Vanessa Clarkson | Nourishing Foundations
Nourishing Families

Real Food for Babies and Toddlers wins a Gold Award and some thoughts on food values

Before I talk about food values in today’s post, I have some really exciting news to share – Real Food for Babies and Toddlers has won Gold in the Best Family Cookbook category in Smallish Magazine’s 2017 Design Awards! Squee! I’m now an award-winning author. Such wonderful news. But of course, it wouldn’t have been possible without the fabulous team at Murdoch, who turned my battered manuscript into a truly beautiful book and one that I hope is now gracing many a kitchen shelf across the land 🙂 

Recognition from one of my favourite parenting magazines is marvellous. It means a lot, but so too do all the messages I’ve received and tags on social media where parents are busy in the kitchen whipping up their favourite recipes. I’ve also seen some lovely reviews of the book, including this one on Little Loaf Blog and one here on Kids’ Book Reviews.

So thank you once again to everyone for all your kind words and support. I’m truly grateful. It makes all those long days and nights recipe testing worth it! 

I’ve been wanting to write about our food values for a while now, particularly as they have changed significantly for me over the past year. Before I do, a little bit of background as to what I actually mean…

Food Values

Our food values are those beliefs that are so deeply ingrained in us, they steer our choices without us even necessarily being conscious of it. We start to form our food values when we are very young. The food we eat, our involvement (or lack of) in it’s selection and preparation and then the environment within which we eat it, all build up a world view of food for our children. 

Our food values form a sort of hierarchy in our mind that helps us quickly sort choices. You might liken them to the Food Rules that Michael Pollan wrote about in his book of the same title. Some quotes from his book I like:

“Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food”

“Eating what stands on one leg (mushrooms and plant foods) is better than eating what stands on two legs (poultry), which is better than eating what stands on four legs (cows, pigs, and other mammals)”

Michael Pollan, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual

In Michael’s book I think he lists over 60 and I’m sure I have as many stored in my subconscious somewhere, but there are three main ones that steer what I bring into our kitchen and to our table, week after week.

Mostly Plants

For a long time (although not always), my diet has been based on mostly whole plant foods. Paper after paper in the scientific literature tells us that eating this way is better for our health, and conveniently, I just really enjoy plant foods. 

Readers of my book will know that it’s plant-based, but not without a sprinkling of recipes for meat, poultry and fish, as that is how I ate when I wrote it. Since then, I’ve made the decision to go vegetarian and any of my followers on Instagram will notice that nearly everything we eat is vegan. The drive for this change from ‘mostly plants’ to ‘only plants’ is predominantly for compassionate reasons, followed by concerns for the environment in terms of the impact of livestock production. 

The leap to vegetarianism was very simple and a natural progression for us but completely cutting out animal products I think, will be a more gradual transition. They are very much ingrained in our way of eating and that of the wider society we live in, but I aspire to unhook us and our children from that view in the longer term.

For now that means that we live in a grey space where we eat nearly completely vegan, but we are not ultimately vegan. We eat mostly whole plant foods and there is a not a neat label to sum that up. Which is actually OK – I’ve talked before about not wanting to label foods as good or bad. Not everything needs to fit neatly into a box to make sense for us, and we need to be comfortable with what is right for us, right now. 

Mostly Organic

Although organic foods are sometimes labelled as elitist and unnecessary for a healthy diet, I am of the firm view that how food is grown and produced matters. It matters greatly to me that pesticides are wiping out bee populations and finding their way into our bodies, causing untold damage. Every food choice we make is a vote for how we want our food system to look in the future, and I want to support one that is sustainable and resilient, and the conventional one that is destroying the ecosystem on which is depends, is not going to support and nourish my children’s generation, let alone generations thereafter. 

Choosing organic food does mean paying a premium but this is offset by using only very small amounts, if any, animal products, as mentioned. It also means that the food we buy is local and seasonal. 

Minimally Processed

In the broadest sense I think that the term ‘processed foods’ conjures up images of crisps (chips), sweets (lollies/candy), pies and pastries, and so on. These are a real rarity in our diets (don’t get me wrong, we love a bar of chocolate as much as the next person, but they are not a nourishing foundation and ideally shouldn’t be a regular feature) and so when I talk about processed foods I mean that the only ones we generally eat are minimally processed, such as soy milk, tofu, bread, pasta, noodles and couscous. Everything else is fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes such as chickpeas and lentils, nuts and seeds. 

Because the kitchen and pantry is stocked full of whole plant foods, like the other food values I’ve shared, I don’t give much thought to implementing this one. My only caveat is that I do try to mix up our grain foods and ensure they aren’t all processed. So for example, we’ll have a whole grain breakfast (not the processed sort, but muesli or porridge for example), we might have bread with a soup or as a sandwich for lunch and then for dinner we’ll have an unprocessed grain such as quinoa or rice (or no grains at all – no hard and fast rule meaning they need to be omnipresent, of course). 

Other than that, we don’t have tins of soup or ready meals hanging about. If I want a sauce I have to make it myself from what I have. And if I don’t have the energy for that, then sandwiches for dinner never hurt anyone!

How about you? Do you have any food rules or values that you stick to? Are you conscious of them or are they deep-rooted? Have you made any changes to your diet recently and how are you finding that? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

In good health,


PS. In writing this post I’ve just remembered why I set up this blog and to share my thoughts on food and life with children. Thank you to all that follow along. Is there anything in particular you’d like to hear about from me? Please let me know in the comments.

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Before I had my first baby I was eating similarly to you now, slowly transitioning to a vegan diet for environmental reasons. During pregnancy I did crave more meat, and then post birth when introducing solids came around, I initially stuck to my guns of not wanting my child to eat meat or milk, but gradually fell more into the conventional thinking that she must need meat to get her iron, and now we are all eating meat fairly regularly. As I don’t drink milk I have never given her this, and now worry about her calcium! Always something for… Read more »


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