Choosing family health foods for your kids can be a minefield. Pasta with cheese, yoghurt, chicken, sandwiches, fish (usually of the fingers variety), chips and peas – these are staple nutritious kids’ foods right? Full of energy, calcium, protein and vitamins? Well they can be. But then again… Pasta can be lots of things, as can chicken, or a cheese sandwich. And not all of them are good :( You’ll find more meal ideas for Fussy Eaters and Picky Eating Toddlers here!

Take pasta. If we’re talking wholewheat, buckwheat or spelt pasta, with a freshly made, tomato based, organic (preferably) sauce full of chopped fresh vegetables, and some good protein in the form of pulses, a little tuna or oily fish like sardines, or some grated organic, tasty (so you need less of it) cheese… then yes, that’s *clean food* and a great meal for growing kids.

Slow burning carbohydrates for energy, protein, vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and calcium, omegas (if you went for the oily fish) – all good. If however by ‘pasta’ you mean white pasta with piles of ready-grated cheese of the sweaty, so mild it tastes of nothing rubbery variety, then that’s not so great. High GI, processed carbs for a blood sugar spike with a pile of additive-filled saturated fats on top. Not nutritious foods for kids at all.

Trying to cut out grains or go Paleo? Read my family friend guide to ‘Going a Little Bit Paleo’ here

Try fish and chips. We had these the other night. Fresh white, sustainable fish cut into strips, dunked in egg and fresh breadcrumbs, potatoes scrubbed and cut into chunky chips, then roasted in the oven, served with some fresh green veg like broccoli florets or peas, or some salad. This is clean food. OR… ‘fish and chips’ could just as easily describe a plate of trans-fats, salt, sugar and colourings, plus a host of other preservatives and un-pronounceable additives of dubious ‘fish’ or otherwise origin.

Chicken – So there’s the water-filled, hormone-injected and GM-fed stuff. or the stuff in the tub from a fast food restaurant. Or… chicken is organic (or at least free range) real chicken. Clean food simply means it’s not been messed with.

If your chicken had to be made in a factory, that ain’t just chicken you’re eating.

Now before I get countered with ‘I can’t afford organic chicken and fresh fish, I’ve got a family to feed and I’m a working mum’ … so am I.

But if the food your family are eating is full of c**p, has had all the nutritional value sucked out of it, and is filled with water to make it look bigger than it is – is that really saving you anything?

Try having meat or fish one day less a week, make it clean food (the good stuff)  fill out the meal with more fresh vegetables and get some real nutritional benefit from the food you’re eating!

Good protein doesn’t have to come from meat or dairy- you can make fabulous filling and child-friendly meals using chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, cannellini beans… (bemused and staring vacantly at an out-of-date packet of pearl barley? Don;t panic. One change at a time ;))

Yoghurt. When yoghurt is referred to by nutritionists as a great food, they mean natural (unsweetened), fresh, probiotic yoghurt – cow, goat or sheep… (all these really should be organic). They don’t mean a pot of over-processed, very sweet gooey stuff with a few tiny pieces of ‘real (well it was once) fruit’ in it.

If your child is intolerant to lactose or you are looking at cutting down on cows milk products, read My Child is Lactose Intolerant! What Do I Feed Her?

Cereal… I read in a yoga book once about ‘cereal’ being a key food, but somehow I don’t think it was referring to coco pops… Nuff said.

Read the labels on your food! Ingredients are listed in order of how much of that is in there. If sugar (remember sugar can also be glucose, glucose syrup, fructose, honey, high fructose corn syrup, and many more!) is one of the first listed – that means it’s one of the main ingredients. Even if it has got ‘low fat’ or ‘real fruit’ or pictures of the Tweenies on it.

Try to feed your kids (and yourself!) nutritious family health foods which don’t HAVE labels! Real food has a pronounceable names and bears some physical resemblance to a natural source.

What have I missed? What other foods have you come across that have a number of guises… not all of them friendly?!