Like most mums, Roxy Jacenko has always done her best to offer her young kids a healthy, varied diet, to make sure that something other than junk food would occasionally make it down into their little bellies.
But also like most mums, she has struggled.
“Pixie wanted to live on rice crackers and Hunter thought that Oreos were suitable for breakfast,” the Sweaty Betty PR mogul told Mamamia. “Put anything substantial or healthy in front of them and they would just stare at it, then fill themselves up on yoghurt and snacks.”
She knew a change had to happen, but time-poor and alone (Jacenko's husband Oliver Curtis was behind bars for insider trading) she didn't know how it could.
That's where Mandy Sacher came in. The paediatric nutritionist came recommended by a friend, and after consultation with Jacenko and her kids, transformed their household's attitude to food.
"They have come leaps and bounds, and I can see a big difference in Pixie, both in her concentration and mood," she said. "They are loving trying their hand at cooking and often say if we don’t eat healthy then we could get sick like Mummy. They were by my side during my breast cancer and subsequent operation and radiotherapy, so they understand it's important to eat healthy."
Sacher's message is now available to all parents via Wholesome Child: A Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook.
The Sydney-based nutritionist created the crowdfunded book in an effort to answer the questions she's most often asked by parents in her practice, at workshops and in social forums. There's advice on fussy eating, pantry essentials and an eight-step plan to achieve better nutrition.
For the Jacenko-Curtis household that meant including protein at lunch and mid-afternoon, boosting veggie intake, reducing dairy and replacing sugary snacks with healthier alternatives like banana bread, choc-chia pops, and vanilla muffins with cauliflower.
Behavioural changes were integral, too. For example, making time to eat as a family (as often as possible), letting the kids chose a recipe and then help prepare it, only talking about food in a positive way, giving lots of praise at meal times. Do all this and meal times should become more pleasant.
"Make it fun," said Jacenko. "The reality is, no kid - or adult for that matter - wants a plate full of Brussels sprouts put in front of them. Variation is key.
"And give your kids roles in the kitchen to help in preparation; chances are while they are assisting with the cooking, they will be munching on a bit of carrot and a dollop of hummus – something that was an impossibility before Mandy’s book and consult."
The Wholesome Child is available at all good bookstores from September 1.