Fun Blueberry Bee

Blueberry Bee

I haven’t been doing much food art recently – which I’ve missed – as I’ve been focused on other things I’m passionate about. I’ve realised what a difference I can make to individual parents supporting them with recipes, information and tips and tricks so they are able to provide simple, healthy school lunches. Creating balanced, delicious, fresh food lunches in 10 minutes is something I can deliver to my boys every day. Did you want to learn how? Check out the link .. and join the other parents creating new habits and empowering their kids with brain food.

Fun food art Blueberry Bee

Scientifically Proven Ways to get Kids Eating More Veggies

Scientists Prove Best Ways to Get Kids Eating More Veggies

I was doing research for my monthly blog at the Healthy Food Guide and starting reading about some of the studies figuring out how to get kids to eat more veggies. It was fascinating and I got totally engrossed. Even had to drill down and read some of the actual studies themselves not just the “news summaries”. Amazing how much time and energy is poured into this topic and it really gets me wondering whether we need to put way more energy into changing our customs and culture so that “eating veg” is not such a big deal. Why is eating veggies such a big hurdle for millions of kids? Why have we let it become so?

Check out the article at the Healthy Food Guide …

Carrot Train - Finished 1 (1 of 1)

Fresh Food Flowers

Fresh Food Flowers ….
I was sooo excited last week. One of the lovely ladies that helps out at the school social events helping us to provide healthy choices for the students also has a child at the local Kinder. At their annual fundraising evening she organised sushi for the adults to go alongside the sausage sizzle. For the kids she put together 100 individual pots of fruit. And as the fruit was all free courtesy of the local supermarket it provided a great profit at $ 1.00 per pot.

Fruit Salad - Finished-002
Here I must digress. As much as supermarkets can work against people in terms of eating a fresh food diet I have to admit that our local Countdown is super supportive of any initiatives in the community that promote fresh food eating. Thanks Countdown we are so appreciative!
To have the sushi and the fruit pots was fabulous as it provided excellent choices for those wanting to avoid the standard fundraising fare. But far more exciting is that what we’ve done at the school is now being replicated in other community groups. Yeah!! We have planted the seeds and the fresh food will grow ….
What can you do to provide a fresh food alternative? At your house, in your school, within your community? Many small acts grow change …

Sports Day Revamp

Sports Day – Revamp …

Just a short year ago we decided to provide some options at the school’s Sports Day BBQ. We have tried and tested a few things since then with the support of a fabulous PTA and some have been more successful than others.

The things we have focused on are i) having options ii) being as inclusive as possible.

This sports day was a huge success on both fronts. We offered our standard vegan sausage as an alternative to the regular sausage. We also had fresh fruit smoothies (dairy and non-dairy) as a choice instead of a popsicle. It was great to see students queuing for a fresh food alternative.

Really exciting though was offering all sausages on wheat-meal bread (was supposed to be wholemeal but the bakery messed up!). These were served with optional home-made sugar free tomato sauce and salad (chopped tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce).
The swap to wheat-meal bread and sugar-free sauce was seamless. The salad was interesting as being new a lot of the children were surprised and even confused to see it as an option. Probably 20% took some for their “sandwich”. The feeling is that having it as a permanent choice will normalise it and encourage more students to opt in.

Tomato lettuce cucumber

The food environment can have such an impact on our kids choices. Don’t we have a responsibility to ensure it’s a good one?

No soap, No shampoo, No smelly stuff .. at all ….

No soap, No shampoo, No smelly stuff .. at all ….

No shampoo

So if you’d told my younger self that I’d turn into a middle-aged hippy I would have scoffed. However, I seem to be heading unassisted into that definition!
I am obsessive about what we put into our bodies in the way of food and also in the other ways we must nourish our bodies, minds and soul. Sleep, exercise, mental stimulation, love, forays into nature etc. But I seemed to have skipped a step without realising it. Although I’ve always been fonder of baking soda and vinegar for cleaning than smelly chemicals this has not applied to the stuff we use to clean ourselves. Yes we use the eco versions of soaps and shampoos and moisturisers but do we actually even need these?
My light-bulb moment was after purchasing Norwex branded cloths for cleaning the house. The anti-microbial/anti-bacterial microfiber cloths eliminated the need for additional cleaning fluids. Even better they clean things with way less effort and who doesn’t want that!
I started to think about my personal care routine and question habits I’ve had forever. I began with my hair. Now I would never be invited to participate in a hair commercial. My hair is madly curly, thick, kind of wiry feeling and very long. It does two styles – very long or very short. I have spent years drowning it in conditioner to try and keep it from getting dry and the ends splitting. Whilst doing this the roots get greasy and by the 4th morning it just could not be left without a wash. And tangles, boy did I fight every time with knots, you would not believe what a task it would be.
Then I began to read about going “no poo”. Scary thought. I am a mad exerciser and so the thought of having hair not “properly” washed was very scary. And what about my dry hair? How would it cope without the half a bottle of conditioner twice a week?
But thinking about how much less of a chemical load I’d be placing on my body, the environment and also what I’d save in terms of dollars made me take the plunge. I was very thankful to the lovely ladies at the Real Food in NZ Facebook group who gave me advice and support and I just went for it.
To start with it was a disaster. I used baking soda and vinegar and my hair looked like it hadn’t been washed at all and was lank and lifeless. Fortunately vanity is not one of my many vices and my husband – bless him – probably wouldn’t even notice if I shaved it all off, so I decided to continue. Reading more I realised that baking soda was too harsh and that it may take weeks for my hair to adjust and let the natural oils balance. I ditched the soda and just washed my hair in apple cider vinegar. Much better result but still not the bouncy, vibrant look I was used to after a shampoo wash. Then as I persevered I realised that my hair no longer had knots. None! And it was soft. Not of course commercial ready soft (not going to happen with my hair) but way, way softer than previously. And the ends although split from previously were not dry. As I continued I also noticed that my hair didn’t actually need washing very often (although I do!). The natural oils have balanced and my hair does feel better. There is also not the super dry after a wash followed by the icky greasy a few days later. It is content, happy and balanced.
Never being one to do things by halves I decided to try the Norwex body wash cloths and go soap and cleanser free. Now despite the cleaning cloths and the no poo success I was still really, really, nervous about this. As I said before, I’m a mad exerciser and as I dumped deodorant 10 years ago after a workout I am in urgent need of a major shower. The first morning I was gobsmacked. Yep, totally amazed at how clean the cloths get the body without any cleaning products at all. In fact way better at removing sweat than soap. And the positive side-effect of this is that moisturiser is no longer necessary as the body balances those good old oils itself.
Now admittedly I still do soap my hands and moisturise those and my face but I am working on that. And of course I always need to share my crazy schemes with the boys. They have always been primarily no poo but they are now no soap too. Joe reckons its way easier to wash and loves his new body cloth. Max is not as enthusiastic but then again how many 10 year old boys are excited about washing?
And that leaves me searching for my next mad project. Any suggestions?

Fresh Food Lunchbox Workshop

Fresh Food Lunchbox Workshop

Fresh Food Lunchbox Workshop

I love the opportunity to present lovely, fresh food beautifully and make it the hero for snacks, dinners or parties. I use this knowledge to provide healthy options at community functions. I also take the food art and fresh food cooking into school and local groups to excite children about real food choices.

Recently I have begun running “Fresh Food Lunchbox Workshops” for parents. These have as the focus facilitating a change from packaged lunches to a fresh food lunchbox. They are interactive and provide guidance for simple steps to change habits.

On Tue I was privileged to be asked to speak to parents at a local preschool and my lovely Max lobbied to help and put himself in charge of the graphics. It was great to have him along and he was also able to discuss his experiences as a primarily sugar-free child in a sugary world!

I will be sharing the information from the workshop on how to make a transition with food choices on my new website (to be launched very soon). The focus will be on fresh food for lunches and also family meals with tricks, tips and recipes to support this.

Watch this space …

The Art of Nutrition
Fun, healthy, creative food for kids big and small

Healthy School Disco

No Junk Junk

There are many junk products marketed as healthy foods but for the school winter disco we decided to turn the tables. For the seniors we had home-made burgers (created from top quality meat) and served in preservative/sugar free wholemeal rolls with sauce that contained no sweeteners. For the vegetarians there was a bean burger option and all were eaten with delight. It was fabulous to see good food served and enjoyed.

Healthy food for school disco

Healthy food can be fun. Healthy food can be delicious. Healthy food can be reasonably priced and served at a fund raiser.

For the junior disco we again had fruit salad cups but next time we’re planning a home-made banana based “ice cream”.

Sugar free food for school disco













The Art of Nutrition

Fun, healthy, creative food for kids big and small

Small, Sustainable Steps

Small, Sustainable Steps

Smoothies not popsicles

In my world good health is achieved not via any diet but by following the SSS principle. Small, sustainable steps forward. I know in my house this has meant that as my knowledge about food, the body and what works best for us increases I have made little changes to our menu. Gone are some of the favourites but in their stead have come alternatives or just better options. All of our changes have happened gradually so they are a little less painful and easily sustainable.
We are working on this principle at the school. Providing options for those who already prefer a sugar/preservative free choice but also trying to introduce positive changes for everyone else.
At the annual X-country school competition we again offered our vegan sausages but this time had wholemeal rolls with a choice of grated carrot, shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes with home-made hummus and tomato ketchup as sauces. This provided a full meal for the students who took up the option. The response was fantastic with really great feedback from everyone who purchased one.

Healthy options at school sports days

For the next school sporting event we are discussing having the wholemeal rolls as standard and offering the salad items as optional. The PTA would still use the regular sausages but each child would be able to have a full lunch (as opposed to a slice of white bread and a sausage) should they choose. Having veggies normalised as an integral part of a BBQ is, in my mind, a great step forward.
Last sporting event we offered frozen smoothies. This time we set up a “smoothie bar” with a table of blenders offering either freshly whizzed fruit with yoghurt or with oat milk (as a non-dairy option). Using fresh bananas, apples and frozen strawberries made for an awesome mix and the students LOVED them. Even more exciting were the number of kids who had pre-booked a popsicle but decided they would prefer a smoothie. Obviously the hope is that the smoothies over time replace the popsicles entirely … and there is talk of this … and not coming from me either!!

Healthy BBQ options schools

The Art of Nutrition

Fun, healthy, creative food for kids big and small


Dips and Madness at the School

Dips and Madness at the School

The parents at my boys’ school run informal sessions at lunchtime on a variety of topics to entertain and educate the students. I love getting involved and promoting healthy food so decided to put together a lunchtime dip and crudites experience.

Cooking healthy food at school

(Me at the hummus station getting the savoury crudites stuff ready).

I had to be very careful with ingredients due to allergies so spent time crafting recipes that were tasty but did not contain common allergens and of course that were still healthy.

I created two savoury and two sweet dips. The savoury dips to be served with celery, carrot and cucumber batons and the sweet with apple and pear slices. The students would be peeling and chopping the fruit and veggies and doing all the measuring, cutting and food processing required to create the dips.

We had four food processors set up to make hummus, pesto (more of a pistou), cookie dough dip and a chocolate dip. None of them used dairy, nuts, sugar or honey (and actually no chocolate – cocoa powder instead).

A fabulous group of parents offered to help and manned the dip stations armed with a food processor, ingredients and a recipe. More adults were stationed at the crudites chopping stations and made sure only the fruit and veggies succumbed to the knives! One more on hand washing duty (at both ends of the session) and coordinating and we were ready. Or we thought we were until we were faced with over 150 students across the two lunchtimes.

Low allergen dips

(The students making a chick pea “cookie dough” recipe).

It was totally mad but absolutely fabulous and the students LOVED chopping, measuring and making their own dips and dippers. There were no accidents but lots of tasting and questions.

The feedback from the parents and students has been excellent with many making the dips again at home and lots surprised that you can make something super tasty using very basic ingredients …

The Art of Nutrition
Fun, healthy, creative food for kids big and small

Falafel at the School Fete

Falafel at the School Fete

The PTA asked me to coordinate a falafel stand at the annual fete and I was delighted to be charged with the task. 200 chick pea burgers later I was not quite so bubbly but very excited to see how popular they were and how people enjoyed them.

Healthy Food at School

We served the falafels on a wholemeal bun with sides of shredded lettuce, carrot and diced tomatoes. For a gluten free option we had bowls so the falafels could be piled with salad.

To jazz it all up I made a big batch of home-made hummus, some raita, a garlic sauce and a refined sugar-free sweet chilli sauce. The chilli sauce was very popular and despite being really spicy was applied liberally to many burgers. In fact all the sauces disappeared and I had very little to cart home.

Healthy Food School Fair

What a satisfying day serving some good wholesome food that was delicious, healthy and well received. Next year we’d like to team this with some fresh fruit smoothies made to order!

The Art of Nutrition
Fun, healthy, creative food for kids big and small

Fun Fruit Bouquet

Fruit Bouquet

It’s tradition in my boy’s school for the parent’s from the penultimate year to make desserts for the Year 6 Graduation ceremony. I volunteered to make fruit skewers but wanted to do something a lot more special for the night. From this the fun food Fruit Flower Bouquet was born.

It looks really complex but is actually simple. It took me about 1 ½ hours to put it together although I’m sure I could do it more quickly next time!

Healthy Fruit Flower Bouquet   Fruit Bouquet - 2 orange (1 of 1)


– Flower pot

– Cabbage (I used this for ballast and to stick the skewers into. Potato/florists foam/apple would work too)

– Orange (I used this to cover the cabbage)

– Fruit – whatever you have on hand. Those that don’t oxidise work best. I used:



=Grapes – green and red

=Melon – Rockmelon/cantaloupe

=Melon – Honeydew




1. I bought a plastic pot from the garden centre and stuffed a quarter of a cabbage into it.

Fruit Bouquet - 1 pot  (1 of 1)

2. Then covered with a layer of sliced oranges to pretty it up!

Fruit Bouquet - 2 orange (1 of 1)

3. Before teaching myself to make strawberry roses via U-Tube …

Fruit Bouquet - 3 strawberry rose (1 of 1)

Giving them a stem covered with green grapes.

4. I made a few of them.

Fruit Bouquet - 4 strawberry roses (1 of 1)

5. Then added some melon and blueberry flowers, made using cookie cutters.

Fruit Bouquet - 5 melon flowers (1 of 1)

6. And some melon and grape star flowers.

Fruit Bouquet - 6 melon stars (1 of 1)

7. And melon and kiwifruit too.

Fruit Bouquet - 7 kiwi flowers (1 of 1)

8. I added some melon “leaves” on short skewers.

Fruit Bouquet - 8 mini flower towers (1 of 1)

And some mini melon and half grape flower stacks.

9. Then I added some strawberry and pineapple flowers.

Fruit Bouquet - 9 melon leaves-pineapple hearts (1 of 1)

10. I bulked and coloured it up with some additional strawberries (just hulled).

Fruit Bouquet - 10 grape stacks (1 of 1)

11. Then used blueberries as soil.

Fruit Bouquet - 11 blueberry soil (1 of 1)

12. All finished and ready to pick …

Fun food art Fruit Bouquet

The Art of Nutrition
Fun, healthy, creative food for kids big and small

Birthday Parties

Birthday Parties

Both my boys have December birthdays (yes very bad timing on our behalf …) so this time of year is especially mad at our house. Fortunately we’re not much into presents so that takes away one stress however, Max and Joe do like to have a party each. This is fair enough but squeezing them into an ever shrinking window of time between all the other festivities is always a challenge. This year the only workable weekend was 6th/7th Dec so that was the one. I’d also booked to see a pantomime on the Saturday afternoon (months ago) so we needed to work around that too – ahhhh! Fortunately my boys are very comfortable with few whistles and bells so we were able to schedule Joe’s for 4.30 on the Saturday and Max’s for 2.30 on the Sunday.
We gave the boys options for food and Joe chose home-made burgers and Max home-made pizzas. Although I have been hosting no junk parties for years I am still surprised each time by children’s reactions and what I learn. This year was no exception.

Joe’s Party

Healthy food for parties

For Joe’s party we made home-made wholegrain rolls and minced beef burgers. We served this with sliced veggies, hummus dip, home-made tomato sauce and roasted sweet potato wedges. We always do platter style meals for the family and so did the same for the five six year old boys. They looked at the food with open mouthed amazement and one said “wow, this is such a feast”. Perhaps for children used to having food served on individual plates it made it look more plentiful. It may also have been a little overwhelming at first but I think having the option to eat whatever they wanted from the offered plates made them comfortable and they were soon all tucking in with relish. Roy and I were shocked (but happy) at how much food disappeared.

Fun, healthy food for parties

Joe had chosen a cowboy theme for the party so alongside firing bows and arrows and attempting lassoing (impossible for anyone aside from professional musterers!) I tried to get the fruit platter to tie in. No self-respecting cowboy would be complete without his gun so that became the centrepiece and I piled seasonal fruit around the outside.

Cowboy fun food art gun

It took a lot less time to eat than to create but it’s always fabulous to see food enjoyed and eaten with relish – well done boys!

Fun food art for parties

Max’s Party

Having older boys always brings larger appetites so I made the veggie and hummus platter earlier so the boys could dig in for a mid-afternoon snack, which they did …

Make your own pizza party

Max chose pizza as his party food so Roy whipped up some wholemeal bases and I prepped mountains of accompaniments. All the bright colours and textures made for some very appealing looking platters for the boys to choose their toppings from. And, there was of course the home-made chilli chicken option to test the mettle. Creating their own pizza was very popular and there was enough to have a second go around choosing a whole new set of flavours too. The veggie-nut in me was of course delighted to see baby spinach, mushrooms, corn and capsicum being piled on alongside the more “meaty” options.

No junk food party food

As it was a pizza fest I also made a fruit pizza as a dessert. Pizza topped with cream cheese and then fruit, although the slam dunk winner was the “raspberry sauce” (frozen raspberries blitzed in the bar mix).

Fun food fruit pizza

Max wanted to bake a small cake so I let him whip up a fabulous recipe I found and then modified to fit within my “criteria”! It’s a carrot cake that is perfect for share occasions as its gluten, dairy and sugar (and sugar substitute) free. This sounds less than ideal but it actually tastes amazing, is lovely and moist and contains nothing undesirable.
All in all two great parties and that concludes my birthday hosting duties for another year. Maybe it isn’t so bad having them both at the same time …..

The Art of Nutrition
Fun, healthy, creative food for kids big and small

E-Book Coming Soon


The Art of Nutrition will be launching an E-Book very soon (should be this month). Keep a look out for links as to where to buy. It will be competitively priced and new recipes will be automatically updated for subscribers.

Fun food art parrot

Watch this space!!

The Art of Nutrition
Fun, healthy, creative food for kids big and small

Easter – how many “treats”?

Easter – how many “treats”?

Religion aside, Easter is one of those times that make me ponder what we, as a society, have created as the norm for children in regards to celebrations. I wander into any supermarket, discount store, variety shop and even petrol/gas station and am greeted by rows and rows of chocolate eggs. How many do we need!?!?!?

I made the decision when my boys were born not to introduce chocolates, lollies and sweets as a “treat”. I felt there were many better options for rewards and also I wanted to make their lives simpler. They just do not crave sweets (unlike the rest of us!!).

This has made Easter so simple in our house as there is no expectation of chocolate or traditional Easter Eggs. I do not want to be a complete “bah, humbug” either so we have created traditions that the boys look forward to and make Easter into a special celebration. Each year I make a clutch of home-made eggs created from a healthy muesli bar recipe and wrap them in brightly coloured paper. These then get hidden around the house and garden (weather dependent) and the boys love the thrill of the hunt. We also have a special meal out over the long weekend and spend time together picking a restaurant that will make for a really good night out for everyone.

I wonder whether the chocolate excess is really a necessary part of Easter or whether like many things in our consumer driven societies it has become an accepted norm when really it’s quite “abnormal” to expect our children to eat multiple, large eggs. Having a chocolate egg for Easter seems like an exciting “treat”. Is having more too much? Should we be looking for alternative gifts if gifts are part of our tradition?

The Art of Nutrition
Fun, healthy, creative food for kids big and small

Fun Healthy Eating at the School

Healthy Eating at the School

Over the last weeks I have hosted two healthy eating sessions at the boy’s school.

I am very privileged to be allowed the opportunity to pack up boxes of cut up fresh fruit and vegetables and hump them down to the school and share designing with 60 – 100 students over lunch time. I have free reign of a large room with tables and chairs, a sink to wash hands and 4 fabulous parents who volunteer to help. I get to do two sessions a term, one with the older students and one with the younger side of the school.

These sessions have become more popular as word spreads and students know they can come to eat (in their words) “yummy food”. It is fascinating to see the enthusiasm and excitement generated by the opportunity to craft with everything from red cabbage to cress and then eat communally.

One of the parent helpers remarked that they wouldn’t be surprised at the stampede if we were offering chocolate but I think everyone is taken aback (even me to some extent) by the positive reaction to serving only fresh fruit and vegetables . The platters loaded with so many different colours, shapes and textures do look appetising and when given a white plate to design on – it’s all just so tempting.

It proves conclusively to me that fruit and veg can be really exciting to children. Not only do the students love designing food plates but we have virtually no wastage. What the children use to create they also eat (sorry parents who have prepared a big dinner !!). Many students try foods they normally don’t eat or may not have tried before and they do this in a supportive, community setting. It’s amazing how much difference the group environment and general enthusiasm makes.

My two favourite quotes from the sessions must be:

“ I can’t believe how much healthy food I really like”
“ Wow, there is so much yummy food”

I feel that we all need to work harder at providing an environment that is conducive to healthy eating. There are so many communal eating opportunities, especially at this time of the year and there is no reason for these to become the scene of crimes against fresh and natural. Using our imaginations and spending a little extra time can produce dishes that tantalise the senses, whet the appetite and excite the guests. Moreover my sessions at the school prove that if the expectation is that healthy food can be fun, it is!

Pumpkin – from hate to love in only 5 years

Pumpkin – from hate to love in only 5 years …

I love pumpkin, especially roasted and so it features at our family dinner table at least weekly. From the moment my boys went onto solids pumpkin (clothes stainer extraordinaire) was added to their menu and they slurped it up happily along with all the other mush. Max began a dislike of pumpkin as soon as he was able to register such thoughts and as he was generally so unfussy I allowed him the luxury of not eating pumpkin.

Well …. that is not entirely true ….

I am a firm believer that tastes change over time, that the way a food is prepared and cooked can make a difference to how palatable you find it and that sometimes it takes time to adjust to a taste or flavour. I am also stubborn, hard-headed and unwilling to give up a cause …

So I served Max a small piece of pumpkin every time we had it as part of the meal. He usually rolled his eyes and said “mum, you know I don’t like pumpkin” to which I always replied “just try it, you may like it this time”. He obligingly tasted it and then declared that he still didn’t like it. This continued for 5 years. It was never a battle and never a negative. In fact it became more of a family joke that he would always have a small piece of orange popped onto the side of the plate and would always look at me in resignation.

Last year we had my parents over and were on holidays near the beach. I put a tray of roast veggies in the oven (including pumpkin) whilst we went for a short walk that turned into a longer meander. When we returned the veggies had shrunk and were very caramelised.
They got dished up anyway and I gave a piece of pumpkin to Max and said “try this it’s so different to usual, you will love it”. He took it suspiciously and tried it and said “actually it’s really nice, I like it”. My father then added “I don’t normally like pumpkin either but I love this”. Between the two of them they devoured 90% of the pumpkin on offer!!

Max and Joe now fight over the pumpkin I cook (in any way) and I have to adjudicate to ensure they have equal portions and no one is getting more than the other.

This has proven to me beyond doubt that food tastes do change and that it is worth persevering positively with foods. And, to make sure there is less of the “do what I say” message in this I too retry foods constantly and also vary cooking methods to see if it changes my opinion. In this way I have become an eggplant/aubergine lover not a hater over the last 3 years …

And, on a final note, whilst running a healthy eating session at the school last Friday one of the mothers tried celery for the first time since childhood. She had disliked it as a child and so avoided it throughout the intervening years. After discussing the pumpkin story she decided she should have another try of celery and is now going to buy a bunch …..

The Live Below the Line Challenge

The Living Below the Line Challenge

Max, my eldest (8) heard about the Live Below the Line Challenge and unilaterally decided to take it on as part of his extra-curriculum community program for school. I agreed to do it with him for support. The global challenge is to raise awareness for the millions of people who live below the poverty line and struggle daily to obtain basics like food. There is an amount designated for each country that reflects this “line”. In NZ its $ 2.25, in Aus $ 2.00, in the US $ 1.50 and the UK 1 pound.

Planning for the 5 days where we would have to spend no more than $ 2.25 each for all our food and drinks was actually quite involved as I was desperately trying to balance meals nutritionally as best I could given very limited resources. We chose things like lentils as they are a protein and a carbohydrate, oats as they are filling and great for fibre but can be cooked with water and seasonal veg such as pumpkin as you get bulk amounts for little outlay. We measured and calculated and had all our weekly food in a spread sheet so we were able to chop and change as we went along if we felt we’d over or under estimated a quantity of a particular food. We also had a “float” so we could add something in to cheer us up at the end of the week if necessary (became a HUGE necessity!!).

I was prepared for the psychological difficulty of not being able to eat what I wanted (or thought I was) but the physical problems I experienced took me by ugly surprise. I was also naively unprepared for how hard it was going to be to watch Max go through a whole range of difficulties mental and physical.

Monday started with a bowl of porridge made with water for both of us and a little added milk for Max (I was saving mine for my tea!). It was OK and we both braved watching Joe eat his regular muesli and toast. That was until about 10.30 when Max would normally have some fruit for morning tea. The budget did not allow for this so he dipped into his lunchtime allowance of lentil stew that he’d brought in his thermos. I too was ravenous by 10.30am but hung on until 12.00 when I put my portion of stew into my bowl and realised just how small it was. I was shocked at how little we ended up with once it had been split up. It was a toddler portion and hardly touched the sides going down (the photo shows my bowl with the teaspoon!).


Even worse this was to sustain me until 6.00pm when we’d repeat the stew but with some additional rice, pumpkin, peas and spinach. I spent the afternoon hungry, very, very, hungry. I also started to get a headache and feel a bit faint. Max fared better physically thank goodness but by the time he returned from school was desperate for his banana to stave off some of the hunger. Both of us went to bed hungry that night.
Tuesday we woke hungry and felt hungry all day. The portion sizes we could afford just did not contain enough calories to feed our bodies. I also felt really unwell. I was lethargic, headachy, demotivated and faint. Max fortunately was not suffering much physically except for being really hungry.

Wednesday was a very low point for me. I was miserable and felt quite depressed. I was so tired and low on energy mentally and physically. This is so unusual for me as generally I am very positive, upbeat and probably a little on the manic side. I also do tonnes of exercise and although I continued to do this through the whole week I just didn’t have the energy going in to sustain it properly.
Thursday was a very hard day for Max. He was very tired and when I picked him up from school he looked pale and had no energy. I gave him his banana but he was still so, so hungry. By dinner time he was feeling miserable and watching Roy and Joe eat a varied and plentiful dinner was torture. Fortunately we had our “float” to dip into and so we allowed ourselves half a fried egg each. It is hard to describe just how exciting that egg was. We both saved it until last and savoured every tiny drop of yolk and every little piece of white. It gave us a horribly clear insight into just how much such a small thing can mean to someone who is impoverished, hungry and unable to have even the simplest of treats. I don’t think either of us will ever forget how exciting and delicious that half an egg was at that point in time. It is also very hard to convey just how difficult this challenge is to anyone who has not done it. I could not have truly prepared myself for what an enormous undertaking it was for people like us who are used to eating well, never experiencing shortages of anything necessary for comfortable living.

By Friday my body was still totally low on energy but had adjusted to the new “diet” and was coping better. Max on the other hand was miserable in the morning as he was still just so hungry. I suggested he take an extra piece of fruit for morning tea at school and he was horrified as he thought I was suggesting breaking the budget. I explained that we could drop other things and use the last of the float money. He gladly accepted an apple at breakfast and this seemed to cheer him up a little. Unfortunately being the last day of term his class was invited to a shared lunch party and he had to sit and watch the other students all tucking into a heaving table stacked with all sorts of goodies. Max’s teacher, aware of his challenge realised how torturous this was for him and sent him to a different class for a while – a blessing he will not forget in a hurry! The day for me was a turbulent one emotionally. I knew just how much Max was struggling, knew I could fix it and spent an agonising day fighting extreme mother guilt. The emotional mother in me couldn’t stand thinking about how bad he was feeling. The practical side of me understood that it was just hunger, it would pass and that this was probably going to be a life-long lesson that would not be forgotten (didn’t help the emotional side much though!!).
Friday night was terrible for both of us. Max sat at the dinner table and cried as I placed dinner down for Roy and Joe. Their bounty just brought home to him how little he had in his bowl and how boring and repetitive our meals were comparative to what we normally ate. He was tired, he was hungry and he was miserable. I had forgotten how bad I was feeling watching him melt down. Tough, tough, tough.

So, what have we learnt from this week? I admittedly learnt far more than I was expecting (and learnt it in a way I do not care to repeat!):

1. That in NZ it is impossible to eat a sufficient and healthy diet living on $ 2.25 per day for food and that having such a restricted intake of food leaves one with low energy levels, lethargy and feeling generally very under par (with obvious implications in terms of work/study/relationships/sports etc.).

2. For me not having the range of vitamins and minerals I would normally eat meant my body was not able to function properly and all aspects of my life were affected.

3. It renews my dislike of diets in general. I was very unkind to my body during this week and it took me two days afterwards to start to come back to feeling my normal self. I will never willingly subject my body to this sort of deprivation again. For me living a healthy life is achieved by gradually changing habits to ones which are more beneficial for the body. This should be done over time with each change being accepted before introducing a new one. This way it becomes a gradual lifestyle change rather than a “diet” which is a short-term patch and usually painful and not necessarily effective.

4. I realised in doing this that much of my eating was habit/routine based but also it showed me in no uncertain terms how important food is to my life. I love food. I like thinking about food, planning meals, shopping for food (only shopping I like!!), preparing/presenting and serving food. I particularly like eating food. But on a serious note it is a really central part of our family life. I realised how much I looked forward to our family meal together in the evening. Sharing platters of food, chatting about our day and having family time. I come away from the table feeling relaxed, replete and content. During the Live Below the Line Challenge this comforting ritual was upset and I felt I lost a lovely and important part of my day.

5. I can never really understand how difficult poverty is – especially as I was hungry but at the same time well clothed, housed and heated and knew it was a temporary pain that would pass soon enough. However, it gave me more of an insight than I bargained on about just how hard living on a subsistence income really is. After 10 years living in Asia I had been at close quarters with extreme poverty but never walked in those shoes in quite the same way as I did last week.

This whole challenge renews my resolve to ensure that all children receive a balanced, healthy, daily diet where they are able to consume a wide range of foods that deliver all the vital vitamins and minerals that the body needs to thrive. Our bodies are complicated machines and depriving them of critical nutrients leaves them operating less than optimally. This does not just apply to those unable to afford healthy meals but also those who eat a high calorie but low nutrient diet as had become quite common in today’s world.

I also want to extend a huge hug to Max who at 8 did an incredible job of sustaining the subsistence diet over a whole school week. He received an enormous amount of respect from his peers who could not imagine being able to complete the challenge themselves but no one is prouder than me. Max showed an inner strength I did not realise he possessed and has come away from the week with a knowledge that will give him the tools to hopefully make empathetic decisions as he gets older.

Finally, as a mother I was in turmoil watching my “baby” suffer. I just cannot imagine being in this situation daily, powerless to help my child and yet not having the means to do this. Most of us in the Western world do have the power to feed our children balanced and nutritious diets. Let us not waste this huge advantage we have been gifted.

The Art of Nutrition
Fun, healthy, creative food for kids big and small.