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Healthy bolognaise with hidden vegetables

Belle is on her way to walking, clutching our hands as she wobbles around the living room. The catch is that she'll only walk sideways, so she looks like a little crab. Perhaps she's watched 'The Little Mermaid' one too many times with her sister. In fact, we've had an all round overdose of Disney recently. Standing at the top of the stairs, refusing to come down for dinner, Chloe yelled out: “Mummy! I am not a prize to be won!” Oh dear, I'm sure Aladdin will be very disappointed.

Unfortunately, once Princess Jasmine joined us at the table, things continued to go downhill. She explained she wasn't hungry for spaghetti bolognaise, but she was hungry for ice cream. I came up with some nonsense along the lines of even princesses aren't allowed ice cream till after their dinner, and that spaghetti was Aladdin's favourite. Did it work? Um, no.

Eventually she said that she just didn't like beef. As I looked across at Belle, who had bolognaise in her ear, through her hair, up her nose in fact everywhere except her mouth I had to wonder if she felt the same way. With a heavy sigh, I replaced their dinners with grapes and cheese.

The problem is, when you are feeding kids, it's often hard to tell the difference between them making a fuss and genuinely not liking something.

Plus, as they change their minds every week about what they do like, it gets doubly confusing. In the quest to get Chloe just to eat SOMETHING, I've ended up feeding her all sorts of things I previously thought I wouldn't.

I still remember saying one day, “yes you can have strawberries, but only after you finish your pizza” a little back to front for a nutritionist, I'm sure you'll agree. The trick is of course, to make the unhealthy options as healthy as possible.

Spread spinach puree on a pizza base, bake fries in the oven and offer frozen yoghurt over ice cream. That way, you can feel good about the food you feed your kids while avoiding boredom at the dinner table.

As a potentially healthy source of lean, quality protein, I do feed my kids beef, although whether or not they actually eat it apparently varies from day to day. I'm pretty sure it also has something to do with the angle of the moon… I'll let you know if I figure it out.

Beef can be healthy, but if you're a discerning shopper, there are a few things you need to know.

Firstly the obvious choose cuts with the least amount of visible fat (marbling.) According to the Mayo Clinic and they should know these will include sirloin tip side steak, top round roast and steak, and top sirloin steak. Sounds confusing? Just ask the butcher.

For ground beef, you may want to be especially picky. Anyone who has seen 'Food, Inc' will know that by the time your beef gets to you it may include antibiotics, added growth hormones and some residue from an ammonia rinse.

It may also include meat from over 200 different cows, which whilst not technically unhealthy, just feels weird.

My suggestion would be to go lean and “natural”. “Natural” beef should be free of steroids, hormones, antibiotics, additives or residue, but if you really want peace of mind, choose a brand like Niman Ranch (which as a company has both high standards of production and good farming ethics).

However, if you're also especially “green” you may be bothered by the environmental impact of the beef industry, which has been linked over the years to climate change, nitrogen blooms and pollution.

And that's before you get into the politics. Much of the environmental impact is due to the amount of “potent methane” produced by cows through their digestive processes.

Although the reality is not funny, I do find it a little bit hilarious that there is ongoing scientific debate about the impact of cow farts. Is it just me?

Anyway! Everyone will have their own comfort level, but at home, I only use Niman Ranch beef and I use bolognaise or chili as a great vehicle for some additional hidden veggies.

I also chop and change between a beef or turkey base according to the kids preferences and, as I mentioned, the angle of the moon.

This recipe is really handy. You can use either beef or turkey just don't try hiding spinach puree in the turkey version as the whole thing will go bright green.

Use pureed butternut squash, or anything else orange… sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin would all work well. My kids are great with beans, but if you struggle with yours, the beans can be pureed too.

Give it a try!

Healthy kids bolognaise with hidden veggies


1 tbs olive or safflower oil

1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 pack lean niman ranch ground beef or ground natural turkey

1 tin organic kidney beans, well rinsed

1 tin chopped tomatoes (no added salt)

2 tbs tomato puree

1 tbs Worcestershire sauce

1 handful chopped fresh basil, or 1 tsp dried

½ c spinach (beef) or butternut squash (turkey) puree.


· Steam your chosen hidden veggie until soft. Cool, puree and set to one side.

· Heat the oil gently in a large, non stick pan.

· Add the onion and garlic, stir and then cover and allow to simmer for five minutes or until the onions are clear and soft.

· Add the ground beef or turkey, turn up the heat to medium-hot and stir until lightly browned.

· Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil briefly and then simmer gently for 30 minutes.

· Season to taste and serve with spaghetti or any other pasta shapes.

The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. She can be contacted at nourishbda@gmail.com

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Published August 26, 2011 at 11:00 am (Updated August 26, 2011 at 11:40 am)

Healthy bolognaise with hidden vegetables

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