Among the barrage of lifestyle advice the term “superfood” has received its fair share of attention over the last few years – from nutritionists, to chefs, to health gurus, the idea that there are certain types of foods that are simply unparalleled in their ability to keep us healthy has often been presented in confusing and complicated ways, often times a thinly disguised attempt at promoting a “newly discovered yet ancient” ingredient.
For Rena Patten, author of Superfood for Kids, the explanation of what constitutes a superfood is simple and relatable – for her, a superfood is “any food that is naturally grown and fresh – food that has not been processed, filled with chemicals, additives, preservatives, artificial flavors, colors or enhancers.” In other words, exactly the kind of food that most parents want their children to be eating. Eschewing any “buzz-food” hype for this simple explanation, Patten doesn’t spend page after page trying to convince us why we would want our children to eat fresh food “as nature intended”. Instead, she goes straight to the notion that knowledge and an appreciation of good food is “one of the great gifts that a parent can give to their children”, and one that can be intrinsically connected to loving family relationships.
Her recipes mirror the no-fuss approach, and presents a wide variety of recipes that use ingredients which are easily obtainable without breaking into the upper echelons of expensive niche-ingredients. Fresh spices, vegetables, grains and some meats are put together in a simple way and encourage the involvement of children in the cooking process, presenting a wide array of choices that would suit most families and their various (potentially fussy) little eaters.
Organised into distinct sections for breakfast, school lunches, at-home lunches and dinners, and special treats, the book also has a section on “superfood for babies, showing that not all baby foods have to be an indistinguishable mess of unrecognisable puree. Quick and simple snacks for older children include fruit and nut “power bites” and – my daughter’s personal favourite – “sushi balls”. There are choices around wheat and gluten free, and some non-dairy recipes, which it would have been good to extend throughout the book in terms of offering substitutes for the growing number of children who are on restrictions around dairy.
Rena Patten, who has written a variety of other cookbooks, relates her recipes back to her own family environment – as a mother of three children, and now also a grandmother, Patten’s recipes do have that “tried and tested” element to them, and Superfood for Kids is bound to make a welcome addition to any parents’ (or grandparents’) cooking repertoire.