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In her new book Mind Kind award winning child psychologist, Dr Joanna North, advocates for a new approach to parenting that has kindness and self-compassion at its heart.

The experiences and information discussed in this piece are an edited extract from Mind Kind (Exisle , 2019) by Dr Joanne North, which you can find here.

Over many years of practice with families and my own experience of parenting, I have concluded that love is not, in fact, enough to make you a good parent. I have seen many parents, who without doubt have loved and adored their children, have their children taken out of their care by local authorities.

This is, of course, extremely sad but parents who love their children don’t necessarily help them to develop in a healthy or psychologically coherent way and may take their eye off the task sufficiently that their children are in danger or lose out and are disadvantaged. Conversely, I have met parents who have everything imaginable in their lives in terms of privilege, financial security and status, but this is not the same as offering love and good parenting, and so their children still lose out in terms of feeling secure and loved, despite all these other resources. There are many parents who have very little materially but are able to provide secure and commendable parenting to their children so that they grow up to seek advantageous opportunities.

Many parents, who…loved and adored their children, have their children taken out of their care by local authorities.

So what are the forces at work that guide parents down the right or wrong road and what are the goals we are heading for? Along with commitment, I advocate a more mindful approach to parenting. .

While I don’t want to prescribe a framework, I have put together a set of principles and concepts that I have learnt are of importance to the task. These principles and concepts could be broadly termed as leading to ‘mindful’ or ‘mind-minded’ parenting that is focused on the developing mind of the child and can be corralled under the term ‘Mind Kind’. I want parents to learn the skill of being kind to their child’s mind I intend to make it easy for you to think about these things and have developed the acronym of PATACCAKE, which describes the desirable emotional/feeling states or qualities in parents (rather than a desirable set of prescribed behaviours) that combine to make for Mind Kind parenting. PATACCAKE stands for:

Patience

Acceptance

Tolerance

Attunement

Commitment

Compassion

Awareness

Kindness

Empathy.

We can’t come up with these constructive emotions and states of mind all the time and we are going to have days when we can only just get through living in an accepting way. We all have to live with our reactive emotions and soothe them as best we can, and really, what would life be if we did not have this reactivity to deal with, and how would we teach our children? Polarity is very much part of the world in which we live. But PATACCAKE is a reminder of where we can be, what is hopeful and as an ideal to aim for when we can.

Love is not…enough to make you a good parent.

Sesame seed

I have also built the acronym SESAME SEED. The themes of ‘sesame seed parenting’ form the cornerstones of being a Mind Kind parent and offer the major clues to achieving parenting that makes your children feel good.

Secure

Secure parenting can be achieved by parents who want to know how to support children to feel stable, secure and able to cope with life. This means the child feels good from the inside because they acknowledge their emotional life, including thoughts, feelings and emotions. They will also have some sense of how to organize, manage and regulate these very real forces that flow through their lives for the rest of their lives. Thoughts and feelings affect behaviour and wellbeing, and they represent the workings of our mind. This means that by paying attention to the inner world of children as well as the outer world, parents are offering enduring skills and support through their relationship with their children.

Emotion

The neuroscientific reality is that our emotional lives deeply influence our mind, brain and wellbeing and are a force for survival and contentment rather than an annoying human tendency to be ignored.

Emotions are a communication to us about our sensory response to our environment, our experience of it and our security within that environment. Parents who are mindful of emotion will help their children experience the broad range of their emotional lives and manage these emotions as a flow of energy and information about themselves, their relationships and their environment. Emotions can range from the depths of despair to the heights of joy and we are made to travel through this range, rather than get stuck in one predominant state.

 

If we can help our children to understand that minds can change, and to be patient with moods and tolerate uncomfortable states of mind, we will be truly helping them to successfully survive.

Symbolic behaviour

All behaviour is a communication about life and a set of symptoms of what is going on for a child in their environment, and their thoughts and feelings about this. We have to help our children become aware of and manage their own behaviour and channel into positive outcomes the natural energetic impulses that are part of life.

Most behaviour relates to human need. Therefore, behaviour is likely to be a map of our child’s needs. If we don’t like it we shouldn’t blame them for it. Instead, we should look at why it is happening and what we can do to change that. We could remember the five basic needs; the need to belong, the need to achieve, the need for fun and enjoyment, the need for freedom and independence and the need to have a sense that we will safely survive. If parents are not fulfilling the totality of these needs, their children will act this out. We need to learn the craft of understanding emotion, thought and behaviour.

Five basic needs; the need to belong, the need to achieve, the need for fun and enjoyment, the need for freedom and independence and the need to have a sense that we will safely survive.

Adversity

Life is never going to be without challenge or change. You have to be prepared for periods of adversity and ‘mend the roof while the sun is shining’. This means that parents have a grip on the realities of life and are prepared for how to cope when children need more of their help than usual.

It is a certainty that life is going to happen to you, just as it does to every other parent around the world. The cycle of life, death and birth, growth and regrowth is just about the only reliable cycle that we can be sure of.. So it is not a case of if you will meet something difficult in your life but when. While we face up to how difficult life can be, we also face up to how resourceful we can be as humans and what we can do when the going gets tough. There are few magical solutions, but we can put in imagination and effort to finding real solutions.

Mindfulness and mental health

Mental wellbeing for children could be described as helping them to organize their minds, along with organizing your mind. You will be making that journey to recovery with your child. Your reaction and response to any condition is going to contribute to their recovery. They will need you to feel stable, informed and sure-footed. They don’t need your anxiety about them to be added into the mix. It is hard for loving and committed parents not to feel panicky about their children at times — this is only natural. We need to attend to our fears and then move forward. Parents and carers need to understand what is happening in their own mind so that they can support their children from a position of strength and security.

Errors in parenting

You will make errors in your parenting. It is not so much the error that you make but the way you put it right that will mean something to your child. So after you shout and overreact (which we have all done) try to understand the situation and talk with your child about it, explaining your reaction and setting out a new plan for a better result next time — both in you and in your child.

After you shout and overreact…try to understand the situation and talk with your child about it, explaining your reaction and setting out a new plan for a better result next time.

Sense of self and self-image

Regardless of the society we live in, image is important. Archaeology is constantly proving to us that men and women in ancient civilizations (Egypt, for example, some 4000 years ago) were just as focused on what they looked like, as well as what they felt like, spending time on artefacts for themselves and their environments, using make-up and painting their experiences in their homes and temples. It is our creative and social instincts that make us focus on how we choose to present ourselves, but there are psychological issues in play because our self-image is based on our sense of self and how we feel we are accepted within society. We expect teenagers to experiment with self-image while deciding who they are and how they want to be, and we may be surprised at who they want to be.

 

Eating and self-worth

Ultimately you and your children will become what you eat. You have to decide whether you want to feel like a sugar-coated dough monster or a vibrant vegetable or fruit creature. Or maybe somewhere in between. It is almost certain that you will feel like what you eat and that you will eat in a way that is complementary to how you feel. Food as a source of emotion and love our relationship with food as a metaphor for our relationship with ourselves.

Empathy

Empathy is a tool for understanding your children. Empathy might be the nearest substance to magic fairy dust that we humans have. You will have to decide by practice what you think. Empathic responses, rather than immediate reactions, will tell children that you are at least trying to understand them and willing to work with them. Every child and human needs empathy, from when they are the tiniest one hour-old newborn. It is the base for your parenting and love for your children.

 

Development

Childhood is a journey rather than a destination and children are always travelling in themselves as they grow and develop. It is probably one of the most miraculous things to watch as your children grow, but it is also quite subtle, and some parents find this threatening and don’t want their children to explore new pathways of being themselves as their minds develop. It can be confusing as children change dramatically in their outlook and behaviours or it can be a joyful dance to celebrate life — and in reality will probably be a mixture of both. It helps to inform yourself of some of the expected milestones of development so that you can at least have a map of the journey that is being taken and be prepared.

The most important thing we can be to our children (or anybody else’s children) is kind. The term ‘mind-minded parenting’ tells us to think of the child’s mind as we watch them grow. Always try to think about their developing mind and their developing sense of themselves. Minds grow best in positive emotional environments where children feel understood. If there is one idea to take away it is that whether your children are being really naughty or really perfect, whether they are very settled or quite disturbed, at all times they need your attention and your kind attention to the detail of their lives.

 

You have to learn to be kind to their developing mind — Mind Kind — and to do this you are also going to have to learn to be kinder to yourself. You cannot give to your children what you have not got inside. This includes the principles of sesame seed thinking combined with qualities of that lovely childhood nursery rhyme PATACCAKE. We can bring PATACCAKE qualities to mind any time we choose. Instead of coming at a child with frustration and rage we could stop to think PATACCAKE. Without these innate universally positive qualities flowing in the environment of your child’s life they will not thrive and — in my view — nor will humankind.

This is an edited extract from Mind Kind (Exisle , 2019) by Dr Joanne North, available form www.exislepubishing.com and wherever good books are sold. RRP $32.99

Organise lunchboxes with minimal fuss and lots of healthy yumminess with these four amazing recipes!

Click here for more articles on nutrition, food portions, superfoods and health!


Recipe 1: 2 Ingredient Lunchbox Scrolls

If you want to make some fresh scrolls for lunch at home or lunch boxes, this is a really fast and easy recipe.  Equal parts self raising flour and greek yoghurt, that’s it!!

Serves: 8
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook times: 20 mins
Total time: 35 mins

Ingredients: 
1 cup Self Raising Flour
1 cup Greek Yoghurt

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 180C
2. Mix flour and yoghurt and make a ball.
3. Knead for a few minutes, adding more flour if mixture is too wet.
4. Sprinkle extra flour on bench, roll dough into rectangle

Mix ingredients together into a bowl to create dough.  I add a little more flour if the mix is too sticky.  Roll out onto a floured flat surface.  I have made a double batch below and created a different variety of scrolls.  One side is ham, capsicum, pineapple and cheese, the other ham and cheese.

Then roll up and slice into 2 cm thick segments, bake on baking tray until golden, approximately 15-18minutes.

Recipe 2: Mexican Chicken Salad Sandwich Filling

Ooh we so love Mexican in this household.  The girls and I like most dishes as I make them, but the boys (so macho) like to add in extra dashes of chilli sauce or jalapenos.   We often have chicken rolls for lunch on the weekends, but this took the traditional chicken and mayo roll to a whole new level.  If you love mexican you must try this!

Serves: 8-10
Prep time: 10 mins
Total time: 10 mins

Ingredients:

1 tomato, finely diced
1 capsicum, finely diced
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1/2 cup tasty cheese, grated
poached chicken breasts or 1 BBQ chook, shredded
1/3 cup mayonnaise
taco seasoning, to taste
Bread rolls

Instructions:

1. Add tomato, capsicum, spring onions and cheese into a large bowl, stir
2. Place chicken, mayonnaise and taco seasoning into bowl and stir to thoroughly combine.
3. Taste and add more mayonnaise and seasoning if required
4. Serve on bread rolls. There is enough mix for approximately 10 rolls.

Firstly I combined a diced tomato, capsicum, spring onions and cheese.

Then added poached chicken(or BBQ chook), mayonaise and taco seasoning.

Serve on bread rolls tiger bread rolls on this day, for a special treat!

Recipe 3: Fruity Bliss Balls

These Fruity Bliss Balls are nut free, which are ideal to put in the lunch boxes of kids who have a nut free policy at their school, store in the fridge for up to one week.

Serves: 18
Prep time: 15 mins
Total time: 15 mins

Ingredients:

10 medjool dates, remove seeds
1/2 cup raisins or sultanas
1 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon cacao or cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
coconut

Instructions:

1. Place the ingredients into a food processor.
2. Process on high speed for several minutes until the mixture sticks together like a paste.
3. Take small handfuls of mixture and make into balls, roll in coconut.
4. Keep in the refrigerator, enjoy.

My kids usually take 3 bliss balls in replace of a fruit, read more about my lunchbox packing guide.

Recipe 4: Greek Mason Jar Salad

I’m trying to mix up what I am eating for lunches during the week.  Earlier this year I was stuck in a rut of making a sandwich every day.  Now I take time to plan ahead and make sure I eat something different each day.  I still have a sandwich, but another day I may have crispbread loaded with tuna, spinach, onion and tomato and then another day a mason jar salad.

Prep time: 10 mins
Total time: 10 mins

Ingredients: 

1-2 tablespoons classic dressing
1 /3 cup chickpeas
Capsicum, diced
Cucumber, diced
Red onion, sliced
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Olives
Chicken, shredded
Fetta, cubed
Baby spinach, washed

Instructions:

1. Place all ingredients in the order listed above into a clean mason jar
2. Seal tightly, refrigerate and use within 5-7 days.

http://www.offspringmagazine.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/greek-mason-jar-salad-5.jpg

There is a special technique to the salad assembly to keep all the contents fresh.  The vegetables and protein need to be layered in a particular way:

Layer 1  Dressing
Layer 2  Chickpeas
Layer 3 – Hard vegetables – capsicum, cucumber and red onion
Layer 4 – Soft vegetables – cherry tomatoes, olives
Layer 5 – Protein – chicken and fetta
Layer 6 – Salad greens – baby spinach

Words and Photos from: 

Kat Springer
The Organised Housewife

Ari Chavez chats with Sally Obermeder about beating cancer, thriving on green smoothies and most importantly to Sally, being mum to three year old Annabelle, amidst a high profile career.

Sally Obermeder knows her way around a curve ball or two. In October 2011, the bubbly author, a National Entertainment and Lifestyle Reporter for Today Tonight was on top of the world. Her career was thriving and she loved her work but, most importantly, the then-37 year old was 41 weeks pregnant with a longed for baby, a successful IVF attempt after many years of trying to conceive naturally with her husband of a decade, Marcus.

Preoccupied with the imminent birth of Annabelle, Sally paid little attending to the nagging pain in her breast, and a small amount of skin puckering, believing the changes in her body were pregnancy-related. After a routine check from her obstetrician, however, she was referred for urgent scans and a biopsy.

The results were grim. Sally had a rare and aggressive form of Stage 3 breast cancer, and the medical advice was to start chemotherapy immediately. Sally needed to give birth as a priority, so she was induced while oncologists undertook further testing throughout her labour.

“Reeling from shock, Sally gave birth to Annabelle just one day after her cancer diagnosis. Ten days later, she started aggressive medical intervention.”

Ultimately, Sally’s treatment involved eight months of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.

The chemo, she said publically, was like being “nuclear bombed”. Her nails fell off, her mouth and throat ulcerated, she lost her hair and eyebrows and the ache in her bones was so relentless she could not lie down. The double mastectomy triggered such feelings of grief and shame, she revealed at the time that she felt “unworthy of being in the world.”

And all the while there was Annabelle, baby Annabelle, who needed feeding and changing and cuddling. Sally was too sick from her treatment to do it and, even if she could summon up the energy to kiss her baby, she was forbidden from doing so as the chemotherapy was too toxic for the newborn. It was a painful reality, another loss.

“I can’t get up in the night to feed Annabelle or change her during the days of chemotherapy treatment,” the popular media personality told The Australian Women’s Weekly not long after Annabelle’s birth.

“This is not how it’s supposed to be. She is supposed to know that I am there for her no matter what, not just when the cancer allows. And I hate the cancer for that. Because I feel like it has taken something precious from me and from my baby girl.

“This is something I have wanted my whole life, and now that I have it, I feel like it’s completely compromised. I thought I would be in this baby-and-me bubble. It would just be us, and it would be so beautiful. But instead there’s me and the cancer in one bubble and me and Annabelle in the other bubble, and I just keep shuffling between the two.”

Finally, twelve months later, Sally was given the all clear. She was completely cancer free.

Sally struggled on with her treatment, which at times was so debilitating it took all of her mental strength to continue with it. Courageously, she raised awareness of breast cancer by making public appearances and attending industry events, either with a wig or bald. Finally, twelve months later, Sally was given the all clear. She was completely cancer free.

It had been a brutal battle, but Sally had won it and, determined to restore her chemo-ravaged body to health, she set about pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Key to this was her love of green smoothies, a healthy blend of vegetables, fruits and super foods, which have boosted her energy levels, and helped her lose 15 kilograms, weight she gained due to eating to help fight nausea and sickness caused by the chemotherapy. The smoothie ingredients, which can include any fruits or vegetables, are blended with water or nut milks or cow’s milk, ensuring all the fibre and nutrients are consumed.

Such is her belief in the health benefits of green smoothies, Sally has written a book, with her sister, Maha Koraiem, Super Green Smoothies (Allen & Unwin, $19.99), which includes loads of recipes and tips for the smoothie lifestyle.

“We have been drinking green smoothies for about a year and a half now, and we wanted to include our favourite recipes, the ones we absolutely love that we knew other people would love,” Sally explains, enthusiastically.

“We really tried to think about what is it that’s important to us and to other people, and usually it’s weight loss, so we have a whole section on weight loss, we have a specific kids section because Mums want to know how to get veggies into their kids’ diets and we did a section for people who are just starting out and just want to settle in. We really worked the book to start simple and then get a little bit harder and add a few more ingredients. We wanted people to start to love smoothies and have it for your lifestyle like it is for us.

You’re not juicing, it’s in a blender. You get all the fibre, you get the entire vegetable, you get all of it.

Coming off the back of such aggressive medical intervention, and as a busy working mum juggling numerous demands on her time, Sally was searching for something to boost and sustain her energy levels throughout the day. The rainbow plate of fruit ‘n’ veg that makes its way into her morning smoothie has proven to be the answer, and she does indeed radiate health.

“My energy levels are incredible,” she says. “That’s the thing, suddenly you are not reliant on five coffees a day, and you’re not suddenly going, ‘when is it three o’clock so I can have a coffee? Oh my gosh, how can I prop myself up with sugar?’ The thing that happens, and you notice it straight away, is that you want good food, you don’t want sugar and you don’t really want crap anymore. Then you start to get this buzz.

“I think it’s because if you put it on a plate and look at how many vegetables you’re having, you wouldn’t have that much. You wouldn’t have two cups of spinach, a handful of broccoli, you’re not going to have kale as well, you’re not going to have quarter of an avocado or half an avocado, a banana, a lime, coconut so you are having all these vegetables, some fruit, some super foods. So you’re suddenly going, ‘Well, this is actually really good for you,’ and when would you do this? Probably not ever. Certainly not at the beginning of the day.”

Sally is clear about the benefits of blending versus juicing, believing blending wins hands down in the health-boosting stakes.

“The things that happens, and you notice it straight away, is that you want good food, you don’t want sugar and you really don’t want crap anymore. Then you start to get this buzz.”

“You’re not juicing, it’s in a blender,” she explains, firmly. “You get all the fibre, you get the entire vegetable, you get all of it. That’s why it’s so good for your digestion. I think if you’re juicing, and there’s a lot of people who love juicing and swear by it, I think what happens is you don’t get the fibre, you don’t get the bulk, you are only extracting part of it. You’re not getting the whole vegetable. It’s just like eating it [fruit and vegetables] only you couldn’t eat this many!”

Sally’s changed approach to diet, and her resulting good health, is only one of many changes being a cancer survivor has wrought. The eight months of gruelling chemotherapy, the double mastectomy, the hours lying on the tiles in the shower unable to move, the inability to kiss her longed-for baby have changed her irrevocably. Time is now a precious commodity, something she does not waste.

“That whole experience of having cancer has completely changed my outlook on life – motherhood and everything else outside motherhood. I was grateful before, I have always been a grateful person, but I am far more grateful because I appreciate that it’s not a given that you’re just going to live until ninety,” she explains.

“Sometimes, when you’re younger, you’re just in a bubble where you assume your life will play out in a certain way, and when something shocking like that happens and then you come so close to dying, you really realise, ‘oh, actually this is not a given anymore and every day I am on this planet is actually a gift’.

You choose how you want to spend it and who you want to spend it with. You really re-evaluate that. You think, what is it that is important to me, what is it that I want to do with my time because time is not infinite…You really value your time and it becomes so precious because you realise there is not endless amounts of it.”

One of Sally’s key priorities is to spend as much time as possible with her beloved daughter, Annabelle. Sally, a naturally warm and engaging woman, literally lights up when talking about her daughter.

“She is hilarious and amazing, like they all are, and it’s such a fun age…she’s three and a half now. It’s a really fun time, we do Adventure Wednesdays and we wander around and we create our own adventures, and we talk and talk and it’s just beautiful,” she says, proudly.

I think it [motherhood] has made me a lot more present because you just have to be. They are so interesting, they demand so much of you, you don’t drift off I find, you are really in the moment.

“I think it [motherhood] has made me a lot more present because you just have to be. They are so interesting, they demand so much of your time, you don’t drift off I find, you are really in the moment. If you are playing with them or you are in the park or you’re running around, that’s just what you’re doing and it’s good because it keeps you focused.”

Despite her obvious pleasure in family life, Sally is not immune from the common complaint that mothers typically carry the thought load of the family, the mental lists of commitments, meals, groceries, bills, laundry and housework, and the mental exhaustion this can bring.

“It’s hard being a mum, it just is hard. There are so many demands on you. Sometimes I’ll say to [husband] Marcus, ‘I’m so jealous because you’re so helpful with everything but ultimately you’re not the general manager of the house or whatever’. If I say, ‘Hey Babe, tomorrow can you get the groceries’ then yes, he will do it, but guess what? There’s a step before that, and that is he didn’t have to think of anything that led up to that moment.

“Most mums I know, working mums and non-working mums, it’s them that that falls on, the planning and organisation and orchestration of the family – who is going where, and when and at what time, and the flow on effect of everything – and that is exhausting when you are a mum. It is. My girlfriends and I call it pinging because your brain is always pinging with everything you have to do.”

 

“Most mums I know, working mums and non-working mums, it’s them that that falls on, the planning and organisation and orchestration of the family.”

“Sometimes I juggle it so well, and I’m like, ‘I’m such a rock star!’ and then the next week I am in tears every day thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is a disaster!’. I think I have learnt to accept that some weeks it goes to plan and some weeks it just doesn’t, and that’s the nature of life. It takes a long time to accept it.

“I had a real turning point late last year when I decided that I’m going to stop trying to have a set routine that I create on January the 1st that carries me through the whole year because I have finally accepted after ten years that the nature of my job is that it is a job with no routine, so I have gone, ‘Okay, I am going to stop trying to force it into a box and make it fit and then getting pissed off when it doesn’t fit. I am just going to look at this week on its own and next week on its own…and just keep it a little bit fluid’. Some weeks that means I work all day Saturday, some weeks that means I work five nights after Annabelle has gone to bed…I just fit it in as best I can for that week.”

The mind-boggling demands of juggling her high profile media career, her online store and authoring her books, have not distracted Sally from what requires her full and considered attention – Annabelle. When she is with her daughter, all the other demands on her time are put to one side and she focuses on the task at hand, mothering her child.

 

-Ari Chavez

*MORE INFO*

Sally’s book: https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/general-books/food-drink/Super-Green-Smoothies-Sally-Obermeder-AND-Maha-Koraiem-9781760113711

Sally’s online store: http://www.swiish.com

Benefits of green smoothies: Click below

GREEN SMOOTHIES! WHAT’S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?

Accredited Practising Dietitian, founder of and Mum of three, Kate Bullen has gone from A for Additives to Z for Zinc, providing you a guide to keeping your family’s food healthy and nutritional.

 

 

 

Additives – may include preservatives that help keep our food safe to eat, or colours and flavours added to make food tastier and more appealing to eat. Most people don’t react to food additives, but some people do. If you think your child might be reacting to food additives, please speak to an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Breakfast – it really is the most important meal of the day. Research has shown that children who eat breakfast are more likely to have a healthy diet. Quick and easy breakfasts include a piece of fruit, some toast, a smoothie or a couple of Weetbix with milk.

Calcium – needed for strong bones, which is most important in growing children. Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are our best sources of calcium. But, we can also get calcium from other foods including almonds, tahini, salmon and dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and bok choy.

Drinks – the easiest, cheapest and healthiest drink is water, followed by milk. Drinks are important to stop children getting dehydrated – particularly in our hot summer months. Encourage regular drinks of water throughout the day and get children in the habit of having water as their first choice of drink.

Eggs – boiled eggs are our family’s easy meal. My children will have boiled eggs at least once a week – add a bit of salad to the plate, and some toast – and an easy, healthy and tasty meal is ready to eat. Children typically love eggs and they are a good powerhouse food with plenty of protein and other vitamins and minerals.

Fruit – summer fruit is the best! Watermelon, grapes, mangoes, stonefruit – all so tasty and plentiful. Fruit is great for snacks, but also delicious when whizzed up with some milk and yoghurt to make a smoothie, or used in baking muffins. Frozen grapes are an easy fruit to add into the lunchbox – and stay cool till lunch which increases the chances of them being eaten!

 

Genetically Modified Food – relatively new in Australia, and really comes down to personal choice. As yet we don’t know if there are any long term effects of eating genetically modified food. Most foods will be labelled if they contain genetically modified ingredients.

Hunger – does this phrase sound familiar “Mum – I’m hungry”? I hear this many times a day! Sometimes it’s true hunger, sometimes it’s ‘boredom hunger’. Children typically need to eat every two to three hours as they only have little stomachs – so this can be a clue as to whether they are truly hungry. If you don’t think your child is hungry, try re-directing them to another activity until it is time to eat to avoid ‘boredom eating’.

Iron – if you have a teenager at home, you might want to check if they are getting enough iron as the amount of iron they need increases during the teen years. If they don’t get enough iron, anaemia can develop. The best sources of iron are red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, wholegrain breads and cereals.

Junk food – it is almost impossible to completely avoid junk food, but keep it to special occasions. Once a week is occasional, when junk food is eaten every day then you may need to reassess a child’s diet.

Kilojoules – the preferred unit of measuring energy in Australia, abbreviated to kj. Kilojoules are what you will see referred to on food labels. Calories are the alternative measure of energy. One calorie = 4.186 kilojoules.

Legumes – baked beans, chick peas, lentils and kidney beans are all lentils (sometimes also called ‘pulses’). They are a great sources of protein and fibre – try adding some legumes into your next mince dish. Lentils go almost unnoticed by children, so can be a good one to try.

Meat – choose lean meat with very little visible fat. Red meat such as beef and lamb is a great source of iron and zinc.  Eating lean meat a couple of times a week is a great way to make sure your kids get plenty of these nutrients.

Nuts – fantastic sources of protein, fibre and vitamins. Great snacks for older children, although not appropriate for taking to school due to the risk for any children with nut allergies.

Overweight and obesity – current research shows that 23 per cent of primary school aged children are overweight or obese. If you are concerned about your child, speak with your GP and an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Probiotics – good bacteria to help keep the digestive system healthy.  Most useful to reduce the likelihood of antibiotic-induced diarrhoea. Whenever my children have a dose of antibiotics, I usually get some probiotic yoghurt and milk drinks to have daily for a couple of weeks.

Recipes – involve your children in cooking and planning family meals, and they will be more likely to eat the food. This is a win-win!

Sugar – naturally occurring sugar in fruit and milk is unlikely to be a concern in a child’s diet as they provide other important nutrients. Added sugar in foods (eg. biscuits, cakes) is something to watch out for, as sugar can be easily over-eaten – particularly by children.

Trans Fat – avoid as can increase cholesterol levels. Most often found in processed foods such as biscuits and pastries, fried foods and takeaways.

Underweight – less common than overweight, but can still be cause for concern. If you are worried about the weight of your child, please speak to your GP or an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Vegetables – very few of us eat enough vegetables. Children will typically model their eating from their parents. If there is one change you make to your families eating, then I would strongly encourage it to be eating more vegetables. This is a change you won’t regret!

Whole grains – choose whole grains instead of refined and processed grains to get more fibre and antioxidants.

Zinc – essential for normal growth and development in children. Good sources of zinc include lean meat, chicken, fish, lentils, nuts, seeds and wholegrain cereals.

For more information, head to Kate Bullen’s website www.dietitianonline.com.au

Take a trip to your local market to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables to improve your mental health and happiness. Fresh fruit and veggies contain important carbohydrates, B Vitamins and antioxidants and we can’t expect tablets to provide us with the same results.

Recent research from Australia and England measured 12,000 people’s happiness and wellbeing. The research focused on whether there were improvements in people’s wellbeing after eating more fruit and vegetables. People were asked a few questions about how often they ate fruit and vegetables and how much they ate. Two years later they were asked the same questions. The outcome was positive for those who had increased the amount of fruit and vegetables, resulting in increased happiness and wellbeing.

Why am I writing about food and happiness? We know mental illness is common. Around 20 per cent of Australians experience a mental illness in any year. Teenagers and young adults (18 to 24 year olds) are most likely to show signs of mental illness of any age group. If we can set up good eating habits now for our children, then this could help reduce and improve their happiness, and maybe improve their mental health.

Of course food is just one part of improving our mental health and happiness. There are many, many factors including genetics and where we live, for example, that also impact on our happiness. Exercise, getting out in the sunshine, fresh air and being with supportive friends, are all healthy strategies that we can encourage our children to do.

In Australia we have the ‘Go for 2 fruit and 5 veg’ campaign which aims to increase awareness of the need to eat more fruit and vegetables. The campaign also offers useful tips and strategies to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables we eat.

The research suggests that fruits and vegetables might impact on our mental health and happiness based on the following components that are in fruits and vegetables:

 

Fruits and vegetables with a low glycemic index release glucose in a slow and steady fashion which may help to regulate our moods and our happiness.

Carbohydrate type

We know that when we eat fruits and vegetables, our body releases insulin and causes the carbohydrate to be broken down into glucose. Our brain is then triggered to make important neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which can affect our mood. Fruits and vegetables with a low glycemic index release glucose in a slow and steady fashion which may help to regulate our moods and our happiness. Unlike highly processed food (think: lollies, cake, biscuits) which give that sugar hit that we can all relate to (think: kids just came home from a birthday party) usually results in a pretty big crash in mood. So, slow and steady wins the race.

B vitamins

Fruits and vegetables are great sources of B vitamins, including folate and vitamin B6. These two vitamins are again important in our brains making serotonin and other chemicals that affect mood.  Low levels of B vitamins may be linked to depression. As an aside, Vitamin B12 is also an important B group vitamin in helping making serotonin and other neurotransmitters. Vitamin B12 is not usually found in fruits and vegetables, but instead in fish, lean meat, eggs and dairy – so all food groups are important.

 

Take a trip to your fruit and vegetable market and stock up. Even better take your children with you and let them choose some of the fruits and vegetables.

Antioxidants

Research looking at antioxidant content in fruits and vegetables has increased over the last few decades. Vitamins C and E and other components such as phytochemicals, are all found in fruits and vegetables. It is thought that these types of antioxidants protect our body cells against damage and they may also reduce body inflammation, which has been linked to poor mental health.

I would like to emphasise the importance of eating fresh (or frozen, tinned) fruit and vegetables and not just taking a few multivitamins and antioxidant tablets. Not only are fruits and vegetables cheaper, but more and more the research is showing the importance of eating the whole food and we can’t just isolate certain components of food into a tablet and expect the same results. So, take a trip to your fruit and vegetable market and stock up. Even better take your children with you and let them choose some of the fruits and vegetables.

Low glycemic fruits and vegetables

Fruits: Apples, bananas, strawberries, kiwi fruit, oranges, berries (fresh or frozen, mango, pear

Vegetables: Sweetcorn, carrots, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, capsicum, celery, tomatoes, zucchini, snow peas, green beans, eggplant, mushrooms, avocadoes

Make a toastie with these delicious fruit and vegetable fillings:

  • Banana, ricotta cheese, sultanas and pinch cinnamon
  • Grated cheese, tomato, avocado
  • Baby spinach, avocado, cheese
  • Ham, cheese, pineapple
  • Baked beans, mushroom, cheese
  • Tinned tuna/salmon, cheese, sweetcorn
  • Chicken, coleslaw, cheese

Recipe – Chicken & vegetable kebabs

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

500g chicken breast fillets, sliced

1 cup of chopped vegetables per person (eg: mushroom, capsicum, cherry tomatoes, zucchini)

½ tsp ground coriander

¼ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp curry powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon fish sauce

Steamed rice to serve

Method:

1. Alternate vegetables and chicken onto skewers, place in shallow dish.

2. Combine coriander, cumin, curry powder, olive oil, brown sugar and fish sauce in bowl. Pour over skewers. Cover, refrigerate skewers for at least one hour.

3. Grill skewers until cooked. Serve with steamed rice.