I want to talk about feeding the five thousand… Well not literally, but sometimes feeding a young family can feel like that and I’m sure that this is something that other mothers must struggle with too.
These days food is anything but simple, isn’t it? Generations ago there was less choice and everything was a lot more straightforward. A mother trying to feed her kids on a tight budget would toddle off to the market or local shop and get whatever bargains she could. She might bulk out simple and healthy meals with loads of veg and a great doorstop of bread and butter.
Now it’s all more complicated because as well as an insane amount of choice, there are also constant warnings about the dangers of certain foods – one day butter is bad for you and the next it’s found to be better than margarine after all. Or one day an egg is the perfect start to the day and the next it’s telling untold damage to your system. And don’t get me started on the apparent perils of sugar.
Anyway, what it all boils down to is that a mother feeding her children has some important choices to make on a daily basis and has to be pretty switched on concerning something that once didn’t need much thinking about at all.
Right, so how do I deal with it? Well, I take all the advice with a pinch of salt and try and go for balance. That might be obvious, but I mean I go for balance in absolutely everything: eating in versus eating out; home-cooked versus pre-cooked meals and of course in portion size and the ratio of protein to carbs, veg etc.
I find this sort of thing helpful and often go back to the old classics too. I love doing a great big homemade soup as it means you can put loads of vegetables in and by the time it’s blended up and seasoned nicely the kids will happily eat a good two or three of their five-a-day in one bowl.
Another great family meal is any kind of spaghetti or pasta bake dish. Like the soup, they’re really just a vehicle for getting all sorts of goodness into the kids. By the time a despised mushroom or veg is cut up small, blended and incorporated into a sauce (which is then mixed up with pasta or spaghetti) it’s far more likely to go down without any fuss!
When it comes to eating whilst out and about it’s another kettle of fish, but there are some great cafes and restaurants out there that make it their business to cater for families. The junior menu at The Farm, for instance, keeps the young ones well away from overly-processed stuff and instead offers dishes such as organic free range chicken goujons or omelette made with organic eggs that come with a salad option.
I find that Wagamama is another great one for families as not only is the menu really healthy but the whole atmosphere of the place is incredibly relaxed and informal. You sit on long benches next to other diners and everyone just rubs along. And I never feel worried if the noodles fly onto the floor as the staff are so friendly and just sort of “get it”.
The same goes for Milano’s and Nando’s. Two family friendly restaurants that my kids adore with really good food. And these days you can sit back and relax and have them delivered too. A new guilty-pleasure that everyone seems to indulge in now of ordering restaurant food to your own door! It’s just a really easy thing to order and then before you know it you’ve got this impressively good delivery turning up. It’s basically the whole restaurant experience transported to your kitchen table, which is obviously a plus when you’ve got a slightly hectic family to think about!
This is a collaboration with Blue Note.