Children’s nutrition

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Hello Summer and (almost) Hello Christmas!

 

Who else is ready for the Christmas break?! Here at Bloom Nutrition Studio we most definitely are! So we’ve put together a little selection of our favourite tips and tricks for coming out on top during our hot Aussie Christmas season. Click here to read!

 

We hope you enjoy it, and most of all, we hope you have a safe, happy and healthy festive season!

x Angela @ Bloom


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If you have a fussy eater, you’re not alone. My own children are all fussy to some degree and have definite lists of things they do and do not like (or as I prefer to say, are still learning to like). As a paediatric dietitian I have a tool box of strategies that I can dip into to try and get them to include more new foods in their diet and help make eating a harmonious and pleasant opportunity for us all. Don’t get me wrong, feeding my family is still hard work, it requires a lot of planning, patience and perseverance. Fussy eating generally isn’t cured overnight, but with the right strategies it is something that will improve. 

Here are some strategies that might help you pack a healthier lunchbox for your fussy eater….

Packing Map – In our introduction we talked about including foods from each of the “grow, glow and go” categories. Take this a step further and create a packing map or guide with your child. Explain to them that their lunch box needs to include at least one item from each of the following food groups: Fruit, Vegetables, Dairy (or dairy equivalent), Protein and Wholegrains. Get them to suggest fruits, vegetables etc that they are happy to have in their lunchboxes and write them down. Use this guide to help pack the lunchbox each day. For a fun and interactive way to create a packing list with your child take a look at the healthy lunch box builder by the Cancer Council.

You can also download our lunchbox planner here

Expose and Explore foods – 

One thing we know about fussy eating is that children need to be exposed to new foods a LOT of times before they learn to eat it. If they’ve never seen a capsicum they simply can’t learn to ever eat it! A small token serving of food in the lunchbox is a great opportunity to expose your child to new foods. I packed cucumber as small stars or sticks for about 2 years in one of my child’s lunchboxes before it was eaten. The trick to this approach is to keep your serving size small enough that it won’t overwhelm your child and to make sure there are plenty of other foods in their  lunchbox that are preferred items.

Stuck in a rut? – 

Lots of parents tell me that they get stuck in a rut of the same old vegemite sandwich and a packet of 1 or 2 preferred items. These parents are often worried that their child will eat nothing if they change things up. The trick here is to make small but noticeable changes over a period of time. 

Start by getting a new lunchbox (Bento boxes work well for this approach). Show your child their packet of preferred snack food (eg tiny teddies) and tip it out into one of the compartments. Next change the shape of their sandwich with a fancy sandwich cutter or just do triangles instead of squares. Along with this add a token new food from one of the food groups above (remember we’re exposing not expecting that they will eat it). After they’re accepting these small changes, take it a step further. Switch some or all of the biscuits for something similar (eg if they like tiny teddies try weet-bix mini bite multi packs). Once they’re accepting a rage of similar biscuits you could even try a home baked snack. 

Exposure is again is the key for success here. Why not try a lunchbox day on the weekend? Put out an assortment of sandwiches, fruit, veggies and snacks at lunchtime and let every member of the family packs a lunchbox (you too Mum and Dad). Then sit down to lunch together or better yet make an occasion out of it and head out for a picnic. You could even have a lunchbox dinner one night!

Get Smart with Snacks – 

If you’re really struggling to get your child to eat fruits or vegetables then you might need to make your snack choices work harder. Because young children need to eat regularly, snacks contribute a large amount of energy and nutrients into the diet. To help boost my children’s intake of vegetables, I’ll frequently bake cakes and alike that contain vegetables, fruits, seeds and wholegrains. Some of our favourites include moist zucchini chocolate cake, chocolate black bean cup cakes and you can even make sweet potato brownies! A quick google search will give you plenty of recipes to try! 

Don’t interrogate!

Most parents (myself included) are pretty keen to take a look inside the lunchbox at the end of the day and see what has (or hasn’t!) been eaten.  It’s pretty depressing when you go to all that hard work to have most of it come home again. But don’t despair there are many reasons why your child might be bringing foods back home. Children’s appetite’s can vary hugely from day to day, sometimes they simply won’t want to eat as much as you’ve packed. It’s preferable not to put pressure on your child to eat their entire lunchbox. Only they know how hungry they are and you need to trust that they can regulate their own appetite.

They want to play or talk too much. This is usually an issue with younger kids. Playing with their friends often takes priority to eating. These kids usually leave school ravenous and do with a gentle reminder to eat the remainder of their lunchbox on the way home. Difficulty opening foods is another big one. Check that your child can open various containers, packets etc before you send them. For some children the school environment can be a huge sensory challenge. So many people, so much noise, so many distractions. If this is your child an occupational or feeding therapist will be able to work with you and your child’s school to help manage some of these challenges. 

Most kids will bring some food back home at least some of the time. If your child is bringing their entire lunch home most of the time it’s probably worth a chat to try and figure out what the problem is. Outside of that, quizzing children about why the celery sticks are coming home again generally doesn’t get them to eat or enjoy them, better to just serve them and let your child decide whether they want to eat them.

 

Julia Boase

APD


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If you’ve been following Bloom for a while you’ll know that I like to make a lot of my children’s snacks. I do this to maximise the nutrients in their snack choices whilst minimising less desirable nutrients such as salt, sugar, fat and refined carbohydrates. 

For young children who need to eat regularly, snacks form a large part of their daily diet and should really represent our major food groups as much as possible, not something just grabbed in haste to fill a hole.  

Now no one likes to be a slave to their kitchen, so when I bake for the lunchboxes I do large batch cooking and freeze. I look for recipes that include ingredients from our key food groups like fruit, vegetables, wholegrain cereals and seeds (or nuts if your school permits them). I’ll often try and reduce the sugar too. If you need some inspiration you might like to try our green seed slice or coco cranberry bliss balls. 

Even with great planning and preparation there are still weeks where I might find I have nothing on hand, or I just don’t want to or have time to cook. In these situations I turn to a selection of pre-packged snacks from the supermarket that still offer plenty of nutrition. I also like to alternate my home cooked choices with purchased snacks to mix things up a bit and ensure the kids don’t get bored of the same old thing.

To help you make smart choices in the supermarket we’ve come up with this list of Bloom approved snacks.

1. Roasted nori sheets – These are a great source of iodine. 1 small 8g packet provides 30% of a young child’s daily iodine requirement. It should be noted that these are very high in salt but as the serving size is so small (8g) the total quantity of salt consumed is small. 

2. Fruit/Raisin bread  I’ve always got a loaf in my freezer. Sure it has some added sugar, but most of the sugar comes from the added dried fruit. It’s low GI, filling and has around 120 calories per buttered slice (1 slice is plenty for a recess snack). Tip top have alsohave a wholemeal Raisin toast and that’s got my tick of approval

3. Cheese and Crackers -I’m not really a fan of the pre-packaged cheese and biscuit packs as they cost a fortune. Even when you’re low on time you can still still grab a handful of crackers and cut a slice of cheese (or a cheese stick if you really need to). Not all crackers are created equal though. You definitely want to focus on buying a wholegrain variety (look for those with at least 4g of fibre per 100g) and with a sodium content less than 400mg/100g (harder to find). 

My top picks would be Ryvita wholegrain crisp breads (I’d suggest breaking two in halves as they are larger), Vita-Wheat crisp bread range and crackers (note these all exceed 400mg of sodium/100g,but most are under 500g/100g) and the Mary’s Gone Crackers range (although please note these are a more expensive option). 

Team with your child’s preferred cheese and you have a filling snack option high in fibre, B vitamins, Omega 3 fatty acids (from the seeds), calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.

3. Roasted or puffed Chickpeas and Fava Beans

The crunchy texture of these products will appeal to many kids. 

They come in plain (lightly salted), as well a variety of other flavours.  I love that they come in individually wrapped portions so you can simply grab and chuck into the lunchbox. They also hit the mark for fibre content, sodium and overall calories, not to mention they also count towards your child’s daily intake of vegetables!

4. Popcorn

Another option that’s sure to be a hit with most kids that is filling and high in fibre. I’d recommend you check what type of oil your popcorn is cooked in (or better yet go for air popped, although many kids may find this too bland) and avoid any cooked in palm oil (a saturated fat we want to avoid). 

Also look for those with a lower sodium content, ideally less than 400mg per 100g. I’d also stay away from any of the sweetened varieties, children don’t need the extra sugar in these products. 

My pick would be CobsR natural sea salt variety. I buy it in the large packs and portion it out to save money, but if you’re really low on time you may prefer the individually packed option.

5. Coles “buddy” dried fruit and seed packets – with a few varieties on offer there should be something here that most kids will like. Some varieties contain “fun” foods like mini marshmallows and chocolate buds. This personally doesn’t bother me and I find the inclusions of some fun foods in a trail mix makes it more likely my kids will eat the whole thing. 

6. Weetbix mini breakfast biscuits – These multi-pack biscuits have just over 1 teaspoon of sugar per packet but best of all they have 2.8 g fibre, more than most other snack biscuits on the market. They are also fortified with iron and a range of B vitamins. Bel vita also make a similar biscuit however with 3 teaspoons of sugar per biscuit they are my second choice, although I it should be noted that they contain more fibre at 4g per packet.

7. Milk boxes/Smoothies – Devondale mini milk boxes are a perfect option to deliver a hit of calcium (and protein) to your child’s lunchbox. As they are long life milks you don’t have to worry if they get warm during the day. My kids are happy to have plain milk but I do also give them flavoured ones to mix things up a bit. The Devondale Moo flavoured milks have around 1 tsp of sugar per 100g which is not overly bad given that this product also contains lots of other worthwhile nutrients. Sippah straws are another quick option to pop in the lunchbox with a thermos of plain milk and contain less than 1/2 teaspoon per straw. Nudie also released a range of long life brekkie smoothies last year in flavours such as banana and mixed berry. They are sweetened with maple syrup and have around 1.5 teaspoons of sugar per 100ml. 

8. Fruit straps – There are a few different options on the market now, for example The “Fruit Wise” and “Bear Yo Yo’s. Both brands are made from 100% dehydrated fruit with no added sugars or fillers. Per serve these products contain about 1/2 the calories of a fresh piece of fruit. Most people don’t find them as filling as eating fresh fruit (because the water content has been removed from them) and of course being quite sticky they aren’t a great option for your child’s teeth. I wouldn’t make this your every day fruit option but they’re a reasonable back up. 

9. Date and seed based bites/bars and protein balls – eg Kez’s kitchen lamington bars. These are made from dates and seeds and have nothing but real ingredients added. If you are buying these sorts of products check the ingredient list and try and avoid those with added sweeteners such as honey or  rice syrup. Most of these products are quite pricey and I feel you could make a similar version yourself for much less but for those busy times they are a handy option.     

10 Messy Monkeys – Out of all the flavoured savoury snacks/biscuits on the market for children these would probably be my pick. They are high in fibre (2g per serve) and don’t contain artificial flavours or flavour enhancers, the salt and fat content is however quite high (as are many other similar products in this category). My biggest concern with savoury salty snacks for children is that it tends to program their taste buds to want more salty highly flavoured foods and these flavours aren’t found in natural whole foods. That’s not to say that I’d never buy these snacks for my children but I certainly limit them to occasionally and where possible I try to buy plain varieties of biscuits. 

11. Mini dips and baby cucumbers – we love the Obela mini dips for the convenience of their grab and go size!  Keep and pack of baby cuqs (cucumbers) on hand and have you have a super healthy snack prepared in 30 seconds!


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Preparing school lunch boxes can feel a little like ground hog day.

And no wonder, as kids go to school for around 200 days per year! But fear not… if you’re in need of a little school lunch inspo, you’ve come to the right place!

Bloom’s winter newsletter for 2019 is all about lunches and lunch boxes. Get ready for the low down on the boxes we love, and how to fill them with nutritious, tasty food your kids actually want to eat! Favourite sandwich fillings, great non-sandwich lunch ideas, dietitian approved packaged snacks, and more.

We hope our tips and tricks help hit the spot. Click here to start reading!

 

X Angela @ Bloom


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You’ve heard it before – it’s famed as the most important meal of the day. But why is breakfast so good?

Breakfast, literally, breaks the fast from overnight, fuelling your body with energy and nutrients for the day ahead. So, breakfast is like the platform you use to dive into the day. Start the day right and the day ahead is looking good from the get-go!

In nutrition research, eating breakfast is linked to many good things. There’s an association between eating breakfast and maintaining a healthy weight, as well as increased overall nutrient intakes for key nutrients like fibre, calcium, iron, folate and vitamin C. Research suggests skipping breakfast impairs cognitive performance (so little brains don’t work as well!) , and there are associations between skipping breakfast and an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Back in 2014, an Australian Bureau of Statistics Census at School Survey found that as many as 1 in 7 kids weren’t eating breakfast on a given day. And similar numbers of adults were found to skip breaky back in the 2013 Australian Health Survey, and 2012 National Nutrition Survey. So if this is a common occurrence in your house, it’s time to take action!

Set aside even as little as 5-10 extra minutes in the morning routine to sit and eat.  And given that breakfast is one-third of our main meals, it makes sense to make it count nutritionally.

Breakfasts higher in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, and lower in free sugars are the way to go.

How do we do this? It’s as simple as choosing minimally processed foods, (like food from the major groups of the Australian Guide to Healthy eating, or AGHE, below), and getting your kids on board with the choices! When kids have some input and ownership of the meals that are chosen for the family, they’re more likely to eat them.

When talking to kids I love using the analogy of foods that make you GO, GROW and GLOW.

GO foods are the grains or carbohydrate sources – the yellow area from the AGHE. They provide energy, fibre and if you’re choosing whole grains, lots of metabolism-boosting B vitamins.

GROW foods are what you might typically think as the protein sources – meat, eggs, nuts, dairy – giving protein and essential nutrients like iron, calcium, phosphorous, zinc – important for building muscles and bones. These are the blue and purple sections of the AGHE.

GLOW foods are those foods that help your body feel great – they’re from green sections of the AGHE. Filled with fruits and vegetables, they’re packed with all the good stuff –  fibre, prebiotics, and a whole host of vitamins and minerals.

So a breaky that ticks all 3 big GO, GROW and GLOW boxes is a great start.

How do we achieve this? Try some of the easy ideas below:

·     A smoothie (milk, yoghurt and fresh fruit) & a slice or two of grainy toast with your favourite topping

·     Grainy granola, with oats, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, served with milk or yoghurt

·     A breakfast wrap – multigrain wrap, filled with scrambled eggs, tomato and spinach

·     A jaffle, made with wholemeal bread, filled with baked beans and cheese

·     Good old fashioned porridge oats made with milk, and topped with banana and cinnamon

·     Rye sourdough with tomato, avocado and crumbled feta

The list goes on!

So give your family breakfast the once over. Look at what you’re regularly serving, and where you might have gaps. Pop in something from the food group that’s missing to give your breaky a nutrient boost and supercharge your day!

 


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Packaged breakfast cereal often gets a bad wrap. With many options either full of sugar, low in fibre or high in salt, I can understand why. 

Current research into gut health however, clearly indicates that a diet high in wholegrains is important for maintaining a diverse gut biome (a large collection of good bacteria that live in your gut). The undigested components of wholegrains (known as prebiotics) act as a fuel source for these bacteria. When these good bacteria break down the prebiotics, they produce a range of “bi-products” which are thought to have a number of beneficial effects on our body. Packaged breakfast cereals can be a good source of wholegrains (and other nutrients) if you know what to look for. Wholegrain breakfast cereals are a great source of fibre which is a nutrient often lacking in young children’s diets. Getting enough fibre each day helps prevent constipation. 

I scoured the supermarket to give you my round up on what I consider to be some of the best packaged options available.

  1. Shredded Wheat Biscuits 

Uncle Toby’s Shredded Wheat Biscuits contain 100% wholewheat and not a single other ingredient! Winner! Because it’s just wheat, the salt content of this product is very low at 21mg per 100g. The fibre content is excellent at 12.2.g per 100g. 

I also think the shredded look of these biscuits is highly appealing to children.

2. Weet-Bix 

Sanitarium Weet-Bix are made from 97% wholegrain wheat. They have a small amount of added sugar and salt, but overall their nutritional content is good with just 3.3 g of sugar per 100g (that’s just under 1 teaspoon of sugar per 7 Weet-Bix!). This product is also fortified with the B vitamins niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, folate as well as iron. The iron content of Weet-Bix is particularly impressive. Two Weet-Bix provides 3mg of iron which is 30% of a 4-8 yr old’s daily requirement. If your child struggles to eat meat or other iron rich sources of food (likes eggs, legumes and nuts for example), then using a fortified cereal such as Weet-Bix may be beneficial.

3. Weeties

Uncle Toby’s Weeties are a wheat flake made from 99% wholegrain wheat. They contain a small amount of added salt (still quite reasonable at 375mg/100g) and no added sugar.  Like Weet-Bix they are fortified with some B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid), however they don’t contain any added iron (note: wholegrains are naturally a source of what is called non haem iron. To ensure an adequate intake of Iron I would always recommend that families choose wholegrain bread and cereal options over white refined options that are lower in naturally occurring iron).

4. Muesli (natural or toasted) 

Natural or Swiss style muesli is a muesli made without added fats or sugar. It usually contains a variety of dried fruits, oats, nuts and seeds. Toasted muesli will have a similar composition, but also includes a fat (usually a canola or sunflower oil) and a sugar source (eg honey, molasses, maple syrup or similar) and is oven baked giving it a crunchy texture. 

A toasted muesli will usually have a higher fat, sugar and calorie content. That said, many people often prefer it’s “crunchy roasted flavour” and given all the beneficial nutrients otherwise found in muesli, I think a toasted muesli is still a sound choice. Look for varieties cooked in a quality oil (such as sunflower, canola or rapeseed, not generic “vegetable oil”) and those with sugar listed lower down the list of ingredients.

Personally I like to use a swiss or natural muesli as a base to make Bircher Muesli from, and a toasted muesli to eat with milk, yoghurt and fruit. 

My personal favourite is Carmen’s Classic Fruit and Nut Muesli. The fat and sugar content of this product are both moderate, but it’s worth noting that some of the fat is naturally occurring from the nuts and seeds, and much of the sugar content comes from the dried fruit.

All things considered both natural and toasted meusli’s are  good minimally processed breakfast options that are high in fibre, good fats (from the nuts and seeds), potassium, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins and vitamin C. 

You can balance out your breakfast and maximise your nutrition, by serving your choice of cereal with a reduced fat milk, greek style yoghurt and some fruit. Not only are you adding more fibre and fuel for your good bacteria by adding some fruit, but the addition of dairy also contributes calcium and phosphorus needed for bone health.


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It’s that time again… With the change of seasons comes a new Bloom Nutrition Studio seasonal nutrition newsletter. Hurrah!

 

This Autumn we’re sharing our top tips to start the day right, with our gorgeous new Breakfast Issue.

 

Planning better breakfasts, breakfast in a hurry, long and lazy weekend breakfasts, and some awesome new recipes await inside.

 

Sit back, relax, and have a read. We hope it brings lots of delicious, nutritious inspiration to your family breakfast table.

 

x Angela @ Bloom  🌿


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An issue that is frequently misunderstood by parents is exactly how much protein children need everyday and where they can get it from. One of the most common concerns I hear from parents of fussy or picky eaters is that they’re not getting enough protein. As we go through their child’s diet, they are often surprised to find that their protein intake is fine.

One of the reasons for this is that our bodies actually don’t need that much protein. Even in children that are growing rapidly, it’s not hard to meet their requirements. We also get protein from sources other than meat which many people are unaware of. For example breads and cereals, whilst usually recognised as a source of carbohydrate, also contain protein. Whilst some of these sources do not contain a complete range of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) when eaten as part of a balanced diet, overall protein intake will be sufficient. Dairy is a very significant source of protein for young children. I always ensure there are adequate alternative sources if we need to avoid dairy for some reason (eg the child has an allergy).

So how much protein do children actually need and where can they get it from? Below I’ve included a pictorial to give you an example of how easily a child’s protein requirements are met.

Toddlers 1 – 3 yrs (between 10 – 15kg): 11g – 16g protein per day

 1 shredded wheat biscuit without milk 2g
1/2 Cob of corn 2g   1 small cup of milk(200ml) 8g

 Slice of cheese 4g

Children 4 – 8yrs (16 – 26kg): 15 – 24g protein per day

 

  1 cheese sandwich 12g   200g tub of yoghurt 6g     1/2 cup broccoli 4g

 

Children 9 – 13yrs (29kg – 46k): 29 – 46g protein per day

 3 weetbix with milk 14g       1 banana 1.5g   4 vita wheat crackers with cheese 7g                                                         Small tin of tuna 16g

The typical Australian diet usually provides most children with more protein than their bodies require (in fact a recent Melbourne based study (InFANT) found that very young children (aged 9 months to 5 years) protein intake from diet alone was 2-3 times higher than age appropriate Australian recommendations.  Occasionally we see children who’s growth is faltering and part of our management plan is to try a high protein and energy diet to get them moving again. In these situations we will use these diets on a short term basis until a medically agreed upon target is achieved. 

What is concerning me as a paediatric dietitian is a trend I’ve noticed on social media to use protein powders and shakes in children, that have been designed for use by adults. As our obesity rates have risen and as a nation we have become more focused on health, there has been an explosion of supplements many of them protein based drinks, powders and bars. 

There is evidence that in adults a diet higher in protein can be beneficial for weight loss, particularly in promoting satiety after a meal. We do not have this same evidence in children. The by products of protein break down are filtered out by our kidneys. The more protein we eat, the harder our kidneys work getting rid of the waste. The concern here is that if our kidneys are placed under long term strain, then the chance of developing chronic kidney disease later in life might be increased. Research in adults has suggested that high protein diets are probably fine if your kidney function is normal. We don’t have this data for children.  If children are fed these exceedingly high protein intakes for years as their kidney function develops and matures, what is the long term effect? Most of these protein based shakes, powders etc provide around 20g of protein per serve. For your average 10 – 15kg toddler, that means they are receiving 1.3 g – 2g protein/kg/day before you’ve even factored in any food. When we treat children who’s growth is faltering or are malnourished, as dietitians, we don’t usually exceed 2g protein/kg/day and this is on a short term basis only. My feeling is that it would be quite possible for children to be receiving as much as 3g protein/kg/day if they are regularly using adult based protein supplements. The other issue here is that many of these protein based shakes will also be high in added vitamins and minerals and there is the real possibility of exceeding the upper safe limit for these nutrients as well. 

If you are concerned about your child’s diet, a children’s based supplement will always be a wiser choice than something designed for adults (note – even when a product claims to be made of all natural sources as many of these protein powders and alike do, it does not mean it’s safe for children). As a dietitian I always prefer to look for food based ways to address any nutritional concerns, but sometimes we do have to use supplements. At these times I prefer to use a multivitamin and mineral supplement as most shake type supplements usually take the child’s appetite away and can hinder the progress of expanding a child’s diet.

I’ve written more about this here. If you just want to provide a little boost to your child’s nutrition, a simple smoothie made with your preferred milk fortified with a handful of nuts (I like using raw cashews) or chia seeds and some fruit or steamed vegetables, will go long way to not only adding extra protein but also iron, zinc, phosphorus, vitamin C and fibre.

Why not try my choice mint smoothie if you’re looking for something to boost your child’s nutrition? You can get the recipe here.

 


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Busy lives call for time savers. There’s no doubt about it.

But taking short cuts need not mean missing out on fuelling your family with the good stuff!

A few sneaky strategies can help you get ahead with your families nutrition, so you don’t feel like you are falling behind when the business of life gets in the way!

COOK ONCE – EAT TWICE

It can be hard to get into the kitchen with enough time to make a full meal every night – so don’t! Call on those meal items that can be made into a dinner on multiple nights of the week! Quickly store extras safely in the fridge if you plan to use them in the next night or two, or tuck them away into the freezer to defrost for a later date.

Roasting a chicken? Pop in 2 or 3! Left overs are perfect for chicken noodle salad, noodle soup, chicken salad wraps, pulled chicken tacos, chicken and vegetable fried rice…. the list goes on!

Like salmon? Rather than panfrying a few fillets for dinner, think about oven baking a whole side of salmon. Leftovers can be used in things like homemade sushi, soba noodle and asian vegetable salad, in a rice poke bowl, added to a pasta with pesto and peas, or with a quick slaw to to top jacket potatoes.

Got a great recipe for bolognese or a veg pumped napolitana sauce? Grab your biggest pot and make a double or triple quantity. Use it for meals like lasagne, scrolls, mini pizzas, pasta, even a quick jaffle! Check out Julia’s great vegetarian lasagne on page 10  of our Summer Nutrition Newsletter for inspiration.

SPEEDY SUPPERS

Don’t forget it’s totally ok to go pre-prepared when you are short on time. And not every dinner needs to be a gastronomic affair!

There are lots of nutritious quick options available these days. Aim for items that are minimally processed, and big on real, fresh ingredients. Check the nutrition panel for the ingredient list, and to watch the salt, fat and sugar content too.

If you know your week ahead includes some busy or late nights, think about adding these to your shopping trolley…

Proteins: Canned tuna, smoked salmon, frozen marinated chicken breasts or fish fillets, hummus dip or canned legumes of your choice!

Grains: Microwave rice and quinoa, flat breads, pizza bases, whole sourdough loaves, quick cook fresh pasta.

Veg: No prep veg like avocados, mini cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and baby spinach, pre-made salad bags, pre-cut roasting veggies, antipasto vegetable mix, or even pre-made fresh vegetable soups. Don’t forget frozen veggies like edamame, chopped spinach or kale that can be quickly heated and added to your speedy meal… anything you like to get you to your 2&5!

x Angela


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Without a doubt the “vegan diet” (avoidance of all animal based foods) seems to be one of the more popular of our time. Whilst some follow this diet out of concerns for animal welfare or the environment, many people follow it for it’s nutritional benefits. A vegan diet has been shown to reduce the risk of ischaemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain types of cancer. In 2016 the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics updated their statement on Vegetarian and Vegan diets, stating that they are safe to follow at all stages of the life cycle when appropriately planned (including in infants, children and pregnant and lactating women). 

A good vegan diet requires more effort than just pasta and sauce, especially for children, who have very particular nutritional needs. If you are going to embark on a vegan diet, having a thorough understanding of the nutrients that are at risk and having a plan for how you will meet them, is key. Below is a summary of the key nutrients you need to consider for children following a vegan diet.

Energy (calories) – The vegan diet can be lower in energy because of the large number of vegetables consumed. Whilst this might be a good thing for adults looking to lose a bit of weight, for children who are growing rapidly it can be a problem. Balancing the vegetables in a meal with good quality wholegrain carbohydrates (eg rice, pearl barley, quinoa, wholemeal pasta) and a protein source, will help ensure each meal has adequate energy. 

Protein – If a wide variety of plant food is eaten and energy intake is adequate, then it is generally agreed that protein intake will meet your child’s needs. Without adequate amounts of protein and energy, children can fall behind with their growth. The key here is eating from a wide range of plant based foods. Unlike animal foods, not all plant based foods contain the “complete” range of amino acids required by our bodies. By eating a wide variety of different plant based foods, a complete range of amino acids will be consumed. Good sources of plant based proteins include: soy products, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. These higher protein plant foods should be consumed at each and every meal.

Iron – Iron from plant foods (called non-haem iron) is not as well absorbed as animal sources. Phytates and polyphenols (naturally occurring compounds in vegetables) inhibit the absorption of iron, whilst the presence of vitamin C (naturally present in many fruits and vegetables) can help improve absorption. Over time the human body is able to adapt to a diet with low iron availability ( a measure of how well iron can be absorbed from foods). Inadequate iron in pregnancy can have serious affects on the developing infant, for this reason it’s advised that an iron supplement should be used. Breastmilk provides adequate iron to meet the needs of infants up until 6 months of age. Beyond 6 months of age, good vegan sources of iron include hummus, cooked mashed legumes and lentils as well as tofu.Whole grain cereals are higher in iron. Fortified foods such as weetbix, should be used regularly in the diets of young children to help achieve adequate iron. Infants who are not breastfed should use a soy formula under 1 yr of age. 

Calcium  Calcium absorption from plant foods high in oxalate is generally poor (eg spinach). White beans, tahini, chia, calcium set tofu and almonds are all reasonable sources of calcium.

For children their most reliable source of calcium will be from a calcium fortified plant milk such as soy milk.  Under 6 months of age, breastmilk or soy formula will provide your child’s calcium requirements. Between 6 months and 1 yr breastfeeding or soy formula should be continued and calcium fortified soy milk can be used in cooking and to make up breakfast cereals. (see note below on suitable milks for children).

Iodine – Good sources of iodine for Vegan’s include sea vegetables (eg nori sheets) and iodised salt. Pregnant women should always take an iodine supplement to ensure the adequacy of their diet. In Australia all commercial bread products that are not labelled as “artisan or organic” must be fortified with iodine. For most children using these fortified products together with iodised salt in cooking should be sufficient to meet their needs. For infants under 1yr salt shouldn’t be used in cooking. Breastmilk or formula provides sufficient iodine. 

Vitamin B -12 – B12 is not found in plant foods. Pregnant and lactating women need to pay particular care to ensure their diets are adequate. As breastmilk will provide the sole source of B12 during the first 6 months of age it is vitally important that breastfeeding mothers regularly eat or drink foods fortified with B12, or take supplements. B12 fortified foods in Australia include soy milk, soy burgers and alike, as well as some yeast spreads. Checking the ingredient list of these products will tell you whether they are fortified or not. The nutrition information panel will tell you how much B12 is present in the food. A pregnant or lactating Mum drinking 650ml of fortified soy milk each day (eg Sanitarium So Good) would have an adequate intake of B12. 

Vitamin D – as most vitamin D is obtained from sunlight, vegan infants and children will generally receive sufficient amounts so long as their skin is exposed to sunlight each day. Breastmilk is a poor source of vitamin D. For breastfed vegan infants a supplement may be required, especially during the winter months or if the mother’s own stores are low. Your GP or paediatrician can advise on this. 

Fatty acids  EPA and DHA are n-3 fatty acids that are important for brain, eye and heart health. 

Seafoods such as oily fish (eg salmon) are some of the best sources, whilst meat and eggs provide lesser amounts. ALA is a plant based n-3 fatty acid that our body can convert into EPA and DHA. ALA is found in nuts and seeds, with flaxseed, chia and walnuts all being good sources. Olive oil is also a good source. 

Choosing the right plant based milk for your child is critical to ensuring they are getting enough energy, protein and calcium in their diet. A calcium fortified milk soy milk is the best choice for vegan children. Ideally chose a soy milk that contains at least 100mg of calcium per 100ml and preferably one that is also fortified with vitamin B12. Depending on how much of this milk your child drinks, they may not need additional B12 supplements. Soy milks have some of the highest protein contents of plant based milks and are therefore ideal for growing children. Other plant based milks include almond, rice and coconut. These milks however, tend to be lower in energy and protein and therefore are not the first choice for vegan children. If your child has an allergy to soy products speak with an accredited practising dietitian about the best choice of alternative milk that will tick all of their dietary needs.  

Vegan Meal Plan for a toddler or pre-schooler

Breakfast:

2 weetbix with 1/2 cup so good essential soy milk

To serve: sprinkle 1 teaspoon of chia seeds and 2 TBS stewed apples

1 cup (200ml) so good essential milk

Morning Snack:

wholegrain crackers with 2 TBS peanut (or cashew/almond) butter and 1 TBS sultanas

Lunch:

Wholegrain toast fingers (1- 2 slices) with vegan margarine and 2 TBS hummus

Kale chips (made with olive oil and a sprinkle of iodised salt) and cucumber sticks

Smoothie made with 200ml so good essential milk, 1/2 banana, 2 TBS coconut yoghurt, 1 teaspoon chia seeds, 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup and cinnamon to taste

Afternoon snack

Roasted seaweed sheets and cut up grapes

Dinner:

chickpea, broccoli and tofu curry in a mild coconut sauce served with 1/4 cup cooked basmati rice

Dessert:

soy life soy yoghurt with a sprinkle of toasted muesli (vegan variety)

This example meal plan meets a 2 -5 yr old’s needs for calcium, iron, iodine, vitamin B12 and protein. 

Notes: Analysis is based on using So good regular soy milk which is fortified with both calcium and vitamin B12, Helgas wholemeal bread with grains which is baked with iodised salt and soy life calcium fortified yoghurt.

 

Julia @Bloom