Father’s Day is coming up this weekend, and it’s got us thinking about the power of food for creating lasting memories between parents and their kids. Abbey McKenna from The Parenting Co. teams up with her partner, Ben, to share their tips for feeding father-child relationships through food.

My gorgeous partner is a father of five young women, aged two to 14. Just take some time out to think about that.

Add on the fact that our rescue dog is also female, and it goes without saying that I am concerned for the masculine/feminine balance in our family life.

Ben is an amazing father – the best I have seen. He is actively involved in all facets of our life and more often than not, does a better job than I do. Let’s just say: the kids are happy to head to bed for Ben but kick up an Emmy Award winning stink with me.

And while he doesn’t feel overly skilled in the food prep department, there are a few tips and tricks (and recipes) he has picked up over the years that he is happy to share with the world.

Here’s what he has to say…

I come from a farming family, so we eat, and we eat big – think lots of healthy grains, veggies and meat (which, I know, isn’t everyone’s thing).

I learnt the value in preparing things in advance from my dad, who would make three or four dinners in one night. In fact, a lot of my simple culinary skills came from my dad, and it’s all stuff that I’m trying to pass down to my daughters, too.

My kids have been fussy in stages. At one point, my middle girls only ate chips and cheese and, as a single dad, I had to come up with strategies to get around this.

For example, I think it’s important to eat what you are expecting them to eat, so they don’t feel like are eating ‘kid food’.

Breakfast

Kids are just cool, so getting them to help me, help them be healthy was fun. I used to buy all of the ingredients for granola – like fresh fruit and yoghurt – set it up on the counter and away they would go. It was super easy, and also really healthy.

Smoothies are another simple go-to. The below smoothie method is something I stole from Abbey, but I’m happy to claim it as my own.

  1. Peel and cut some bananas and other fruit to store in the freezer.
  2. Throw any fruit into the blender with yoghurt.
  3. Pour it into a cup and add sultanas or goji berries on top.
  4. Claim that you are Dad of the Year.

School Lunches

Lunches are best made the night before, as trying to get my kids to school on time was a mission. Not only that, kids are busy – once the bell rings they want to eat quick and get onto the playground. Having eccentric meals that are hard to eat is not suitable for the playground. The key is to prepare food they can just pick up, eat and go.

My top lunchbox fillers are as follows…

  • Veggies and fruit (just not bananas or apples as they go brown), cut up into easy pieces that can be shoved in mouths and taken to the playground
  • Dried fruits and nuts
  • Boiled eggs
  • Sandwiches, cut into cute little shapes (the crust always came home with my biological kids, interestingly but not my step kids)
  • Rolled up cold meat or leftovers from the night before (chops are a finger food in my eyes, and the kids love them)
  • Bento boxes are a savior and an essential. You can create simple and colorful brain food that doesn’t merge in a sludgy mess together. 

Simple veggies for dinner

I used to really struggle to get my kids to eat vegetables. So, I created my no-fuss veggies recipe – a broccoli and bacon stir fry – which let me use any veggies I like. The key to this being healthy is to source properly smoked bacon. I also like to make it in bulk – then, if they didn’t eat it all for dinner, I would put it into muffin cups in their lunch so they could eat and run.

Ingredients

  • 1 Broccoli
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame seed oil
  • Splash of oyster sauce
  • Garlic (pre minced… of course)
  • 5 rashers of bacon (cut into cubes)
  • Cashew nuts

Method

  1. Throw in sesame seed oil, garlic, nuts and cut bacon into a pan (I leave the fat on, but don’t tell Abbey that) for a few minutes until cooked
  2. Set aside in a bowl
  3. Place cut broccoli in the same pan with the lid on to let it steam until it is softer (still a bit crunchy) – you need to stir it every few minutes and taste it until it is a texture you are happy with
  4. Place bowl of bacon, cashews and garlic back in
  5. Add oyster sauce
  6. Stir it all together for a few minutes
  7. Take it out and serve it as your veggies