Fiona Faulkner is the author of 25 Foods Kids Hate and How to Get Them Eating 24 - out now at www.fionafaulkner.co.uk. She has also devised a special menu for travel company Scott Dunn’s Kids Explorer Clubs. We like her style (and her Avocado Ariba Ice Cream, see below) and gave her a gentle grilling…
Q It can be hard to keep children eating healthily at home, but arguably much harder on holiday. Do you have any tips to keep the children off €˜chips with everything€™ – and endless ice creams?
A Set down a few ground rules before take-off and landing (this strategy works particularly well for over 7s who are starting to grasp the concept of what I refer to as €˜growing foods€™ and €˜treat foods€™). Ultimately, if kids feel as though they€™ve had a say in creating the rulebook, they€™re more likely to stick to the rules. I€™d advise that on holiday (as with birthday parties, etc) you loosen the reins a bit and factor in that everybody €“ quite rightly €“ will want a few more treats. In terms of the €˜buffet table€™ eating that a lot of hotels and resorts tend to adopt, again, instil a few simple rules. Allow them the freedom (and fun) to go up and serve themselves €“ but limit them to (e.g.) one breakfast €˜treat€™ €“ which they can choose themselves (so they feel in control). You could even adopt a €˜points€™ system. Each treat equals one point and each child has an allocation of X number of points to use within 24 hrs. If they use them all at breakfast €“ well, that€™s their decision!
Q Did you eat everything on your plate when you were a child?
A Bearing in mind I grew up in the 80s – at a time when ready-meals were coming bang into fashion – I was more than happy to eat my body weight in Findus Crispy Pancakes. I was never €˜fussy€™ per se but have always been a natural vegetarian €“ to my mother€™s horror. I€™m simply passionate about vegetables and my diet is about 80% veggie (it€™s usually the smell of bacon that gets me €“ isn€™t it always€¦?!)
Q What was your favourite childhood food?
A See above re Findus Crispy Pancakes. Plus ParmaViolets€¦ Monster Munch€¦ Wham! Bars – and the highly inappropriate Candy Cigarettes. Basically my favourite stuff wasn€™t exactly the healthy stuff (despite genuinely loving my veg too). In fact one of the things I try and teach parents in my workshops is to resist the temptation to become the €˜food police€™. Kids are biologically hardwired to love the sweet stuff (it€™s to do with the taste receptors on their tongues). Plus they generally place far less importance on nutritional values than we do as adults. Let€™s be honest: as kids we once loved junk €“ and now so do they. It€™s a simple fact of life and banning the treats can sometimes be counter-productive in creating a €˜forbidden fruit€™ syndrome. But do remember: just because your kids love sweets and crisps etc, it doesn€™t therefore automatically follow that they€™ll grow up hating fruit and veg (I€™m living proof of that). Everything in moderation €“ including moderation €“ and (again) that mantra particularly comes into play on holiday. My book explains why as parents, we should never bribe with dessert.
Q If you know you’ve a lot of children to feed and don’t know what all of their favourites are, what are your three failsafe dishes?
A I€™ve just designed a menu for luxury travel company Scott Dunn€™s new children€™s clubs which is custom-designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of kids €“ from fruit-phobics and veg-dodgers through to hardcore foodies. As a twist, each dish celebrates a different Scott Dunn holiday destination. Here are three dishes from the new menu that I€™d describe as real heroes €“ in getting kids eating €“ and loving – their greens, reds €“ and yellows! [Popeye€™s Pesto / Mediterranean Muffins / Slumdog Soup] The feedback so far has been fantastic €“ quite literally!
Q Is eating seasonally something that’s possible with children and their love of blueberries and peas?
A To be honest, I€™m not so sure. As lovely as eating seasonally is, some parents find that by only offering their kids tomatoes for a scant few weeks in the British summer tomato season, €˜fussy€™ kids in particular can then sometimes €˜forget€™ that they like tomatoes by the time the next season comes around. Having said that, I can€™t bear to eat bland, imported strawberries (for example) and tend to make us all wait until they€™re coming up at the local PYO. The key I think with eating seasonally is to eat what you can and then freeze what can be frozen. The freezer really is your best friend in the kitchen
Q What are the best dishes to get children cooking easily that will taste delicious and give them a real sense of satisfaction?
A Old-fashioned baking is the easy answer (what kid doesn€™t love knocking up a batch of cupcakes or brownies?) and this instils not only a real sense of satisfaction but can also be a great lesson in maths, chemistry, and even languages (€œtell me €“ what€™s xxxx in French?!€) So yes, baking is a great starting point €“ ditto smoothie making. But remember that kids often love to help out beyond the sweet-stuff too. Believe it or not I actually find that making risottos is quite a good one for kids: there€™s a lot of stirring involved; the heat is very low; and it€™s an ideal recipe to throw in a good few finely chopped herbs as well as veggies at the end.
Q And finally… What’s the one piece of kitchen kit that’s worth investing in for children? Perhaps an ice lolly maker or mouli?
A Yes €“ both the above! Cookie cutters are also a great idea. Not only for their intended use but also because you can road test new lunchbox sandwich fillers with the kids by creating fun-shapes with the bread (another tip: IKEA plastic kids€™ knives €“ perfect for spreading butter etc). Try my blueberries and cream cheese combo €“ a super food lunchbox favourite. Or mashed banana and avocado (full of healthy omega oils) €“ or another Scott Dunn recipe: Moroccan sandwiches €“ with hummus, grated carrot and sultanas!
Recipes taken from 25 Foods Kids Hate and How to Get Them Eating 24 by Fiona Faulkner – out now and available to buy at www.fionafaulkner.co.uk
Recipes also featured in new Scott Dunn Explorers children€™s club menus at Daios Cove, Crete, Pine Cliffs in the Algarve, Aphrodite Hills in Cyprus and Verdura in Sicily. See www.scottdunn.com/explorers