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Sugar. There’s been an explosion of interest over the past few years, but how many people actually know why we should be limiting it, and how much exactly should we be limiting our children to?

When I ask most parents why they believe we should avoid sugar I usually get answers such as “It’s bad for you” or “It causes Type 2 diabetes”, neither of which are really correct. With so much hype and hysteria over sugar, the real evidence and concern with it’s intake has been lost, such that people now think it’s mere consumption is going to do them harm.

Back in 2015 the World Health Organisation (WHO) released their Guideline: Sugars Intake for Adults and Children. You can read the full document here: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/149782/1/9789241549028_eng.pdf?ua=1

This guideline specifically looks at what we call “free sugars” in our diet. That’s sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides – e.g. glucose syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, rice malt syrup etc..) added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates” (WHO, 2015).

This guideline reviewed all the current evidence (at the time of publication) as to why we should be avoiding sugar and went on to make recommendations as to how much sugar adults and children should be limiting ourselves to. You may be surprised to learn that the evidence for avoiding (or rather limiting) sugar relates primarily to obesity and dental caries. Sugar is often cited as a cause or risk factor for developing a wide range of diseases ranging from Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. However the fact of the matter is that that evidence simply doesn’t exist (yet). What we do know is that overweight and obesity are independent risk factors for chronic or non communicable diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. Going back to the WHO guideline, they found a MODERATE level of evidence that lower intakes of free sugars was associated with lower body weights in both adults and children. Please note that this does not mean that sugar causes you to become overweight or obese either. It simply means that people who consumed a diet higher in sugar, were more likely to have a higher body weight. The development of overweight and obesity is a complex issue and trying to narrow it’s cause down to one single nutrient is misguided, but that’s a discussion for another day.

The WHO guideline specifically recommends trying to reduce the intake of free sugars to 10% or less of your total daily energy intake (this is for both adults and children). There is a further recommendation to reduce it to 5% of total daily energy intake, however, the evidence for this recommendation was stated as WEAK, so for the purposes of this article, we will stick with 10%. I’ve represented this below as the number of teaspoons of sugar an “average” sized child with a light activity level, would need to limit their intake to each day.

So I wondered how I was fairing with my own children in relation to this guideline? I have always been well aware of which foods contain added sugars and done my best to limit their intake. I’m no sugar nazzi though, and my personal opinion is that if sugar is packaged up in a food that also contains many nutrients that are beneficial, then I’m fairly happy to include that food in our diet. We certainly limit our intake of foods that are high in sugar but offer little other nutritional benefit (think lollies, cakes, biscuits etc..). That said, we still enjoy a slice of home made cake, ice cream and chocolate in moderation. But day to day with my children’s typical diet, how was I really doing? Was I anywhere near the guideline, or had I totally blown it without even realising? I have to admit I was a bit nervous to take a closer look. Maybe I wasn’t doing as well as I thought I was?

I present to you my 4 yr old’s intake on a typical kindy day. All of the free sugars he consumed are listed in bold.

Breakfast: Rolled oats and 1 tsp of honey with reduced fat milk and a glass of unsweetened orange juice


SUGAR: 4 teaspoons

Lunch box: coco cranberry bliss ball, apple + carrot muffin, wrap with roast chicken, carrots, cucumber, rockmelon, plain milk and an apple (to be shared at fruit time)


SUGAR: 2.5 teaspoons

After kindy snack: Strawberry smoothie (frozen strawberries, strawberry yoghurt, water), he also then asked for another coco cranberry bliss ball

SUGAR: less than 1.5 teaspoon

Dinner:

Spaghetti Bolognese, bread and olive oil spread and a fruit platter (he only ate the watermelon)

SUGAR: none

Total: just under 8 teaspoons

Well I have to say I was pretty relieved to see that I’d just made it under the 10% guideline, but I certainly hadn’t made it any lower! I’d also have to admit they we certainly do have “blow out” days from time to time where my child’s sugar intake would be much higher. For example earlier this week I treated the family to a homemade dessert of chocolate self saucing pudding which I served with 1 scoop of ice cream. A dessert like this would have around 3 teaspoons of sugar in it.
I have to say on the whole I feel pretty happy that I’ve got my child’s typical diet fairly much where I want it to be. Sure, I could improve a little by not offering orange juice at breakfast, but he enjoys this and the vitamin C also helps him absorb the iron from his oats (a serve of whole fruit would offer the same benefit).

Calculating your child’s sugar intake is tricky business. It was difficult for me and I’m a dietitian! That’s primarily because our food labels don’t currently require manufacturers to separately list added or free sugars independent of any naturally occurring sugars. So at home, rather than focus on how much sugar your child is currently consuming I’d focus on just minimising fee sugars where you can.

If you want to try and reduce your child’s sugar intake my top tips would be:

1. Watch your child’s intake of sweetened beverages, don’t offer soft drinks or cordials, keep juice to no more than 1/2 a cup per day (unsweetened at that), alternate offering sweetened milk drinks with plain milk or sweeten with fruit (smoothie style)

2. Reduce your intake of processed/packaged snacks – most store bought snacks have a surprising amount of sugar added. Better to make your own and experiment with reducing the sugar content of some of your go to recipes

3. Avoid sugary breakfast cereals and opt for wholegrain “plain” varieties, rolled oats, weetbix and shredded wheat biscuits are go to’s in our house.

3. Keep occasional food as just that, occasional

4. Read labels on the food you buy. Ingredients have to be listed from most to least, if sugar is high up on the list you probably want to avoid it.

On that note, maple syrup, honey, rice malt syrup, glucose syrup, coconut sugar and rapadura sugar are all sugar. Yes some contain more glucose and others more fructose (or other mono or disaccharides), but they ALL need to be counted as sugar. You may have noticed a surge in popularity of so called natural or less refined sweeteners in the community. I see many recipes labeled as either “sugar free” or “refined sugar free” only to see they contain a LOT of honey or maple syrup. Whilst it’s true that many of these “natural” sweeteners do contain other nutrients (for example 100ml of maple syrup contains 89mg of calcium and 1.6 mg of iron amongst other things) whereas white refined sugar offers nothing beyond its carbohydrate content. The point I’d make, though, is that if we are actively working on trying to reduce our intake of sugars, I wouldn’t be focussing on these products for adding extra nutrients into my diet. They are also very expensive. Whilst I do personally use of these “natural” sweeteners, I do so more out of taste more so than for any nutritional benefits they confer. That said, it you can afford it, there’s no harm using honey or maple syrup as your sweetener of choice at home.

How do you think you’re fairing with your child’s sugar intake?

Julia @Bloom x


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We’re realists here at Bloom Nutrition Studio. Whilst we prioritise serving our kids real food that’s mostly made by us, lets be honest, there isn’t always enough hours in the day to do this. Over time I’ve built up a little list of go to packaged foods that I’m happy to serve my family and to help fill in the gaps when I simply don’t have the time or energy to cook.

To that end we thought we would help you on this journey to feed your family by providing you with some ideas for items that you can put in the lunchbox that perhaps you haven’t thought of before, or new products we’ve found that have hit the supermarket shelf.
We hope you find this useful!

Buy it:

Nudie have just released a variety of smoothie type drinks in convenient “fruit boxes” that can go straight into the lunchbox. They can be stored at room temperature so you don’t have to worry about them going off in the lunchbox if stored in the sun. What I like about them is that the sugar content is low. The variety shown above contains 6.8g of sugar per 100ml, which is less than most flavoured milks (usually around 10g/100m). They are sweetened with real fruit, maple syrup and dairy products (depending on the flavour you buy). The one shown is dairy free.Whilst they don’t contain any added preservatives, artificial colours or flavours they do include a “natural flavour”. Whilst there is nothing particularly wrong with using a natural flavour, I can always taste it, and personally I prefer my kids to experience the natural flavours of food. I suspect it’s added as the pasteurisation type process a product like this would go through, probably affects the natural taste. All in all, it’s something I’d be happy to include in my child’s lunchbox when I don’t have time to make a smoothie myself.

Have you tried Bulla plain or flavoured cottage cheese? It’s been around for years and is a great snack for kids and busy Mums alike. It’s a brilliant source of protein and calcium and unlike other varieties of cheese is low calorie too. I like it on wholegrain crackers.

Make it:

Have you tried sending your kids to school with a smoothie? If you have a high speed blender it will take you only a few minutes to do and it can be a great way of getting some extra fruit and veggies into the lunchbox. You will need an insulated drinking container to ensure it stays sufficiently cool.
My kids are using these ones from kmart. They don’t leak, keep the drinks very cold for the entire school day and at $7 what’s there to complain about??
http://www.kmart.com.au/product/double-wall-insulated-500ml-bottle-blue/1754374

Strawberry Smoothie:

1 cup of frozen strawberries
1/2 cup of strawberry yoghurt
water up to 700ml
ice if desired.

Blend and serve.

Stuck in a rut? try this…..

Breakfast wrap

1 slice of wholemeal mountain bread
Honey
Toasted muesli (nut free for school)
Apple cut into match sticks

Spread the wrap with a thin layer of honey. Sprinkle with muesli and apple pieces. Roll and cut into small bites size pieces or leave as a larger roll for older children.

Until next time…

Bloom x

This post is not sponsored


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Today I’m continuing our series of questions and answers and in the process, inviting you to send your question into us! Today’s question comes from a Mum in my exercise class who is soon to return to work and is stressed that her baby is refusing to take a bottle.

Milly is 10 month’s old and has only ever been breastfed. Milly’s lovely Mum Esther is returning to work 2 days per week in 2 months time (when Milly turns 1) and despite how hard she tries, she simply won’t take formula or expressed breast milk from a bottle.

Esther’s experience with Milly is a very common concern amongst breastfeeding Mum’s who need to provide an alternative when they are going to be apart from their baby. It’s a concern that isn’t always easy to address, and can be a hugely stressful experience for any Mum planning to return to the workforce.

The first point I’d make is consider the age of your baby and how regularly you’re going to be away from them. Milly is going to be one when Mum returns to work 3 days per week. In this case there is really no need for her to be offered formula or breastmilk or even cow’s milk. Many parents are surprised to hear that milk is not an essential part of a toddler’s diet. By age one, babies can get enough energy and nutrients from the food they are eating. So long as they are eating other calcium rich foods (for example yoghurt and cheese and perhaps milk added to porridge or cereal), they will meet their calcium requirements. Offering water throughout the day will provide enough fluid. This is a revelation to many parents who are sure their babies need to progress to toddler formulas or cow’s milk if they are ceasing breast feeding.

For babies between 9 and 12 months it really depends on how often and for how long you’ll be leaving them. I’d usually recommend leaving either breastmilk or formula with the caregiver/ child care staff, but for many it quickly becomes apparent that bubs is going to do little more than take a few sips at best. Worse, continuing to force a bottle at a child that doesn’t want it, can be an unpleasant experience for all. You don’t want your baby making unpleasant associations with their caregiver or new place of care. If you’re only leaving your child for 1 or 2 days per week, I’d suggest you drop the worry and simply let the caregiver offer more food and water on those days. Breastfed your baby in the morning, as soon as you pick them up and then again before bed, and they’ll be just fine.

Between 6 and 9 months ideally you’d leave some expressed breastmilk or formula for baby, but as you inch closer to 9 months and depending on how regularly you need to leave your baby, the above advice may still work. Certainly under 6 months of age you’re going to need your baby to take something from a bottle.

My top tips for getting young babies to drink from a bottle include: Make sure they are sufficiently hungry and offer the bottle at their regular feed time, having allowed at least 3 hours between feeds (2 hours if the baby is very young and seems hungry). Bottles with teats that “mimic” the shape of the nipple are often better accepted than others. I like the Tommy Tippee range which you can find here:https://www.tommeetippee.com.au/product/closer-to-nature-baby-bottle

Some babies will actively refuse the bottle no matter what you do. I have occasionally had success getting such babies (over 6 months of age) to drink from an open cup. This is messy and slow, but can be an option if you really need it.

Ideally someone other than the Mother should offer baby a bottle. As soon as baby is placed with Mum, they are going to want the familiar routine of a breastfeed.
Introducing a regular bottle early on (generally not before 6 weeks of age as during this time babies and Mums are still learning to breastfeed) can be helpful in getting them to accept a bottle long term. If you know you’re returning to work I’d suggest offering a regular bottle once or twice per week to get baby happily accepting a bottle long before it’s required.

In reality, persistence is the key. If you really need your baby to take a bottle, I’d put aside a whole day (perhaps a weekend day when the other parent is around offer it) to work on it. If they have refused the first time it’s offered. Wait an hour and try again. Be prepared to offer a large number of distractions and entertainment during this time as baby is likely to be getting hungry and cranky! The hungrier they get, the more likely they will give in and take what is offered. I won’t lie, this can be the most stressful of exercises, and if it all gets too much for you or your baby, put it aside and try again another day. The vast majority of babies eventually take enough to get them by at childcare and a good breastfeed before and after pick up, will help make up for any shortfall.

I’ve breastfed all four of my kids and have had mixed experiences trying to get each to accept a bottle. When my first child was four months old I returned to work 2 days a week for a short contract lasting a couple of months. Despite all my knowledge, pumping from day 1 and trying to introduce a bottle early, my little boy did not want a bar of it. The closer my return to work date loomed, the more stressed I became. My husband generally had more success with the bottle than I did, although my little boy took small amounts at best, and I generally returned home to a hysterical baby and distraught husband. With no other option, I returned to work and crossed my fingers that he would be okay. Luckily my Mum had volunteered to look after my little boy and her patience combined with my absence, resulted in him taking moderate amounts of expressed breastmilk on the days I was at work. He was never unhappy or stressed and I’m sure he made up for any difference with me breastfeeding him on demand when I returned home (ok so I may have run into the house on those nights peeling my clothes off as I did to feed him 😀).

I found the whole experience of trying to get my first child to take a bottle so stressful that by the time my second child came along I knew I didn’t want to repeat it. I wasn’t planning such an early return to work and so I simply didn’t worry about introducing a bottle in the early months. When he was 8 months old I returned to work 1 day per week. This time I made no plans or great attempts to get the bottle in before I started. I did leave some expressed breast milk with our nanny but after the first few weeks it was clear he had no interest and I was wasting my time. He was clearly happy with food and water and so I just left it at that. I continued to feed him morning and night and on demand as per usual on the other days of the week. Happy baby, happy Mum and his nutrition did not suffer as a result of the 10 hours each week where he got slightly less breastmilk than normal.
With my third and fourth children I planned longer maternity leaves and simply didn’t worry about introducing a bottle. For simplicities sake if I needed time away from them when they were very little, I did a mad dash between feeds. As they got older I used solids and water to stretch them out if I wasn’t going to make it home in time for their feed.

If you’ve got tips on how you got your child to take a bottle, we’d love to hear them!

Julia @ Bloom

This post is not sponsored


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Given that I spend my life around other Mums, it’s not surprising that as soon as people find out what I do for a job, they inevitably have a question for me.
Today’s question was one that I have answered time and time again, and given our soaring temperatures here at the moment, I suspect it’s something on a lot of parent’s minds. So I thought I’d share my answer with you all and extend the offer for you to ask us anything! If you’ve got a burning question, pop it in the comments section below, send us a message on Instagram or FaceBook or just drop us a line over email.

Anyway, onto today’s question which was “ My baby is 10 months old, she’s only ever been breastfed and isn’t taking much water. I’m worried she’s not getting enough fluids, especially in the heat”.

On Further questioning Mum said she had introduced water around 6 months of age but noticed that her baby drank very little of it. Mum had also tried (multiple times!) to get her baby to take either expressed breast milk or formula from a bottle but she had always outright refused. The baby was still breastfeeding 3 times a day and taking about 1/2 a sippy cup of water throughout the day.

It’s perfectly normal for babies to take very little extra fluid beyond what is offered via either breastmilk or formula. Baby’s first foods (be they pureed or mashed) have a high fluid content and this combined with the fluid they are naturally getting from breastmilk or formula will be enough for most babies. I always recommend introducing water from around 6 months (or the time that you introduce solids), but I wouldn’t expect a baby to get through more than about 1/4 of a sippy cup a day until they are 9 – 10 months old. As they start moving onto more solid food (and the fluid content of their meals drops and they also start reducing their breast or formula feeds), their intake of water will naturally increase. Most 12 months old babies will be taking close to a sippy cup (ie around 250ml) of water across the whole day. If your baby is taking less and you’re concerned, check their nappies. If they’re wet enough that you need to change them several times per day and they are also passing regular bowel motions, then that’s generally a sign that your baby is getting enough fluid. Their lips should also appear moist, not dry and cracked.

My top tips for encouraging babies to drink water include: persistence – don’t give up just because you think they aren’t drinking much. Many parents panic and start to introduce dilute juice as a way of tempting babies to drink. This only leads to the expectation that beverages should be sweet, and usually in my experience, further exacerbates the problem. Your baby will most likely to be thirsty immediately after eating, so always have water available at the end (or during) every meal or snack that is offered. Many babies are also thirsty when they wake from sleep. If you’re not going to be offering them a breastfed or formula, it’s a good time to try some water.
It’s worth remembering that breastfed babies under 6 months of age don’t need any extra fluid, just feed them on demand. Formula fed babies may be offered some cooled boiled tap water if they seem thirstier than usual (eg on a hot day). All babies can be offered tap water from 6 months of age. You may like to first offer water in a baby bottle, but I would suggest moving him or her onto a sippy cup after a few months (we like the Tommy Tippee range of adapters for baby bottles here: https://www.tommeetippee.com.au/product/weaning/cups). These are good all rounder cups/bottles if your baby is breastfed.

There are a large variety of sippy style cups on the market and the drinking style needed will vary from brand to brand. For example, some sippy cups require more of a “bite” to get water out style, others require sucking from a straw (generally babies won’t be ready for this until closer to 9 months) and others will require a suck somewhat similar to breastfeeding. Some come with valves to regulate the flow and others the water will simply pour straight out. If you’re really confused about cups and have a baby who’s really reluctant to take one, I would suggest consulting a paediatric speech pathologist who specialises in infant feeding. Another option would be to try an open cup but this will obviously be messy!

So my advice to this Mum today? Her baby was getting enough fluid and she just needed to hang in there offering water regularly as per my recommendations above. I had a feeling he was probably about to take off on the water as Mum was actively reducing breastfeeds, and his diet was expanding considerably. The other thing that’s worth remembering is that babies do have the ability to regulate their own thirst so long as the water is being offered regularly. It’s only in rare circumstances that babies won’t do this, usually as the result of a medical condition, or infants with extreme feeding disorders and food refusal. These babies are special cases that warrant individual assessment and advice.

Julia @ Bloom

This is not a sponsored endorsement


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My dear friend (and fellow dietitian), Kellie originally gave me this recipe nearly 20 years ago! Over the years I’ve tweaked it, and now it’s a regular favourite in my house. One of the things I like about this recipe is that it makes a huge batch (depending on how big you make each pattie), which means there’s always plenty to go in the freezer for another meal.

You’ll notice a that I use full fat beef mince for this recipe. Most of the time I would recommend low fat mince and leaner cuts of meat to reduce your saturated fat intake. When it to hamburgers however, they become awfully dry if made with low fat mince. Most kids will reject meat that is too dry or tough. In fact changing to mince in this dish to full fat, was the simple change I needed to make to get ALL of my kids to eat it.

Now adults listen up. If you really want to take your burger to the next level then it’s all about the relishes in my mind. I simply can’t go past Beaver Brand Extra Hot Jalapeño Mustard (https://chilemojo.com.au/beaver-jalape-o-mustard-368gm.html). You can thank me later, in the meantime get out and BBQ!

 

Ingredients:

900g full fat beef mince
1 cup wholemeal bread crumbs (made from day old bread or whatever you have lying in the freezer!)
1 egg
1 carrot finely grated
1 clove garlic crushed
1 tsp of dried Italian herbs
2 Tablespoons of Beerenberg Tomato Sauce (or similar good quality tomato sauce)
2 Tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce
1 Teaspoon of Keens Curry Powder
Salt and pepper to season (note: I omit the pepper as my kids dislike the flavour)

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and use hands to shape into a variety of large (adult size) and small (golf ball size is fine for young children) patties. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Cook on the BBQ (or griddle pan inside) for about 4 mins each side or until cooked through.

To serve I like to use rye rolls for the adults and small dinner rolls for the kids. I usually also serve these with sweet corn cooked on the BBQ and maybe some sweet potato and potato chips (see Instagram for our recipe) as well as variety of salad which they can choose from to add to their burger. Using dinner rolls keeps the “grain” portion of the meal in check and serving a variety of salad and veggie options keeps the meal balanced and high in veg.

Enjoy!

Julia @ Bloom

 


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Every time I mention to someone that I cook my roast chicken in the slow cooker, I get a rise of the eyebrow and a “How do you do that?”. To be honest, it wasn’t very long ago that I didn’t know how to do it either, but with four kids and raft of after school activities, I figured out a way I could do a roast without being present to cook it! Now this isn’t a new thing, plenty of people before me have cooked their roasts in a slow cooker, in fact google “slow cooker roast chicken” and you’ll find plenty of recipes to try. The other great thing about a slow cooker roast is that the meat is so tender it literally starts to fall off the bone. This is great for lots of children who really struggle with chewy or tougher cuts of meat.

Now my roast isn’t fancy. It’s primarily about speed and flavour, so for that reason I reserve extra garnishes and rubs etc for those occasions when I have more time to spend. I simply focus on adding the bare essentials to ensure a delicious meal. You can add vegetables to your slow cooker too, just don’t expect them to turn out “crispy”. They will cook slowly in the juices of the chicken and will still be delicious, but they’re not roasted. For the record I usually sit my roast on a bed on onions and chopped pumpkin or carrots (or all 3!). Because my kids love a crispy roast potato (who doesn’t?) I cook the potatoes separately in the oven (hint: if you like your potatoes extra crispy, par-boil them first for about 10 mins, then rough up the skin by vigorously shaking the saucepan once you’ve poured the water out, or using a fork to “scratch” the surface of each one. Drizzle with your choice of butter or olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake at 200 degrees C for about 45mins. To speed up the process, I do the par-boiling earlier in the day so all I have to do when we get home is pop them in the oven). I find a 1.3 kg chicken feeds my family of 6, and cooks in about 5 – 6 hours on a low setting. If you need a longer cooking time because you’re at work etc… try a larger chicken.

 

Ingredients:

1.3 kg chicken
lemon
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Onion – quartered
Pumpkin – cut into large chunks
Carrots – cut into large chunks

1-2 Tablespoons of plain flour

 

Directions:

Wash chicken including the cavity and pat dry. Prick a lemon all over and place inside the cavity. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (note: many kids will prefer you to season with salt only).

Add a generous amount of olive oil to a frying pan on medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on all sides (about 3-4 mins per side). Whilst you are browning the chicken, chop any veggies you’re using and place in the bottom of the slow cooker.

When you’re chicken is nicely browned, place on top of your veggies (breast side up) and cook on low for about 5 hours. After 5 hours check if the juices are running clear. If so your chicken is done!

To make a gravy simply pour out any liquid (there should be plenty) into a small saucepan and gently heat. Whisk in 1 -2 tablespoons of plain flour and stir until thickens.

Enjoy!

Julia @ Bloom