Banana and berry smoothie, plus sultana buns
I’m certainly not whiter than white when it comes to junk food in our family. I try to be healthy but at the end of the day, I’m just a normal mum serving up food to three kids – one of whom is particularly fussy – to a deadline: ie their hungry tummies plus school and bedtime schedules.
So time-savers like fish fingers, potato waffles and ready-made Yorkshire puds are always stocked in my freezer, to be rolled out on those evenings when you need a fast and – importantly – also effortless meal. Meanwhile, my kitchen also contains a few treat foods like crisps, chocolate, sweets and ice cream.
But I do feel uneasy about the sometimes unpronounceable ingredients in the listings of junk food – and the amount of sugar, salt and flavourings in certain foods, and often, wierdly, in those aimed at children.
I’m not imagining it: a report published in Public Health Nutrition in 2013 found that foods targeted at toddlers and children are typically higher in salt, fat and sugar – even foods that you would think of as healthy, like yoghurt and cereal bars.
Then there’s the additives issue. There’s currently no legal requirement for food and drink labelling to tell us exactly which flavourings are in a product, and in which quantity, according to a 2012 report from First Steps Nutrition Trust (see page 23 in the report). I find this incredible.
And this is why I’m signing up to Organix’s #NoJunk campaign. The purpose is to encourage parents to serve up healthy, natural, simple foods for their family, using ingredients that they recognise.
And the campaign will hopefully challenge the food industry to remove the ‘junk’ from children’s food.
The challenge – to serve your children only food with wholesome ingredients that you can recognise – runs this week, from today to 5 May. Click on the link to find out more about the #NoJunk challenge, and you can sign the pledge here.
Here’s how we’ve been doing:
1. My sugar worries
Readers of last week’s blog (How to make a healthy picnic for kids) will know that I had a long hard look at the sugar content of kids’ squeezy and tube yoghurts.
This week I needed to look for a normal pot of yoghurt to be eaten at the table, and I still couldn’t believe how hard it was to find a child’s yoghurt that was sweetened with fruit puree instead of sugar – particularly in handy tube form.
Two of my children like eating natural yoghurt – and there are plenty of sugar-free versions on the shelves – with a teaspoonful of jam swirled in.
But one of my kids isn’t so keen. After picking up lots of yoghurts, reading the labels and discarding them with a big sigh, I did find something suitable, but I’m really frustrated at why more companies don’t sweeten with fruit puree.
2. Where do you draw the line?
While cooking a roast chicken dinner, we were suddenly stumped about the gravy. Obviously instant gravy counts as junk, but what about a stock cube? I don’t recognise half the ingredients on the list. In an ideal world, I would obviously be whipping up stock after every roast meal and freezing it. But the tantrums/ laundry mountain/ bath-time/ freezer space/ irregular roast lunch-eating gets in the way. We did sneak in a low-salt stock cube.
3. Putting sweets and chocolate to the back of the cupboard
The kids haven’t had chocolate, sweets or crisps this week, nor ketchup or mayonnaise, so this challenge has been really good for the whole family. The children don’t seem to have minded. They have been tucking into banana cake, smoothies and our new raisin buns instead. (See recipes below.)
Here are the #NoJunk recipes we’ve been trying this week:
Recipe for banana and berry smoothie
This recipe comes courtesy of blogger Holly Bell, from the lovely Recipes From a Normal Mum, who was a contestant on the Great British Bake Off 2011. This recipe comes from her cookbook of the same name: Recipes of a Normal Mum.
The smoothie contains porridge oats, which means you could serve it up as breakfast. It was really popular with two out of three of my children, and without the oats, it would have been a three-star winner – a rare event indeed in our house.
15g rolled oats
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
55g frozen red berries
Chop the banana.
Add milk, yoghurt, banana and the rest of the ingredients into a blender, or you can use a stick blender and measuring jug to blitz the smoothie if you don’t own a blender. Blitz until all the berries have disappeared.
Serve immediately. You can also pour it over ice or serve with the rest of the banana for dipping.
Recipe for sultana buns
These buns are gently sweetened using apple juice and sultanas or raisins, rather than refined sugar. They contain spice and orange zest too, so if your child likes hot cross buns, chances are these will be popular too.
I made this recipe from the River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook using half wholemeal bread flour and half spelt flour. I also made half a batch without raisins to cater for one of my kids’ palates.
The buns were delicious fresh from the oven, or, if more than a day old, try toasting them. They also freeze well.
Makes 12 to 16 buns
125ml whole milk
50g unsalted butter
250g plain white flour
250g strong white bread flour, wholemeal bread flour or un-refined spelt flour
2 level tsp easy-blend yeast
1 heaped tsp ground mixed spice
200g raisins or sultanas
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
125ml apple juice
1 egg, beaten
A little beaten egg or milk for glazing
Heat the milk until steaming in a small pan, then take off the heat.
Add the butter and leave until it has melted and the milk is warm rather than hot.
In a large bowl, sieve the flour.
Then thoroughly combine the flours, yeast, spice and orange zest.
Put the dough in a bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave in a fairly warm, draught-free place until doubled in size – at least an hour. Meanwhile, grease and lightly flour a baking tray, or line with a non-stick liner.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and deflate with your fingers.
Cut into 12-16 pieces, gently shape into buns and place on the baking tray.
Leave for another 30-60 minutes until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan-assisted), gas mark 6. Brush the buns with beaten egg or milk and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Eat while still warm, or let them cool completely.