Sweet Enough

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Photo credit: Sytske_R

I have a sweet tooth and I love indulging it from time to time, going for high tea and other such loveliness and I could quite easily get in the habit of having muffins for breakfast and chocolate on the couch for supper. The balance between treating and full-on sugar-gorging is one I am only just finding for myself as I indulge less often, make sugar-free versions of my faves, and generally try to eat more healthfully.

Since I became a parent, I’ve become more interested in the sugar and the whole healthful eating topic. I determined early on that I wanted Lola to have as little sugar as possible at this age and support her natural belief that treats in these early years (before anyone tells her otherwise) are fruit and vegetables. Why not start her off on that track in the early days and then later she can decide herself how much sugar she wants to eat?

It’s surprising the hurdles you come across on the path to awareness – who knew so many types of teething biscuit would include sugar?? Another of the hurdles I discovered on the way is crèche. I’ve only had experience with two crèches in Amsterdam so far, but both give ontbijtkoek or bread (with cream cheese, or jam or nutella) for a morning snack. They also have warm meals every lunchtime and fruit in the afternoon, which is nutritious and I’m totally into that. But ontbijtkoek and chocolate spread at 18 months old, or younger?

If you’re not familiar with ontbijtkoek, it’s a spiced cake bread made with cloves, ginger, cinnamon and brown sugar and treacle. It’s also pretty dry so butter is spread on it to moisten it. I didn’t see this as something that was particularly nutritious every morning, so agreed with the crèche that she have either wholemeal bread or alternative snacks that I’d bring in myself.

This week, one member of staff told me they didn’t like to give my daughter her alternative (organic cookies or fruit bar) as other children sometimes wanted it too and it’s unfair on them if they can’t have it. Errrmmm…..?

I’m fine with providing snacks for my daughter, and I’m also fine with other kids eating them if they’re interested. Not a problem. However, rather than make my daughter’s ”alternative” snacks an issue, maybe think about why I’m bringing them in? Why not offer only healthful, real food and then every kid has the same, and no-one needs to bring an alternative? It seems like a simple solution, and also a logical one given that there is mounting concern over sugar consumption and resulting health issues.

So…what to do? Get all food-fascist about it? Accept that they’re doing their best and a bit of sugar every day is OK? Does added sugar have to feature in the daily lives of toddlers and younger?

Oh and good timing for this post – today is Food Revolution Day, an awareness day dreamed up by Jamie Oliver to highlight health and education issues around food. He’s already pioneering change in school menus, perhaps we can get started even earlier and bring crèche leaders up to speed too!

On yet another sidenote, I was so not into Jamie Oliver in his younger TV years with the over-used, annoying catchphrases and the trendy lifestyle the producers were trying too hard to depict. But, these days, with all his public campaigning,  and his more relaxed presenting of shows, I’m onboard. Check out his stance on sugar in schools here.

What snacks are given at your daycare? Do you have any thoughts on the sugar debate?

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Footloose & Sugar-Free Saturday

A year into motherhood and I’m learning, on an almost weekly basis, that you can never plan ahead with children. This weekend I had planned a few indulgent hours for myself for some good old-fashioned pampering. Hubby is in Barcelona having some quality time with an old friend (my treat, because he deserves it) and Lolapops was going to be staying with Oma – well, that was until she woke up this morning with a slight case of Vomitus Projectilus. So we swapped the Oma visit for 4 loads of washing and a couple of showers.

Determined to sneak some treats into our vomitorium, I decided to make use of the recipe my kind colleague Melanie gave me for healthyish chocolate brownies (aaawwwww – that was for you, Melanie!). I also added a couple of ingredients to it for a bit more of a health boost. And they turned out bloody gorgeous! A cracked top, rich chocolatey flavour and a moist centre….what more can one ask for in a cake of chocolate?

Try this at home folks!

Ingredients:

  • 70 grams of dark organic chocolate (85% cacao)
  • 85 grams of extra virgin coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp agave syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 grams of spelt flour
  • 20 grams of cocoa powder
  • 100 grams of almond flour
  • 3 tbsp maca powder
  • 2 tbsp crushed flaxseed (linseed)

* I got the coconut oil, maca powder, almond flour and spelt flour from Biomarkt on Weteringschans. The flaxseed and agave syrup can be bought at Albert Heijn now. 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.
  2. Melt the dark chocolate in a small saucepan together with 170ml water. When completely melted, keep this sauce separate until step 4.
  3. Heat the coconut oil a little until it becomes liquid, then mix it in with the agave syrup. Next, add the eggs one by one and stir them into the coconut oil and agave syrup until they are completely mixed together.
  4. Add the spelt flour, cocoa powder, almond flour, maca powder, flax seeds and your chocolate sauce from step 2 to the mix and stir everything together.
  5. Pour this mixture into your cake mould (about 16cm diameter) and bake for 1 hour.

And of course, make sure you enjoy this along with a cup of your fave tea. Today was a Tetley’s day.

If you’re still not convinced that this is a healthy treat, let me break it down for you:

Coconut oil – composed of medium chain fatty acids, which can help to lower the risk of both atherosclerosis and heart disease. As well as cooking, it can be used as a moisturiser for the face and hair, which is music to the ears of a busy mama in need of a pamper. Find more potential health benefits here.

Flaxseed – contains dietary fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, stabilises blood sugar levels and is an antioxidant.

Spelt flour – a nice alternative to wheat, has more protein and less calories (it is lower in fiber though).

Maca powder – rich in B vitamins, stimulates the body’s endocrine system (collection of glands that produce hormones) and regulates hormone production. Also rich in amino acids, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals.

Dark chocolate – rich in polyphenols, which can help to reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension. A total moodbooster, it also contains phenethylamine – which the body releases naturally when we fall in love.

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I also sneaked a face mask into the equation – Oxygen by Dr van der Hoog. I had timed this part of the at-home pamper sesh with precision: 30 minutes after Lola went to bed, because then the lal lass would be in a deep slumber. Normally. But remember, we can’t plan these things with children can we?

Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of myself wearing the aforementioned mask. Because if I had taken one, you would have understood why Lola, upon stirring from sleep and crying for attention, hit the friggin’ roof when the bedroom light came on and zombie mama was next to the cot lovingly “shushing” her back to sleep.

She got her own back though – as soon as I picked her up she projectiled all over the both of us. It went through every layer of clothing and I took a deep breath to make sure I didn’t do the same back, in that same way as one person yawning in a room sets off a chain reaction. Only more disgusting.

So we’ve just had our 3rd shower of the day, both knackered and my skin feels immaculately clean, which is just how I would feel now if I had been at the spa all day. Pamper mission completed!