One Handed Cooks: How To Raise a Healthy, Happy Eater- From Baby To School Age, by Allie Gaunt, Jessica Beaton, and Sarah Buckle
Review by Kylie Thompson
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Cooking for children
Let’s be honest: cooking for children can be really, really hard. If it isn’t the ever-changing flood of advice about what you should feed a child at what age, it’s the unwilling eater phases that make meat pies each night for a week seem like the only option for making them eat. It can also be incredibly hard to raise children to understand the importance of healthy eating when they’re surrounded by media telling them that they need the latest kids meal or sugar-filled treat.
So how on earth can you raise a child who is not only used to eating healthily, but enjoys it?
‘One Handed Cooks’ started as a blog, created by a mother struggling to make sure her child ate well even on the days she was cooking with the little one resting on her hip. As the blog grew, becoming increasingly popular with parents and caregivers, the blogging team grew to keep up with the demand for healthy, enjoyable meals for children of a range of ages. What’s brilliant about ‘One Handed Cooks’ is the diversity of its creators. Founder, Allie Gaunt, is a former Nanny, a home cook, and a mother, Jessica Beaton is a Dietician, as well as a cook and a mother, and Sarah Buckle is a teacher and a photographer. Each woman approaches ‘One Handed Cooks’ from multiple perspectives that all share a love of helping children live the best lives possible.
‘One Handed Cooks’ isn’t just a book about dealing with the trial of a fussy eater, but about teaching children to have a positive relationship to food. Given the levels of obesity in Australia, as well as the levels of eating disorders, teaching children from the earliest age possible how to eat well and not see food as the enemy is a fantastic way to combat the unhealthy eating patterns many of us find ourselves falling into.
But those thinking they can maintain an unhealthy lifestyle while teaching their children to be healthy will be quickly disabused of the notion: ‘One Handed Cooks’ makes a point of focusing on the fact that children learn from what their parents do, rather than just what they say. The easiest way to teach your child to eat well is to eat well yourself. Though the truth is that not all of these recipes would be appetising for an adult, many of the ingredients can be used to make something healthy for the grownups of the family, too. ‘One Handed Cooks’ even has a section about how to serve one dish in three ways: baby food, toddler food, and grownup food: perfect for the days when cooking multiple different meals is too huge an undertaking.
‘One Handed Cooks’ also focuses on answering some of the thornier questions parents can have, while also talking out suggestions for dealing with the typical food related issues (such as the dreaded finicky eater). All the while, the book takes a range of developmental stages into account, explaining how they can interfere with the way children interact with their food. The discussion on the textural phase, for example, comes complete with a series of recipes that will maintain your child’s interest while tasting good enough to tempt even the most prolific finger-painter.
Each recipe, as the title suggests, is designed to be cooked easily while looking after a child. If you’ve ever tried to cook with a child underfoot, you’ll know that simplicity and speed are essential to getting a meal prepared: you need dishes that can be set aside to deal with the myriad issues that crop up without it impacting the results, and processes that can happen while there’s a spare moment. The recipes here are simple, with notes on nutrition, storage, and allergy information to help parents choose the best foods for their kids, as well as keeping track of how long each meal will last if the kids aren’t feeling particularly hungry on any given night.
‘One Handed Cooks’ is part parenting guide, part cookbook, and if you’re looking for ways to encourage healthy eating in your household (or are watching a loved one struggle to get their children to accept healthier food), it’s a fantastic resource.
‘One Handed Cooks’ is published by Penguin/Viking, and is available through the publisher’s websites, as well as through the usual physical and online haunts.