Friday, April 20, 2012

Getting Children to Eat Healthily

It's the start of a new term at the school and we have been cooking up a storm.

Cooking for children is a different affair from cooking for adults. Firstly, you have to ensure there's good nutritional content. Secondly, you have to make it interesting. Thirdly, you have to be mindful of the seasoning.

Living in KL, it seems like many people are used to heavy flavouring. We baked banana bread the other day with (almost no) little sugar and less butter. A parent was around and we offered her a slice and her immediate response was, 'where's the sugar?' While it may take awhile for adults to get used to enjoy food in its original flavours, children (especially the younger ones) are like blank canvas. Given the right exposure, children can enjoy healthy nutritious food.

We had a 3 yr old child who is a very fussy eater and prefers to drink soup and milk. That is if he is not eating lots of snacks. He is my biggest challenge - our in-house chef and I are always trying out new recipes and tricks to entice him to eat. After three weeks with us, we have weaned him off junk food (in school), introduced him to several new food and he had put on one kilogram since he joined us. I don't know who is happier - his mom or me. :)

Here's some tips we find work very well in feeding our children.

1. Nutrition dense meals
A child's stomach is small (assuming no overfeeding and wrongly conditioning a child to over-eat), so a child's serving is way smaller than an adult's serving. We try to make every bite goes a long way.

We use antibiotics free chicken, kampong eggs and if available, free range or organic produce. The cells of a child are growing rapidly, and the harmful effects of chemicals in our food can have a bigger impact on them.

Some popular (and successful) meals with our kids are:
- soup with mixed lentils, broad bean, chickpeas, ABF chicken and brown rice
- ABF chicken pomodoro with Japanese sweet potato served with pasta, purple cabbage and peas
- Avocado and mango smoothie made with Greek yoghurt (less sugar, twice the protein and thrice probiotic cultures to normal yoghurt), whole fat milk and dash of golden flaxseed

2. Soupy / wetter meals
Perhaps it is easier for the child to swallow a soupy meal or chew softer food. We find that our children enjoy their wetter meals to dryer ones. Be mindful that they might not have a full set of teeth yet, or children being children might be too impatient to chew properly. So prepare the food from a child's perspective.

Adding a little more water to the rice, or cooking the pasta longer than the ideal al dente make the food a little more palatable for the children.

3. Variety - mix it up!
The breakfast, snacks and meals are different each day so even the small eaters get a good range of nutrition throughout the day (and week). The attention span of a child is short, make sure you keep them interested by introducing variety.

For instance, breakfast could be weetabix and snack is mixed berries smoothie one day. The next day, it would be oat porridge with homemade date sauce and wholemeal cheese and tomato sandwich.

4. Make it fun
We always start off with a 'choo choo train' trip to wash the hands, and a 'choo choo train' trip to the dining area. The teachers and children will eat together which is great because i) the children get to observe the teachers, ii) kids eating well have a positive externality on the fussier ones.

We encourage the children to feed themselves and assist only if necessary. If they drop food, that's fine. They are creating memories, acquiring life skills, not creating a mess. We can always clean up later. Uninterrupted eating (without someone always cleaning up after them, chiding them if they drop something, wiping their mouths constantly) allow the children to enjoy their meals.

5. Make it child friendly
Make sure all cutlery and crockery are child size, BPA free, fun looking and user friendly from a child's perspective. I found this lovely saucer with the right depth and a knobby handle. So a child can hold the knob to secure the bowl or for manoeuvring if needed.

6. Timing is everything
Physical health and good nutrition are two important features of the school. We feed the children every three hours or so that they don't go too long without food, maintain an optimised sugar level and it makes a big difference to enhancing their mood.

When the child starves for too long, he might be too hungry to eat properly. So we pre-empt with regular good portion of meals and snacks throughout the day.

With fussy eaters who prefer their milk, we offer solids first. A teacher will guide the child in feeding, encourage his progress and in some cases, we help with the feeding. The preference is for the child to gain independence and competence in self-feeding, but it's also important to get good nutrition into the child.

7. Keeping trying, but do not force feed
For fussy eaters who reject food, we keep trying and encouraging. Don't give up. Every mouthful is a small victory. If the child shows unwillingness to eat and spits out the food, we would not force food. Instead, we would monitor the child, offer alternative (say milk) or bring forward the next meal when the child is ready again.


Healthy eating can reap lifelong benefits. A good diet makes a big long run difference to a child's physical and mental development and boosts his immune system. In the short run, feeding our child wholesome meals increases his learning ability and lifts his general mood.

Designing meals and cooking for children can get challenging, but the results of good diet can be immediate and are very rewarding.

Some good resources I use often are:

Hope you get some recipe inspiration and have fun cooking for your family this weekend. If you have any tips or great recipe, do share with me too.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

50 rules for Dads of Daughers

When I was a little girl, my dad was my hero.

He carried me when I was feeling unwell and when I just wanted to manja. We held hands even today. He always talked to me like an adult and indulged by daily 101 questions. He never fails to make me feel I'm the center of his attention.

My dad is still my hero. But the number one hero spot was overtaken by Dear Husband many years back.

I just read a wonderful post by a dad on 50 rules for dads with daughters (please see post below). I have always drawn parallel with the unconditioned love my dad has for me to DH's. Perhaps it's really true that a daddy's love conditions a little girl's heart and sets her to expect nothing less.

I'm very blessed DH is a fantastic hands-on dad who's checking many many of the 'rules'. No wonder, Dear Daughter breaks into this happy giggle each time she spots her daddy.


Read this from Original post from, which is now one of my favourite blogs. :)

About Michael
Michael Mitchell is an (almost) thirty-something dad who blogs daily tips and life lessons for dads of daughters at He spends his days practicing the arts of fatherhood and husbandry, while attempting to be a man of God and a professional raiser of philanthropic funds. On the rare occasion he’s not tied up with the aforementioned and other pursuits of awesomeness, he enjoys fighting street gangs for local charities and drinking from a cup that’s half full. Bookmark Life To Her Years and “like” him on Facebook for more “rules”.

1. Love her mom. Treat her mother with respect, honor, and a big heaping spoonful of public displays of affection. When she grows up, the odds are good she’ll fall in love with and marry someone who treats her much like you treated her mother. Good or bad, that’s just the way it is. I’d prefer good.

2. Always be there. Quality time doesn’t happen without quantity time. Hang out together for no other reason than just to be in each other’s presence. Be genuinely interested in the things that interest her. She needs her dad to be involved in her life at every stage. Don’t just sit idly by while she add years to her… add life to her years.

3. Save the day. She’ll grow up looking for a hero. It might as well be you. She’ll need you to come through for her over and over again throughout her life. Rise to the occasion. Red cape and blue tights optional.

4. Savor every moment you have together. Today she’s crawling around the house in diapers, tomorrow you’re handing her the keys to the car, and before you know it, you’re walking her down the aisle. Some day soon, hanging out with her old man won’t be the bees knees anymore. Life happens pretty fast. You better cherish it while you can.

5. Pray for her. Regularly. Passionately. Continually.

6. Buy her a glove and teach her to throw a baseball. Make her proud to throw like a girl… a girl with a wicked slider.

7. She will fight with her mother. Choose sides wisely.

8. Go ahead. Buy her those pearls.

9. Of course you look silly playing peek-a-boo. You should play anyway.

10. Enjoy the wonder of bath time.

11. There will come a day when she asks for a puppy. Don’t over think it. At least one time in her life, just say, “Yes.”

12. It’s never too early to start teaching her about money. She will still probably suck you dry as a teenager… and on her wedding day.

13. Make pancakes in the shape of her age for breakfast on her birthday. In a pinch, donuts with pink sprinkles and a candle will suffice.

14. Buy her a pair of Chucks as soon as she starts walking. She won’t always want to wear matching shoes with her old man.

Photo Credit :: Danielle Rocke Toews
15. Dance with her. Start when she’s a little girl or even when she’s a baby. Don’t wait ‘til her wedding day.

16. Take her fishing. She will probably squirm more than the worm on your hook. That’s OK.

17. Learn to say no. She may pitch a fit today, but someday you’ll both be glad you stuck to your guns.

18. Tell her she’s beautiful. Say it over and over again. Someday an animated movie or “beauty” magazine will try to convince her otherwise.

19. Teach her to change a flat. A tire without air need not be a major panic inducing event in her life. She’ll still call you crying the first time it happens.

20. Take her camping. Immerse her in the great outdoors. Watch her eyes fill with wonder the first time she sees the beauty of wide open spaces. Leave the iPod at home.

21. Let her hold the wheel. She will always remember when daddy let her drive.

22. She’s as smart as any boy. Make sure she knows that.

23. When she learns to give kisses, she will want to plant them all over your face. Encourage this practice.

24. Knowing how to eat sunflower seeds correctly will not help her get into a good college. Teach her anyway.

25. Letting her ride on your shoulders is pure magic. Do it now while you have a strong back and she’s still tiny.

26. It is in her nature to make music. It’s up to you to introduce her to the joy of socks on a wooden floor.

27. If there’s a splash park near your home, take her there often. She will be drawn to the water like a duck to a puddle.

28. She will eagerly await your return home from work in the evenings. Don’t be late.

29. If her mom enrolls her in swim lessons, make sure you get in the pool too. Don’t be intimidated if there are no other dads there. It’s their loss.

30. Never miss her birthday. In ten years she won’t remember the present you gave her. She will remember if you weren’t there.

31. Teach her to roller skate. Watch her confidence soar.

32. Let her roll around in the grass. It’s good for her soul. It’s not bad for yours either.

33. Take her swimsuit shopping. Don’t be afraid to veto some of her choices, but resist the urge to buy her full-body beach pajamas.

34. Somewhere between the time she turns three and her sixth birthday, the odds are good that she will ask you to marry her. Let her down gently.

35. She’ll probably want to crawl in bed with you after a nightmare. This is a good thing.

36. Few things in life are more comforting to a crying little girl than her father’s hand. Never forget this.

37. Introduce her to the swings at your local park. She’ll squeal for you to push her higher and faster. Her definition of “higher and faster” is probably not the same as yours. Keep that in mind.

38. When she’s a bit older, your definition of higher and faster will be a lot closer to hers. When that day comes, go ahead… give it all you’ve got.

39. Holding her upside down by the legs while she giggles and screams uncontrollably is great for your biceps. WARNING: She has no concept of muscle fatigue.

40. She might ask you to buy her a pony on her birthday. Unless you live on a farm, do not buy her a pony on her birthday. It’s OK to rent one though.

41. Take it easy on the presents for her birthday and Christmas. Instead, give her the gift of experiences you can share together.

42. Let her know she can always come home. No matter what.

43. Remember, just like a butterfly, she too will spread her wings and fly some day. Enjoy her caterpillar years.

44. Write her a handwritten letter every year on her birthday. Give them to her when she goes off to college, becomes a mother herself, or when you think she needs them most.

45. Learn to trust her. Gradually give her more freedom as she gets older. She will rise to the expectations you set for her.

46. When in doubt, trust your heart. She already does.

47. When your teenage daughter is upset, learning when to engage and when to back off will add years to YOUR life. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

48. Ice cream covers over a multitude of sins. Know her favorite flavor.

49. This day is coming soon. There’s nothing you can do to be ready for it. The sooner you accept this fact, the easier it will be.

50. Today she’s walking down the driveway to get on the school bus. Tomorrow she’s going off to college. Don’t blink.