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The BEST Approach to Family Meal Planning: Advice from Real Food by Kath Megaw

Real Food - Healthy, Happy ChildrenWhat is the best approach to family meal planning, especially if you want to teach children to eat well for the rest of their lives?

In her Sunday Times Food Weekly Cookbook Award nominated book Real Food – Healthy, Happy Children South Africa’s leading paediatrician Kath Megaw outlines easy-to-follow principles for family meals, explaining nutrition in a way that anybody can understand.

On the book’s accompanying website, The Real Megaw, Megaw has shared short excerpts and recipes from Real Food, including her explanation of “The BEST approach”.

“If you imagine eating as a pie (not eating a pie), the nutritional benefit of food is a quarter wedge. The other three wedges – the other 75 percent of the benefits of eating – are emotional, social and sensory benefits,” Megaw writes.

To explain the best approach to children’s food, especially where kids with eating problems are concerned, Megaw breaks down the word “best” and gives an easy-to-remember meaning to each letter.

Read the first article of four in the BEST series to find out how you can best apply this approach:

Body: What’s happening at this stage of development? What food best serves the child’s nutritional needs at this time?

Emotions: What is she feeling at this age? How can we meet some of her emotional needs at mealtimes?

Social life: What is he ready for socially? How can food act as a social tool at this age?

Taste and other senses: How developed are her senses at this time? How can food be attractive to her senses now?

The second article in the BEST series focuses on the emotional element of eating:

If your children are happy at mealtimes, they are getting the emotional benefit of food. When children have a good relationship with food they are less likely to use it as an emotional tool, either against themselves or others.


You already know that nagging is the best way to get a family member to not do what you want them to do. You know it applies to food too. So stop. It’s not necessary for your child to eat vegetables at every meal. It won’t kill you if food is left on the plate once in a while.

In the third article in the series Megaw explains why socialisation is important when it comes to eating:

Before they turn one, babies seem to know that food is best eaten in a group. Around the time they start eating solids, babies’ mouths start mimicking what adult mouths do. Food is an excellent tool for grouping, and the benefits implied by grouping: sharing, support and comfort. Food can go a long way to teaching children how to be part of a family and part of a community.


It’s true that there’s as much pleasure in giving as there is in receiving. At the table, encourage your child to do as much offering as you do. The food is shared, it’s everyone’s to offer.

The fourth, and final, article tackles the sensory part of eating, explaining why it is important to introduce food “that is colourful, smells great and has a range of textures”:

Children are intensely sensory. They are more likely to eat from a plate that is colourful, smells great and has a range of textures. Use this to your advantage when trying out new dishes.


When I think “garnish” I think of a lettuce leaf, a slice of tomato and a ring of raw onion. It sits on the side of the plate being the most boring-looking edible display ever invented. Never do that. No one likes it. Waitresses know this. It’s always the garnish that goes back to the kitchen on an empty plate. Garnish should be food bling.

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