Friday 22 September 2017

Searching for ways to expand their diets & our butternut squash lasagne success

Searching for ways to expand their diets - boy searching by dining table

If you've read my blog you will know Italian food is the best all rounder for our family.  True it doesn't contain chicken nuggets but David does also eat garlic bread.   David will never be conned into eating anything different - and that's pretty common for kids with autism.  As he's pre-verbal there's not even much chance of us being able to tell why he will eat one chicken nugget brand and not another.  

But with Anthony, he can explain why his feels he can't eat foods and this is sometimes the key to helping him expand his meals or add in healthy variations. Anthony's favourite meal is probably lasagne which can be pretty healthy.

It's got some things from most of the food groups and provides some nutrients often associated with vegetables like iron, potassium and vitamin B from the read meat.  His diet is otherwise very carb heavy diet (seriously he eats so much bread and cereal).  Because he has lasagne often and it's not always the same each time I make it, he and can tell me why and when he doesn't like it. So this gave me a few ideas to try and get more healthy foods into his diet.

Firstly, we started a while ago by trying to switch as much of the food we get to organic - which boosted the shopping budget by about 10%.  There has been research into chemicals unsetting the systems of kids with autism.  I'm not sure about it all, but I do know that the boys struggle to eat a good variety of things and it seems sensible to rule out anything they don't need.  Plus I like the idea of what is means for the animals.

Searching for ways to expand their diets - organic foods

Then I tried to get more fruit and vegetables into the boys.  David still barely touches any vegetables except chips or fries (not great) but he now gobbles down plenty of fruit.  Anthony has not managed to eat many more fruits - berries seem to be the big no no.  However, he's now eating several extra vegetables thanks to his communication and my sneaky lasagnes.

Anthony's main issue with food is how it smells and how it feels in his mouth.  His sensory system feels confused by unfamiliar textures and it makes him feel ill.  So the key was to create lasagne that didn't look too 'wrong' and where the texture wasn't too strange.

I tried adding finely chopped vegetables into the mince sauce.  Fails included onions and anything that left a skin in there like cherry tomatoes.  Success included grated carrot as long as it wasn't too much - there still needed to plenty of mince in there.

My greatest achievement was using butternut squash cut into sheets in place of the pasta sheets. Anthony virtually inhaled the meal and I smiled... and then quickly wrote down what I'd done.  If you have a lasagne eater, you may like to give it a go too.

Searching for ways to expand their diets - our butternut squash lasagne success

Ingredients - where possible and available I used the organic versions
500g steak mince beef
1 tsp olive oil - usually not required if you get organic mince as it tends to have a higher natural fat content
2 tins of tomatoes
2 crushed garlic cloves
3-4 oregano / basil leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried basil or mixed Italian herbs)
Butternut squash cut into 1/2 cm thick rectangles (Tesco sell these already prepared)

For the cheese sauce:
500 ml milk
50g plain flour
30g (ish) butter
200g cheddar cheese


1. Heat a large pan and add the mince a bit at a time, sealing and browning it as you go
2. Add the garlic and stir it in well, then slice through the tins to chop the tomatoes and add to the browned mince
3. Bring to the boil , add the herbs and then simmer for about 15 minutes
4. Then make the cheese sauce by melting the butter in a sauce pan then adding the flour and stirring them together.  Slowly add milk and whisk as you go to get a smooth sauce.  Add the grated cheese  and put to the side.
5. Layer the mince, sauce, butternut squash sheets and repeat finishing with the cheese
6. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until cooked.

Just like regular pasta, you can just boil the butternut squash in water and make up a cooked lasagne on the plate if you are short of time. Be care as it comes apart very easily and also aware you need less sauce, otherwise it's more wet and squashy. Brown the cheese top off under the grill in this case - it's not as good, but helpful if you are in a bit of a rush.

Have you struggled to get different foods into your kids?  Any tips?

This post is an entry for the BritMums #HealthyRedMeat, sponsored by the Meat Advisory Panel.  


  1. Love the use of butternut squash in this recipe. Commenting for myself and on behalf of BritMums and thanking you for taking part

  2. Well done, that is a fantastic achievement! I struggle to get my little one to eat anything, it all has to be 'dry' food x

  3. Do you deliver!? That looks amazing. Thanks for making me so hungry.... #triumphanttales

  4. It looks great - and such a good idea to extend the Italian theme. Thanks for sharing with #PoCoLo

  5. Ooh, sounds delish! Good trick. We have real trouble with new foods and a very carb-heavy diet too, thanks to autism. Thanks for linking up with #TheMMLinky x

  6. oh wow this truely sounds amazing!!!!! and looks divine! I will be trying this when I get energy haha!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week!


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