“Can I have a snack?” – does this sound familiar?! It is most certainly a reoccurring question in this household! To help us all right now during the lockdown is Nathalie Gudgeon, a BANT Registered Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and CNHC local champion.
In this guest post, Nathalie will share her expertise, some meal plan advice and one of her fantastic healthy snack recipes. For further information on Nathalie, you can visit her website nathaligudgeon.com and follow her via Instagram (@nutritiouslynatty) for regular recipe shares.
Hi, I’m Nathalie, I run a clinical practice working with clients to help overcome various health challenges, adopting a functional medicine approach. I help clients to develop the skills of meal planning and change their eating habits, but it’s so important to make this realistic for the whole family for it to be sustainable and realistic!I love helping people to eat well and optimize their health – it’s so rewarding hearing the feedback; more energy, better sleep, glowing skin and better digestion! I was often asked by clients and friends what I eat personally or what I feed my family (two of which are fussy eaters!) so I decided I needed a platform to communicate recipes and meal ideas. I love cooking and developing recipes, nothing makes me happier than the kitchen and hence, Nutritiously Natty was born! I hope you enjoy my account and my blog post below, which aims to help parents overcome the challenges of feeding their families healthy meals/snacks throughout the lockdown.
Feeding your family during the lockdown
Whilst we adapt to isolation with our families, now is the perfect time to start meal planning and considering how we can provide healthy, nutritious and immune boosting food. A meal plan can really help to cut back on trips to the shops as well as manage the food budget. With schools closed and more people working from home, there are more meals to provide and I’m personally embracing the skills of meal planning more than ever!
Here are my top tips for getting organised;
Write a meal plan for the week, noting on each day of the week what you will eat for lunch and dinner. Once you have the meal plan you can generate a shopping list to ensure the meal plan works for the week. This means you only need to buy the ingredients needed for the week. An example of meal planning is given below;
- Monday – Pesto chicken and vegetable pasta bake
- Tuesday – Salmon, buckwheat noodles and stir fry vegetables
- Wednesday – Bean chili with brown rice and avocado
- Thursday – Chicken pesto salad with homemade chips
- Friday – Homemade cod fish cakes with salad or fresh steamed veggies
- Saturday – Chickpea and vegetable Thai Curry with brown rice
- Sunday – Sausage and mash with steamed veggies
Within the meal plan focus on 1-2 meals per week that can be made in bulk and frozen for another meal later in the week or for lunch the next day. Bean chilis can be served with baked potatoes or used in wraps for enchiladas. If you decide to make a homemade lasagna, why not make two and freeze one?
Pulses and beans are great for providing cheaper/bulk meals such as chilis, curries, dips and patties. I always have pulses and beans in the store cupboard as they are super economical and a great vegan protein source.
Cut back on portions and save a bit for the next day, especially if your less active during the lock down! Consider if you need a second helping?
Spring soups! Soups are a great way to use up veggies and if you can make a big pan you will have plenty for lunches in the week or to fill up teenagers prior to a meal. Add stock, turmeric, ginger and garlic to boost the immune system and pulses for extra protein. I always have homemade soup in the freezer and it’s a great lunch or dinner option when running low on staples.
Can I have a snack?
A question I hear too often. It can be frustrating but not if your armed with the right kind of snacks! We often give out cereal bars and biscuits as the easy option – I do it too! However, it’s wise to watch your kids sugar intake for many reasons.
Sugar in children’s diets is something I write and comment on frequently and it’s also something I am passionate about promoting both in my practice and at home for my own family. Many parents attend my clinic feeling frustrated with the challenges of minimising sugar in their child’s diet. It seems every day there is an opportunity for cake, sweets and sugary snacks. Sugar that is consumed in excess and therefore not utilised is linked to obesity, diabetes, inflammation and cardiovascular disease. In children, sugar excess may account for concentration difficulties, sleep problems, hyperactivity and digestive upset. More than ever, now is the time for us to stabilize our children’s blood sugar to keep them emotionally and physically supported. That goes for mums and dads too – for many it’s going to be a challenging time and we need to provide the right fuel to keep calm and avoid burn out.
Many parents ask me frequently; how can I stop my kids asking for food constantly? The answer lies with protein rich foods at each meal and snack as this helps to regulate sugar intake. Protein slows the release of sugar into the blood stream, as can choosing complex rather than refined carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates such as fruit with skin, root vegetables and wholegrains take longer to break down in the digestive system so there is a slower release of sugar into the bloodstream. This avoids highs and lows, with a more even blood sugar level helping to avoid cravings and melt downs!
I offer a simple piece of advice to parents; look for foods that are below 5g of sugar per 100g. This is considered low in sugar. Take a look at your kid’s cereal bars or fruit yogurts and you may see that they contain as high as 15g of sugar for a 30g serving. The recommendation is for children aged 7-10 years to eat no more than 24g of free sugar in one day! For adults it is 30g per day. I often demonstrate to parents in clinic how a bowl of cereal, followed by a kid’s cereal bar and a glass of orange juice is more than 24g a day. Simple trades, such as an orange over a glass of orange juice or an oatcake over a cereal bar can really help to reduce free sugar in the diet.
With each meal and snack, consider how you can provide a balance of macronutrients:
- Protein (meat, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds)
- Good fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds)
- Complex carbs (brown rice, root/starchy vegetables, wholegrain breads and pastas, legumes)
- A good level of un-starchy vegetables with each meal is great if you can achieve this as a part of the daily plate.
Here are some examples of how to put this into practice:
- Two scrambled eggs on 1 slice wholegrain toast with 1 tsp butter and baby tomatoes
- Whole grain oat porridge with full fat milk or dairy free milk and 1 tbsp cashew butter.
- Fish goujons with sweet potato and salad
- Falafels, hummus dip, carrot sticks and baked sweet potato chips.
- 20g of cheddar cheese chunks with 10 grapes (this is one serving of fruit)
- 2 tbsp of hummus or guacamole dip with chopped vegetable sticks (carrot, pepper, celery)
- 1 tbsp of almond butter/peanut butter on 2 rough oatcake or sliced apple
- 20g of good quality raw dark chocolate (70-85%) with a satsuma
- 1 x 125ml natural yogurt pot/coconut yogurt with 1 tsp of sunflower seeds and ½ cup of berries
- ½ small banana with 200ml of whole milk/dairy free milk
- 2 dark chocolate brazils and 1 tsp of goji berries
- Cold meat balls/slice of turkey/small sausage with chopped carrot sticks
- Sliced boiled egg with ½ orange
- 1 chocolate energy ball (see recipe below)
Now is a great time to get in the kitchen with your family and get them involved in making healthy snacks and treats. Growing food in the garden or asking them to help with the online shop are also great ideas. You can educate older children on how to choose foods that are lower in sugar by helping them to understand food labels. There will never be a better time as now to take charge of your family’s health.
Chocolate Energy Balls Recipe
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp ground flaxseeds
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 cup pitted Medjool dates
1 tbsp hulled hemp seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp vanilla flavoured protein powder
2 tbsp maple syrup (grade B)
2 tbsp raw cacao powder (plus extra for coating)
80g 90% dark chocolate chips (optional)
I use a food processor for this recipe. Add the sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds and chia seeds into the blender and process for around 1 minute until a crumb texture develops.
Add the pitted Medjool dates coconut oil, hemp, raw cacao, protein powder and maple syrup. Process for another minute. The mixture should be sticky and firm, ready for rolling.
If you are adding the chocolate, chop into small pieces (similar to chocolate drop size). Transfer the mixture to a bowl and work the chocolate in evenly. Take around 2 tbsp of the mixture and roll into a ball. Sprinkle raw cacao powder onto a plate or tray and coat each ball by rolling in the powder.
We keep our balls in a sealed glass jar or container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also freeze the balls and we have been known to eat straight from the freezer! I recommend soaking and dehydrating the sunflower and sesame seeds prior to use to aid digestion.
Thanks for reading!