Bring a plate

If you’ve ever been asked to “bring a plate”, you’ll want to try some of these healthy twists on the topic, says nutritionist Gina Urlich (

If there is one tradition that extends to all cultures, it is the sharing of food with family and friends. Sharing the responsibility and fun of cooking not only takes the pressure off the host, but is also a beautiful way to connect and bond with loved ones. Eating together with children sets the perfect scene to introduce them to different foods, give them a chance to observe their peers eating, and lets them be exposed to new and exciting flavours.

Baby: cauliflower popcorn

An ingenious way to make veges fun! Young children love the idea of cauliflower popcorn; something magical happens in the oven when those white florets turn sweet and golden.

You need:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon of sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated

How to make:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Chop cauliflower into bite-sized pieces and spread evenly over a baking tray.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, garlic powder, and cheese.
  4. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until soft and golden. Shake tray a couple of times while cooking to turn cauliflower pieces.

Toddler: apple nachos with salted caramel sauce

One thing I know as a nutritionist and mum of three is that kids love to dip. Sure, they’re terrible double-dippers, but dipping crispy New Zealand apples in healthy salted caramel sauce and fun toppings is a sure crowd-pleaser. You’ll have those sticky little fingers reaching right in for more.

You need:

  • 4 Granny Smith apples
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 15 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup coconut flakes

How to make:

  1. Add thinly sliced apples to a small bowl with lemon juice and toss to coat. This will stop your apples from turning brown.
  2. In a blender, add pitted dates, vanilla, salt, and coconut milk. Blend until smooth to make creamy caramel sauce.
  3. Lay sliced apples on a plate. Drizzle in caramel sauce and sprinkle with chopped pecans, cacao nibs, and coconut flakes.

School kids: taco cups

These little cups can be a fun snack or full meal. They’re nutritious, and even have sneaky healthy ingredients in there that your children might not eat otherwise.

You need:

  • 1 packet of multigrain wraps
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 teaspoons paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
  • 500g beef mince
  • 200g canned kidney beans, drained, rinsed
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 1 courgette, diced
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Grated cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Fresh coriander

How to make:

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
  2. Prepare your taco cups by cutting wraps into quarters and pressing into muffin tins.
  3. Bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until slightly brown. Leave them to cool in the muffin tins while preparing the mince mixture.
  4. Add olive oil and onion to a large pan and sauté until onions are soft.
  5. Add garlic, cumin, paprika, and chilli powder, and fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  6. Add beef mince and brown.
  7. Add kidney beans, capsicum, courgette, tomatoes, and tomato paste, then and simmer for 30-45 minutes.
  8. Spoon mixture into taco cups and top with some grated cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and fresh coriander to serve.
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