I wasn’t always into food. Many of my lovely colleagues became dietitians because they loved food. For me it was more a love of health and science. I did’t quite feel I wanted to be a doctor and other areas of healthcare didn’t feel quite right either (I considered a few - physio, OT you name it!). Then I heard a dietitian talk at my local paediatric hospital and I knew I’d found the right career for me. Fast forward 20 yrs and one of the things I've learnt along the way, is that you can’t effectively talk to people about improving their nutrition if you don’t know how to translate that into real food ideas. So somewhere in my early days of being a dietitian my love of food and cooking was born. I’ve been fortunate in my career too, to be surrounded by so many dietitians that were amazing (think Masterchef level) cooks, that have taught me a lot. All of this has shaped my food philosophy that I put into practice everyday to feed my family, and prepare all those lunch boxes.
I’d love to say that I’m an amazing cook, but I’m simply not. I do however believe in making the effort to cook most things from scratch because they simply taste better. (side note - there are some convenience foods I simply couldn’t live without - a good quality curry paste & dried pasta being my top two, and I’m also happy to cut corners by buying fresh pizza dough and using a jar pasta sauce for the base). When food tastes really good I think you’re far more likely to finish a meal feeling satisfied instead of asking “Ok now what can I eat next”? I also like to think that the more I cook at home, the more cooking skills will rub off only my kids and one day they’ll leave home being able to make more than just a poached egg.
Simple fresh ingredients make for the best meals. I don’t buy organic because as a family of six, it’s just too expensive. I also believe you can do much more for your health by having a diet high in fruit and vegetables, rather than consuming a smaller amount of fruits and vegetables that happen to be organic. I also don’t buy alternative sweeteners like rice syrup, agave or alike. I mostly use sugar in my cooking because again it’s cheaper. I do use things like maple syrup, honey or golden syrup - but mostly for their culinary purpose - to add flavour. Typically you’ll find me staying away from the food trends in favour of simple home style meals that I’ve prepared to the best of my ability from scratch. In the Winter we always start the day with a big pot of porridge bubbling away. There’s always cereal back up if the kids want something different ,or are extra hungry and want more than one bowl. If they ask nicely, I’ll switch out the porridge for some eggs. After school snacks include smoothies, crackers, fruit, and on my shopping day my kids get a treat of a finger bun. If we’re killing time at the shops after school while one of them plays sport, it’s quite likely they’ll all share some sushi.
Dinner is home cooked and I always focus on maximising the veggies in what I’m cooking. This week we’ve enjoyed cauliflower soup and a cracked pepper and smoked cheddar damper (the weather is getting cooler here!), tonight it’s a chicken enchilada tray bake (I’ll make my own spice mix), and we have some family favourites like tacos and spaghetti & meatballs on the menu too. I really love a baked dessert in the winter time, so this week we’ll have an apple crumble, but chocolate self saucing pudding and apple & blackberry pies will all feature regularly. I’m also not above giving myself the night off cooking (especially on a Friday when we come home late from sport and I’m just done for the week) by using convince items like frozen pizza and just padding out the meal with a fruit platter and a salad to make it more balanced.
I apply these same philosophies to my lunch boxes. I prep a lot of baked goods myself and freeze them. Nothing beats the taste of a home baked chocolate chip cookie, and I like the fact that I know it’s got a better nutritional profile because of the extras I’ve added (wholemeal flour and oats are in our recipe). I always have a selection of the kids preferred fruits and veggies on hand and I try to alter this with the season (although my kids are likely to want watermelon year round). I’ll add some savoury convince items (like wholegrain crackers, popcorn etc), and throw in their main item for lunch (English pizza muffins have been the big hit this week). I feel good when I’ve done my best at sending a “nude” food lunch. I know it’s the better choice for our environment, and often it also often means a more nutritionally balanced lunch box. In creating our lunch box it was paramount to me that we created something that supported the nude food/waste free movement in schools, as well as supporting my food philosophy. I think we’ve done ok if your feedback is anything to go by!