Feel-good festive treats

The birthday girl feels like a princess, and all her friends get to eat healthy, tasty treats.

So many moms I speak to dread sending their children to parties, because all the sugars, colourants, and preservatives in commercial snack foods mean that mothers end up with hyped up, emotionally unstable children to take home when the party is over.

We recently celebrated my daughter’s third birthday with a healthy, yellow princess-themed party, and with the Easter weekend still fresh in our memories, I thought this would be the perfect time to share some insights and handy hints that you can apply to your own kiddies’ parties and festive celebrations.

Why the big fuss?

Firstly, it is important to understand why you would want your children to avoid commercially manufactured junk foods.

This will motivate you to make healthier choices on their behalf.

The primary reason is the health consequences of consuming large amounts of refined sugar and preservatives found in these products.

Research shows many of the commonly used preservatives and colourants in today’s treats can lead to side effects like breathing difficulties, asthma, hyperactivity, heart damage, eczema, rashes, and more intense allergies in children.

Refined sugar (such as added sugars in the form of cane sugar, syrup, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, raw sugar, fructose, and maltose to name a few), and refined carbohydrates such as white flour products (think ordinary birthday cakes and pastries) can also wreak havoc on a child’s health.

Numerous studies reveal that sugar can worsen ADHD symptoms, increase emotional instability, suppress the immune system, cause hyperactivity, anxiety, lack of concentration and irritability, reduce learning capacity, contribute to childhood eczema and obesity, weaken eyesight, and contribute to tooth decay.

From a nutritional perspective, sugar is also known to create mineral imbalances in the body, and hinder protein absorption.

Now, we know that “junk food” is called exactly that for a reason, but despite this knowledge, many parents can’t seem to make the switch to healthy treats.

Here are some of the most common excuses I hear, and ways to get around them.

It’s too expensive.

True, healthy, wholefood treats can be pricier than buying gelatine sweets and chocolates in bulk, but the beauty of whole foods is that they are nourishing and filling.

Children need smaller portions, and as a result you can serve smaller portions to arrive at the same cost.

It’s too time-consuming.

You don’t suddenly have to make every treat from scratch if you want your kids to eat healthily.

There are several healthy options available from wholefood stores, and chopping up fruit for snacks is quick and inexpensive.

Preparing food is also a great way to get your kids involved – my daughter loves helping me throw things in the blender (and licking it out afterwards).

I don’t know where to start.

Fortunately, in today’s techno-age, Google is your best friend in your quest for healthy recipes. Use keywords such as “wholefoods”, “P aleo”, “vegan”, and “gluten-free” in your search terms.

Invest in a few good, wholefood recipe books targeted at children.

Ask your health-conscious friends for ideas, and come speak to me at Real Food Co if you need some advice.

My kids won’t eat healthy food.

If children are used to highly refined, sugar-filled sweets, it may take some time for them to get used to the richer flavour and fibrous texture of healthy “sweets”.

I do find the odd child that does not enjoy some of the treats I make, but most do.

Tastes develop around what is eaten most often. A taste pallet can be changed over time by constant exposure to healthy food, and removal of unhealthy foods.

Some practical inspiration

So how does this work in practice? For our yellow princess party, the menu was as follows: Yellow iced tea (cold rooibos tea with 100% mango juice). Party packs with strips of R’vive health snacks (peanut butter dried apples, raw chocolate coated cashew nuts, and coconut and honey cookies) and a homemade carrot muffin.

On the table was a yellow princess cake from Mila’s Meals (almond flour, eggs, sweet potato, honey, and vanilla) topped with yellow banana-cashew-nut-icing (my icing turned brown, so I rescued it with some yellow plum and banana slices), raw chocolate and date fudge squares and Santa Anna’s organic, trans-fat free corn chips. Both kids and parents loved the food.

Over the Easter weekend, I took some inspiration from my German stepmother. She always used to collect and paint egg shells before Easter, fill them with sweets and hide them. I bought plastic eggs and filled them with raw chocolate muesli pieces, raw chocolate squares, home-made dried fruit leather and a trail mix – a great snack meal on its own.

So why is all of this worth the effort?

Because your kids have fun and leave the festivities nourished, their immune systems intact, and with positive associations with good food – an all-round win in my eyes.

Send your questions toTracy at panel@realfoodco.co.za

Mila’s Meals: The Beginning & The Basics by Catherine Barnhoorn.

Vanilla Cake

Make double for a 2 layer cake

Ingredients:

2 cups almond flour

3 organic eggs

2 T. coconut oil, melted

1 cup coconut milk (at room temperature)

3 T. raw honey or maple syrup

2 t. vanilla powder or alcohol-free vanilla essence

¼ t. Himalayan or sea salt

½ t. baking soda

1 t. aluminium-free baking powder

½ cup sweet potato, cooked, skin removed and mashed (at room temperature)

Directions:

– Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

– Grease a 18cm spring cake pan with coconut oil.

– Beat the flour and eggs with an electric beater for two minutes. (it is important to mix for 2 minutes as it makes the almond flour more moist)

– Add the coconut oil, coconut milk, honey, vanilla extract and salt, and beat for another 30 seconds.

– Add baking powder, baking soda, sweet potato and cacao and beat until mixed.

– Immediately scoop the batter into the cake pan.

– Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean.

– Remove from oven and allow to cool.

– Once cool, ice with your choice of healthy icing