients of Norbu as paleo. Which basically means that our ancestors could have (although they probably didn’t) make a food such as Norbu. Obviously monk fruit is fairly clearly a wholefood, but with a name like erythritol, how on earth is that paleo? Jane argues that so long as it’s not genetically modified (which Norbu isn’t), you could theoretically do some fermenting in your own kitchen and make erythritol.

The ironic thing is that many paleo advocates actually don’t eat as our ancestors ate. Not because of what they eat, but because of the quantities. If you truly ate as though you were a hunter-gatherer, you would consume only tiny amounts of sweet food very occasionally. Unfortunately products such as honey did not come in convenient jars - you had to fight the bees for it! These days it’s possible to live a theoretically paleo lifestyle whilst consuming far too much sugar (from sources such as honey, dates and fruit juice). Whilst paleo sweeteners may have more nutrients than refined cane sugar, high levels of fructose are still detrimental to our health on many levels. Not to mention the blood sugar effects of highly concentrated sugars, which are especially bad for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes (an ever increasing major risk factor for diabetes in which blood glucose levels are high but no symptoms are present).

Speaking of blood sugar, both my kids go a bit tropo on sweet foods. Not only this but my youngest has had bad candida overgrowths in the past, so I wanted to confirm that Norbu was low GI and would not feed candida in the gut. As I suspected, because it does not contain sugar, it doesn’t feed candida or send blood sugar on the roller coaster ride normally associated with sweet treats. This means that my children’s behaviour is noticeably calmer than if I gave them regular sugar. A pretty important quality, both for their health and my sanity.

Sugar, in all its forms, is detrimental to our teeth and guts because it feeds our ‘bad’ bacteria. In this modern world, full of antibiotics, stress, pollution, herbicides and pesticides, and lacking the fermented foods enjoyed by traditional cultures, our digestive systems are easily compromised. We are less able to maintain a balanced population of gut flora than in caveman days. Yet most of us still crave sweetness. Our ancestors may not have been able to pick a packet of Norbu off a tree, but I think for the health of our guts (and the rest of our bodies) it’s one of the best sweeteners around.

So in summary, Norbu is good for blood sugar levels and diabetes, contains no fructose, candida or tooth-bacteria feeding sugars or anything artificial. It’s arguably paleo, tastes like sugar and is non-GMO. Other than being non-FODMAPS (i.e. not good for IBS sufferers or those with a sensitive gut) and expensive compared to sugar, in moderation it doesn’t appear to have any major flaws. I’m definitely a fan. Now lets get cooking…

May you be full of beans and Norbu,