Culture Street

Amie Harper has always been passionate about preparing and sharing delicious, nutritious meals among family and friends. With the exciting arrival of her first child, she turned her attention to smaller servings and a simplified palate to please baby Pip. With a degree in food science and nutrition, Amie has over ten years' experience as a food technologist for some of the world's largest consumer goods companies. She has also worked as a freelance food stylist and recipe writer for magazines such as The Australian Women's Weekly, Gourmet Traveller and Good Taste.

Why is healthy eating important in the early years?
From six months of age an infants energy requirements start to outweigh what a feeding mother or formula can supply. This is when the World Health Organisation suggests starting introducing solids to infants to give them what they require to thrive. Food from this age directly relates to their growth and development. Baby Pip Eats was a catalyst to inspire others to be adventurous with food variety and preparation for their own children and to transform misconceptions that older babies and toddlers could only eat purees. The initial year of a childís life is a crucial part of their development and the introduction to solids can help create a solid and healthy foundation for later in life. I wanted to expose Pip to a myriad of foods that were suitable for this purpose. I also hoped that it would lead Pip to have a love for and knowledge of food as well as a positive affinity for eating healthily ¨Ė skills that she can take along with her as she grows up (hence the writing of the next book Little Pip Eats The Colours Of The Rainbow) and leads a healthy, balanced life. Following Pips progression into toddler hood Little Pip Eats The Colours Of the Rainbow focuses on wholefoods in colour categories and their importance they play in children's nutrition requirements. There is a slight underlying educational message of colour recognition as children grow and develop, linking back to my first book - Baby Pip Eats, written alphabetically for babies starting to articulate sounds and words. Colour and eating a rainbow is a great message to help educate people on including eating a variety of colours in their daily diet. LPE recipes are simple and inspiring to assist parents with these often difficult decision of 'what to cook'!

Should children be involved in meal preparation?
Definitely!!! I have included Pip (obviously!) and now Jimmy into our daily soirees! Including food shopping and or picking from the garden and meal preparation (regardless of the mess!!!). Often letting Pip choose vegetables and fruits to create something for dinner. It helps them feel part of the process, understanding where food comes from and how to prepare food (important life skills) setting your children up for life. Pip now 3 1/2 years has a strong interest in cooking with me and I love that. It really makes me feel proud as a mum and a food professional that she has a good understanding of food and prep already. She helps me chop using a blunt knife cucumbers, carrots, herbs and other salad ingredients. Often taking over and finishing small jobs for me! Makes her own toast and sandwiches and pours her own water and milk. I also look it at giving her confidence and the independence to have a go...

Why do children need to eat adventurously?
Itís difficult enough to get your children to eat vegetables at times (every parent can relate to the 'fussy times' and wanting to pull your hair out!) so making the meal and the journey of the meal more like an adventure for your children assists in piquing their interest in trying different foods. Expanding their palate and adding a variety of wholefoods to their diet. It can be as easy as picking one vegetable - beetroot and preparing it in a variety of methods - grating and eating it raw, roasting, pureeing and adding to a dip or a soup or slicing thinly and baking into chips! LPE is a cook book to assist parents with these ideas. We are all time poor but want our kids to eat well so simple, good, wholesome food is a high priority.

As mothers we are all time poor. How do you find time to prepare healthy food for your family?
Iíve made food a huge part of my life through studying a degree in food and nutrition and then continuing to work in the food industries for the last 15 years to now a mum... So once I had the responsibility as a mum to feed my children I took it pretty seriously (cue writing books to help other parents!) I always prepared good whole meals from scratch and so once feeding my children came about we simplified our palate to please our bubs (BPE). We cook at home with seasonal and minimal ingredients. I'm on a budget and can empathise with other parents in similar situation of not having a double income family anymore ... so our meals are simple, fast, colourful, healthy and yumo (to quote my toddler Pip!). We do eat takeaway - I'm not perfect, I have days I just can't do it all! But I guess my food mantra is buying mostly wholefoods when I shop and then I honestly feel inspired to cook from having good food in the house and buying foods as close to nature as possible ...

How do you juggle motherhood with a working life?
My work is very up and down or I have extremely busy periods with extremely quite periods. We don't have family support locally so its difficult running a business at home at times and finding enough hours in the day to finish something! It's hard at times I'm not going to lie but I just love what I do and I love the flexibility with being a mum working for yourself brings. It can be lonely and isolating at times so you need to be a self motivator.

I often feel guilty if I have to do work when itís a non-work day and I'm cramming when Jimmy sleeps and Pip watches a movie or paints! I'm finding a better balance these days, the kids are in day care one full day and Pip two days. So they are my work days and I try to fit everything into those days and often house chores as my office is at home. Luckily my husband is extremely clean and mops, cleans windows and he enjoys it! I don't! We are a team. One of us will pick up the slack when the other is busier than usual! I don't take myself too seriously and laugh it off if things don't turn out (which often happens when you have children!). Somehow in all our chaotic craziness it works! I'm still learning about this juggling act of motherhood and work and will continue to I think and I love that!

Little Pip Eats_Colours_CVRLittle Pip Eats The Colours of the Rainbow by Amie Harper is out now, published by Murdoch Books, $24.99. Buy the book here.

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