Friday, November 16, 2007

Castle Hill Walk

Today was a bright clear sunny day so as it has been a long weekend we figured we would take Katie (and baby sister) out to Castle Hill for walk. It is very suited for little kids really - and even has toilets! It was great to be able to take them into the mountains as it is something we don't do enough of! The walk up to the rocks was pleasant and quite busy with tourists and locals alike as well as climbers hauling their matresses around, practising.

The snow on the tops was beautiful and there was plenty of scrambling in and around the huge boulders. Very exciting for a three year old. And Springfield made a great stop (with toilets and a couple of great cafes) for the kids. Well worth the effort to drive to!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Specialist organic shops

I like food. I like tasty food. I love additive free food. So you would think that me going into a specialist organic shops would be heaven. Well it's not! The one I used to like closed down. And I keep trying new ones but I have yet to find anyone that I trust!

For a start, most places are tiny and carry a very limited stock. They all seem to have the usual cereals and tinned beans, identical to the ones which can be found at a fraction of the cost at the major supermarket down the road. They also sell small weighed bags of organic raisins and small foods - with a 'use by' date penned in. Obviously taken from a large container of the same. But how long has that been opened for? No way of telling.

The fruit produce is always Expensive. I buy local apples at around 99c a kg currently. Usually I can get them from the local orchard - I even drive past the trees. They aren't organic - but they are very local. The latest organic apples I saw were $3.99 a kg. And they were shipped from north island. Wow.

I would love to buy organic - but it is so incredibly expensive. Everyone I talk to tells me it isn't - but whenever I venture into one of these places I walk out amazed at the prices.

I particularly love seeing 'flavours' listed in ingredients of organic food. Personally I like real vanilla - with lots of those black seeds floating around the mixture - not a 'flavour'.

I am actually pro organic. It's just that I like to think I am sensible too. I would rather we ate the quantity of fruit and veg that we eat, than have to buy only a third of organic. As it is I spend about $90 a week on fruit and veges. That has really gone up since changing our diets. $250 a week??? I don't think so!

As for the staff at most of the organic places I have so far visited. I thought they would be passionate people. Ready to tell the customer the benefits of organic, the 'history' of the produce on their shelves. The name of the chicken that laid the eggs even. Nah. Not interested. The new butcher where I tried this week - not bothered about explaining the ingredients to me (in my quest to find safe additive free sausages). I thought these people would talk my ear off. I know I would if I could source decent quality produce!

And it leaves me wondering - what sort of rich people use these places? My guess? Ones who like to tell everyone about how they only eat organic. Even if it costs the earth.

Friday, November 2, 2007

More walks in and around Christchurch

A few weekends ago we drove over to Glentui falls. I'd looked at lots of walks to try to find something that would appeal to the kids. It is a lovely spot. Katie is 3 1/2 and enjoyed the walk - although I was holding her hand really tightly at the drop off parts! We didn't manage to do the complete loop - a combination of factors - not enough food, Katie only having shoes on, underestimating the time it took to drive there...

We got as far as the little bridge that crosses the Glentui river - almost half-way. But as we are trying to build up her little legs we decided it would be prudent to return the way we came.

The waterfall was stunning. The kids didn't get bitten - but we did - so now insect repellent is part of the kit.

And today? We did the Barnett Park loop. Katie loved the cave at the top - we didn't manage to get to Paradise cave. It's a long walk for little legs and by then she was starting to flag. We set off quite early and had the track to ourselves initially. After our picnic it got pretty busy with locals walking dogs. And about 5 minutes before the end, Katie sat on the path - shattered. She didn't say anything! So we carried her for a few minutes - more food needed I think! And maybe emergency chocolate!

I just wish there was a website where you could see what walks were suitable for kids. You know, something interesting and about the right length. I would also suggest doing the loop anti clockwise (as the regulars do) as there is more loose stuff on the path on the descent if you do it as the books suggest.

Most 'family' walks are rather boring I find - too short and too flat. We like hills, not too many drop offs - and if there's a toilet at the start all the better!!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The latest on the supermarket thing...

Well my idea of going to the supermarket less often is working however - I managed three weeks. I am going to carry on doing this as there are some valuable lessons I have already learnt:

We don't use as much toilet paper as I thought (maybe Katie has stopped unravelling it all off the roll and ripping it up like confetti at long last).

We eat heaps of easiyo yoghurt. At least twice as much as I thought we did. We don't like greek and honey. That's the only flavour I had left...

Never underestimate the amount of toothpaste a preschooler can go through if they are in a tooth brushing mood.

Jam and fruit spread is important. You will always want the type you don't have in. No matter how many varieties you have in.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Introducing Katie to the outdoor life

Katie is now three and a half and we have decided that it's time to start taking her out walking, with a view to building her up for tramping in this great country. Now for some people this would be easy - but Katie is a runner, jumper, explorer and absconder. In the shopping mall she is always 'being a butterfly' and bumping into people by accident. She loves stopping and touching things then running off without taking any notice of her immediate surroundings. So it has taken us this long to trust her! Annabelle goes in the backpack so we don't have to worry about her too much yet.

Anyway this weekend we took her to Godley Head for an introduction. The day was beautiful - windy but very warm. She loved running round and exploring. It actually took us over an hour to do the 30 minute walk - but we did see everything. At least twice. And most rocks were scrambled up on. And all sheep bleated at. You get the idea.

Today we went over to Glentui falls. It was another glorious day. We had left the house by just after 9am. At least when you have early risers then you get quiet roads and easy parking! We took the path to the falls first. Katie was quite worried - as there have been a lot of waterfalls on TV and her favourite characters only just manage to escape from plunging into the icy depths! Anyway her ideas have changed and she thinks that they are 'very pretty' now. We started the loop track and got as far as the river and then picnicked. I guess you have to stop a lot when you have little kids! All told we were walking over an hour - quite enough for little legs - for now.

Big supermarkets

I have grown tired of spending far too much in my local supermarket and seemingly getting not much in my trolley. So last week I sat and wrote a shopping list for a month's supplies of 'staples'. I've decided that I will allow myself visits to the butchers and veg shop. And to the bakery for 'emergency' bread and milk. But nothing else. For me this is a big deal.

Anyway I went down to try my local butcher - a nice guy who told me about where the free range chickens came from and how he was trying to source decent organic meat. It's not perfect - but it is pretty close and he even held the door open as I left so I could manage the stroller and toddler!

But the thing is I am fed up with supermarkets. Meat comes heavily packaged. And I have no idea where it comes from. And when I want to get the milk I have to walk all the way round of course with toddler in tow and pushing the stroller just to buy a few dollars worth! There's lollies at the checkouts and bright eat-me-now packaged goodies on every shelf at toddler height - lollies, chocs, pink-iced buns, biscuits, cakes, chippies, flavoured popcorn...

Why do I put myself through it every week? So this month is an experiment. How much will it save me or cost me - to do the one big monthly shop and then to use the local suppliers?

I think that this is the start of the decline of the big impersonal supermarket and the rise of the local specialist. I will let you know the results of the experiment in the new year.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


I have been buying free range for as long as I can remember. Personally I like to think that happy hens produce happy eggs and a happy consumer, but recently I got to thinking about the nutritional content. Are free range eggs actually more nutritionally sound? After all we know that wild salmon has a different omega-3 structure to farmed and that game is leaner than farm reared meat. Surely a hen that is free to roam about and is fed a varied diet would produce eggs that would nutritionally differ from ther caged counterparts?

Well I am still trawling through the research to find anything that might sufficiently answer this question in an unbiaised study. I will let you know if I actually find the answer!

Meanwhile I am still happy buying happy eggs, trying to do my bit for the poor caged birds that lead such a miserable existence.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Inside New Zealand Doco on food additives

Hooray for Inside NZ- what's really in our food! Finally some prime time exposure about this issue! It was I thought a well put together doco. It could have been very sensationalist but was quite restrained. Enough info to be the informative and a great place to start for the average kiwi!

I am keenly watching what is going on in the UK press - The Daily Mail, The Guardian, the Times, just to watch the big companies switching ingredients and ditching as many additives as possible!

I am hoping that this doco is the first in a long line of them. Trans fats next please!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Finally more details regarding the Southampton University study on food additives done for the FSA

Well at long last there are a few more details about the study being released. I am still longing to get my hands a full report. My friends and family in the UK tell me that it has made a big media splash yet again but so far down here in Godzone it remains quiet with attention focussed on the rugby of course!

I hear that supermarkets are pulling the 'nasties' from their own label products. So I guess the big name brands will follow. About time. Then hopefully our government will follow suit and I might actually be bale to go shoppping without having to read most labels.

How exciting!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

solvent as an ingredient?

This seems to be cropping up more and more. It started with a fruit bread based snack for DD#1 - and for once it had an icing - white of course - no food colourings allowed... And there it was 'solvent'. yuck. I have been trying to find out what it is of course and so far as I can tell it will be propylene glycol . There are some interesting findings about this stuff. Now I understand that like all chemicals they can be quite hazardous in large amounts - or at 100% concentrations. However I don't want to eat solvent. Thanks. I also don't want it near me - and why? Well my mother-in-law suffered a bad reaction to our babies wipes - and perfumes and air fresheners -anything with this stuff in it. And if she could have such a bad reaction and need an inhaler from just walking into a room where I had changed a nappy - WHAT IS IT DOING TO ME AND MY BABY?

So read the labels. As for me - I am throwing out the wipes and will buy some flannels - we'll go back to doing things the old-fashioned way. And as for DD#1 - we won't be buying any more fruit bread 'treats'.


I love bread. Fresh baked, golden, crispy. It fills the home with its unmistakeable aroma. Mmmmmmm. So when I make soup, I make fresh bread - yeast, strong flour, sugar, salt and water. Sometimes I even add rosemary or garlic or something a bit special. What I don't add are improvers. Or emulsifiers. Or other such garbage. But it amazes me how common they are in shop-bought bread. I don't really want a loaf to last several days. I want it to taste nice. I want it to have a great texture and be wonderful spread with butter or whatever I fancy.

Anyway, things have been busy at home and I had the ends of 3 shop bought loafs on the counter top- ready to feed the ducks actually. Looking through the ingredients aside from the ingredients I mentioned previously I found:
soya flour
vegetable oil
canola oil

I don't want vinegar in my bread. My husband can't stand vinegar and when you try and toast this sort of bread the kitchen is filled with a strong acidic waft. Yuck! I don't actually want oil in my bread either. And I like my flour to be normal from wheat rather than soya - or am I just a purist? I will happily exchange honey for sugar on occasions as the loaf demands - or add grains or fruit, or malt extract. But it makes me annoyed that I have to stand in the supermarket with two kids as I try to work out which is the best loaf - that is to say - the one that most closely resembles real bread.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

normal service will be resumed shortly...

Well baby has kept me up a lot recently hence the lack of postings! But I've also had food poisoning. It seems that when we go out not only am I more aware of what is in my food but that some standards aren't exactly as good as my own!

Seriously - going out for food is getting hard. Burger places are loaded with additives and trans fats, Chinese has MSG usually. Family places have too many to list. It makes going out for food rather hard.

We have discovered going out with kids is really hard. First we have to please everyone - now baby is 10 months and has gone right off baby food, we have to find somewhere that does high chairs and food that she will eat. And that DD#1 will eat - without additives. And the food has to be ready right now. Or in no more than 5 minutes. Or there's trouble.

Doesn't leave many options does it? Recently I've being trying to explain why we 'don't eat things that are brightly(luridly) coloured' in our family. Ever tried to explain to a three year old why she doesn't get lollies? Or bought biscuits, or gingerbread men with hundreds and thousands on them? Or bread with pink icing or doughnuts with blue? Or flavoured chippies? And the list goes on and on. I don't think we do too badly all things considered. She seems to have grasped that it makes us 'poorly' - not that it turns her into a unreasonable, defiant monster. So maybe that's okay for now.

We made gingerbread men the other day. I wondered what we would do for decoration. I needn't have been concerned: they got eaten before the cookies were cool.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Take one chicken...

Ever noticed how expensive portions of chicken are? Buy a whole chicken instead. First make sure it isn't one that somes prestuffed or pre injected with all sorts (they usually come in an oven bag ready to roast). Then roast it. Easy. Make the gravy with cornflour and the meat juices from the pan - it really helps to season the chicken and stuff it with an small onion and a bay leaf! If you are going all out for excellent gravy then 1/2 a celery stick, a couple of peppercorns and some sticks of carrot in the cavity help.

Then slice all the meat - and tear off the bits from underneath and dig into the wings and everywhere on the carcass - you'll be amazed how much there is if you don't normally do this!

So go for it with a roast dinner. Make it easy by doing dry roast potatoes, kumara, carrots, pumpkin and parsnips at the same time as the roast chicken.

So what do you do with the leftovers? Ideas...

have another roast dinner in a giant yorkshire pudding
eat in sandwiches
warm and make a mushroom and white wine sauce to top it
toss with pasta and pesto
add to pizza (if thats your thing)
throw it at your neighbours
puree it then freeze it into bullet shapes and then shoot fat people with it
make it into a hat
sell it on trademe
try to clone it and re-create the original living organisms
use it to lure homeless people into your car and then sell them on trademe
parcel it up and send it to Ethiopia

Is anyone reading this?

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The deli counter at the supermarket

This is not a friend of anyone who is trying to avoid food additives! It all looks so good - but when you read the labels they go on and on: salts, nitrites, honey, MSG...

I have never found anything that is really ok to eat and doesn't contain heaps of the nasty chemicals! We do indulge in ham on the bone occasionally.

Really it seems that you get what you pay for. Budget end is sausage and luncheon. Dare you look at the ingredients? Top end is prosciutto and ham on the bone. Even sundried tomatoes usually have preservative in.

A lot of hams contain honey - how many parents read that label before giving it to the kids? Most contain MSG and are bulked out with water/brine. Ever had real ham? It is drier and slightly sweet and a different shade of pink than the average. And totally delicious. Unfortunately it is now very hard to get hold of here. I know. I've tried. If anyone knows of a place here in Christchurch that does it properly then please reply!

Bring back the old fashioned butchers!!!


One of the questions I get asked the most is just what I put in sandwiches for the kids. I think we eat a more varied diet than most because of avoiding certain products. So here is a list of the regular fillings - with or without salad of course:

cream cheese
tuna and mayo (with sweetcorn sometimes)
poached salmon and mayo or tinned salmon
ham (occasionally - and the best quality I can buy)
fruit spread
almond butter
nutella (occasionally) - and always on wholemeal grainy bread
leftover cold roast chicken
leftover beef joint

There are plenty of other options too that my daughter doesn't really like

cottage cheese
peanut butter (sometimes with fruit spread)
smoked salmon

And then there's the toasted sandwich with a salad garnish:

cheese and onion or pineapple or tomato
mashed up baked beans ( protein and fibre!)

I love that daughter will eat these as they are a really quick and easy balanced meal - if you put some cherry tomatoes, celery and carrot sticks, cucumber stars (use cookie cutters)and lettuce on the side too.

Who said that avoiding food additives was hard?

Food additives

So how widespread are food additives? Particularly the ones that the latest research tells us our kids should avoid at all costs. They are in just about every processed food from bread and spreads to canned goods (once upon a time didn't canning actually eliminate the need for preservatives?), drinks, puddings... Frozen foods even contain them.

I make my own bread. I confess - I do own a bread maker to help things along. All the recipes use surebake instead of regular yeast. It took trial and error to work out the actually quantity of yeast I really needed. It's half. So by omitting the additives I get to buy just yeast (which is cheaper) and use only half the quantity. You also don't need the milk/dried milk. Real bread. Oh -don't expect it to last. It's wonderful on the day and great for toast the next morning but then use it as breadcrumbs as it will be too hard and dry. I wonder how the manufacturers manage to make theirs last 3 or 4 days? Oh that's right ;-)

Not all cheese is equal...

Cheese. Now there's a topic. Nowadays not only do we get 'normal' cheese, but processed cheese triangles, processed cheese singles, squirty cheese in a tube, cheese string... I see so many friends hand over a flat shiny square fresh out of the plastic to their kids and explain that it's "cheese".

Well that isn't cheese. Real cheese is a living organism and doesn't keep well unless in the correct conditions. Here in Christchurch we have a brilliant shop called 'the canterbury cheesemongers' and if you think that 'cheese' will cover it - pay them a visit.

My eldest daughter knows her cheddar from her edam and her fresh mozzarella from her parmesan. And gouda. And so on. I think I used the word "cheese" when she was under 18 months - and then it was "try this...." type. It's fun and the flavours are amazing - goats and sheeps cheeses, blue, waxy ones, ones with holes... She even helps me choose!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Party Pooper 2

Well we knew that additives affected daughter #1, but boy! What a terrible day! Today yesterday's party, she has been argumentative, shouty and screamy. She has refused to co-operative and has had several time-outs when she normally doesn't need any! She has deliberately wee-ed on the carpet three times! And she has not been herself at all. Normally pretty articulate, she has gestured and grunted her way through the day. Around 5.30pm she started to 'come out of it'. She still isn't back to normal yet. I am hoping like crazy that she has them out of her system but tomorrow morning.

So the question is - is it worth it? After a day like today, if it is the additives then I would definitely say no. But then how do you persuade a three year old that they can't eat the party food? The only thing I can think of is that you stuff them full of food before the party. Any ideas gratefully received.

Just how long do additives take to clear through the body?

Party pooper

Elder daughter has been eating really well all week. However, this afternoon we went to a three year old's birthday party. It was the usual party food: cheerios and sauce, fairy bread, pretzels, cookies with a variety of bright food colouring laden toppings... and a bright yellow cake. She had a blast! I wouldn't expect any different food to be provided for her but she has the knack of only eating the food that she never gets at home! Unfortunately the fresh fruit was at the other end of the table. Anyway my point is that she ate all this stuff and was fine at the party - but oh boy, has she been manic since she came home. She wasn't just excited, she kept talking non-stop, she was even more active than normal and was just not herself. And believe me I am used to her exuberant ravings!

So I wonder how long it will take her to get these chemicals out of her system? We'll see as she had a normal tea and I know that MSG takes a while to show up.

It WAS good cake though...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Eat in season

Ooooh how I love the food year now. I eagerly await the best apples and pears of Autumn now like I used to long for juicy strawberries at the start of summer. And then what of asparagus, pumpkins, corn and new potatoes? It is so satisfying to buy fresh, cheap and in season and use in a recipe! So being autumn here now what am I enjoying? Pumpkins - great roasted round a joint of meat, or in soup with freshly-grated nutmeg. And big potatoes baked in their jackets. Apples and pears- usually eaten as a snack out-of-doors in an afternoon. Mushrooms - not that these are seasonal - but big fat portabellos baked in the oven and eaten on toast for breakfast - what a way to start the day!

Everything tastes so good. If you buy from a supermarket, it is much harder to see what is seasonal. Try it for a week. Taste the difference.


This is supposedly the hardest of being additive free but actually it is quite manageable. Regular snacks are fruit, plain air-popped popcorn, breadsticks, sandwich, breakfast cereal (eaten without milk) and yoghurt. We also have toast with fruit spread and fruit toast. I make biscuits - like Anzac cookies (with less coconut and more oats) and afghans with extra cornflakes. Occasionally we'll have a Movenpick ice-cream. It's amazing when elder daughter is hungry how she'll ask for weetbix! Ot to make her favourite chocolate chip cookies. - With REAL chocolate. Beware the 'melts' or 'compound' chocolate or 'cooking' chocolate. There is something awesome about a batch of real cookies - and you can skimp on the chocolate as the flavour is so much better than the additive laden brown 'chocolate'.

I heartily recommend Barkers fruit Glory as a fruit spread and if they don't sell it at your local supermarket - then you can have it couriered for $5 in South Island- which with petrol prices as they are is less than a trip to a shop on the other side of town! The blackcurrant one is AMAZING!!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Buy local

Easy. Don't give the supermarkets your money for fruit and veges that you can buy direct. Just think - they are cheaper for one. You can see what you are getting (from the actual trees!). You can talk to the growers. You are supporting your local economy. Fruit will be fresher. It will have only travelled a minor distance. Try it!

We like fresh fruit juice in the morning so I buy fruit. Being Autumn I buy apples currently. They cost me $3.49 Kg at the supermarket. On offer they cost $1.49 Kg. At the local growers there are about 16 different varieties to choose from and the most expensive costs $1.40 Kg. But they do 'seconds'. Slightly mis-shapen, or with a mark on the skin. The supermarkets wouldn't accept these - and the cost -50c a kilo! They taste great and make fantastic juice.

Buy local!

Some benefits of changing to an additive free diet

The first change happened quickly - the highs and lows of my daughters moods evened out substantially. There were less tantrums and was more willingness to listen. Isn't this what every parent wants to hear? There are lots of small changes too - not the least being that her poo looks normal instead of it being dyed by the chemicals!

When we ditched the additives as adults, I lost 5kg. Without doing anything else. Wow! What a great diet! Having to cook more from scratch made me more aware of what was going in our mouths and I even burnt calories from making the food. My food bill at the supermarket reduced. It went up at the vege shop.

My daughter drinks water or milk. Nothing else. Cheap and kind to teeth!

My pantry is full of old fashioned foods - I have huge tubs of flour, dried fruits and sugar, dried pulses for soups, corn for popping... biscuits can be made,baked and eaten in 15 minutes. it's all good honest cheap and preferably local produce.

I started making my own stock - but as it takes ages and isn't that cheap to do I find it more convenient to buy liquid (without MSG and preferably low-sodium) ambient blocks. They taste great and with a few veges, make a wonderful soup or gravy.

Food tastes different without additives. It is nowhere near as strong tasting. It took us probably three months to get used to the 'blander' taste. Now we can taste immediately if there's MSG in the mix. I prefer to eat real food. It means eating out is hard - a lot of cafes aren't used to making from scratch. Most places use packets for gravy( bleugh!). And some cake shops charge a fortune for cakes which haven't seen a real egg or milk in the mix. At least it saves money as you're less likely to indulge! Don't get me wrong, we fall off the wagon occasionally. But then next morning we get right back on again.

My latest 'thing' is a real breakfast. I have a list and we try and do a proper meal every day. We even get up earlier to do it. Scrambled eggs on toast, pancakes and fresh fruit and maple syrup, grilled tomatoes, portabello mushrooms on ciabatta... Today was ham and cheese and tomatoes on french bread and cereals. I have lost 3 kg since we started eating more. Weird, huh?

I no longer shop in a daze. In fact shopping is quick. Bread, milk, and meat with any staples we've run out of - but no biscuits or cakes or chippies or lollies. It takes you round the outside of a supermarket usually.

So even if you only want to lose weight - try additive free.

Canola Oil

So what is the business with canola oil. I thought it was made from the canola plant. After all sunflower oil is made from sunflower seeds and olive oil is made from olives. And peanut oil is made from peanuts,etc. No. It is made from rapeseed oil - which has been refined so as to make it 'generally considered fit for human consumption'. I thought I was quite clued up about all this. I even asked some of my friends - and we were all in the same clueless quagmire. 'Canola' is derived from the word 'canadian'. Hmmmm. Do the research and you'll find a lot about it. I think the jury is still out on how safe (or not) it is - but I do know that as I am opposed to GM then I won't be buying it. I threw out what I had and have started spreading the word. So we just have olive oil now. And butter. Ah well....

Sunday, May 13, 2007

What not to feed your baby

All parents here get a little handout showing 'good' foods to feed a baby. Unfortunately there are few explanations on there as to the foods chosen. Personally there is no way that I would ever feed a baby mini sausages (being full of MSG and colourings and low quality meat), luncheon sausage (ditto), processed cheese (have you read the ingredients), rice crackers or rice biscuits (MSG and more). The crackers shown on the handout are high in sodium, trans fats and contain flavourings and MSG. The dried apricots shown are beautifully orange/apricot colour - so of course contain sulphur dioxide - not the scraggy brown colour that you get if they are just packed. So is this really a good start to nutrition? Dried apple rings also contain preservative, finger jellies usually are coloured with artificial additives, chicken nuggets are high in trans fats and often contain very low grade meat and ham has sodium nitrite and can have honey extracts as well as milk products and MSG.

I have two books which are full of recipe ideas for under two's. One has lots of short cuts - using packets from the pantry and stock cubes! What is wrong with real food?

It actually makes things a bit dull when it comes to finger foods. There really isn't a lot you can feed a six month old that they can manage. Most of my friends give cookies (like ginger nuts) and flavoured crackers to their babies to gum. Maybe if there was more explanation of the handout about why certain foods should be avoided then parents would be more likely to follow the advice. I give rusks and the crusts off white toast. And an occasional plain cracker if bubs won't stop screaming whilst I prepare her tea. Soon she will be getting plain breadsticks and bits of fresh fruit too. However I make up for it when it comes to her real food. I wonder what effect all those additives have on such little bodies?

Get baking

So how do you get round the problem of not being able to wander the supermarket aisles and load your trolley with goodies? You bake. You use real ingredients and remember that they have a shorter shelf life. And they taste sooooo good. Real cookies, cakes and bread. The fantastic effect is that it makes you very conscious of exactly how much fat and sugar is in a batch - and the result is that you eat less. I lost 5 kg initially.

The pantry shelves start to resemble an old fashioned grocers - tubs of sugar, flour and oats, dried fruits (organic to avoid preservative), dried pulses and cans of tomatoes. It's all cheap and absolute staples. Who said eating well was expensive?

In the freezer - peas and mixed veges, rather than frozen pizza and ready dinners. Make your own yorkshire puddings to have with a good old roast and then eat the leftovers in a sandwich. Eat cold chicken in a salad and use up cheese in a quiche.

So let me share some of my recipes here with you and try to inspire you to get cooking and baking especially with your kids. Whenever I get the weighing scales out my elder daughter asks what I am cooking and could she help? Use up homemade yoghurt in yoghurt cake, make my Nan's plumbread (full of dried fruit and heaven in the colder months), and fresh soups. Make sponge cake in summer and stuff it with cream and strawberries. And learn that these additives actually taint the food you consume. Get back to to basics.

Think about what your kids eat. Cookies? Potato chips? Crackers? Ice cream? Muesli bars? Do they drink fruit squash? Look at the ingredients. Check them out. And stop and think - not only could you ditch the additives - you could make this a fun activity to do with the kids and save yourself some money!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Artificial colourings

So having got rid of the trans fats from the pantry shelves, how about colourings? I realised that they made an impact on the body when I saw how my elder daughter reacted. It wasn't pretty. I won't go into much detail but nappies could be lurid colours. Have you ever made cakes or play dough or something and added food colouring. It takes a lot of it to achieve a bright colour. Ever stopped to think what those dyes are made from? Some countries have banned a lot of them; they aren't permitted here in baby food; there are limits to how much manufacturers can add to a food.

The research is very interesting. There are so many thousands of studies but one of the latest which examines the cocktail effect of just a few additives has raised huge cause for concern. And do we need to colour our food? I hate to see kids scoffing down brightly coloured sweets and candies. What's wrong with the real colour of food? So you go through the pantry again and realise that most foods have colourings. Some switched-on manufacturers have already changed to natural colourings. Yay! Watch what happens in the next few years - I wonder how long it will be before they are banned altogether? Look at the rise of 'natural' flavoured candies (with colours derived from beetroot and so on). Even Smarties have gone natural. You might like to start wondering why. Is it just because they have our best interests at heart - or do you think they are just getting ready for new legislation?

Ditch the colourings. Notice any change in your kids behaviour yet?

Trans fats

So let's say for arguments sake that trans fats are really not good for you. Would you eat them? If you thought that they might give you some really nasty disease or substantially shorten your life span - even if they tasted nice - you might eat them less? I would. Would you feed them to your kids?

Two years ago I hadn't even heard of trans fats. I knew about saturated and polyunsaturated and even monounsaturated - but no-one stopped to tell me about this new type. They weren't labelled on the products in my pantry. So when I read that they indeed were detrimental to health then I was surprised. Surely the government would not allow a population to consume something that was known to be harmful.

Have a look in your pantry. Go on. Find some cookies or a TV dinner or some other processed junk and look for 'hydrogenated'. There you go. It's bad. It's a trans fat. And if you haven't already looked up the safe limit for trans fats I will tell you. It's zero. Why else would the World Health Organisation recommend eliminating trans fats from diet in their global strategy on diet?

Hmmm. Go figure. Why would the food industry put them in? They're cheap. Next time you open a bag of cookies and hand one to your little smiling child - is that you want to feed them?

Then have a good look in your pantry. See how many trans fats you can find. They are all over the place. Do yourself a favour. Don't eat or buy the products with them in; the manufacturers will eventually get the message and use some proper ingredients. Maybe.

And start there. Just get rid of the trans fats. And then have a look to see whether they are already banned in your country. Because it seems that if goods are imported they might still contain them.

Makes your pantry seem kinda bare doesn't it. And we haven't even started yet...

Why I got started on additive-free food

I started on the additive-free thing about two years ago, as my daughter was so manic and I was worried that as she got older she might be diagnosed as ADHD. The more I read about food and additives and how diet has changed, the more concerned I became. I stripped away as many as I could from her diet and her behaviour changed remarkably.

The more I read, the angrier I became. And there is a lot of stuff on the web and in magazines concerning this topic. A lot really is subjecture. But there is some really good stuff coming out now. If you want a great and slightly scary read - try 'they are what you feed them'. It pulls together a lot of the latest research and is pretty easy to read.

So if you don't know your omega 3's from 6's, or your trans fats from your saturated, or what unami is, why the experts tell you not to feed breakfast cereal to your littlie and why pregnant women are told washing fruit and veg is really really important, then maybe read a little and sort out your family's nutrition.

So stop swallowing what the industry gives you and start making some really informed decisions about food. After all, they wouldn't let you eat it if it was harmful - would they?