Cooking with kids

Children's cookbook author Emily Rose Brott talks getting kids involved in making healthy food.

“Children and adolescents cannot choose the food they eat; it’s given to them,” Emily Rose Brott says. And so, she sees her role as a mother of four to establish healthy eating habits early on. Her two cookbooks, Healthy Home Cooking for Kids and Have Your Cake, focus on sharing tasty, nutritious recipes that are easy for both parents and children to make. Spanning snacks, meals and treats, her recipes are high in fibre, low in sugars and saturated fats and free of preservatives, additives and artificial flavours and colours.

Why did you start making healthy, nutritious recipes?

It began about five years ago when I started checking the back of bought ingredients to avoid purchasing foods with lots of additives and numbers listed. After finding there wasn’t much available in the sweets department, I began baking at home. I didn’t feel comfortable feeding my children so much sugar so I decided to see if I could make a healthy choc chip cookie with no butter, no white flour and no added sugar. My challenge was to see if it could taste like a ‘normal’ choc chip cookie and we were all surprised when it did.

I began experimenting and quickly learnt that as honey and wholemeal flour are a lot denser than sugar and white flour, I needed to add other ingredients such as coconut, almond meal or orange juice to lighten the treats and give them more flavour. When the kids and their friends loved my new recipes, I decided to write a cookbook so that I could share them with others.

How did you create your recipes?

Initially, there was a lot of experimenting. My kitchen became my laboratory. I would first write the recipe, test it and then make adjustments from there. Then my taste testers would taste it. If they said it was ‘nice’, I wasn’t satisfied and would continue reworking the recipe until their response was ‘that’s amazing, I can’t believe it’s healthy’. I knew by the expressions on their face when a recipe was ready to go in the book. One recipe took seven times to perfect, but I kept going until I got it right.

What have you learnt about healthy cooking along your journey?

I’ve learnt that we can still have delicious meals and even treats, using healthy ingredients that are high in fibre and low in sugars and saturated fats. By cooking at home, we can know what’s in the food that we are serving to our families and make sure that we are putting healthy ingredients into their bodies.

What have been your most popular recipes?

From my first cookbook, Have Your Cake, the blueberry muffins, jaffa friands, strawberry and chocolate ice-creams, banana bread, chocolate coconut slice, choc chip cookies and pikelets were all very popular.

What advice do you have for families to eat better?

We try to eat fresh, homemade food. If I am buying packaged food I always check the ingredient list on the back to avoid buying products with numbers listed and lots of additives. I also involve my kids in the cooking process, so they can learn about the different ingredients. Especially when baking, it’s a great way to get kids involved and tasting new ingredients.

What role do you think parents should play in taking the lead in health for their family?

I think it is important for parents to educate their children about healthy eating and provide them with healthier options that are still affordable and easily accessible. Hopefully, if we establish healthy eating habits early in life for our kids, it will set them on the right path for later in life when they are old enough to make their own choices with regard to eating. By making the foods tasty with the right ingredients we should be able to achieve this goal.

Where do you look for health inspiration?

My mum. She always cooked very healthy meals for us growing up. Everything was always fresh and colourful and tasted amazing.

To purchase Emily’s book Healthy Home Cooking for Kids visit randomhouse.com.au

Recommended reading - Issue One Spring 2012

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