“My Kids Eat 3 Bananas A Day Each!”
That sure caught our attention at CaregiverAsia when our friend, Ellen, lamented to Charlotte, our favourite nutritionist, on her predicament. Surely, that can’t be healthy, but what did our nutritionist say? The following is the actual exchange between Ellen and Charlotte.
Charlotte’s assessment was surprising for us, and indeed, it does underscore the importance of understanding what is healthy eating through pure unadulterated nutritional science:
C: “Are they large or small bananas?”
E: “Medium sized ones.”
C: “Are your kids active?”
E: “Yes! They are very active!”
C: “Then that is actually fine. Bananas are very good for supplying energy as they are high-energy fruits. Even if you eat a lot of bananas, it’s ok as long as you burn them off. The good thing about bananas is that they are high in potassium, so they are very good for kids and everyone in general… especially if you have high blood pressure! The potassium in bananas will help lower blood pressure.
- So, according to nutritional science, it IS ok to have 3 bananas a day!
A Quick Recap So Far
For our gentle readers who have not caught up with our earlier and very popular pieces for CaregiverAsia’s food week, here’s a quick recap! As part of bringing a fresh and interesting perspective to healthy grocery shopping and eating wisely for our readers and their families, CaregiverAsia arranged for UK-trained Nutritionist, Charlotte de Drouas, to bring two lucky ladies on a supermarket spree! Charlotte threw the two ladies, Rachel and Ellen, 2 grocery challenges, the first was to shop for their families’ breakfast and the second was to shop for snack items that their families would usually take. All for SGD50 and less!
All About Ellen
I knew Ellen from when she was very young, she is my sister’s first real best friend from primary school. Being 6 years older than Ellen and my sister, I often observed them at their giggling games, their silly squabbles and their growing pains with a mild detached interest. I, after all, had been through it all, a full 6 years before them. Ellen’s now all grown up, and is a mum to 3 lovely children, aged 2, 4 and 6. Perhaps it is due to the long friendship that Ellen has had with my family, that I find it heartwarming, and sweet, that life has somewhat come a full circle, and Ellen’s focus these days is about raising a happy healthy family.
Ellen, like many Singaporean mums, is a full time working mum, and both she and her husband, try to spend as much of their evenings and weekends with their children. She lives in the same estate as her in-laws, and has a live-in helper who assists her with household chores, and sometimes with the kids. With all that shuttling between home, work and her children’s activities, Ellen tries to maximize time for herself, and would indulge in the occasional snack or a quick hangout with friends after her children goes to bed. She also believes in holistic living, and tries as much as she can, to be mindful about harmful chemicals and needless medication she puts around her children. Having her kids eat healthily and setting up the right eating habits from young is a most important priority for Ellen. It was with this, that I was thrilled that she accepted the Supermarket Challenge with Charlotte.
Ellen’s Food Challenge
Ellen’s food concerns for herself and her family were:
- Providing a healthy and balanced diet for her children
- Ensuring that her 4 year old daughter, who is picky about foods, eats well and starts being more adventurous with new foods
- Maintaining a balanced diet for herself, as she starts regaining her pre-pregnancy weight
- AND of course the banana question
Ellen’s pretty much relaxed about her husband’s diet, and lets him eat what he likes.
The Nutritionist's Grocery Challenge
The first part of the challenge was to have Ellen shop independently for a full breakfast meal and an afternoon snack for her family, with a SGD50 budget in mind. Breakfasts are typically one of the most difficult meals to prepare, as most families are busy getting ready to start the work and school day on time! Most people struggle getting just one child out of the house into the school day, imagine having to deal with three in Ellen’s case! Snack time is also often a tricky meal to prepare, and Ellen has been thinking of more interesting alternatives for her family, including more fruit varieties (outside of bananas!), yoghurt and nuts. However, are nuts truly healthy? Let’s see how Ellen fared!
At the end of 15 minutes, Ellen returned with her basket of food. Some highlights in the basket were:
- A loaf of white bread
- A carton of chilled milk
- A carton of apple juice
- A jar of hazelnut chocolate spread
- A block of butter
- 2 packets of grapes on special discount
- A packet of nuts
- A pack of chocolate digestive biscuits
- A packet of giant potato chips
Are you interested in a supermarket tour with Charlotte? You can book Charlotte on CaregiverAsia now! We have many other personal chefs and nutritionists listed with us as well. Come on over and take a look!
Easy Peasy Grocery Shopping Tips!
- Be Adventurous!
Ellen shared on her concerns about her 4 year old being particular about her food. She typically doesn’t like vegetables and meat, preferring breads, cheese, rice, and things that look white or plain. She did also share that as a family, they often bought frozen ready made pizza dough and made their own pizzas. It’s a fun activity that everyone in the family loves.
Charlotte thought it awesome that the family had fun together, and challenged Ellen’s creativity and sense of adventure, by suggesting that she introduces “wraps” into her children’s meals, in lieu of white bread and ready-made pizza dough. Wraps are a relatively new introduction to the Asian food market, but are versatile choices that could be creatively deployed to widen a children’s repertoire of familiar food. For example, Ellen could introduce wraps with foods that Ellen’s children are familiar with already, such as wrapping bananas with chocolate spreads for dessert, or even replacing the ready-made pizza dough with wraps as a healthier and lighter alternative. Wraps which are baked or toasted, taste exactly like “skinny” pizza crusts! In choosing wraps, Charlotte’s advice was to go for the whole grained ones, especially those which lists as its first ingredient 100% whole-wheat flour.
Ellen loved the idea of replacing the ready made pizza dough with wraps, but was worried that her children, who were used to white breads would find the whole grain wraps “coarser” and harder to chew. With a twinkle in her eye, Charlotte’s advice was for parents to be a bit “sneaky” when it comes to introducing foods, and to start their young children with already healthy alternatives. In this case, as Ellen was going to introduce to her children wraps for the first time, start with the whole grain ones, as her children will never know that the original ones existed in the first place! We saw a happy and excited Ellen replace the loaf of white bread with the wraps in her basket.
- Read the Food Labels!
The nutritional truth comes out only in food labels, and as true as the three most important words, “I Love You”, that you will utter to your kids; the first three ingredients listed in the food label are also the most important! Ingredients listed in food labels are in descending order in order of what is used most. In Ellen’s basket was a carton of milk. Taking Charlotte’s advice to heart, Ellen read through the labels on the various milk brands available. True to the advice given, some of the milk labels just had one line that read “100% Fresh Milk”, while some other “healthier” alternatives like skimmed milk’s top three listed ingredients were “Milk Solids”, “Calcium” and “Vitamin C”. The term “milk solids” is just a nicer way of saying powdered milk. By buying milk that lists milk solids as their top ingredient, you would be buying milk powder that others had mixed up into liquid form for you.
Ellen wondered what was the difference between “Fruit Juices” and “ Fruit Juice Drinks”. The same goes for the apple juice, as it would go for the milk. Read the ingredients in the food label, and go for the ones that list their ingredients as 100% apple juice, or has pasteurized juice in its top 3.
- Introduce Easy Changes to the Family One Small Step at a Time.
Getting the family to change their food preferences and habits into healthier alternatives will not be immediate and will certainly take more than a one sensible grocery spree. And it is with this that Charlotte’s philosophy of making small changes, one step at a time, makes the most sense for sustainable lifestyle changes. Ellen’s all-time favourite snack was a honey Dijon flavoured potato chip, and while Charlotte pointed out a healthier, lower fat, albeit, super adventurous, Lentil Chips option, she noted that it might be easier for all if they went for a healthier corn chips option instead. Indeed, after reading the food label, the corn chips option were a lower fat option to the potato chips, and corn flour was listed right at the top of the ingredient list. How satisfying! We noted that the corn chips went into Ellen’s basket.
- Buying Food Portions That Work For Your Family.
Charlotte observed that for many, buying that “just enough” portion was often a difficult balance to make for most grocery shoppers. Ellen admitted that part of the reason why her children were allowed the multiple bananas they eat a day, was because supermarkets sell them in large bunches, and Ellen wanted to just finish them before they go brown. Many supermarkets also encourage shoppers to buy multiples of the same items, through deals such as buy 1 get 1 free, or a deal where purchasing 1 item could be more expensive than getting 2 at the same time. Sometimes, it is a hard balance between controlling food wastage and doing what is “logical” when it comes to pricing. Charlotte suggested some creative ways of getting around “more than enough” grocery portions.
Going back to the bananas, instead of feeling the pressure to finish up the bananas before they brown, bananas can actually be frozen in the freezer, and used at a later time. Just simply peel them, slice them up, put them into a zip lock bag and freeze them. The frozen bananas can be then blended up, and voila! You will have blended up a batch of super healthy, super creamy and super delicious home made banana ice cream.
Sometimes buying in bulk could prove to be money saving as well. Ellen was keen to explore nuts as a healthy snack alternative. She personally was a fan of nuts. She had read that it was best to eat raw nuts due to its higher nutritional value, but she personally preferred the taste of baked nuts. Nutritionally, Charlotte shared that there was minimal nutritional value between raw and baked/ roasted nuts. However, most people like the taste of roasted nut, due to the satisfying crunch factor. Buying off the shelf roasted or baked nuts however could be expensive, and there also could be ingredients such as salt or palm oil added to the nuts during the manufacturing process. As such, Charlotte’s advice was to buy nuts such as almonds in bulk (to save money), and roast the nuts in an oven for 3 to 4 minutes at 180 degrees. The result is that you would have made your own roasted almonds, at a lesser cost, and with no added ingredients than if you would have bought them off the shelf.
At the end of the supermarket tour with Charlotte, Ellen found herself armed with new creative ideas of introducing new foods to her children, and she had replaced some items in her basket for healthier choices. So what were Ellen’s final supermarket purchases?
- A loaf of white bread whole grain bread (remember to read the fine print nutrition label, as some manufacturers do not use 100% whole meal flour!)
- A carton of chilled milk (make sure it’s 100% milk!)
- A carton of apple juice (make sure it’s 100% juice!)
- A jar of hazelnut chocolate spread (to be used with bananas in a whole-meal wrap!)
- A block of butter pack of whole-meal wraps (for making skinny pizza and dessert wraps)
- 2 packets of grapes on special discount
- 1 3 packets of nuts (it’s full steam ahead for nuts as a healthy snack alternative!)
- A pack of chocolate digestive biscuits corn chips (read the label to make sure corn flour is a top 3 ingredient!)
- A packet of giant potato chips (some treats are always needed, especially your favourite ones)
Ellen’s purchases amounted to SGD56.59, which makes her just a shade above the SGD50 budget! Well-done Ellen! We wish you and your family happy and adventurous meal times, and the very best of health! It’s really cool to be bananas about bananas and nuts about nuts as a family (sorry, I could not resist).
Dear readers, hope you enjoyed the supermarket instalments. Charlotte gave her critique of Ellen's and Rachel's supermarket challenge in a video so click here to watch the verdict!
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