My daughter, Stella, is 4½ and she is already eagerly awaiting her 5th birthday (party) in April. On Friday last week I went to pick her up from kindergarten and when I arrived she was sitting on the mat with her classmates listening to her teacher explain how it was Jonah’s 5th birthday and he was going to start school on Monday. Stella whispered she had something special to show me. She reached into her kindy bag, explaining, “I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to eat it so I put it in my bag to take home,” and in her little hand was a plastic-wrapped mini chocolate bar – the kind that comes in party packs from the supermarket. It seems to be common practice for birthday kids to bring cakes, lollies, and plastic toys to share with their kindy classmates – a thoughtful gesture with kind intentions, but it always proves awkward for me (along with kindy Christmas parties). I looked at it, looked at her, and shook my head. “I’m sorry Stella,” I said, and proceeded to explain why we don’t want her to eat that kind of treat¹. She dropped her eyes in disappointment and tears started to trickle down her cheeks. “Do you want to give it to one of your teachers?” I suggested. “No,” she replied, hoping I’d change my mind. Believe it or not, this was the first time Stella had reacted with such disappointment from being told she couldn’t eat something the other kids were eating. I felt so mean 🙁 …but I didn’t change my mind. When her teachers realised what she was sad about they were really apologetic – it had completely slipped their minds when the chocolates were being handed out that Stella’s mummy doesn’t want her to eat junk food. She was offered a dried banana in exchange for the chocolate bar (I’d given the kindy a jar of dried bananas to give my kids in this kind of situation) which she dutifully accepted. It’s taken her a few days to get over the little plastic-wrapped chocolate, but I made it up to her (for now) by making her and Daniel a big jar of bliss balls which her teachers can keep in the freezer for them. Dried bananas just don’t cut it anymore but thankfully chocolate bliss balls are still special enough for my kids to get really excited about!
Although I did feel like a mean mummy on that occasion, it’s been easy for me to avoid these situations until now and I feel comfortable with the prospect of having to say ‘no’ again (many times) in the future to both my kids because I know that actually, they’re not really deprived of sweets and treats at all! I make a real effort to ensure we have a range of homemade healthy, low-waste, seriously yummy snacks for the kids to enjoy both at home and whenever we go out. Yes, it takes time to prepare all these goodies but it also saves me time when I’m making kindy lunches or just running out the door and I can grab a selection of snacks and treats that are nutritious, plastic-free, and that I know the kids will eat with enjoyment. Of course, we also eat a lot of fresh fruit (in particular, bananas – organic of course!) but I’m mindful that fruit is still high in sugar – in particular, fructose, and excessive amounts of fructose aren’t good for any of us².
Anyway, instead of leading you to think I spend all day in the kitchen (I don’t, although when I’m tired and grouchy I complain that I do, haha), I thought I would share a selection of my favourite snacks & treats recipes with you instead! Almost all of these take about 5-10 minutes to prepare and some need baking after that, and they’re pretty much one-bowl recipes (who has time for dishes?). These days, I fit snack-making into the 5-10 minutes it takes for our porridge to cook! If I make one snack every other morning I can usually manage a constant supply of yummies for everyone. All of these recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined-sugar-free. So you see, I’m not really amazing at all – I just found some really quick, convenient recipes that make eating well look easy!
I use Bowlofdelicious.com’s recipe for “Chocolate Coconut Energy Balls” to make the yummiest refined-sugar-free treats ever! I keep them in the freezer and eat them frozen. I like to use about 50/50 pecans and hazelnuts and I also like them a bit more chocolatey so I put 2Tbsp cacao powder in, rather than 1½Tbsp as the recipe suggests. Also, medjool dates are quite expensive and it just seems wrong to whizz them up (!), so instead of those I prefer to use 145g of organic dates from my local Bin Inn. Instead of using baking paper, I just put the bliss balls on a plate and pop them in the freezer for a bit before transferring them to a glass jar.
SUGAR-FREE FRUIT JELLIES
I use this recipe by iquitsugar.com to make Daniel’s favourite snack: sugar-free, gut-healing gelatin jellies. I prefer to use only 3 Tbsp gelatin which makes the resulting jelly a teeny bit too soft to get out of my little silicone moulds. So instead I pour the warm mixture into a square glass clip-lock dish and when it’s set I use a sharp knife to cut the jelly into little squares. I’ve made raspberry, blueberry, and feijoa jellies so far and the kids loved all of them!
SESAME & SEAWEED CRACKERS
Beware, these crackers are seriously moorish! And they seriously take 20 minutes max to prepare, including baking! The recipe comes from The Green Kitchen’s “Salt’n’Pepper Almond Crackers”. I add 2tsp sesame seeds and 1tsp karengo flakes for flavour and nutrition 🙂 . I use a silicone baking mat instead of baking paper to line the tray, but I do have to use baking paper on top so I can see where the cracker dough is rolling to and how thick it is. So it’s not entirely zero waste, this one, but I do reuse the baking paper a few times before throwing it away!
BANANA & CINNAMON PANCAKES
These pancakes (well, I make them quite small so maybe they’re pikelets?) are sooo good – they are gluten-free and I make them almost dairy-free with hazelnut mylk and butter 😋. I found the recipe in Emma Galloway’s cookbook, “My Darling Lemon Thyme”, and while I would love to share it with you, she hasn’t posted it on her blog so I don’t want to breach copyright or anything… If you can get your hands on a copy though (if you don’t already have it!), you’ll absolutely love her recipes I’m sure. They are healthy, tasty, and really manageable – she doesn’t use bazillions of ingredients you’ve never even heard of, which is awesome for people like me who are fairly new to gluten-free cooking. I’ve tweaked her recipe a little by using a mashed banana in place of one of the eggs, and adding a pinch of cinnamon to the batter. I make a batch of these each week and freeze them for kindy lunches. They defrost nicely and are really tasty with butter and jam, yum!
QUICK LUNCHBOX-FRIENDLY BREAD
The discovery of this super-quick one-bowl bread recipe by paleoglutenfree.com has transformed our lunchboxes. As you know, I make my own gluten-free sourdough bread, but like many breads it doesn’t make for a particularly yummy lunchbox sandwich. By the time lunchtime rolls around it can be a bit dry and the spreads get absorbed into the bread – I don’t have particularly fond memories of brown bread marmite sandwiches from my own childhood to be honest! However, this bread has almost a muffin-like texture so it’s still yummy to eat after a few hours in a lunchbox. The loaf comes out a little bit smaller than my own sourdough bread so it’s not exactly suitable for a ploughman’s lunch haha, and it would be a pretty expensive substitute for ordinary bread but it’s perfect for kindy lunchboxes. Instead of 1 cup almond flour, I use ½ cup oat flour and ½ cup almond flour. I also halve the maple syrup (to keep the cost and sweetness down) and the first time I baked it I used LSA+P instead of flax meal, and it turned out great!
GRAIN-FREE BANANA BREAD RECIPE (more like cake, really!)
I wouldn’t say this is the most affordable snack to make, certainly not if you live with a cake monster who will eat it in one sitting… but it’s definitely a nice treat to ration and put into the kids’ lunch boxes every now and then (or to have with a cup of tea while Daddy’s at work and the kids are at kindy, heehee!) It’s lovely and moist, and it’s really quick and easy to make.
Here’s the link to: “Paleo Banana Bread Recipe” by civilisedcavemancooking.com
I have these great intentions of preparing veggie-filled salads for our lunches instead of bread, bread, bread during the day, but I confess, if I ever get around to doing that it’ll be some time in the distant future. This is about as good as I can do right now, but considering my kids have never had plastic in their lunchboxes EVER, I feel quite proud of my efforts thus far 🙂 . Whenever I feel the pang of ‘mean mummy’, I just remind myself that my children are incredibly fortunate to be able to eat delicious, nourishing, zero-waste food, every single day, and I have nothing to feel sorry about at all!
1. In case you’re interested, the reasons (in no particular order) are: health (gut, hormones, teeth, brain, etc), plastic pollution, deforestation of rainforests and endangered animal habitats, fair trade and human rights, and wasteful attitude. Yep, I think that’s enough!