New research by Sainsbury’s shows that more than two thirds of parents struggle to get their children to try new foods. Sound familiar? Help is at hand. Sainsbury’s Active Kids scheme teamed up with the British Nutrition Foundation and celebrity cook Alex Hollywood – her husband is Bake-Off’s Paul - to create new recipes and ideas for parents to use at home. Here, Alex talks food, family and the fun of cooking with the kids.
I’m a foodie and I’m married to a foodie, so obviously food figures highly on our agenda. I do understand that for many families that’s not the case and they need meals to be simple with zero stress. But the thing is that if you can get kids trying new foods now, you’re setting them up for life. They’ll always want to eat the good stuff they ate at home because home-cooked food is comforting and reminds you of happy times.
A lot of families these days eat the same things again and again. This new campaign I’ve done with Sainsbury’s is about challenging that, and taking children out of their comfort zone to discover new tastes and ingredients. By trying something different you open your repertoire with food and end up eating more healthily. It’s not about telling kids ‘you’ve got to eat this or try that’, it’s about widening their experience and making it fun.
Cooking shouldn’t take hours. We’re all so busy these days. I live in Kent and when I’ve been up in London working I get home late and want to throw something together fast for my son Josh, who’s 14 now. All mums are the same – we’re time-poor - so recipes should be simple, tasty and quick.
It’s important to find things the whole family can eat. Sainsbury’s research found that a lot of mums cook separate meals for different members of the family. Now I love cooking but that amount of work would put even me off! That’s so labour-intensive. Save time in the long-term by experimenting to find ingredients everyone likes and that will make cooking just one meal easier.
It’s the old adage of ‘A family that eats together, stays together’. Cooking is a bonding thing for parents and children and a little bit therapeutic as they often open up and talk to you about things that are on their mind. The kitchen is called the heart of the home for a good reason.
We devised a mackerel fishcakes recipe that kids can have fun making
Get creative. Sometimes it’s hard to get children to eat fish, so we devised a mackerel fishcakes recipe that kids can have fun making, and they love the rich, smoky flavor. And they’re packed with healthy omega! Food shouldn’t be faddy or complicated.
It’s no wonder kids struggle with broccoli! When it’s boiled it’s pretty uninspiring. One of my new recipes changes all that, and it’s easy to prepare: broccoli and chicken stir-fry with sesame seeds that’s ready in minutes. And full of goodness!
Kids are never too young to start getting involved in preparing meals. When we were shooting the video for Sainsbury’s we had a little boy there who was so tiny he had to stand on a box to reach the counter. Watching his little hands making fishcakes was so cute. I began cooking at four years old. I had my own bowl and wooden spoon so I could mix things and used to stand on a stool to watch my mum.
Encourage little ones to taste ingredients. Kids are always putting their fingers in their mouths so get them to help out when you’re preparing a meal and they’ll taste as they go. It’s a great, natural way to discover new flavours. It takes away the fear, gets them used to new things and it’s also about pride: they can say ‘I did this’.
The first thing my son made was pasta carbonara. I stood over him and talked him through it but the look on his face when he presented it to Paul and said ‘Dad, I made this’ was so lovely.
What’s the Hollywood family eating this winter? We like filling and yummy one-pot wonders. I enjoy scrambled eggs on sourdough bread baked by my husband at the weekend, and in the week it can be everything from blackened salmon to sausage and onion pie with English mustard. And I like porridge with blueberries, seeds and bit of honey for a winter breakfast.
Diets make people miserable and if you tell yourself you can’t have something, that’s when you’ll start craving it
I just don’t ‘do’ diets. I don’t believe in them. Diets make people miserable and if you tell yourself you can’t have something, that’s when you’ll start craving it. My rule is to eat healthily three times a day with plenty of vegetables and nutrients. I like food to be colourful and tasty: dishes you can put in the middle of the table and everyone can dig in. Nothing fancy. That’s what these recipes I’ve created are all about and I hope they’ll keep the whole family happy.
The TasteBuddies Challenge marks the start of the 2016 voucher collection for the Sainsbury’s Active Kids scheme. Vouchers are available from 27th January, for more information and Alex’s recipes, visit: activekids.sainsburys.co.uk