Veggie garden inspo – my amazing dad

Hows the view??

Hows the view??

My garden inspiration has always been my dad. He is the king of veggie gardens. I remember cold winter days, dressed in my red parka and gum boots, mucking about out in the garden with dad. I remember on hot summer days, him picking the peaches and nectarines up high in the branches for us and little sister eating fruit until she got the runs (bbaahhhaaaa). I have become accustomed to receiving bags of fresh veggies from his garden. I also endure (and love) his constant garden advice, “you should get your tomato seeds in now love” “those beetroot need thinning” “you need to add liquid seaweed/nitrogen/maure/etcetcetc to that love”. It’s one of my favourite things about my dad, his love for the home garden.

 

Zucchinis, cucumbers behind, peach tree and grape vines

Zucchinis, cucumbers behind, peach tree and grape vines

His veggie garden at home is epic. Dad always had a decent veggie patch in the back yard but his dreams of being mostly self-sustainable (when it comes to fruit and veggies that is) weren’t quite cutting it with the medium sized plot. So when the opportunity to buy the house behind his and extend his garden came up, he jumped. He claims that it was for investment purposes but almost as soon as the property settled the fence was moved and he began his take over.

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More zucchs and fennel

 

He now has multiple levels of veggie mania and there is always something new happening. The girls LOVE pottering around the garden with grandpa and picking various bits of fresh fruit and veggie heaven with him. They know the hot-spots (the blueberry bush, the strawberry patch and the madarin tree) and hit them first every time.

 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

His tomatoes are a force to be reckoned with. I snapped Miss 4 (who is quite tall for her age mind you) with them just to show the height these babies are getting at. I have complete tomato envy and dad loves to grill me on how big his are compared to mine. Bastard!

 

mammoth tomato plants

mammoth tomato plants

No garden in his (and my) eyes are complete without some chooks and his of course are pimped out in a left over aviary from the lovely euro man who live in the house before. The chooks are so useful and he really does maximise them. Pooh from their coop is shovelled into the garden to fertilise. He had an amazing discovery a few years back when tomato plants came up, grown straight out of the chook pooh he had dumped and what grew was the hardiest, most transportable tomato plants he had ever seen. I do believe it is saved seeds from these plants that are growing at a massive height in his garden today.  The chooks are fed the left over food from the amazing meals that are cooked from the produce their pooh helped to grow. It’s an amazingly effective circle, and is a beauty to watch.

 

Fennel, tomatoes and my nectarine tree in the background

Fennel, tomatoes and my nectarine tree in the background

The latest addition has been his pizza oven which was built in, along with an accompanying serving and seating area. This has been enjoyed by us, my sisters and their families. There is nothing better than hanging out on a nice cool evening with my favourite people in the world. Sitting around the heat of the pizza oven, picking herbs and veggies from the garden to put on our pizza dough made by dad. Eating them straight out of the oven hot and cheesy but full of flavour because everything is fresh. Actual heaven!

 

Strawberries for days

Strawberries for days

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So if you ever wonder why I’m so garden crazy then blame dad. It’s his fault. But do you know what? I love it. I love the proud look on his face when he talks about what’s fruiting. I love the tours we get when the garden is in full force. Pottering around seeing this and that. I love the generosity he has, providing us with fruit, veggies and seedlings from his saved seed. I love the lessons he is teaching our girls: provide for yourself; growing and caring for things; healthy food; the circle of life; and creating ecosystems. I love the shared interest we have.

 

Pottering along

Pottering along

 

So in the words of Austin Powers “dad, take a bow”, you do a pretty shit-hot job!

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Happy growing,

 

The Dietitian Mummy

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Busy girl dinners

 

Zero to plate in 15 minutes

Zero to plate in 15 minutes

So it has been brought to my attention (well I asked actually) that some of you out there want some quick healthy meal ideas for nights where you are short of time. This can apply to any of you ladies out there, mums, late night workers, studyers, or just girls out there being girls, multi-tasking and not having much time to spend making dinners.

 

Now I consider myself a busy girl, even though well, ahem,  I’m much more like a busy lady than girl these days. Regardless, I’m always saying yes to things and always ending up with not much time to cook dinner, especially during the week, yeesh!  So here are some things that I do to help with the busy times …

 

Plan your meals.

Oh the horror, the bore, the OCD. But seriously, it’s necessary! I never thought I would be one of “those” girls, but turns out, life is actually much less stressful if you pull out a bit of the “planning natzi” in you and plan the week’s meals. Not only does it help me with budgeting, but it helps me to plan quick meals on days I know I will be home late (or out all day) and will be wanting a quick option.

Meal planning like a boss

Meal planning like a boss

I plan out the week’s meal options before the start of the week. I write down what I’m doing on each of those days (and I’ve gotten so anally retentive that I also factor in the weather) and then decide what we will eat that night. From there I do my online shopping and work out what I need to do on my prep day. Dinners are SOO much quicker when you have all of the ingredients and meals are half prepared already.

 

Prep day.

Yup, sounds like more boring and time consuming doesn’t it. Prep day isn’t actually a whole day. Most of the time it’s an hour or so of prep, but basically it is the things I do to make sure most of the meals for the week are mostly prepared. I co-ordinate this time with when I get my shopping delivered so that everything is done from the get-go. The things you can do with prep day are:

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  • Cut up meat into portions, marinade, put in zip lock bags and then freeze. These are AWESOME for when you get home late, just whack in the microwave to defrost and then cook.
  • Pre-prepare salads – wash and spin some salad leaves in either a salad spinner or by putting in the middle of a tea towel, grabbing all four corners and spinning it in a big circle with your arm. Cut up carrot, cucumber, capsicum, cabbage, snow peas, etc and put with the lettuce. Add some cherry tomatoes to the mix too (they keep amazingly because you don’t have to cut them). Keep in your fridge in between two dry tea towels, it will keep nice and fresh all working week. All you need to do before serving is add some avocado, feta, olives and seeds and you’ve got an amazingly quick dinner side to go with your meat you marinaded from the point above.
  • Slow cook meals or batch prepare meals. Things like bolognaise sauce, stew, pulled pork, slow cooked chicken, chilli con carne, all great options to pre-prepare and freeze. All you have to do when you get home is whack it in the microwave, put on some pasta or better yet 90 second rice/quinoa and by the time you go and change out of your clothes you have dinner already sorted.
  • Make some pizza bags. Make pizza dough, chop toppings, grate cheese, put it all in zip lock bags or containers and freeze. Move from the freezer to the fridge in the morning and by dinner time all you have to do is heat the oven, scatter over the pizza and within 20 minutes will be enjoying a delish, healthy homemade pizza.
  • Chop vegetables and container them. If you have planned to have steamed veg then cut and mix them on prep day. It cuts out about 5-10 minutes of your prep time if all you have to do is empty them into the steamer.
  • Roast veggies. Cut up pumpkin, zucchini, sweet potato, egg plant, whatever roasted veg takes your fancy and roast it on prep day so you can add that little bit extra to salads, sandwiches or just have as sides throughout the week.

 

Slow cooker batch meals

Slow cooker batch meals

Supermarket meal list

Do you ever go into the supermarket to get something for dinner and wander aimlessly around for about 20 minutes getting hungrier and hungrier before getting so hangry and frustrated that you just buy something crappy for you? Well writing yourself a list of quick supermarket meals you can throw together may help out. It means that when you are faced with the no-time situation all you need to do is go straight in and get what you need. It will stop you getting tempted by the crap. Some of our quick supermarket eats are

  • Yiros – marinated lamb, yiros bread, salad, grated cheese.
  • Hot chicken and salad bag. Bread rolls on the side or wrap it up in wrap bread for carbs.
  • Pasta, pasta sauce and broccoli. Even better if you make and freeze your own pasta sauce, extra points for that one.
  • Steak and steamed veg seriously will take you 15 minutes, TOPS.

 

Quick yiros salad

Quick yiros salad

 

Simplify

And lastly, just keep it simple! Healthy doesn’t have to mean gourmet. Baked beans on rye toast, or eggs with rice and asparagus (ahhh random!!) is a-okay. Simple meals are qupre quick and a great way to throw something together when you are short of time and can’t be fecked slaving over a stove.

 

Random healthy eats

Random healthy eats

So if you are a busy girl and want to eat healthy, try some of my tips! Don’t forget to tell me yours too… what are your go-to quick meals?

 

Happy cooking,

 

The Dietitian Mummy

 

Christmas Baking hit list

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For quite some time, I hated Christmas. Like really hated it. It coincided with the fact that I worked in a toy store and had to endure hours and hours and hours of Christmas holiday angry mothers trying to find that one essential toy that their little cherub demanded for Christmas. The after effects were also made worse by the fact that I worked on the refund desk and was subjected to abuse from said mothers who were now post Christmas angry mothers whos children’s toys did not work for many reasons. Apparently it was all my fault.

 

So it was much to my surprise after quitting the ol’ toy store that I found my Christmas spirit return. Little sister and I used to always Christmas bake and sometimes those baking products would make it to Christmas. We no, I’m lying actually. They never lasted. But it was always a fun and delicious experience.

 

Now a few years back I was lucky enough to gain a sister-in-law who loves to Christmas bake as much as I do and we now make it an annual activity. We get together, put on very bad Christmas carols and bake the day away. Last year we even enlisted mother-in-law to come along. The lovely dear thought she was coming to join in on the baking. Much to her surprise, the job given to her was to keep the girls entertained and out of our hair. He hheeeeeee.

 

So while I will be very pushed for time this year (with new job training and all) I am hoping to lock down a date with sister-in-law to get our bake on. I am very excited this year because Miss 4 is actually old enough to help out and to be trusted to not eat too much of the baking supplies before they are baked. Here are my pinterest finds for this year….

 

These cute little snowmen caught my eye! The girls will LOVE them. I really don’t need to say much more because they are just so cwute!

 

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Candy cane biscuits. On their blog, the We are not marthas call them Sparkling Peppermint Sugar Cookies, and of course they would being American, it makes sense to the. I on the other hand, will be calling them Candy cane biscuits so that Miss 4 knows what the hell I’m on about!

 

balls

ON pinterest the description for these just said “balls”. That was enough to catch my eye (ooohhh balls!!) and being the immature mother that I am, of course I lol-led. They are Peanut Butter balland they have my mouth watering already. Sure, innuendo intended.

 

Red Velvet Snowflake Cookies @createdbydiane

Red velvet snowflake biscuits. They look just beautiful. And I sneakily acquired a snow flake cutter (by way of sneaking yet another home magazine into my food shopping without husband knowing) so they will be perfecto!

 

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Have you ever eaten a chocolate coated pretzel? Errmaggheerrddd they are so freaking good. And when you find a recipe for Chocolate Coated Pretzel Rods  (hhaaahhaaa am I the only deviate laughing at this too?) you really can’t go wrong, can you ladies?? 😉 😉 You’re terrrrible Murrriel. yes I am, and delirious with Christmas spirit too.

 

So here’s hoping I get to make them all, and that I don’t eat them all in the first week after making. Being a heifer for Christmas was not really on my plans.

 

What are you baking for Christmas??

 

Happy baking,

 

The Dietitian Mummy.

Budget week – 10 tips on how to reduce your food costs

Budget week

Budget week

So every now and then, I get sick of spending so much money on food. Sometimes I spend a ridiculous amount of our money on ingredients at the supermarket because well, cooking, it’s my passion (even though I hate that word in that context). But it is. So sometimes, after seeing all the Woollies and Coles entries on our bank statement I decide that it is time to pull in the purse strings and have a good ol’ budget week!

 

I’ve been instagramming some of our budget week pics, but I thought I’d write a bit of a post about ways you can keep your food budget under check! These are my tried and true tips, but I’m SURE you all have your own that you can tell me too, so comment below if you have some!

 So here are my top 10 tips for saving money on food (plus one bonus cheeky tip)…

Curried sausage casserole with brown rice

Curried sausage casserole with brown rice

  1. PLAN, plan and plan again. It’s so important to plan your meals before you go to the shops. Write yourself a list and stick to the list. I use to be rubbish at that and would pick anything and everything I saw, as well as the list. Not recommended, trust me.
  2. Shop without your kids. When I shop with the girls, I speed through, trying to get it done with all three of us alive and avoiding tantrums so I buy way more than I need because I’m not concentrating, or I forget the things I need so on top of an already over budget shop, I have to buy more. Most supermarkets these days are open late night every weeknight so it’s easy to go after the kids are in bed. And I tell you this for free, it’s damn right peaceful in the shops at night. Sometimes I like to just wander the aisles aimlessly because I am kid free! If you can’t get out alone, try the next tip….
  3. Shop online! I’m terrible at estimating my budget as I shop. Sometimes I think it’s a big shop and it’s not, sometimes I think it’s a small shop and I’m that person at the checkout with their jaw on the floor thinking, did I really spend THAT much. One of the best ways for me to stick to a budget has been to shop online. I can add everything to my trolley that I need and if it goes over budget I can easily sit back and decide which items I need to take out. Rather than feeling like a scab at the checkout getting the operator to take things off or trying to decide in a hurry because Miss 2 is pushing Miss 4 who is screaming blue murder.
  4. Shop in season. Fruit and veg are cheaper when they are in season. It’s hard to work out what is in season these days because you can access almost every fruit and vegetable ALL the time, but if you go around the fruit and veg section choosing what’s cheapest, you are probably eating within the season.
  5. Buy home brand. I KNOW, I get it, it’s not ethical, it’s not local, it robs farmers. But when I am trying to budget conscious, that is one ideal that I have to give up. It makes a HUGE difference to the price tag at the end of my shopping.
  6. Have some cheap, really basic meals on your menu. I’m thinking like: toast and baked beans, eggs on toast, egg in a hole, that sort of thing. I used to HATE doing this. I felt like I was making boring food for the kids and that husband would think that I was being lazy. Turns out none of them care! The girls love egg-in-a-hole nights or baked beans and husband loves the fact that there’s less to clean up after dinner. And I’m less stressed when I know that meal prep is going to be really
  7. Look at the portions you are providing. I am a typical European girl who loves to over-cater when it comes to food so I would cook up massive meals and portions. Which was a waste of money, because all it did was make husband and I gain weight, and the girls serves get wasted. So we have cut portions down. Meat especially and it really does make a difference in how much we spend.
  8. Grow your own. Simple as that. Start a veggie garden, grow some fruit trees. Get some chooks. You will supplement your shop with fresh delicious foods that you don’t have to buy. Save your seed to eliminate the need to buy seeds or seedlings the next year. I really REALLY love gardening which you will know, so I wont bang on about it too much but it is seriously cool.
  9. Save fancy meals for once or twice a week. This is my HARDEST. I love cooking, and I love cooking new recipes I see. I seriously don’t think I will ever get to the point where I have tried all of the recipes I want to. But in terms of cost of ingredients, basic meals are usually the cheapest. So I hold off my urges until the weekend and make fancy meals with fancy ingredients then.
  10. Buy things in bulk. I buy nuts, grains and seeds at a bulk shop and it works out MUCH cheaper in the long run than buying small bags at the super market.
  11. This is the bonus tip, eat at someone else’s house!! When I decided to do my budget week, I had 7 meals planned out and shopped for (online of course). I then realised that I had not factored in 2 family birthdays where we would be eating at someone else’s house, and then we also had a last minute family dinner at my mother in laws too so that knocked 3 meals off my plan for this week. That’s my bonus because those weeks will become meals for next week that I don’t have to buy. Obviously I’m not condoning you to turning up at peoples house uninvited for eating, but as a young family, accepting invitations from parents and parents-in-law for dinner is GREAT!.
Zucchini slice

Zucchini slice

So there are SOME of my tips for keeping your shopping budget tight. But I want to hear yours. Comment below your tried and tested budgeting tips…

 

Bye for now,

 

The Dietitian Mummy

 

 

 

 

Home-made pizza adventures

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Roasted veg and feta

I think you all know by now that I’m into less processed foods. And I’m also SUPER keen on encouraging y’all to cook more from home. Add into that my obsession with dough and you have a recipe for dinner success, home made pizza success that is.

 

I love dough. I really do. So do my girls. We love putting the yeast in the luke warm water and watching it froth. Miss almost-4 says that it’s like fireworks if you watch it from the top. We love sifting the flour in and mixing with our hands. They LOVE getting a chance to knead the dough and then check on it as it gets bigger and bigger and BIGGER. It really is a wonderful lesson for them to learn.

 

My great love, dough

My great love, dough

When it is pizza dough we are making they get extra excitement because it also means that mum will let them “help” roll out the dough. They get to watch mum throw a pizza base in the air (purely for entertainment guys, not necessary) and they also get to sprinkle toppings. It is the most fun they have in our kitchen I tell you!

 

Pizza dough is also an awesome time saver because it freezes really well. I will often make a big batch, portion it up and freeze it for the nights that I really can’t be bothered making something elaborate. At one point I was also bagging and freezing chopped up pizza toppings so all I had to do was roll out the dough, dress the pizza and cook.

 

Margherita heaven

Margherita heaven

No-one ever believes me but it is seriously simple to make your own pizza dough. SERIOUSLY! If I want the process to be quick I will sometimes secretly make the dough while the girls are otherwise entertained J. I’m okay as long as they don’t hear my pyrex bowl clink on the bench. If they do, they know that some cooking is going down and my clean kitchen is a goner!

 

The other awesome part about pizza is that you can cater for everyone’s tastes. There an almost endless list of options for pizza toppings and you can go wild with your combos! I have been known to hold pizza nights where everyone comes and brings their favourite combos. You get to share your favourite but also learn new toppings to add to the repertoire.

 

Rising to heaven

Rising to heaven

If you want to take it to the next level, make your own pizza sauce too. It is super easy as well and you can freeze it along with your dough for many happy pizza nights to come.

 

Get your prep on

Get your prep on

I use taste.com.au for my pizza dough recipe. The link is here.

So here are our favourite pizza topping combos:

Simple starters

  • Margherita: pizza sauce, sliced tomato rounds, cheese and sprinkled Italian herbs.
  • Ham and cheese: the girls almost always just choose ham and cheese for their pizza. In saying that, they will end up stealing bits of our pizza with other toppings on it too.

–          The lot – basically anything and everything you can find in the fridge

 

Mexicano

Mexicano

Gourmet explorations:

  • Tandoori chicken: marinate some chicken breast in tandoori paste and cook in a frypan before putting on pizza. On top of pizza sauce layer the chicken, green capsicum, cheese, mango chutney and sour cream. After it is cooked top with some fresh coriander.
  • Roast veg: pizza sauce, layer on roasted veg like pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant, capsicum, carrots and beetroot. Slices rather than chunks work best. Top with crumbled Danish feta and pine nuts.
  • Mexican – slow cooked salsa chicken, capsicum, sour cream, cheese.
  • Potato and bacon – sliced potato, diced bacon, drizzled sweet chilli sauce, sour cream blobs, and cheese
  • My sisters Brussel sprout, leek, and goats cheese! She sautes the brussels and leeks with some bacon and then tops the pizza with it, crumbling the goats cheese on to finish!
Keeping it basic, ham and cheese

Keeping it basic, ham and cheese

So get your Italian mumma on and get kneading some dough. It’s therapy and dinner at the same time!

 

Happy cooking,

 

The Dietitian Mummy

The new girls on the block

The Girls: Elsa, Anna and Tinkerbell

The Girls: Elsa, Anna and Tinkerbell

Well we have some new girls at our residence. We didn’t think that 3 girls to 1 husband/dad was enough so we called in reinforcements to better our share. I think 6 to 1 will do it.

 

Our new girls have been on the cards for quite some time. I have been itching to get some hens in the garden to utilise all our food scraps, to make some delicious eggy delights and also to teach the girls about caring for animals (without having to have a real pet!).

The elusive egg

The elusive egg

So I worked hard on husband, and once he was convinced I then worked hard on the chicken coop. I scoured pinterest for coop ideas, and on the recommendation from a friend we settled on the idea of using our old swing set. I whipped up a PVC pipe pellet feeder, a chicken waterer and a “loverly” nesting box. All the while with husband shaking his head at my lack of skills with power tools and just the general clumsiness that is me. At one point I actually burst my finger open from hitting it with a hammer, much to his amusement. Anyhoo, it eventually got finished and I got excited about getting ourselves some little ladies to live in the coop.

 

Much to my surprise, South Australia had a chicken shortage, just at the time when I wanted my chookies. My visions of hearing the sweet berk-eeerrrkkk of some little egg machines were put on hold for the month that it would be to get some.

Stolen spinach

Stolen spinach

Soon though, the long wait was over and I got my chickens. Miss almost 4 was in charge of naming our little ladies and of COURSE, named them Elsa, Anna and Tinkerbell. If you don’t know where the first two names come from, you mustn’t have a young girl of any age. It’s from the movie Frozen.

 

Right now, we are getting 1 egg every second day and those little beauties are delicious. I’m looking forward to those eggs increasing in numbers and getting my teeth into some meringues, souffles and omelettes.

The view

The view

The girls love their chookies, and love watching them from their cubby balcony. The sneak my spinach from the garden through the chicken wire for them and they take turns taking the scrap bucket down to the coop. I love that they are learning about using waste, where their food comes from and caring for living souls. And yes they do have souls, if you try to tell me otherwise I will come at you with my egg cup. Don’t mess with MY girls.

Egg-selent

Egg-selent

I love my girls, all 5 of them 🙂

 

The Dietitian Mummy

Unprocessed update

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When I first became a dietitian I was dubious about the effect of preservatives and additives on children’s behaviour. I was also in disbelief about the effects of sugar. I, being a know-it-all uni student, thought that it was an excuse that parents made for their crazy kids. As with many things in life, the universe has decided to punish my insensitive thinking by teaching me the practical way. In this case, sending me a child who goes bat-shit-crazy with sugar, additives and preservatives.
I know there are mums out there who have it much worse, and have children with behavioural issues that are much more severe than my emotionally wired little gal, but I tell you what, you can really tell the difference in my girl when she is eating non-processed foods as opposed to when she is not. When we have let processed foods (key ones that I will talk about in a sec) she is more emotional, more angry and less kind to us and her sister. It’s that kind of behaviour where you can tell she is really really  trying to be a good girl but literally just cannot help herself. Emotional outbursts because she said she wanted a shaky pony tail and her pony tail wasn’t shaky enough. Hitting me because I tell her that we are having spaghetti for dinner (which is her favourite). And yelling at her hands because they are not doing what she wants them to. You know, that sort of behaviour. And yes I know that that is just normal pre-schooler behaviour but we have seen it lessen so much more when she is not eating certain preservatives, and obviously when she is well slept too!
 

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So I just thought I would share some key foods that we try to avoid, most of the time.
-bread with preservatives in them. Because some days Miss 3.75 may have toast for breakfast (plus another if she is hungry that day), then a sandwich for lunch and some other bready product later on that day, the preservative load can get quite high if we aren’t choosing preservative free bread. Luckily it is quite easy to come by at Brumby’s, Bakers Delight and also Coles and Woolies bakery.
-chicken stock. I don’t know why this has so much more of an impact but chicken stock seems to bring out the aggro in our little Miss 3.75. So most of the time, I make my own. Makes for a much calmer household.
-vegemite. Luckily enough, Miss 3.75 prefers peanut butter to vegemite and I have been able to find peanut butter varieties without preservatives.
-processed snacks. Rice wheels, flavoured savoury biscuits, anything in a little packet unfortunately brings on the bads. I try most of the time to do things like puffed corn, sultanas, fresh fruit, and things I’ve made from home. Some snacks containing preservatives that often creep in (and tend to not make a huge difference as long as everything else is on track) are cheerios, fruity bites and pretzels.
-premade sauces, foods and pastes. These happen in our house when stuff gets busy. If I’m time poor, if work is busy, if we have lots of family things on, if I’m tired and lazy. It happens. But most of the time it builds up and we pay for it!
In general we don’t really have things like lollies, and chips so I’m sure they would be things I would consciously avoid if we did have them.
These are the only areas we are “strict” on, and even by strict I don’t really mean strict. It’s what we aim for. If it happens, great. We see results, she is much more calm. If we don’t, she gets edgy and we are reminded to get back on track.

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So if you have been thinking about reducing or eliminating preservatives and additives, these are the ones that we have tried and get good results with. A GREAT place to start is by visiting Food Intolerance Network website because it is a wealth of information with a whole heap of useful fact sheets and instructions.
 
Happy days,
 
The Dietitian Mummy