Tuesday Tips: (trying to) raise good and healthy eaters

kids healthy eatingHow come some children are good, healthy eaters, and some are super picky and have a difficult relationship with food? Is it a matter of nature, or of nurture? I was recently chatting with my girls’ ballet teacher, a lovely lady of sixty-something, and she was telling me about her baby granddaughter, who basically refused to eat anything from the day she was born. She’s been in and out of hospitals, being fed with drips, feeding tubes in her nose, and all sorts of astronaut kinds of food. There doesn’t seem to be a physical reason that the baby is refusing to eat — the little girl simply has no interest, probably even an aversion, to food. (I can only imagine how difficult this must be for the baby’s parents.)

So we can’t say that difficult or picky eaters are always a product of their upbringing. I do however think that very often, our own attitude to and relationship with food is of an enormous influence on our children.

My own four children happen to be very good eaters. They are interested in food, they try new things, and are not overly picky or fussy. Probably my husband and I have partly been lucky, and we’ve partly been doing some things right.

Eating is a much debated and quite sensitive topic amongst parents. This weekend I was talking with some girlfriends after we just had lunch with our families. We were discussing how we raise our children, and what parenting choices we have made to help our children become the good eaters they are today. I thought this would be an interesting (but difficult) topic for our Tuesday Tips series, so I have made a list of tips that in my experience can help make eating a positive and fun part of the day. Here goes:

Involve the children in the dinner preparation. They can start helping at quite an early age. Tell them what you are doing, let them try the ingredients. Trust them with a knife — Ava has been making a really good Caprese Salad from the age of 4. Even Casper (2) chips in with cutting the mozzarella! Also: grow your own veggies if possible (even on the windowsill). Take your children shopping (f.e. to the (farmers) market), let them choose some food and prepare that food that evening. When your children have been actively involved in the dinner preparation, they will be more open to try and enjoy the food.

Eat with the children as often as you can. Sit at the table, and have a proper family dinner experience. Don’t turn the tv on (you could even argue to turn the music off). Dinner is a social experience, it’s about connecting with each other and sharing the pleasure of each other’s company and good food. Set the scene, make a nice table, use little bowls, napkins, light candles, etc

Don’t allow negativity about food, instead be positive and adventurous about food. Set the right example; don’t ‘dislike’ food yourself. If you love food, your children will love food. I’ve had children at my table who started to be negative as soon as I served the food on the table. ‘Oh, tomatoes! I hate those! Eeeks, I don’t eat brussels sprouts, they are disgusting!’ I personally don’t allow my children to use those kind of strong associations in connection with food. In general, I want my children to understand that the food that I buy, prepare and serve on our table, is good, healthy and delicious food. I don’t allow my children to be disrespectful to this food, or to the cook (me!) who has done her best to prepare a yummy meal.

Be relaxed about food. When introducing a new food — don’t overhype or over-react, be casual about it, make it a part of the regular eating experience. I also have experienced that some foods, which I expected my children not to like (sauerkraut, for instance, or olives), have been received with great enthusiasm. So instead of being doubtful (‘you can try, but you probably won’t like it’), be casual. You might be surprised!

Always encourage your child to try everything on the table. Don’t let them get away with ‘not liking’ something too easily. If my children, after positively trying the food, don’t like it, I ask them why they have difficulty with it — for instance, the food can be too spicy, too bitter, too salty, etc. I then try to get where they are coming from, and most often understand, but maybe we talk about how ‘too salty’ can also be good in combination with other things. Overall, this has made eating and trying food a more positive experience and a fun interaction.

If a certain food is disliked, just let it pass, but don’t ban it from your kitchen. Positively offer it to them again at other times. Encourage them to keep trying; their taste might change and chances are that at some point, they will (learn to) like it. Especially if they see other people enjoying that food!

When your kids don’t want to eat their dinner, that’s ok, but don’t offer a substitute.

Expose your children to different varieties of food from a young age. Don’t generally cook ‘child-friendly’ dishes for your children, serve them regular adult dishes with regular herbs and spices. (I personally believe that even during pregnancy it’s important to eat a variety of dishes!) Take your children to restaurants, and choose from the main menu (most restaurants will be happy to serve half of a main dish to a child, or split one main dish on two plates). Emilie told me that she encourages her children to be flexible in their eating so she can take them to friends places and she can travel with them and experience different cultures. She told me that she refuses to be a guest in someone’s house and have her child turn their nose up at a meal, so if her girls want to come, they will have to eat without making a fuss!

That’s it! I realise this is a tricky subject, so please remember that these are tips that stem from my own experience. I’m curious to find out what your family’s relationship with food is. What’s your attitude? What are your tips and routines?

xxx Esther

What kids around the world eat for breakfast

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I am sure a lot of you have come across this article in the New York Times but I still wanted to post it, as I think it is so interesting to see how differently children eat. At my flat we are so used to eating sweet things in the morning, be it cereal, porridge (very unusual for France) or tartines – the idea of  miso soup and soy sauce for breakfast would not even cross our mind. And yet it would feel completely natural somewhere else…

I remember Esther staying with me one day and telling one of her kids off for having grabbed something sweet to eat before eating something savoury. Only then did she realise that there was nothing savoury on the table! It is funny how we all have our breakfast traditions. I think it is the meal that we are the least adventurous about, possibly because adventure is the last thing on our mind when we are still waking up.

I also love the photos in this post, the children look so cute, still sleepy with ruffled hair and preparing themselves for the day.

– Emilie

A market in France

market_viewWhen we stay in our house in France, we always make sure to make the trip to the local market which takes place in Maurs, every Thursday morning. The ride by itself is worth it — the beautiful hills with the fog still hanging over the valleys…

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The market is a ‘farmers market’ in the true sense of the word — there still are farmers who will come to town, display their wares on the grounds in front of the medieval church and sell their beautiful products like eggs, vegetables, flowers and tools made from wicker or carved out of wood.

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market_avaProduce are fresh and abundant, and local. We love all the different cheeses and sausages, the artisanal bread, the wonderful fruit and vegetables… There’s even a woman with a giant water bucket full of trouts — she will catch the one of your liking and, uhm, clean it on the spot (the kids find this especially intriguing)!

market_garlicAnd every summer, I stock up on purple garlic that lasts almost a full year!

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market_fountainThe market is very much a social affair as well — people come to town to buy fresh produce, but also meet up with friends and family in one of the cafés (and drink café au lait of course).

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market_mandelaMarket day is a busy cay, because back home, we have a great lunch, a productive afternoon… and a delicious dinner! ; ) Ah, summer holidays — I can’t wait until next year!

xxx Esther

PS Yummy Puy lentil salad

Æbleskiver recipe


Æbleskivers are a type of (delicious!) Danish pancake… and while I don’t have any Danish roots, my family has been making Æbleskivers for as long as I can remember. My mom even remembers her grandmother making them for her. I believe they are traditionally eaten around Christmas time, but in my family we eat them whenever we are all together. Usually in the summertime!

Santa gave me an Æbleskiver pan for Christmas this year and we made them twice over the Christmas holiday. They’re so yummy — like a cross between a donut and a pancake. What’s not to love?! Here’s my family’s age-old recipe:

Æbleskivers (approximately 40):

– 3 eggs
– 1 pint of cream
– 2 cups flour
– ½ teaspoon of salt
– 2 teaspoons of baking powder
– 1 Tablespoon of sugar

Beat the eggs until they’re light in colour. Add the flour and the cream alternatively and mix well. Add the salt, baking powder and sugar and mix until smooth and creamy. Batter should pour easily into pan.

Heat your Æbleskiver pan over high heat. Add a bit of vegetable oil (or butter) to individual holes and fill the holes ¾ full with batter. Turn the æbleskivers (we do this with a fork in each hand) when they are getting dry and golden on the bottom (you might need to turn them in three rotations to get them to be round in shape). When they are round and golden on all sides, dump from the pan onto a plate of powdered sugar.

Enjoy with powdered sugar and/or jam. (If you’ve made too many, save for later! My kids love them even when they’re cold.)

xx Courtney

Bread dough, fresh from Paris bakeries

I have been in France six years now and I feel that I’m now getting to grips with the country. I have figured out the school system, the tax system and the obsession with dossiers. So now, I am always thrilled when I discover something new! This weekend, it was the fact that you can walk into almost any French bakery (and there are many) and ask for baguette dough, already bashed around and risen to perfection. It costs the same as a loaf of bread and the possibilities are endless.

I made a couple of trays full of fresh pizza and some foccacia with the leftovers as we had friends over for dinner. I think it would be lovely to pick up the dough one night and then bake some little rolls for breakfast. Someone told me that you can even buy brioche dough, which you can then roll out, fill and experiment with. Voila, you learn something new every day!

I am wondering, can you  do the same in other countries?

– Emilie

Saturday night sushi

Apparently my daughter’s favourite food in the whole wide world is sushi.  Usually we go to our local Japanese restaurant but I have made sushi in the past and decided that since she wanted to eat it she could ‘help’ me make it.  Sushi is actually super easy to make and is a fun activity to do.  We used 5 ingredients to fill our sushi and mixed and matched them.  The ingredients we used were; cucumber, smoked mackrel, salmon, avocado and toasted sesame seeds.

This weekend we went all out and even made our own vegetable tempura with a batter mix bought from our local supermarket.  It was also very easy to make.  Probably not the healthiest way to cook your veges but they sure were delicious!

Steph xo

Why pancakes?

As my eldest goes to a German kindergarten, he and his friends will be celebrating Karnival today — going to kindergarten dressed up in their favourite fancy-dress (I think we can expect a fair few pirates, policeman and princesses!).

I love how our family combines the traditions from both our cultures — I think it is providing us with a very rich life and so I cannot let the day slip without what Shrove Tuesday always meant for me growing up …. pancakes!

Quite a few of my German friends, who will join us for pancakes, had never heard of our tradition before so I thought I better check out why it is we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?  Although our traditions seem quite different they stem from the same idea.  During Lent you would abstain from parties and celebrations and certain foods.  From what I can work out, in continental Europe the week before lent starts is all about extravagant celebration (hence the dressing up) knowing that there will be no more celebrations for 40 days.  Whilst here in the UK we focus on eating up all the foods in the house that will not be allowed during lent, typically fats, dairy and eggs — hence pancakes were made as they used up these ingredients. (more…)

Little Eats


If you live in Melbourne or are planning a visit, a fabulous (and totally cute) website to check out is Little Eats. Little Eats is the brainchild of Jemma Reynolds — a self confessed foodie, critique and ‘super-mum’ to 2 pre-schoolers. Let’s face it — dining out with kids in tow can be fraught… fraught with fear, trepidation, anxiety and a host of other raging emotions. I have certainly had my fair share of cringe-worthy cafe moments. But it needn’t be so! Jemma profiles restaurants and cafes in and around Melbourne and rates them in relation to their ‘kid-friendliness’. Pram access? High chairs? Distraction apparatus like books or paper and crayons? Welcoming smiles? With her expert eye (and with the help of her 2 adorable pint-sized side-kicks) Jemma susses out the facilities, children’s menu, table and customer service. Of course she is also obligated to road-test the menu (all in the name of ‘field research’  she assures me.) Afterall we all know that pram access, high chairs, drawing supplies, babyccinos, choc-topped gingerbread men, great food and the perfect latte are important… in equal measure.

- Sara

Kids in restaurants — do or don’t?

I love eating out and, of course, I love kids… but sometimes the two don’t mix.  I do still get annoyed, even after having my own kids, when there are children in a restaurant creating havoc. For me, eating out is a moment to relax, talk and enjoy good food, and a screaming kid can completely spoil the mood. In France, most children are taught from the moment they are conceived to behave well in a restaurant. But even here, occasionally, you wonder why people don’t just pick up their child and take him outside until he calms down, to let the other guests have their meal in piece.

I just read a piece in the Guardian about an owner of a restaurant who has decreed that “Screaming children will not be tolerated”. I think that is the best restaurant rule I have ever heard of! I am obviously not talking about kid-friendly cafés which are basically interior playgrounds, but I do think that screaming kids in a grown-up cafe or restaurant should not have to be tolerated, whilst well behaved kids who are happily eating their food are a pleasure to see in any restaurant. What are your thoughts?

– Emilie

Vegemite — a great Aussie icon


Ah, Vegemite. Without doubt it is Australia’s favorite sandwich spread. But while it is loved by the locals, it is generally repulsed by our visitors.Visually, I will concede, it is a little unappetizing (hmm…black sticky tar?). And chances are, unless you grew up on it or follow the guidelines below (without digressing I should add) you will probably never acquire the taste for it. For first timers the taste of Vegemite is very unexpected, surprisingly sharp and in order to avoid gagging which so many of the uninitiated do on their first bite, you need to apply the Vegemite sparingly with liberal amounts of butter. But, rich in Vitamin B Aussie kids are brought up on the salty-tasting spread from babyhood (hooray for toasty Vegemite soldiers dipped into soft-boiled eggs!) and it is a school lunch box staple. I personally know many Aussies who won’t travel without a small jar or easy-squeeze tube of Vegemite for fear that they will not find it and then shock horror, what on earth would they have on their toast in the morning? (more…)

Salmonella and other reasons why I am afraid to eat anything ever again….

Blurry_Grocery_Store_Photo-480x320On New Years Eve, during a major snowstorm, one of my daughters became violently ill. The timing, of course, could not have been worse and after a call to the doctor we were put at ease, told to stay in, to push fluids and to ride it out.There’s a stomach bug going around and it will pass” — we were told.  But “stomach bug” I knew this was not.  This thing, whatever she had, was far more sinister.  A day later and two separate trips to the emergency room we wound up in the hospital for seven days of pure agony. Not only were we quarantined in a room that we were not allowed to leave but my potty-trained daughter was back in diapers –- going to the bathroom up to 30 times a day and screaming every time (sorry tmi). The poor thing was finally diagnosed with Salmonella (it takes 3 days to show up in a  blood culture), and even rarer, it had spread to her bloodstream. Where she got it – I still don’t know. Salmonella is one of those things that you can get from food, playing with a turtle, anywhere really – nobody knows. And when a kid gets it, especially if it gets into the blood, it is nothing short of terrifying. (more…)

Aperitivo in Milan

aperitivo1Milan is an expensive city, and when you are visiting on travel it’s probably even more difficult to have dinner without spending a fortune. During the day the ubiquitous bakeries allow you to eat on a budget easily but at night it’s easy to have to shell out a small fortune for a dinner, however nice it may be. If you take into account that children’s menus and small portions are hard to find, then the bill will be even higher for families with small children.
A nice solution might be to make the best of the Milanese aperitivo or “happy hour”. The hour is happy not because you get two drinks for the price of one, but because by paying for a drink you get unlimited access to a free buffet. (more…)

Play-brunch at the San Vittore

sanvittoreItalians, or possibly just the people from Milan, have come up with their own version of brunch. In the last 10 years many restaurants have specialised in a particular Sunday lunch, that goes by the name of brunch.
It’s not too dissimilar from what the international crowd believes brunch should be, but it has its own peculiarities. First of all it happens at lunch time, not in between breakfast and lunch. The experience normally involves a big buffet table that offers food in a very wide range. You’ll find lasagna, pasta and risotto next to meatballs and sausages. All sorts of grain salads next to grilled vegetables. But also scrambled and hard boiled eggs, brownies, pancakes, fruit, yogurt and cereals. So it’s really hard not to find something everybody likes.
That’s why it has become a favourite family event — informal, quick and with lots of choice for the fussy children.
Today we tried the play-brunch at the San Vittore restaurant, named from the prison it faces (in the center of Milan!). (more…)

Eating out in France

cafe-lindustrieMichela and I are often asked about family-friendly restaurants in our respective cities. Try as we might, we are hard pressed to come up with good suggestions. There is a huge North/South divide in Europe regarding the obvious signs of child friendliness in restaurants.

In Northern Europe you will more often than not be offered a highchair when you enter a restaurant with your kids. Often you find changing tables in the bathrooms and kids menus, and many places even have special toys they bring out. In Southern Europe it is rare to find this kind of service, BUT this does not mean that children are not welcome. In fact, they are almost always welcome, but are expected to fit around the adults. (more…)

Baby snacks

baby-mm-original-sWhile checking out the baby biscuits at a health food store, I stumbled upon Baby Mum-Mum biscuits, and couldn’t resist the name!  Now my almost 9-month-old is addicted– she clearly prefers these over any baby cookies I buy.   I love them too– they come in individual packets, great to stash in your bag, they are slightly crunchy, and not at all messy.  They are made primarily of rice, but do have small amounts of sugar and salt. (Maybe that is what makes them so yummy?)  Click here for a list of US and Canadian retailers.

Another classic American fave for older babies is Cheerios.  For my first daughter, I remember stuffing my suitcase full of plain Cheerios when I visited the States, as in France, only the honey nut variety are available.  Apparently Cheerios are great for babies who have perfected the pincer grasp, and I’ve heard they reduce the possibility of chocking as they are circle-shaped.  As I was thinking about this post, I was wondering what kinds of snacks and biscuits moms around the world feed their babies.  Are there other great ideas, or even better– homemade snacks, that we should know about?

xx Rebecca

Le Loir dans la Théière

loir.jpgI had a coffee with the lovely Kirby from Petite Alma this morning in one of my favourite cafés and I suddenly realised that I have never written a post about it! It is called  Le Loir dans la Théière on 3 rue des Rosiers in the Marais (Tel : 01 42 72 90 61).

We go there with friends and family for the fabulous brunch on the weekends (get there early, or risk waiting in a huge queue), we also go for lunch and we especially go there to have a big piece of cake in the afternoons. The lemon pie has a meringue crust that is at least 10 centimetres high! I have had friends refuse to leave town before having a slice of this pie! I am also very partial to their Tarte Tatin — it’s really  incredible.

The thing I like almost as much as the food is the atmosphere and decor; it hasn’t changed a bit in all the years the café has been around. You will find mismatched, big leather armchairs and old tables. Laptops are not allowed, and even when there is a huge queue snaking out of the café onto the road, every customer is allowed to take as much time as he needs.

There is no special kid-friendly equipment but the staff are really nice and try to accommodate you as much as possible, though it is best to avoid turning up with a big pushchair during the peak hours.

– Emilie

Goûter

gouter.jpgAfter recently spending a week in the UK my kids were very confused. In France one of the highlights of a child’s day is the “goûter”, a sweet snack at 4 pm. Usually it is a Nutella or jam sandwich with a glass of milk, or a sweet bread called a ‘pain au lait’ with a yogurt or a fuit compote (the French have never taken to the idea of rice cakes). It ties kids over until dinner time which is often given to them after their bath around 6.30 or 7.00pm. The day normally wraps up at 8pm.

In the UK dinner normally seems to be at 5pm and kids are in bed by 7pm sharp. So of course my daughter was very confused by not getting her customary goûter. I guess kids really are creatures of habit….

I’m interested to know what happens in other countries. Do you have the tradition of an afternoon goûter, or is the goûter just a French thing?

– Emilie

Good food choices

Apricot Apple Pear pureeOkay, so I don’t want to sound like I’m having a meltdown but I am in a bit of a major adjustment zone at the moment. (Haha. It’s not going to last until he’s 18 years old, is it???) While I feel more comfortable with my baby being at daycare — he’s slowly settling in – I am still torn about letting go of another ideal I held about being a “good” mother. The first one to slip through my fingers was breastfeeding. Going back to work, it wasn’t practical to continue. And I also realised that I wasn’t producing enough milk to sustain my growing boy. He actually became quite underweight. Now, I’m weighing up the pros and cons of homemade solids versus store-bought ones. While I look at the jam-packed website of Annabel Karmel and wish I had a spare day or two to make “Tasty Salmon Puree” or “Braised Beef with Sweet Potato” I just don’t have the time. And while there is probably more variety in store-bought baby food than ever before, there still doesn’t seem a huge choice. I’ve yet to see any fish on offer in the form of a baby food jar (locally farmed, preferably — yep, I warned you that I have pretty high ideals). I would love to know what choices you’ve made regarding homemade versus store-bought food, especially if you’ve gone back to work.

-Natalie

The naked teabag

img_8720.JPGIn Italy teabags always come in individual envelopes, maybe it’s because Italians are not big tea-drinkers so tea is better preserved if it’s wrapped in paper. Whatever the reason may be, when I was growing up, I never questioned the fact — that was just the way teabags were.
When I moved to England I immediately noticed that teabags came in big boxes of at least 50 pieces and most of them didn’t have single envelopes, they were sleeveless… or as I started calling them: naked!
I got so used to them — definitely less waste of paper, quicker in the mornings and, not less important, naked teabags can easily be stored in nice jars. Once I moved back 3 years ago, I kept drinking English tea thanks to frequent visits and a frequent-flyer husband. Recently my regular supply came to an end, so I started looking for naked teabags everywhere but they are not for sale in Italy. After all, individually wrapped teabags do their job greatly, I admit I was being a bit picky.
That’s when I stumbled across British Corner Shop, a web-shop that sells British groceries and delivers worldwide. They carry a huge selections of everything you may miss when away from the UK (yes, come on… it can happen).  Cereals, biscuits, marmite, beans, cleaning products and baby food. Prices are good but the delivery is not too cheap; just order loads of stuff to make it worth it (that’s what I did).
So that’s how I got my teabags, but that’s also how we finally had Christmas crackers on our table this year!

-Michela

What are you making for dinner tonight?

’50s HousewifeWhen Esther lived around the corner from me here in London I called her all the time just to ask her what she was making for dinner that night.  Esther is really good at opening up her fridge, looking at what is left in there and then coming up with something tasty!  I, on the other hand, am really good at copying other people’s ideas! I’m just not very innovative in the kitchen… But if someone tells me how to make something and gives me the recipe I’m pretty capable of doing it.

I still call Esther from time to time hoping for ideas and inspiration, and I love to read the recipes the other girls post here on Babyccino. It’s so fun to learn all the typical recipes from the different countries. I love Michela’s easy pasta recipes and Emilie’s recipes for French tarts and sweets!

With all of this in mind, we thought it would be fun to set up a forum for our readers to discuss what you’re all making for dinner tonight.  Whether you’ve prepared a 3-course meal, pureeing home-cooked baby food or you’re scrambling eggs, we want to hear from you!!!  (It also makes us feel better if someone else is ALSO just heating up left-overs, or ordering take-out… :-))
And, If you’re making up a recipe, we’d love to know about that too (even if it wasn’t very tasteful — it happens to the best of us).  We would especially love to hear your all-time favorite recipes… If you’re willing to share!

So please leave your comments.  Check back daily to hear what others are saying, and keep the conversation going!
We think this is going to be so much fun!!!

Bon appetit!

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