Am I the only mum who’s a teeny bit dismayed to discover that sugar is basically the devil? Not because I particularly relish the prospect of my kids being wired and hyper at 10pm, or their teeth falling out, or any of the other grim things that sugar might do to them. None of that. It’s just that feeling – and I think it’s an almost universally maternal thing (probably paternal, too) – that makes me want to replicate my happy childhood experiences with my own kids.
Some of those things aren’t contentious – watching and playing sport, reading certain books, playing certain games, learning to knit, having some responsibility for a pet. Others, however, are suddenly a minefield: ice cream if you eat all your dinner, marathon weekend baking sessions, birthday parties at fast food outlets, fizzy drinks, biscuits and cordial after school (and yet I was supposedly one of the healthy ones!)
Obviously moderation in this, as in all things, is the key – but there are a couple of ‘sweet cheats’ which, I’ve found, can assuage the demands of the sugar-monster child (and various things I’ve read seem to suggest that we are genetically hard-wired to love sugar, so please – let’s not feel too bad when our kids are threatening to snorkel their way into a vat of chocolate). I’m not suggesting for a moment that these alternatives are sugar-free, but they don’t contain artificial sweeteners, and the sugars they do contain are at least naturally occurring and come smilingly accompanied by a decent whack of nutritional value.
No added sugar, dairy-free and it uses up past-their-best ‘nanas. This may actually be the greatest invention of all time.
Take all of those browning bananas in your fruit bowl, or pick up a bunch of the ones you’d usually bypass at the local shop and see how little the storekeeper is willing to sell them to you for.
Peel them, chop them up, and place in the freezer, either in plastic containers or wrapped in baking paper (don’t use cling film or foil; they don’t come away so cleanly)
When you’re ready for ice-cream, take the bananas out of the freezer and allow them to soften slightly – only slightly! Then place them in your food processor and whizz, whizz, whizz. Yes, they’ll make a horrible noise at first and go strangely crumbly, and you’ll think that you should add some liquid – but don’t! Just stop for a minute, scrape down the sides, and keep whizzing – all of a sudden, this strange banana-crumb concoction will turn gooey and creamy and you will have smooth, sweet, cold, delicious ice cream.
Oddly enough, it doesn’t taste particularly banana-y in this form, but even so, there are additions you can make to alter the flavour – choose Medjool dates for a caramelly hit, throw in frozen or fresh berries for a fruity sensation, or indulge the chocoholic with raw cacao or 100% cocoa powder.
[For another twist check out our Summer Mango & Banana Recipe here. ]
I don’t even know why these have acquired this name in my house, other than that I have a silly habit of putting on random accents to ‘glamourise’ English words. In any case, these go down a treat after school.
Cut cold, crisp apples into discs. You’ll be left with two ‘cheeks’ on either side of the core, but they are all yours – enjoy ‘em. Smother a disc with no-added sugar peanut butter (Manuka honey also works brilliantly if you have a nut allergy to contend with: it’s not runny, so will stay put for the requisite plate-to-mouth time, which isn’t long, if my kids are anything to go by) and top it with another disc. Voila: it’s a custard cream, but not as you know it.
Another ridiculous name – I apologise. Obviously these monikers are 100% optional – but if you, like me, have ever congratulated yourself on the fact that your children practically mainline juice and never ask for soft drink and then thought “yikes, hang on …” then this might appeal to you. Chop up oranges, limes, cucumber & mint, much as you would if you were making Pimm’s. Throw them into a large jug, top it up with water and refrigerate. Leave it to infuse and you’ll have a drink that’s a notch up from ‘plain, boring water’ yet still packs a perfect hydration punch. You can re-use the fruity additions once or twice more before they stop having a flavoursome impact on the water, too.
Limited to the summer months, obviously, but still popular with the kids. Slice a watermelon into pie-shaped wedges – don’t make them too thin; about 1.5 -2cm is about right. Insert a lolly stick into the rind of each piece (you may need to use a knife to make a slit for this), lay them on baking paper and freeze for a few hours before enjoying. To avoid freezer burn, don’t leave them exposed in the freezer for too long – these are ideal for making in the morning ready for that afternoon.
Written by, Sarah Rodrigues. Originally from Australia, Sarah is now settled in London with her English husband Dave and three children Phoenix, Cassian & Leon (plus the Zeus, the Greek rescue dog!) She travels as often as possible and writes between drop-offs and pick-ups. You can follow her on Instagram at @justtwenteen