Children’s nutrition

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Like most dietitians I don’t like the word “diet”. It makes me think of a whole lot of “rules” that need to be followed and adhered to, and for the most part take the fun out of eating. Now of course for some people, needing a “diet” is a necessary part of life. As a dietitian, I’ve helped many people with low FODMAP, gluten free, low potassium, high energy etc diets, and when required these diets can deliver huge health benefits. Because my job involves advising people on “diets” many people often question me as to my own diet. Do I follow something in particular? People often assume I’m highly restrictive with my choices, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. I love food and (mostly) enjoy cooking. I also enjoy looking for new ways to make healthy foods tasty and easy to prepare. 

I strongly believe in the concept of mindful or intuitive eating and definitely have a “non diet’ approach to health. I do believe that our bodies are equipped with everything we need to maintain a healthy weight, this is our appetite. For some people this might be slightly heavier and for others slightly lighter, there’s no denying that we all come in different shapes and sizes. In our fast paced society many of us have lost the ability to tune into our appetite. We eat because the food is there, because it’s 12noon and that ’s when we take our lunch break (whether we’re hungry or not), we eat too fast, we eat because we are tired/stressed/emotional or even happy. Over time we stop listening to our bodies. 

What I do try to follow is our Australian Guidelines to Healthy Eating and my diet is probably most closely aligned to the Mediterranean way of eating. I also try to focus on what I should be eating not on what I shouldn’t be. This means I’ve always got some sort of plan for how I’m going to get my 5 serves of veggies and 2 serves of fruit in each day. I also try to tick off my 3 serves of dairy and will look for opportunities to add nuts and seeds (for the heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids they deliver) to my meals and snacks, as well as other quality proteins. When I choose grains with my meals, I make sure they’re wholegrain and low GI as much as possible. I find that by focussing on eating all the foods my body needs for health each day, I actually have little appetite left for snack foods or more indulgent choices. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my chocolate, cakes ice cream and a glass of wine as much as the next person, and if a truly feel like having them I do. I don’t restrict any food but I listen to my body and I set aside the time to eat. Eating when you’re distracted scrolling through Facebook, driving in the car or even reading a magazine can often mean your not tuning into your natural appetite. In fact if you’re eating like this you can often get to the end of the meal and not really feel like you’ve eaten because you haven’t stopped to enjoy the flavours and textures of the food. 

So here’s what a dietitian eats in a day!

Breakfast: I’m very seasonal with my breakfast, when the weather is cold I always start the day by making a huge pot of porridge (rolled oats) for my whole family. For myself I top it with brown sugar, chia seeds, cinnamon and walnuts. Most days I have 1/2 glass of unsweetened orange juice and a small (piccolo size) white coffee. In warmer weather bircher muesli or toasted muesli with Jalna sweet and creamy yoghurt and fruit does the trick.

Mid morning: Often I find a coffee is  enough for my morning snack. It’s always a skinny latte but this time it’s a larger size (medium if I’m out and about) and about 200ml if I’m home. On this particular day I was hungry for a snack as well so I had some multigrain crackers and hummus. Other choices would be one of my coco cranberry bliss balls. 

Lunch:

I’m always looking to get a lot of vegetables in at lunch so I don’t have to fit them all in at dinner. It also helps keep me full all day. This week I made a huge batch of these spiralised sweet potato noodles sautéed in chilli, olive oil and lemon zest and teamed it with crunchy oven baked kale and a sprinkling of pine nuts. 

I usually team my lunch with a green smoothie or I have a fruit salad with Jalna sweet and creamy yoghurt and a sprinkling of toasted muesli. 

Mid afternoon: I’m not usually hungry, sometimes I have a peppermint tea. Occasionally I join my kids in their after school snack, but the key here is I listen to my body and eat if I’m hungry.

D; My dinners are planned for the whole week to minimise the stress of having to come up with things on the fly (and then not having the right ingredients). I divide the week up between meals I know my kids like, meals I like to eat and new things we want to try. I always aim to have at least 1 vegetarian meal and 1 fish meal (I should really be eating more fish, 2 would be ideal) and 2-3 red meat meals. Lots of our meals are served family style where everyone can help themselves to what they like. This helps give the kids some control and choice at the dinner table, and has been shown to help minimise fussy eating in the the long run. Our meal tonight was chicken drumsticks cooked in the oven, salad, kale chips and bread. No matter what type of meal I’m cooking, I aways make sure that there are plenty of vegetables (even if my kids don’t always chose them!). 

D: Now as I said earlier I don’t believe in restricting any food. Research has shown that the more we try and restrict foods that we think are “bad for us” the more we crave them and can often end up overeating them. With that in mind, if I feel like having a “treat” I go for it. This particular night I had a chocolate covered ice cream on a stick (connoisseur).

With regards to alcohol I really try to minimise my intake. New research published in the Lancet this year has suggested that our current guidelines advocate for too much alcohol. It’s been suggested that men and women should have no more than 100g of alcohol per week, or 6 standard drinks (a standard drink being just 100ml of wine). Our Australian guidelines are currently under review and will be released next year. Given the association between alcohol intake and some types of cancer, (and because I come from a family with a high risk of breast cancer), I try to restrict my intake to a standard glass of wine and I make sure I have at least 2 alcohol free days a week. 

So there you go I follow a diet that is flexible, nourishing and above all enjoyable. Whilst i eat for health I also eat for enjoyment and that’s something I truly want to teach my children. I believe that that teaching your children about healthy eating starts with respecting that your child has their own programmed appetite and they intuitively know how much they need to eat each day. 

Fascinating research has been conducted on infants that shows how beautifully programmed an child’s appetite can be. Very young infants were fed baby formula  made up to different calorie strengths. Guess what happened? When the babies were fed the energy dense formula they drank less, and when they were fed the more dilute formula they drank more! In other words their appetite kicked in and they ate (drank) according to their needs. How amazing is that? 

Other research has shown however, that by age 4yrs many children are learning to ignore their natural appetite and already display signs of what we call “non hungry” eating. 

So how can be help our children become intuitive eaters?

My top tips are:

  1. Recognise that your child has their own appetite and respect that. Don’t ask them to clear their plate or eat a certain number of mouthfuls
  2. Don’t rush your children to eat. Set aside the time to sit down at a table and enjoy your meal in peace without distractions (ie tv, books toys etc..)
  3. Don’t label foods as “good” or “bad” – this starts to attach feelings of guilt to food. Teach your children that there are foods that we need to eat all the time and some foods that we don’t need to eat as regularly
  4. Don’t be overly restrictive with food – As parents we want the best for our children and it can be tempting to remove all chocolate, lollies, cake, etc.. from their diets. But do you know what? This approach doesn’t teach your child how to manage these foods or where they fit in a healthy diet. Research has shown that overly restrictive behaviour around food leads to “cravings” for these foods, which ultimately can lead us to over consuming them. I would prefer my children grow up knowing they can enjoy some chocolate but also being able to stop when they’ve had enough of it. It’s important to recognise that food has non nutritional benefits, sometimes we just want to eat something that tastes utterly delicious. I believe children should have this experience. 
  5. Review the messages you send your children about body image and food – What do your children hear you say about your own body? If you are constantly talking about needing to loose weight or what foods you are avoiding, your children will get the message that food is something that they need to be conscious of controlling with external measures rather than something that should be entirely intuitive.

Julia @ Bloom

 

( ps if you want to read more on my thoughts about how I feed my children and teach them about food you might like this blog post)


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We’ve just returned from a short family holiday and it’s had me thinking a lot about food. I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me “ohhh you’re a dietitian, I bet your kids eat well!”. 

Well yes and no. If you saw me on holiday I’d suspect that dietitian wouldn’t be the first thing that sprung to mind. That’s because on holidays I’m completely happy to live in the moment and enjoy plenty of occasional food. After all, that’s the very definition of occasional food..it’s eaten occasionally, and that’s what holidays are. 

Food isn’t just about nutrition. Food can also act as a wonderful memory. Cast your mind back to your own childhood and I’ve got no doubt that you can instantly identify both positive and negative memories that you have of food. Perhaps your nana made a particularly good chocolate cake and now every time you eat cake you think of her? Maybe you made pancakes on the weekends and they are now symbolic of family time for you? Did you have a particular food that you shared with your family at Christmas? 

Rituals represent an important part of family life that bring happiness to children’s lives and give them something to look forward to. Many rituals in family life revolve around food and the benefits that come with this have nothing to do with nutrition.

So back to my holiday, let me tell you what we ate. For my children the day started with either cocopops or nutrigrain, two cereals that would generally NEVER make their way near my pantry. But do you know why I do this? Because it’s a ritual my husband had as a child. He has fond memories of this and therefore it’s something he wanted to repeat with his own children. My kids have to agree on what two choices of cereal they want and when it’s gone, that’s it. My kids don’t ask for these foods outside of holidays because they know it’s simply not what we do. 

Beyond breakfast there was generally no planning and we ate as saw fit in the moment. Our five days away certainly weren’t balanced and we definitely didn’t eat enough vegetables. Will it kill us? Absolutely not. One of the most important things to remember about diet, is that it’s your overall pattern that matters, i.e. what you are doing most of the time.

Some of the biggest studies that have been conducted looking into which diets are best for cancer prevention and heart health such as the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) or Women’s Health Study (A large prospective study looking at risk factors that predispose women to heart disease), look at say fruit and vegetable intake over a prolonged period of time, and then break it down into groups with the highest and lowest intakes. What we see in these studies is that those people in the highest groups of intake have significantly lower rates of disease (eg heart disease or specific types of cancer).  If you monitor your diet and try to get your 2 serves of fruit, 5 serves of vegetables, preference wholegrains and a moderate intake of lean meat and dairy, you are doing a really good job and the occasional ice cream, cheese platter or cake won’t really make any difference. 

Some people might argue that I’m putting these foods on a pedestal, but I disagree and feel that I am simply reminding my children that some foods are only occasional. I could pretend that many of these processed, high sugar, low nutrient foods don’t exist or I could prohibit my children from consuming them. But do you know what? Research has actually shown that the stricter you are with your child’s (or your own) diet, the more they (or you) are likely to binge on these occasional or “junk foods” when they have access to them. I’m a realist, these processed foods exist, and I don’t see them leaving our supermarket shelves anytime soon. I know my children will be introduced to all of these foods eventually, so I might as well do it in a manner that pleases me, and truly teaches them that occasional foods are just that. I also spend time teaching them what good nutrition looks like and how to cook. Learning where processed “occassional” foods fit into your diet is just as big a life skill as learning what good nutrition is and how to cook! 

So this holiday season quite worrying about your diet! Eat mindfully and enjoy the food you are eating with your family. The ice cream won’t kill you, but the memory your kids have of that time Mum and Dad let us eat 2 ice creams in one day, will last a lifetime.  

 

Julia @ Bloom


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There have been rumblings of concern for a while now about the safety of plastics and food chemicals and many consumers would have no doubt noticed the trend towards “Bisphenol A (BPA)” free plastic products.

The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) recently released their “Food Additives and Child Health” Policy Statement, which for the first time makes recommendations about how we store and chose food products that we feed our family.

The AAP have classed food chemicals of concern as those either added directly to our food supply (specifically the preservatives nitrates/nitrites and some food colourings) or those which enter our food via indirect contact from packaging or the processing of food (BPA, phthalates, perfluroalkyls (PFCs), and perchlorates).

BPA (used to stiffen and harden plastic products) and phthalates (used in soft plastic products such as clear plastic food wrap) can both potentially  interfere with the metabolism of carbohydrate and fat and have anti-androgenic effects. There is therefore concern that both chemicals could have a role to play in obesity as well as reproductive development. PFCS and perchlorates can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones, and nitrate and nitrate preservatives have been linked to the production of cancer causing compounds. Some artificial food colourings have been linked to hyperactive and aggressive behaviour.

It’s important to note that much of the studies done to date are animal based studies or epidemiological studies which don’t necessarily point to a “cause and effect” in humans. Within the scientific community there is still a lot of contention as to how much of these chemicals humans are exposed to, and what level of exposure is harmful. Nonetheless, with children being exposed to proportionally more of these chemicals than adults, the AAP feels its prudent to start reducing our exposure. 

The AAP have made the following recommendations:

  • Where possible choose fresh fruits and vegetables and wash those that cannot be peeled
  • Avoid canned foods as these can be lined with BPA (note: there are some BPA free canned products in Australia)
  • Avoid plastic storage containers in favour of glass or stainless steel 
  • Purchase PBA and phthalate free products (note: In Australia we have many BPA  free plastic options. BPA has been replaced with other chemicals about which little is known. Because of this it might be a better option to avoid plastics altogether where possible, although there is no evidence to support this)
  • Avoid clear plastic wraps (Phthalates) and baking paper (PFCS)
  • Avoid Microwaving food and beverages (including breastmilk and formula) (heat causes the chemicals to leach out from plastic)
  • Avoid putting plastic products in the dishwasher, hand wash them
  • Limit or avoid processed meats (nitrate and nitrate preservatives are used in small goods such as ham and bacon)
  • Limit processed foods 
  • Avoid artificial food colourings

Whilst there are certainly things we can do everyday at home to reduce our exposure to these chemicals, the reality is that it will take a “whole of food supply” approach to truly remove these chemicals from our environment. Sure, you can decant your dry goods into glass jars or buy your grocery items in bulk or from markets, however, many of these products were probably stored or transported in plastic prior to being placed into barrels or boxes at your point of purchase. 

In the meantime I’ve taken baby steps at home to start reducing my family’s exposure. For a while now I’ve been using glass storage containers in my pantry (there’s the added bonus that they look nice), I hand wash my lunch boxes each day (these are BPA free), and the lunch boxes I pack are generally free of plastic wrap and packaging (bento style boxes are a great option to help you do this). 

If you’d like to read more about this topic head to:

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2018/07/19/peds.2018-1408

https://www.pehsu.net/_Phthalates_and_Bisphenol_A_Advisory.htmlhttp://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/chemicals/bpa/Pages/default.aspx

 

Julia @ Bloom


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Feel that sunshine on your skin!

 

Spring has arrived. The sun is in the sky and the trees are in bloom. Sit back and enjoy our Spring Nutrition Newsletter, with lots of great nutrition news, recipes and family eating tips for the season.

 

We break down getting kids into the kitchen, the new American Academy of Paediatrics statement on additives and child health and what it means for food storage, vegan diets for children, and a host of nutrition tips and recipes.

 

Take a look inside!

 

Cheers,

Click here!

x Bloom 🌿


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When my children wanted to cook cornflake cookies recently, I realised that I had an opportunity to improve on an age old favourite and turn into something that could go into their lunch boxes.
My lunchbox baking criteria is that it must include a wholemeal or wholegrain base for fibre, B vitamins and longer lasting energy. I also like to include fruit, veggies and/or seeds.
With most Australian schools being nut free, I frequently try to include seeds in my cooking as they are an equivalent source of important nutrients such mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, fibre, protein and minerals like phosphorus and magnesium amongst others. Chia seeds are slightly unique in that they are a very good plant source of Omega 3 (ALA) fatty acids. Most seeds contain Omega 6 (although linseed is also a notable source of Omega 3). Our bodies can’t make ALA and so we must source it from our diets. Nuts and seeds along with olive oil and leafy green vegetables are all good sources. Chia seeds are also particularly high in fibre, so including them in your families diet can really help your child hit their daily fibre requirement.

They may be expensive but a small amount goes a long way! I hope you have fun making these cookies with your kids!

Cornflake Chia Cookies

Ingredients

125g butter softened
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 cup wholemeal plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons chia seeds
pinch of salt
2 cups of crushed cornflakes

Method:

Heat Oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Using an electric mixer beat butter and sugar together and light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until mixed. Fold in the flour, baking powder, chia seeds, crushed cornflakes and salt.
Shape into small balls and place about 5cm apart on a baking tray. Cook for around 15 mins or until lightly golden.
Store in an airtight container in your freezer for 3 months.

Note: this recipe was inspired by a classic cornflake recipe found on taste.com

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Have you ever sent out birthday party invitations, with a polite little “Let us know if you have any food allergies” at the bottom, only to be faced with a wave of responses you weren’t expecting? 

Well – keep calm, and carry on. With a little know how, feeding kids with food allergies is totally manageable – and actually kind of fun! Here’s our go to guide to keep you on the right track…

Start by making a list of the kids with allergies, and those ingredients that you need to avoid. Then decide what party food you will make and buy, and match them up. At the end of your food planning, make sure there are at least one or two safe options available for each child on the list.

You can generally cater the needs of the kiddy crowd, including those with common allergies, with a few simple staples. Fruit kebabs or platters, fruit juice icy poles, fairy bread (with milk free bread and milk free margarine), plain potato chips or crips, and popcorn made with only oil, salt and or plain icing sugar are a good start. 

The main event however, the birthday cake, can be the tricky one to cater. And in this regard, cupcakes can be a lifesaver. You can substitute out different ingredients easily, and make a few different batches for different kids if need be.

If you’ve got a favourite cupcake recipe you want to use, try these modification tips:

Gluten free or wheat allergy? 

Use a premix gluten/wheat free flour (like Bob’s Red Mill, Vitarium, Schar, FG Roberts or Woolworths brand), and ensure you use pure icing sugar or a gluten free icing mixture for your topping, as many icing mixtures contain a small amount of wheat flour.

Egg allergy? 

Use Orgran egg replacer and water in place of eggs. Some people use chia or flax eggs ( with ground chia seeds and water ) but the texture of this is often better suited to a muffin recipe with chunky ingredients rather than a smooth cupcake.

Dairy free? 

Use soy milk or rice milk, and a dairy/soy free margarine, like Nuttelex. TIP:  buy a new tub of margarine for the party to avoid any contamination with things like peanut butter or toast crumbs from the family.

And… remember to read all the food labels of your usual ingredients to check for the allergens your guests need to avoid!

In Australia, the 10 most common food allergies are to milk, egg, wheat, soy, peanut, sesame, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, and lupin. The recipe below can me modified to cater for them all if need be.

Bloom allergy friendly birthday cupcakes

-makes 12 large cupcakes

Cake ingredients:

2 cups self raising flour (regular or gluten/wheat free mix)

¾ cup castor sugar

¾ cup milk (or soy or rice milk)

125g melted Nuttelex margarine 

2 eggs (or 2 tsp Orgran egg replacer + 2Tbs water)

2 tsp vanilla essence

Icing:

4 cups pure icing sugar

1 cup Nuttelex

2-3 Tbs milk (or soy or rice milk)

1 tsp vanilla essence

Optional:

Food coloring, or try a more natural colour and flavour like raspberry or strawberry powder or cocoa powder.

Sprinkles, cachous, fresh or dried berries or other favourite decorations (remember to check the ingredients!)

Method:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C

Line 12 hole muffin pan with paper cupcake cases or reusable silicone ones.

Sift SR flour and castor sugar into a large bowl, and make a well in the centre.

Add eggs/egg replacer, vanilla, your milk choice and melted Nuttelex into the centre and gently stir to combine.

Spoon into cupcake cases, up to about ¾ full, to ensure they don’t rise too high when cooking.

Bake for about 12-15 mins, or until just cooked through.

Cool thoroughly on a wire rack before icing.

Icing:

Beat margarine and vanilla together. Sift in icing sugar, adding in a little of the milk as you go, and your colour/flavour if using. Beat until evenly combined.  Spoon into piping bag and pipe on top cupcakes. Decorate as desired!

Cupcake decorations – Keep in mind any decorations you use may contain things like milk or wheat, so check labels carefully. Major supermarkets tend to carry items like sprinkles and cake confetti that are often suitable, or consider a non edible decoration like a paper topper that matches your party theme.

Remember when cooking for a crowd to be aware of cross contamination in the kitchen. When preparing foods, clean work areas, and use separate chopping boards, utensils and serving plates. Always remember to wash hands between preparing items too.

 ***

The other way to deal with food allergies, which is also totally acceptable, is to admit if you feel unsure or overwhelmed. 

Invite the parents of kids with food allergies to stay at the party to make sure their little one is safely included.  Many parents of children with severe allergies will do this automatically- stay on and keep watch, ask you what ingredients are in a product, or bring along some food of their own, and their medicine bag just in case. 

They wont be offended, they’ll appreciate you take their little one’s allergies as seriously as they do. And you will all have a great time, safely enjoying the celebration together!

Angela @ Bloom


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I’m starving” is a fairly familiar line uttered by children at the end of each school day. Consuming lunch up to three hours before pick-up, they no doubt are hungry. But how often do you provide an after-school snack only to find the munchkins won’t not eat dinner then ask for another snack again before bed? Frustrating isn’t it?

Most children aged under five need to eat every two to three hours. For older children, every three to four hours is sufficient. All children are born with the ability to regulate their appetite. They eat when they’re hungry and stop when full. 

Spacing meals and snacks helps children respond to their appetite. If children are allowed to graze all day, they are never really hungry – or full. Over time, this can erode a child’s natural ability to tune into their appetite, leading to issues in maintaining a healthy weight.  

If you’re offering a snack after school, consider when you are planning to serve dinner. If your children are returning home at 4pm and dinner is planned for 5pm, there’s little chance they are going to be hungry enough to participate. Two hours later at bed time, they’re certainly going to be asking for a snack again. 

Planning the timing of meals and snacks ensures children sit at the table hungry and ready to eat. No one routine will suit every family. For some, serving an early dinner at 4.30pm will be the most successful way to ensure children are not over tired and able to successfully participate in the meal. For others, providing a healthy filling snack after school then serving a later dinner will work well. 

Learning to eat a healthy, balanced diet comes from role modelling. Try to plan a dinner time routine when at least one parent can eat with the children, most of the time.

As we all know, children have a tendency to be fussy. In my experience, snacks can play a large role in contributing to finicky eaters. Because snacks are often considered as something to eat quickly on the go, I find many children are eating nutritionally empty snacks, such as crackers, chips and packets of sweet biscuits. Poor planning is often the culprit. Because children have small appetites and are prone to fussiness, you really need to think of every occasion they eat as an opportunity to offer good nutrition. 

If providing an after-school snack works for your family routine, my top tip is to have planned snacks ready. Once the youngsters are helping themselves, you’ll find they invariably choose foods you don’t want them to eat and portion sizes can get out of control. An after-school snack should not fill them up completely but take the edge off their hunger so they maintain a healthy appetite at dinner. 

My top suggestions for after-school snacks that focus on the core food groups and deliver plenty of nutrition include:

Smoothies – Ideally, try to incorporate a vegetable (eg, a green smoothie – my family’s favourite includes frozen mango, baby spinach, 1 green apple, water and ice) but fruit-based smoothies are good (frozen strawberries, strawberry yoghurt, water and ice is always a hit).

Kale chips – I’ve never seen my kids devour more greens then when I make a batch of these. Simply tear the kale leaves from the stingy vein that runs through it, toss with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and a little salt and spread evenly over a baking sheet. Don’t over crowd the tray or the kale won’t crisp. Cook at 120 degrees Celsius for 20 to 25 minutes. 

Grazing plate – Focus on your core food groups. I routinely offer wholegrain crackers, nuts, carrot, celery or cucumber sticks, nori sheets, cut up fruit and maybe a dip.  Many children don’t get offered nuts since schools are generally nut free. Nuts are high in essential fatty acids so remembering to offer them outside school is a must.

Still complaining they’re hungry? Remind them dinner is on it’s way and if the complaints continue, offer cut up vegetables, such as carrot, celery etc.

If you’ve stuck to your routine and your children are still demanding a snack before bed, ask yourself whether they truly ate well at dinner? If yes, offer a healthy snack. Nine times out of ten, I find that older children are asking for a snack because they haven’t eaten well at dinner. If you suspect this is going on, it’s ok to hold onto your child’s dinner until bed time. When they tell you they’re hungry, offer to heat it up again.

If you need more advice on fussy eating head here.

Julia x


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As we head into another term (How is it Term 3 already???), my mind always turns toward the dreaded lunch boxes, and I start to think about what new items I could add to keep things interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I quite like coming up with creative new ways to fill up my children‘s lunch boxes and meet their nutritional needs, but the monotony of making them day after day takes it’s toll.

I imagine most Mums (and Dads) probably feel this way, so in the interest of making everyone’s lives a little easier, I thought I’d share my latest finds and ideas to help keep your child’s lunchbox interesting! I’ve also created a cracker of a new recipe for you, my choc orange lunchbox truffles! And let me tell you, not only will your children love these, but they are a great accompaniment to your mid morning coffee!

Do your kids like sushi? Then why not try adding some Nori sheets to their lunchbox? They are a great source of iodine, vitamin A, vitamin C and magnesium. Here’s a tip: your local sushi shop might sell offcuts. I buy a huge packet from my local shop for just $1! Of course you can buy the large sheets from your local supermarket too.

 

With most Australian schools now “Nut Free” zones, our children miss out on this great source of essential fatty acids. Seeds offer the same nutrition and fats as nuts, so looking for ways to include them in your child’s lunchbox is a must in my mind. They’re also a great source of protein,  fibre, magnesium and phosphorus. If you’re short on time try the Coles range of “buddies”. They have several different varieties, each featuring dried fruit and seeds. Of course you can make your own too. I like to start with a base of puffed corn then add shredded coconut, cranberries, yoghurt covered sultanas, pepitas and banana chips. 

 

Wholegrain crackers or vegetable sticks with dip make a great lunch or snack. Coles mini avocado or hommus dips are a great option for those mornings where you just need  to grab and go. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These school holidays I’ve spent some time in the kitchen creating some new lunchbox recipes I hope you’re children are going to enjoy as much as mine. Below is my recipe for Choc Orange Lunchbox truffles. Enjoy! 

 

Choc Orange Lunch Box Truffles

13 Meedjool dates (pitted)

1 cup rolled oats

3 teaspoons coco powder

1 cup dried cranberries

2 Tablespoons of chia seeds

zest of 1 orange

3 Tablespoons of fresh orange juice

Add all ingredients to your food processor and blitz unit it comes together. Shape into small balls, then roll in coco powder. If coco powder is too bitter for your children you may prefer to roll in desiccated coconut instead. Store in an air tight container in the fridge. 

This post is not sponsored.


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Milk substitutes are rapidly gaining popularity in the modern food supply. They’re chosen for different reasons by different people  – allergies, intolerances, vegan diets, environmental concerns, and of course health benefits. Do you choose any plant based milks in your family diet?

 

Readily available plant based milks include almond, coconut, soy, oat, rice, as well as couple of other more obscure varieties like cashew, hemp seed and flax seed milks.

Home made milk substitutes are also becoming more popular, with people enjoying knowing where their food is coming from, exactly what goes into it, and the lower level of environment impact from food prepared in the home.

Like with all food selection there are lots of factors that will guide your individual choice, depending on what’s important to you –  things like taste, nutrition, health conditions, availablilty, cost, and environmental sustainability.

I’m all for the availability of dairy milk substitutes. They’ve been a great source of nutrition for many of my clients, and I’ve personally included them in my diet over the last decade since having children with food allergies. Back then the choice available was much smaller, and asking for anything more exotic than a soy latte was unheard of!

These days I actually enjoy a variety of plant based milks in my coffee or with granola for breakfast, but I also drink cow’s milk regularly and eat other milk based products like cheese. Dietary variety is a key factor in meeting nutrient requirements after all!

If you want to make sure your milk choice is helping meet your nutrition needs, there are a few key factors you should look out for.

Energy – This varies widely between the type of milk you are choosing, and is dependant on the amount of fat, carbohydrate (sugar) and protein in each milk. Low energy milks include choices like skim cows milk, rice and almond milk, and higher energy choices include full fat dairy milks, and traditionally produced coconut milk. If you’re choosing you’re milk based on its energy content, look at the nutrition panel and compare brands for their 100ml serving. But don’t just look at energy content, by doing so you may be doing your body out of lots of important nutrients below.

Protein – Again this varies widely between milk sources and brands. Items like rice milk are typically very low in protein, as is the base ingredient of rice, but surprisingly to some people, so are most nut milks, as the protein portion of the nut is mostly thrown away. Cow’s milk tends to be the highest in protein at around 3.5-4g/100ml, and soy milk is typically the highest protein plant based milk, averaging around the same . While calcium fortified soy milk is nutritionally my plant based milk of choice, its important to note that it’s not the right choice for everyone (for example some children are also allergic to soy protein, and some soy milks are not good choices on a low FODMAP diet).

Fat – Full cream cow’s milk is often rejected by people due to its higher saturated fat content when compared to skim and reduced fat choices. However fat is an important source of energy in the diet, and children under 2 years (when not drinking breastmilk or formula) are encouraged to use only full cream milks. Fat also plays a role in satiety, or how full we feel after eating and drinking, so many people prefer to use full cream milk for this reason. Coconut milk for cooking has 16 g/100ml fat, where as coconut milks designed for drinking have less (eg Sanatarium coconut milk 2.1g/100ml), but be aware most of this is saturated fat too. The source of fats in other commercial plant based milks is mostly unsaturated fats, but may also be an added fat like sunflower or canola oil, added for texture and energy content, rather than a naturally occurring fat.

Calcium – Plant based milks like rice, soy, coconut and nut milks are not naturally high in calcium. This means to meet your calcium requirements you will either need to choose a fortified commercial variety, choose enough other sources of dietary calcium, or take a calcium supplement. My personal choice is to choose a calcium fortified variety, and we recommend those that contain at least 120mg Calcium per 100ml.

Sugar – Many ( but not all) commercial plant based milks are sweetened with sugar or sugar alternatives to improve flavour. Lactose is the naturally occurring sugar in cow’s milk (and in human breast milk ), and our body usually produces the lactase enzyme from birth to be able to digest this. If you are lactose intolerant, all plant based milks are suitable, however simply swapping to a lactose free cow’s milk could be your best nutritional choice. If making plant based milks at home, keep in mind that large amounts of added sugars will add extra energy to your diet.

Iodine – Cow’s milk and dairy products are a source of dietary Iodine – an important nutrient for thyroid hormone production – especially in pregnancy and childhood. However, milk is not the high source of iodine it once was, since dairy industry stopped using iodophores to clean milk storage vats in the 1960s, and should not be relied upon as the primary source of iodine in the diet.

Plant based milks however are significantly lower in iodine, and swapping these into your diet will mean you definitely need to look for another source to boost your iodine intake.

The good news is there are other great non dairy sources in the diet like fish, shellfish and seaweed and eggs, which all contain more iodine per 100g than milk. On top of this, commercial bakers in Australia must use iodised salt in bread making, so there is an additional source of iodine readily available. As dietitians we typically advocate for using less salt in the diet, but where salt is used, choose iodised salt (unless you have a medical reason not to do so!).

B12 – Cows milk can be an important source of B12, particularly for vegetarians who don’t eat eggs. Some commercial soy milks are fortified with B12 (like Sanitarium So good Essential). If your are vegetarian, it’s worth reading your food labels to check how you can best meet your needs.

So choose your milk wisely, as it is an important source of nutrition in your day. If cow’s milk is not for you, that’s ok, but it’s not always as easy as a simple swap. If your favourite milk choice is lacking in a certain nutrient, make sure you boost your diet with other foods to cover the gaps. For the best individually tailored dietary advice, see an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, particularly if you or your family have any additional health issues.

 

Angela @ Bloom 🌿

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As the cold weather starts to hit hard in this part of the world hot chocolates start to become the drink of choice. In fact in my house I often offer up a hot chocolate for “dessert”.

Another Mum recently asked me whether there was a better choice between a hot chocolate, Milo or Ovaltine. Good question! 

I guess the first thing to be aware of when adding flavours to your milk, is that you are adding sugar (note there are some sugar free versions available). I’m personally happy to add some sugar into my child’s diet when I know it’s packaged up in a food that also delivers them beneficial nutrients (you can read more about my thoughts on sugar here). Milk is a great source of calcium, protein, B vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus. Ideally kids should aim for 3 serves of dairy a day to meet their calcium requirements.  If your child’s diet is otherwise balanced, a small amount of sugar added to milk is not harmful.

Products such as drinking chocolates, Nesquik (Australian version) or alike, are simply coco powder, sugar and/or added flavours. Milo and Ovaltine differ in that they also include a small amount of aditional nutrients, namely iron, vitamin C, vitamin D, extra calcium, phosphorus and a range of B vitamins. On average these products (when made according to instructions, roughly a tablespoon per glass of milk depending on the product) add between 2 – 2 1/2 teaspoons of sugar to your child’s diet and around 60 – 80 additional calories. If you want to know more about how much sugar you should be allowing in your child’s diet click here. 

The additional nutrients offered in products such as Milo can be beneficial for some children. For example a standard serve of Milo provides about 35% of a 4yr olds requirement for iron, which can be handy if your child doesn’t eat red meat. As always, it’s preferable to use real foods to meet your child’s nutrient requirements, and I wouldn’t recommend using these products on a daily basis.

You can avoid the commercial products all together and flavour your child’s milk another way. Recently I’ve been making my children a nourishing cinnamon and vanilla hot frothy milk which they just love. For the everyday version I omit the sugar and cream, but if I’m dressing it up as something special, I go all out and add a little wow. I hope your kids enjoy this as much as mine!

Vanilla Cinnamon Hot Frothy Milk (enough for 4 children)

600ml milk 

2 cinnamon quills (or 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, but be aware this will leave a strong cinnamon residue at the bottom of the cup)

2 teaspoons vanilla essence 

2 tablespoons of castor sugar (you can omit this if you want to and the drink still tastes great, albeit less sweet)

Optional: whipped cream to serve  

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and heat gently over low heat. Once hot use a hand whisk to vigorously whisk until the milk becomes frothy. If you have a coffee machine with a frothing function you might like to use this to create a denser froth for the top. Top with whipped cream if using and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Enjoy!


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If you’re concerned about your child’s diet, chances are that you’ve probably already started them on a multivitamin. But what are in these vitamins, and is this the answer to your concerns about fussy eating?

These days there are a wide variety of vitamins aimed at kids that come in a multitude of preparations such as “gummies” (a sort of a soft chewable lolly), capsules with liquid centres, crushable tablets, and of course liquid preparations. The other major variety of vitamin supplement on the market for children, are those that are made into milkshake type drinks, think toddler formulas and more specialised pharmacy products like Pediasure or Sustagen.

The majority of multivitamins on the market are made up of mostly B vitamins. Nearly all will include a good dose of vitamin C, and possibly some minerals like iron and zinc. Some will include vitamin D and E, most do not contain vitamin A or iodine, or larger minerals such as calcium. If they do, it’s usually in small amounts. I’m aware of at least one product on the Australian market that is a multivitamin and Omega-3 fish oil preparation, but you will usually need to purchase a separate supplement if it’s fish oils you’re after. 

Milkshake type supplements offer a more comprehensive range of nutrients and are complete with protein and energy.

But what does your child actually need? 

Most people that make their way to see me are worried because their toddler/pre-schooler/older child is fussy and not eating a wide variety of foods. If I really drill down to what parents are concerned about, two food groups come to mind: vegetables and meat (usually red meat). Most of us are familiar with some sort of population based recommendation as to how we should eat. In Australia, we have the “Australian Guide to Healthy Eating” (AGHE)(https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-guide-healthy-eating). The pictorial below demonstrates the proportions of each food group we should be aiming to eat across the day. For those of us that remember the old food pyramid, Nutrition Australia has revamped it and it now represents current recommendations (see below). Both the AGHE and Food Pyramid are based upon recommendations outlined in our Australian Dietary Guidelines. 

 

Most parents know that their child should be eating roughly 5 serves of veggies and 2 serves of fruit each day along with the above recommendations. If your child’s not eating like this then there’s usually concern about whether they are getting enough vitamins and minerals. Some parents may also be worried about protein if their child isn’t eating meat.

What I know after more than 15 years of practice and analysing hundreds of children’s diets, is that there is more than one way to eat that will meet a child’s requirements. 

Most fussy eaters that I have worked with are reluctant vegetable eaters, they probably eat some fruit but prefer a predominantly carbohydrate based diet (cue crackers, bread, pasta and noodles on repeat!). Sound familiar?

Diets rich in grains and cereals are generally adequate in B vitamins, the major component of most multivitamins. Iodine is worth pointing out as it is not included in most multivitamins and recent studies have shown low to moderate levels iodine deficiency in Australian children. Iodine is important for brain development and deficiencies can lead to mental and intellectual problems. Simple changes to your child’s diet like using iodised salt in cooking, using bread that includes iodine (a mandatory requirement since 2009 in Australia) and including seafood and eggs regularly, will ensure iodine requirements are met without the need for supplements.

Fruit contains a similar range of nutrients to vegetables, so if they are eating some fruit, it’s more than likely they’re getting nutrients like beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A), vitamin K, folate as well as minerals such as potassium and magnesium that are also found in vegetables. A child who is a reluctant meat eater (particularly red meat), may be lacking in Iron, however, there are other non meat sources of iron in ours diets (for example wholegrain, fortified breakfast cereals as well as beans and legumes), and if your child consumes these regularly, their iron intake may well be adequate. Vitamin C requirements are generally adequate if your child eats two serves of fruit each day.

Dairy products are not usually something I see parents of fussy eaters struggling with. In fact many fussy eaters over consume dairy (particularly milk), so calcium is not generally an issue. Some parents are worried their child isn’t going to get enough protein if they don’t eat meat. This is rarely a concern. Protein is found widely in our diet (although the quality varies), including in dairy products and breads and cereals. I usually find that protein intake from dairy alone is sufficient to meet a growing child’s needs. In fact most fussy eaters I deal with, usually exceed their requirements for protein. 

What do I recommend?

For most children that I see I don’t recommend a vitamin supplement and rarely would I recommend a milkshake type supplement (I reserve these for children with extreme fussy eating who may also need to gain weight, but this is very much on a case by case basis). One of the major drawbacks of using milkshake type supplements  is that you are using this product to fill your child up, and not actually making any headway with them eating real food.

Whilst your child may not be eating ideally, it’s highly likely they are still getting what they need to grow. If I do use a multivitamin preparation then I would aim for one that includes iron. The other nutrient that IS usually a concern with fussy eaters is fibre. Fibre is NOT included in vitamin preparations but there are some fibre supplements on the market which can be used for children.

What your child is missing out on if their diet is low in vegetables are phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are thought to be one of the reasons that diets rich in vegetables (and fruit) might help to protect us against chronic diseases such as some types of cancer. Examples of phytonutrients include lycopene, known for cancer prevention, and leutin, important for eye health. Let’s not forget small oligosaccharides and resistant starches (collectively known as prebiotics) that are found in plant foods either. These are very important for optimal gut health and with more and more research pointing towards the importance of gut health for the prevention of chronic disease, we can’t overlook the need for a diet high in prebiotics. Phytonutrients, and prebiotics aren’t included in vitamin preparations. 

So you may be starting to get the idea that a multivitamin isn’t really the answer to fussy eating and possibly not even necessary.  As always, my main aim when working with clients is to identify nutrients that might be of concern and find ways to increase these nutrients in your child’s diet using real food, not supplements.

 Our population based guidelines above are “ideal” ways of eating that are associated with maintaining a healthy body weight and avoiding chronic disease as we age. It’s what we want to be aiming for with our children long term and what we as dietitians can help you achieve, but it’s not the only dietary pattern that will give them all the vitamins and minerals they need each day. 

One of the reasons I don’t often recommend vitamin supplements is because it’s usually adding another layer of “work” for parents, remembering to 1. offer it and 2. get your child to take it. I’d rather parents put their energy into using practical strategies to try and change their child’s diet. We know that food habits and preferences are formed in childhood, so if we want our children to eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and other plant based foods, along with quality proteins, we need to work towards it NOW. Sure, their choices at the moment may not make them deficient in anything, and they may still grow, but for optimal health as they mature, we want to get the dietary foundations and patterns of eating right in childhood. 

If you’re concerned about your child’s diet make an appointment to see an Accredited Practising Dietitian who specialises in children.

Angela and I are working on some exciting strategies to help you in your journey to feed your family real food and optimise your intake of plant based foods. Make sure you sign up to our newsletter so you can be kept in the loop as well roll out our new tools that will make feeding your family easier!

The advice in this blog post is of a general nature only and may not be right for your child. If you are worried about your child’s diet we suggest your consult with an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

 

Julia @Bloom