Catherine Henderson is an entrepreneur, foodie, and mother. The founder of Tot’s Pantry, she recently became the proud new owner of Little Angels. Both brands are making waves in New Zealand supermarkets by offering balanced meals for kids, free from additives and preservatives.
Little Angels offers food for infants, starting from 4 months, while Tot’s Pantry has a line of pre-cooked meals for toddlers that are convenient and balanced — something hard to come by these days.
Henderson’s journey with food began when she was pregnant with her first child and Friday night drinks became Friday night at home. Things became more difficult when she was having to juggle a toddler and work, all while being pregnant with her second child. This is what inspired Tot’s Pantry.
She used to just have ten minutes to get some dinner on a plate. “It was about getting these quick healthy meals in front of them quickly. And of course, I was in my first trimester and exhausted. It was all quite overwhelming. When I reflected back, I just saw how easy that period would have been if I’d had some reliably good nutritious meals that would only take a few minutes to prepare.”
Eliminating additives from food products is a huge passion of Henderson’s. “It’s never just been about being a business. I feel very passionate about helping parents feed their children good, proper food and get the nutrients that need”.
Henderson says that additives are generally used to add flavour and colour, to change the texture, and to make food taste ‘better’. “This, of course, sets off a cycle of kids expecting a certain food type to taste that way. It sets a dangerous precedent of what food should taste like.” Kids will eat a meal outside the home, then when you go to cook the same food in your own home, your kids may reject it as it doesn’t taste how they remember it.
Henderson worked with Zesty Fox Nutritionist, Davinia Goodes, to develop balanced meals that tick all the boxes. “We worked right from the beginning to set out nutritional standards. They all met or exceeded requirements for protein, that they were low in sodium, no added sugar, no preservatives, and no additives”.
Learning how to read food labels is important to Henderson, including which products offer a higher percentage of actual food in their ingredients lists rather than colours and flavours. Henderson holds a Certificate in Childhood Diet and Nutrition and offers help for learning how to read labels through the below infographic.
Now, seven years on, Henderson has two children who love to eat Tot’s Pantry meals, she has acquired Little Angels, and she is working on bringing vegan meals to the table.
When it comes to getting your children to explore food and try everything, Henderson understands it can be a challenge. She recommends not giving up or taking it personally when your child doesn’t want to eat your meals. However, Henderson says parents shouldn’t offer an alternative meal as this can lead to an expectation from your little ones. If you are genuinely concerned about your child’s food intake, “you could offer something later, but make sure it is a separate event so that your child doesn’t associate it with a second option to dinner. Most kids will be just fine to wait until the morning.”
Henderson says she doesn’t want parents to think every meal has to be healthy as this is stressful. She looks at it from a weekly perspective rather than daily. Sometimes, the most important thing as a parent is ensuring your child gets fed.