Single dad? Stay-at-home-dad? Granddad? Mum-works-long-shifts-dad? Step-dad? Whatever kind of daddy you are, one thing is true: You want the best for your kids. If you’re a mummy reading this, please pass it on to a daddy you feel needs a little inspiration.
It’s a sad fact that many dads don’t see their kids much, not just due to acrimonious divorce situations, but often due to jobs far from home or working long hours to pay the bills. When it comes to eating, many dads simply don’t have any idea what is their child’s favourite meal or snack; let alone be prepared and ready with food on the table before the irritability that inevitably occurs when too long has passed since the last meal!
Due to popular demand, I’ve created this simple guide to inspire, educate and motivate dads away from the fast-food outlets, vending machines and microwave meals and into the kitchen where fun and food combine into scrumptious memories!
Start the day with a filling breakfast that includes at least one portion of fruit.
Processed, boxed cereals generally contain far too much sugar for your children and don’t give long lasting energy. If it’s the weekend, cook a simple pan of scrambled eggs or omelette with wholemeal toast. Offer a glass of fruit juice (preferably NOT from concentrate or cordial) or a piece of fruit chopped up. Most children like either apples, bananas, strawberries or satsumas (mini oranges). On a school day, offer an oat based meal such as porridge or museli, or top chopped fruit with plain yogurt, honey and a spoonful of jumbo oats. For extra fun, let them chop up their own fruit and arrange in sundae glasses in gorgeous coloured layers!
Ensure your children drink enough water or other fluids throughout the day.
Children, just like adults, need at least a litre of water a day (more if exercising hard or in hot climates) in order to perform at their best both physically and mentally. Too much undiluted fruit juice can lead to tooth decay and weight gain (due to the concentration of sugars) while fizzy drinks lead to weak bones (and weight gain). Children should not consume caffeine (coffee, energy drinks) while traditional favourites such as cola should be kept for rare occasions, not a daily basis. Water is the best choice for children, closely followed by fresh fruit juice diluted 50:50, good quality squash and occasional herbal teas (or plain half fat milk). If you’re planning a trip out for a few hours, always ensure you take a couple of small bottles of water.
Snacks should be offered mid-morning and mid-afternoon; and be rich in vegetables or fruit.
Snacks should be based around a fruit or a vegetable with either carbohydrates for energy or protein for growth and repair. Try raw carrots and apple with a peanut butter dip (mix plain yogurt, peanut butter and honey); trail mix with dried apricots, raisins, sunflower seeds, nuts, (chocolate chips and pretzels optional). A small tub of hummus with toasted pitta bread and cherry tomatoes; mashed avocado or banana on wholemeal toast; yogurt with fruit and seeds; or a hard boiled egg with carrot and cherry tomatoes or apple.
Learn to cook with your children.
Kids don’t mind if dad can’t cook; all they want is a parent who enjoys spending time with them, hopefully with a few laughs along the way. If your children are school-age then get them in the kitchen and discover new foods, flavours and combinations. The internet is full of recipes, food blogs and how-to clips – just search, shop, cook and enjoy!
If you have to take your children food-shopping, make it fun!
If possible, try not to drag your kids round the supermarket when they’re tired and hungry. Be organised with a list of essential ingredients and don’t give into demands for expensive or unhealthy sweets, crisps and chocolate! The best time to go food shopping is immediately after a meal, you’ll spend less and get the job done quickly and easily. Create a good relationship of trust between you and your children in the supermarket (or shopping mall) in order to give them some freedom. If it’s a shop you use frequently, and they know their way around, let them go and track down ingredients. Be supportive and offer praise when they select the correct items. With small children, talk to them about the fresh produce and offer them chocies: Which apples shall we buy? These red ones or these green ones? Would you like cucumber or tomatoes with your dinner?
Use your natural male qualities to teach your children about meat!
Buy a cow’s heart from your local butcher and let your children marvel over the tubes and tissues inside. Talk about the fatty part, the meaty (muscle) part, the fibres, the arteries through which blood flowed; then slice up the meat thinly and fry gently, in the same way as you’d cook steak or beef stir-fry. This kind of shared activity helps create in your child an active mind full of knowledge and life experience.
Bring science into the kitchen.
Remember school science experiments? Here’s a really simple one: Test which liquids make copper coins go shiny! Use shot glasses filled with cola, tomato ketchup, vinegar, orange juice and anything else your children fancy trying. Let them write out their experiment and results on paper – to practise writing (though this is a fun activity so don’t focus on spelling). Alternatively, film the experiment with iPads and produce mini-videos with voice-overs!). Great idea for a wet afternoon!
Most importantly, children should grow up in a positive environment. It doesn’t have to be rich in material items, but rich in love and shared experiences. As a dad, don’t be afraid to try new foods and new activities. Just because it’s always been ‘the norm’ to head off to well-known fast food chains on a Saturday afternoon, don’t think that children will automatically decide they don’‘t want something different. The way to handle children is to be prepared! Start a notebook of food, art/craft and outing ideas to use when it’s just you and the little ones. When you do some of these activities, remember to take photos, print them out and stick in a scrapbook or photo frame so your children can be surrounded by memories of happy times together – especially important if you don’t see your kids on a regular basis and don’t live with them.
Good luck dads, you can do it!
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Until next week,