Anyone who’s had a child knows how challenging it can be to provide a healthy diet at home. It’s difficult to strike that balance between nutrition and taste for adults, let alone fussy toddlers. Add in dwindling time resources, allergies and the stages of weaning and it’s enough for any parent to feel overwhelmed. Luckily, someone’s (perhaps more accurately, if less grammatically, sometwo’s) done all the work for us by creating the healthy baby and toddler food blog, Little Foodies, or in Swedish, Bra Barnmat.
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Jackie Cawthra and Nina Wahlberg are my ‘Extraordinary Expats’ for October. They are a phenomenon in their own right, since they already manage that difficult balance of being successful at work and successful at home. Jackie is the founder and CEO of Belen Echandia, the bespoke luxury handbag company, which she created 9 years ago. Nina has been at the forefront of media for 15 years and more, working as a video and television producer.
Whilst I sit opposite them, collecting information about their lives, I’m struck by their energy and by their apparently limitless ability to multitask. They discuss business ideas with me whilst breastfeeding, manage new recipes whilst managing their daughters’ routines, look up nutritional information before going to pick up their older sons from preschool. When this level of energy meets a passionate belief, sparks fly. That’s how Little Foodies was born.
‘We met at an English speaking parents meet-up when Theo and Ollie (Jackie and Nina’s adorable sons) were two months; there were 12 or 13 of us who had our first children around the same time,’ Jackie explains. ‘But it was when our babies were older, at the weaning stage, that we started thinking seriously about children’s diets and found that we had a lot of ideas in common’. Both mums were privileged to enjoy home-made food every day when they were children (‘I don’t think my mum has ever been to McDonalds,’ laughs Nina) and they were determined to do the same for their children. Their focus was on creating great family food – mini versions of adult dishes, with a few twists to meet the nutritional needs and limitations of little people at different stages.
During conversations with other parents, we realized that many are unsure about what kinds of food to offer their children and when – and many are too busy to sift through all the often overly complex information available. We also repeatedly heard parents saying that their children would not eat, or would not eat real food. We really wanted to change this and to make their lives easier, since the earlier you start introducing proper food, the easier it will be to get your children to eat well. We are passionate about this because the food that we put into our bodies and our children’s bodies affects everything from weight to mood and concentration.
We had collected a number of surprisingly quick, simple and nutritious recipes that we relied on for meals and snacks, both at home and on the run. Friends began requesting our baby food recipes, ideas and tips. People started telling us that we should start a blog to share our knowledge and recipes with others. So we did.
And what a blog it is. It’s not set up for profit, but in order to help, educate and inspire. All too often, those last three words mean a rough-and-tumble, worthy-but-unrefined result. Little Foodies is professional, slick and easy-to-navigate. Of course, these ladies had a background which helped. Jackie’s experience with Belen Echandia and its website meant that she had the contacts and the working knowledge of what makes a site successful. But she also has a wealth of understanding about nutrition and has been studying it for 10 years, ever since she was diagnosed with an intolerance to starch. It’s this insight into what foods are good and bad that makes Little Foodies so useful for parents with children who have intolerances and allergies; each recipe is nutritionally balanced for little ones according to their age, but there are also egg-free, dairy-free and gluten-free options. I can’t list them all here, so I got the Little Foodies Favourite Menus, straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were (sorry, ladies).
Jackie’s Menu of Choice:
Nina’s Menu of Choice:
What sets the site apart, for me, is its blend of simplicity and sophistication, of real nutritional insight with no compromise on either taste or fun. To take an example, nothing could be more simple to make than the raw chocolate balls (my daughter’s favourite recipe, unsurprisingly). It takes 4 ingredients: dates, nuts, cocoa and cinnamon. But turning this from a messy, if delicious, paste into something stunning has taken an intricate attention to detail and infinite patience in perfecting. Jackie explains that you need to soak the dates first to get that silken truffle-like texture. Once the balls have been rolled, you dust them with cocoa, producing a beautiful piece of confectionery that wouldn’t look out of place in Godiva. But the recipe never loses sight of the fact that this is a healthy, child-friendly food blog. The sweetness in the recipe comes from dates, the healthy fat from nuts; you can feel good about giving these treats to your child in a way that you never could with your average shop-bought chocolate bar. And of course, shop-bought can never replicate home-made, particularly when home-made is so much fun. Even my 18 month old can handle bunging in ingredients into a blender; in fact the noisier the activity, the better pleased he is. But his cup runneth over when he gets to handle this gorgeous, sticky, chocolatey mixture and roll it into balls himself. Of course, a lot goes in his mouth because he can’t control himself; to be honest, neither can I. The main point about this recipe is that it’s delicious; it has to be. None of the other things I’ve mentioned would be worth anything if the end product wasn’t to die for. And it’s the same for every recipe on the site.
Both Jackie and Nina make, test and re-test all of the meals on the blog. Nina’s style, elegance and experience as a television producer enables her to create the right setting for ravishing meals in a fun and friendly way. ‘It’s particularly important for the light to be right,’ Nina tells me. ‘That can be hard in the Stockholm winter, especially when I was working full-time’. Which brings me to another question. How can they manage a day-job and two children and still have time to spare for the food site? They shrug it off. ‘When you’re passionate about something, you always find the energy,’ says Jackie. ‘And after all… whatever we do in our daily lives, we still have to make breakfast, lunch and dinner!’ True, but I’m impressed all the same. I make our family meals, but I don’t research or blog them. Extraordinary Expats indeed: I can’t wait to see what they do next.
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If you liked this article, you may also like reading about our other ‘Extraordinary Expats‘. It’s always great to read about people doing well in Stockholm!
Article by Farrah Gillani
Photo Credit: Little Foodies