Baking with your children at home is the ideal way to spark their interest in food and get them thinking about nutrition from an early age. A growing body of research is supporting the relationship between familiarisation with food preparation and cooking skills in the home environment and better food choices of children and adolescents.
The advantages of baking with your children are numerous, not least because they thoroughly enjoy it and you are able to spend quality, family time together. But also because it offers the option to create healthier alternatives to the sugar-laden biscuits and cakes we are plagued with in the supermarkets and on the television. With the latest research demonstrating the importance of sugar reduction in the prevention of chronic disease, baking at home with your children is one way of tackling this in your household. By experimenting with wonderfully nutritious variations to the standard cakes, biscuits and flapjacks that might normally live in your cupboards, for example, you and your children are creating healthier snack options for the family and they also work perfectly as lunch box fillers. Furthermore your children will be far more inclined to eat healthy snacks if they’ve had a hand in making them themselves!
Here are some quick tips to make baking more nutritious:
• Replace sugar with alternatives such as honey, fruit puree or natural sweeteners such as Xylitol or Stevia. Regular snacking on foods high in sugar can have a significant impact on your child’s blood glucose levels, leading to increased irritability and inability to focus, for example, in the short-term and increased risk of chronic disease such as type II diabetes in the long term.
• Try alternative flour sources to wheat, such as almond flour, brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, millet flour etc. Wheat flour contains gluten which can be very abrasive on the digestive system and is associated with many childhood complaints such as eczema and asthma. Nowadays you will see these alternative flours more commonly in supermarkets or they are usually available in most good health food stores. You may need to experiment slightly with these flours as there is no exact substitute for wheat flour, and recipes made with wheat free alternatives will be different from those containing wheat. Keep persevering, your children will love the practice!
• Add nuts and seeds into recipes whenever possible for a dose of brain-boosting healthy fats and increased protein. Try making flapjacks with a variety of different ingredients rather than the bog standard oats. Use chopped walnuts, almonds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds and experiment with lower sugar versions of dried fruits for their nutrient content such as goji berries, figs or desiccated coconut which is another rich source of healthy fats. Chances are even the fussiest children won’t notice the difference when eating them!
However your healthy concoctions turn out, you can guarantee your children will love getting stuck into baking with you, and may become more aware of food and nutrition into the bargain. Enjoy!