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Making dessert you can feel good about

Last night, watching Belle zip around the neighbourhood on her bike, I started thinking about how quickly children pick up new skills. It took me weeks to learn to ride the scooter — I was fine going straight and turning right, but I had a crazy hard time taking corners to the left. What's up with that?! Fortunately, I eventually picked it up, so I'm not driving around in a perpetual circle. In contrast, Belle was off after just an hour or two and shrugged away her fear in a heartbeat. It's amazing how quickly children learn and adapt. And yet ...

If only I could say the same thing about skills around the table. I feel like we've FINALLY settled into a spot where we can all sit and have dinner together happily, but it took months and months of perseverance to get the children to use their cutlery, sit nicely in their chairs and for everyone to be eating more or less the same thing. We've reached a nirvana where there's less whining and more happy chat around the table. I have a glass of wine and the girls drink water out of champagne flutes. I even have music on and light candles — for real! It's so incredibly far away from the days where I would rather shoot myself in the head than go through one more dinnertime of drama with children eating spaghetti with their fingers, or not being hungry and then STARVING ten minutes after things have been cleared away. So frustrating.

This week, I began a new Natural Kids miniseries. It's a course for parents and caregivers that goes through children' nutrition basics and discusses lots of the issues around dinnertime dramas. Whether it's fussy eating, poor appetites or challenging manners, children are so good at driving their parents insane around the issue of food. It's a subject that needs lots of patience — which might be the last thing you have at the end of a busy day. Still, there are so many different things you can do to improve the situation and there's no harm in taking baby steps; in fact, you sometimes get better results that way.

Through a lot of trial and error, I've found several things that made a big difference in our house. One of them, making desserts I feel good about, has been really helpful. We don't have dessert every day by any stretch, but when we do, it's nice to give them something that doesn't make my heart sink. That way, I'm not stressed if they only have a small dinner (which is often the case if they've had a substantial after-school snack). I don't want to force them to finish a large meal just so they can eat dessert — it's a quick way to get them overriding their natural appetite cues, which wouldn't be good — so sometimes, a little is enough. Then, if you follow it with a small amount of something that's sweet but healthy, everything is rosy!

This recipe is for a fruit fool. It's like a mousse, but dairy-free. There are two ways to make this recipe — with “bits” and without. The bits version uses chia seed to pull everything together. You can explain the bits as berry seeds to suspicious children. The nice thing about including the chia is that it provides a small amount of plant-based calcium and a good dose of protein and fibre. If you or your children prefer a smooth consistency, skip the chia seeds. You still have plenty of sustaining fats in the coconut milk.

However you make it, you can add the calcium too if you like. My favourite brand is the ChildLife Essentials liquid formula from People's Pharmacy. It's hard to get, so you might want to order it when you are overseas if you get a chance. It contains magnesium, vitamin D3 and zinc — all the nutrient cofactors present for optimal calcium absorption. Simply add the recommended dosage of calcium for your child (age-dependent) to the serving you plan to give them and stir it in well. I now know how many containers my batch usually fills so I add it all at once at the end of the cooking process, but you can just as easily stir it through on a portion-by-portion basis.

Ingredients: (makes approximately 2 cups)

1 box Waitrose frozen berries (Supermart)

1 cup apple juice

¾ cup tinned coconut milk (full fat)

¹/8 cup whole chia seed (optional)

1 tbs maple syrup (optional)

ChildLife Liquid Calcium (optional)


1. Put the fruit in a large pan over a high heat. Pour over the apple juice and wait for the mixture to boil. If the fruit is frozen, stir a few times so it can thaw evenly.

2. Reduce to a simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the fruit is tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

3. Taste the fruit mixture. If it is very tart (or not sweet enough for your taste) add some maple syrup — approximately 1 tablespoon. Go easy, as adding the coconut milk mellows the flavour too!

4. Add the coconut milk and the chia seed (optional) and stir through well.

5. If you are adding the liquid calcium you can do this now (approximately 5 tablespoons as per note above) or add it to individual servings as you go.

6. If you have used the chia seed, allow it to swell (approximately ten minutes) and then set in the fridge in either one large or several small containers. It will be ready to eat within an hour, but it's best left for several hours to form a good consistency.

7. If you are not using the chia seed, pour the mixture into a powerful blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth. You can add an extra ¼ cup coconut milk if you'd like it extra creamy. Set in the fridge as above.

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 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. For details: www.natural.bm, 236-7511 or, Facebook, Natural Nutrition Bermuda

Fruit can be fun: a berry fool is a nice treat for the children

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Published February 09, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated February 09, 2018 at 8:31 am)

Making dessert you can feel good about

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