Healthy Kids, Happy Kids

When I Grow Up… Healthy Kids

We all want what’s best for our little ones, because a healthy kid is a happy kid. To give them the greatest start in life it is critical to ensure they are getting everything they need from their diet. Unfortunately, as many parents know, this is not always easy. There can be hurdles in the way of optimal nutrition such as changing tastebuds and fussy eating habits limiting the number of foods they eat. Poor digestive function may limit the amount of nutrients they absorb, whilst exposure to illnesses at day care and school further increases their need for immune-supporting nutrients. This highlights the importance of covering all nutritional bases to help shape your kids into healthy adults.

Fundamental Nutrients for Kids Health

As many kids restrict the number of foods they will eat, micronutrient deficiency is all too common in children. Insufficient consumption of essential vitamins and minerals can predispose a child to a variety of disorders, and get in the way of healthy growth and development. A great tasting, kid-friendly multivitamin powder is a simple solution to overcome this dilemma. Choose a formula specifically for growing children, containing high levels of:

• Zinc, iron and iodine to support healthy cognition, growth and development.

• Antioxidants, such as vitamin E and vitamin C for robust immune function.

• Calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and vitamin K to support bone growth.

The Good Type of Fat

Your child’s brain and cognitive development relies on sufficient essential fatty acids such as those found in fish oils. These omega-3 fatty acids have wide-ranging benefits as they support all the cells in growing bodies, helping them function correctly. However, the fish oil needs to be of the highest quality and purity to achieve the greatest benefits. Your Practitioner can prescribe a fish oil suitable for growing kids with a great, fresh flavour and no fishy aftertaste that is guaranteed to surpass the purity of many store bought fish oils.

A Balanced Digestive System

Supporting the health of your child’s digestive system is not just important for kids who are prone to illness or upset tummies. There is emerging scientific research demonstrating the role of the gastrointestinal tract in promoting strong immune function and protecting against the long-term development of various diseases such as obesity, poor mental health and autoimmunity.

If you are looking to support your child’s gut health, immunity and future wellbeing; a good quality probiotic will do the trick. Probiotics help to optimise digestive function through encouraging the growth of healthy gut flora, whilst reducing the numbers of bad bacteria responsible for digestive upsets and ill health. Probiotics are particularly needed after a course of antibiotics, to replenish the beneficial gut flora wiped out by these medications and reduce the risk of digestive symptoms such as antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. Your Practitioner can recommend a high strength probiotic to maintain your child’s digestive system health.

Growing with Confidence

Get your kids prepped for the long term benefits of good health by laying the foundation with quality nutrition. That way, if faced with the hurdles that life may put ahead of them, they can jump right over and be the happy, healthy child you hope for them to be.

Why does my child need calcium?

Picky kids need calcium for good bone and dental structure, for muscle growth, nerve transmission, Calcium Rich Foodsproper blood clotting, regulation of cell division, maintenance of electrolytes and hormone synthesis.

What are the best dietary sources of calcium?

Contrary to popular belief, dairy products are not the only source.  Green leafy vegetables are a great source.  Kale is especially high.  Try using baby kale which is less bitter and easier to incorporate into a picky eater’s diet.  Almonds, Brazil and Hazel nuts are an excellent source and can be ground into a nut meal and sprinkled over fruit or salads or incorporated into treats such as friends.  Sesame seeds, particularly when ground into tahini can be used a spread, in salad dressings and dips such as hommos.  Below is the recipe for a calcium rich treat.

Recipe for Halva – A Great Source of Calcium and a Delicious Snack Treat

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup organic sesame seeds, hulled or unhulled
  • 1 tablespoon (or to taste) raw honey or maple syrup
  • about 4-6 tablespoons spring water

Method:

1. Put sesame seeds in a blender. Grind to as fine a powder as possible.  You may need to stop a few times to stir up from the bottom to make sure all seeds are ground evenly.

2. Transfer ground seeds to a mixing bowl. Mix in maple syrup or raw honey until well distributed throughout. Add enough distilled water (usually 4-6 tablespoons) to form a loaf or press onto a baking sheet.

3. Refrigerate a few hours to firm up before slicing.

This will keep at least a week in the refrigerator (if not eaten before!), much longer frozen.

Variations:

  • add a little raw cacao or carob powder to taste
  • add some chopped pistachios, almonds, walnuts or pecans for and extra calcium boost.

Enjoy!

Meals in a Glass

At times children may prefer to drink rather than eat.   Drinks are a wonderful way to improve a picky eaters (and your oMeals in a Glasswn) nutrition.  All sorts of things can be disguised in a drink so don’t despair!

Of course water is always the best drink throughout the day for children however you can also put a meal in a drink.

Combinations of nutrient dense ingredients in a liquid form can make wonderful snacks or partial meal replacements for fussy eaters.  Smoothies can be made from various types of milks, juices, fruits and vegetables.  They can be the basis of a really healthy meal.  Nut and seed meal, protein powders, yoghurt, honey, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables can be added and the lot blended together.  The addition of a colourful straw or drinking cup will add to the fun and compliance.

Even breakfast in a glass can be a deliciously healthy way to start the day or a meal in a hurry.

Any left overs can be frozen into wonderful ice block or “ice cream” snacks for hot summer days and after school.

For example ingredients could include:-

Various fresh fruits in season (or frozen fruits), + or – some leafy greens or pureed carrot or pumpkin along with

A powdered protein supplement (rice or pea)

Rice, coconut, almond, or A2 milk

Nut and seed meal

Omega-3 oil,

Lecithin

Yoghurt

Try some of these combinations or make up some of your own:-

  • Organic apple juice, a banana, small handful of seeded cherries, a nectarine, a tablespoon of organic cold pressed flaxseed oil or Omega 3 fish oil, one or two tablespoons of rice or pea protein powder. Blend all ingredients together.
  • 200ml rice or almond milk, 1 tablespoon protein powder (rice or pea), fresh or frozen raspberries or mixed berries. Blend all ingredients together.
  • 100ml cranberry juice, 100ml rice, almond, or A2 milk, fresh or frozen mango, fresh peach or nectarine. Blend all ingredients together. This combination also makes a yummy ice block.
  • 100ml organic apple juice, a banana, rockmelon, seedless red grapes, 1tablespoon organic cold pressed flaxseed oil or Omega 3 fish oil, 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt. Blend together.
  • Fresh or frozen blackcurrants or blackcurrant juice, strawberries, kiwi fruit (skinned), ¼ to ½ teaspoon vitamin C powder.

Enjoy with your kids!

 

 

5 Reasons Kids Can Be Picky With Food

book coverEver wondered WHY you child is so picky with food? Probably every day – right? There can be a variety of factors and reasons that may evolve over time. Of course the reasons why children may reject foods can be many and varied and will differ with each child. But there are very real and legitimate reasons that children become so fussy with food. It is not just to annoy and frustrate parents or to be obstinate. Although we have all felt that must be so at times! There is value in giving it some careful thought and try to understand the CAUSES of your child’s fussiness. Is it due to innate issues, due to particular habits being created around food initially or is there some other underlying condition? Understanding those reasons and the sources of a child’s picky eating habits will go a long way in helping you more easily work around and deal with the problem and to help your child to eat more healthily and to broaden their tastes. Innate survival tactics, different developmental and growth rates, as well as medical and physiological factors such as illness, nutrient deficiencies, and poor muscle tone are just some of the reasons that your child may become a picky eater. Here are 5 main reasons that kids become picky eaters or refuse to eat. Your child may have any one of these issues or even several at the same time.

  1. Medical or Physiological.  Medical problems may seem obvious but are often overlooked or underestimated as a reason for picky eating or food refusal. Young children are not able to verbalize how they are felling or relate it to food so it is worth having your child checked by your doctor or health professional. Nutritional deficiency due to illness or a history of poor eating will in itself contribute to further poor eating behaviour.   See Chapter 1, 4, 6 & 7 of “Feeding Picky Kids” or Why? Physiological Influences on Eating Behaviour blog post for more.
  2. Developmental.   Your child’s normal growth and activity levels will have an impact on their appetite and food requirements. For instance as a baby your child was fed frequently and grew rapidly with most tripling their birth weight by their first birthday. Toddlers and young children grow at a much slower rate so their food requirements may be less than expected.  Also, appetite will be affected by growth cycles and variations in activity.  Babies and toddlers learn about their world via their mouth and at the same time innately learn what food is and what is not and what is safe and what is not. The ability to chew and swallow is also developing. If your child is older, consider how well they are able to chew and swallow food. If this has not developed appropriately they may have a fear of gagging and will only eat foods that they know they can manage.  See Chapter 1 of “Feeding Picky Kids” or Influence of Developmental and Growth Rates on Eating Behaviour blog post for more.
  3. Sensory.  Your child may have a heightened sensitivity to the texture of foods and won’t eat anything where they dislike the sensation of the food in their mouth or on their hands – e.g. sloppy, crunchy, crispy, cold, hot, chewy. Aversions and fear can develop if they have had some type of pain or trauma associated with the mouth or swallowing (medical treatment, tube feeding, severe tonsillitis) or an episode of choking for instance. Lowered sensitivity can also become a problem where they tend to overfill the mouth, have difficulty manipulating it in the mouth and then gag, spit it out or vomit. See Chapter 1, 3, 4 & 6 of “Feeding Picky Kids” for more.
  4. Routine.   Young children thrive on routine, familiarity and predictability so some structure and routine around mealtimes is important for all kids but especially picky eaters. Keep mealtimes and snack times at roughly the same time every day, roughly 2 ½ to 3 hours apart. This ensures some appetite hopefully for nutritious food by the time mealtime or snack time comes around.  Allowing a child to eat anything at any time just so they eat something may actually compound the issue and hide some other underlying eating issue.  See Chapter 3 of “Feeding Picky Kids” or Timing Routine and Small Tummies blog post for more.
  5. Behaviour.  Kids of all ages and stages of development will test boundaries and especially at mealtime but in fact, only a small percentage of kids are picky based on behaviour alone. Behavioural issues can be a part of the picky eater puzzle particularly if there has been a history of problematic eating in the past. For the most part though, the behaviour has likely developed secondarily to the original issue. See Chapter 2 of “Feeding Picky Kids” for more.

 

Chicken Stock Recipe

Stocks and broths are a fantastic but simple way to boost dietary nutrients for picky eaters.

Use them as a base for soups, casseroles as a base for sauces and even to cook pasta, rice or other grains. Your picky eater will be getting extra nutrients without even knowing it!

The addition of bones (e.g. from organic chicken, beef and lamb) will add vital macro minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium as well as important amino acids that assist the body in utilising proteins from other sources. This is so important for children who don’t eat much protein.

Ideally always use meat and bones from pasture fed animals.

CHICKEN STOCK                                                              

Ingredients:                                                                                          Nutrient Dense Stock

1 large raw free-range/pastured chicken

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

2 medium leeks, chopped

4-5 sticks celery, chopped

2 large carrots, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (optional)

2 bay leaves

5 whole black peppercorns

5 sprigs fresh parsley

6 litres (10 ½ pints) cold filtered water

2 tablespoons vinegar

Method:

Cut the chicken into pieces with legs and wings chopped.

Place into a large stainless steel pot with the water and vinegar. Let stand 30-40 minutes.

Add the vegetables and gently bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for several 3-4 hours or until the meat falls from the bone.

Skim any foam or scum from the surface every 30 minutes.

If adding any extra green vegetables, do so 30 minutes before the stock is complete.

Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

Place a fine sieve over a large heatproof bowl and carefully strain the stock through the sieve. Discard the solids.

Once cooled to room temperature transfer to the refrigerator. When the fat has hardened and congealed on the top, scoop it off.

Transfer to containers to freeze. Label and date.  It will keep in the fridge for about 4 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.  Place in the fridge overnight to thaw.

Makes about 4 litres (7 pints).

Tips:

Any leftover chicken and vegetables can be used to make a stock e.g. after the Sunday roast. Put the chicken carcass and any vegetables and/or herbs into the pot.  A raw chicken will give a slightly cleaner tasting stock.

The addition of the vinegar has the effect of leaching the maximum amount of minerals from the bones of the chicken or meat.

Add other herbs such as oregano, rosemary, thyme etc if desired. Add a pinch of Celtic or Himalayan salt to taste.

 

Keeping Kids Hydrated

Hydrating Kids

Function of Water in the Body

Water is our most critical nutrient and needs to be your child’s beverage of choice. Water is the largest single component of the body. Overall, our bodies comprise around 50 – 70 % water. Some parts, for example our brain, can be up to 85% water.

Water provides the medium in which oxygen, nutrients and waste products are transported throughout the body, through which metabolic biochemical reactions occur, through which body temperature is regulated, and how blood pressure and blood volume (85% water) is maintained. These vital functions cannot occur without adequate fluids.

Water is also a solvent, a lubricant (e.g. joints) and a protective cushion (e.g. spinal fluid). It is vital for all mucous membrane integrity preventing congestion and for proper elimination preventing constipation. Nerve and brain cells and function also require adequate water. Even mild dehydration can cause mood alterations, headaches, irritability and poor concentration. Is you picky eater irritable and picky due to poor hydration perhaps?

Children’s bodies don’t cool down as efficiently as adults so are more at risk of dehydration during summer and hot weather. Taking a few simple steps can ensure your child always stays well hydrated and enjoys summer fun safely.

Don’t wait until your child is thirsty before offering a drink. Kids can get caught up in their activities and are easily distracted and immersed in their games. Offer water frequently and them into the habit early by offering drinks frequently during activity and especially during hot weather.

Children’s Requirements

How can you tell if your child is getting enough fluid?

Children will need around 60ml of pure water per 1kg of body weight. This is best taken in small amounts throughout the day.

Try to ensure that the water you offer is pure. Invest in a good quality water filter, preferably one that is able to filter out chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride that are often added to urban water supplies.

Allow your child free access to water, especially in hot weather or when running around a lot so they are less likely to become dehydrated.

Ways to Help Children Drink Adequate Amounts of Pure Water:

  • Have a cup or bottle of water on their play table or a place that is easily accessible at all times
  • Have bottles of water ready to take with you on outings
  • Keep a jug of filtered water in the fridge
  • Add slices of lemon, orange or lime and/or a few mint leaves to a jug of filtered water. This makes it more interesting and the addition of the citrus assists in hydration
  • Freeze small pieces of fruit or mint leaves in ice blocks and add these to cups and jugs of water.

Other ways to improve hydration:

  • Include high water content foods in their daily meals. Fruit and vegetables contain 80 to 98 percent water. Eating dense vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, beetroot, carrots, lettuce, spinach or celery with a meal or snack is an easy way to improve hydration.
  • Offer fruit with a high water content an excellent source of fluid as well as being a nutritious snack. Watermelon is a great example (contains 92 percent water, 8 percent natural sugar, plus essential electrolytes, calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium, rich in Vitamin C, beta carotene and lycopene) Most kids love it. Offer bite size pieces to little ones or a large chunk to older kids. Blended and frozen into an ice block or popsicle or cut into interesting shapes should appeal to all and especially that picky kid. Pineapple, mango, kiwi, blueberries, strawberries, mandarin and orange can be used in similar ways.
  • Coconut water (95 percent water & only found in young coconuts) is great for hydration and may be something novel for a picky kid.
  • Clear, broth based soups especially when made with vegetables offers an ideal way to get liquid into a diet along with good nutrients.

Do you have any hints and tips on how you keep your family hydrated?

Recipe: Special Tomato Sauce

Tomato Sauce

This is a wonderfully versatile and tasty tomato sauce but without all the chemicals and additives of the store bought variety.

Kids love this use this as a dip to dunk baby meat balls, ‘sausages’, veggie sticks or to smother some less favourite food for your picky eater. It can also be used as a passata base for pasta, casseroles or in a soup.

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 large spring onion, 1 shallot or ½ small brown onion
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon brown sugar

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the shallot or onion for 3 minutes until just soft and clear.
  2. Add the garlic and sauté for a further minute.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil, squashing the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon.
  4. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened.
  5. Season to taste with a little salt and pepper.
  6. Use the sauce as is or cool and then blend until completely smooth.

Tips:

  • Substitute 400 gram can of chopped tomatoes instead of the fresh tomatoes.
  • Add chopped fresh herbs such as parsley or basil at the end of the cooking and either before or after the blending.
  • For a raw version, in a food processor or blender, blend together 1 cup chopped ripe, fresh tomatoes, chopped brown or spring onion (preferable lightly cooked for a milder taste), 1 clove garlic crushed, a drizzle of olive oil and herbs, salt and pepper to taste.
  • This sauce freezes well. Divide into small serving portions before freezing.

Try A Little “Peer Pressure”

Peer Pressure

Using a little positive peer pressure would have to be one of the best ways to get your picky kid to try some new foods or even just to eat more of what they like!

Invite other children of a similar age or just slightly older (especially if they are good eaters!) around for a meal. Children have a strong desire to fit in so are more likely to try to copy their peers.

Studies show that children often copy their peers at mealtime, so if they see their friends eating something different or eating a full plate of food, they are more likely want to join in and try those foods themselves.

While it’s great for your kids to see you eating fruits and vegetables, the impact of their peers doing so is even more powerful.

Parents often tell me that their little fusspot is apparently not nearly so fussy at child care or kindy when eating in the company of other children.

Try it! Let the others set the example.

And praise them for what they attempt!

Timing, Routine and Small Tummies

Timing

How are you going with feeding your picky and fussy kids? Still stressed? Here are a few more tips for coping with young picky eaters.

Routine:

Children thrive on routine. Try keeping main meals and snack times at roughly the same time each day. Children have a strong need for rituals and for what feels familiar whether it is a bedtime routine, meal time routine or using a favourite plate. Some form of daily routine may provide a picky, fussy eater with predictability and security.

Your busy toddler may need some “quiet time” before meals. This will help them calm down a little and have time to divert their attention from play time to eating time. A table setting and hand washing routine may help with this.

Timing:

Children need to eat frequently to sustain their high energy levels and rapid growth so small but frequent nutrient dense “mini meals” may be best for picky, fussy kids. This approach will maintain optimum blood sugar levels and keep the grumpiness, pickiness and tantrums at bay. Every parent knows that a hungry child is generally not a happy or co-operative child.

Try offering their main evening meal at a realistic time. Children are usually hungry around 4.30 or 5pm. Offer the main evening meal then. It is more likely to be eaten. A healthy snack or a small snack portion of the adult meal can be offered when the whole family sits down to dinner later.

I found this early evening meal strategy really helpful with my three when they were little. They were always hungriest in the afternoon after school or kindergarten so I offered a fairly substantial nutrient dense, protein and vegetable meal or “snack” at that time rather than have them fill up on other snack food. They still took part in the family evening meal but had slightly smaller helpings. For us, this resulted in much less discussions and arguments around food.

Respect Tiny Tummies:

Children’s small bodies have small tummies and fast metabolisms. A young child’s stomach is roughly just the size of their fist so serve small portions initially. They don’t need much to get full so may only want small amounts at a time but get hungry again quickly. Top up their plate with more later if they want more. Finger foods are also popular and will allow a toddler some of their desired independence.

Just a small amount of food on the plate at a time will be far less intimidating and more likely to be eaten, especially if it is a new food.

If your little one is struggling to eat what you have served on their plate, separate out a small portion for them to eat. For example, two bite sized pieces of meat, one bean and two carrot circles.

What have you found to work for you? Email me if you have found great strategies that have worked for you.

Recipe: Pizza Treat for Picky Kids

Potato Pizzette

We have just enjoyed nibbling on these luscious little treats.

Here is “sneaky” way to increase vegetable intake and create interesting little snacks for any picky eater – child or grown up!

We use slices of crispy potato to make the base for these child sized tasty bites.

These are also great for those kids who have special dietary requirements and/or need to be gluten or dairy free.

Here is the recipe:

1. Wash and scrub 1 or 2 large waxy potatoes and slice into 2mm rounds.

2. Brush with a little olive and lay on a baking sheet

3. Bake in a moderate oven for around 10 minutes each side until crisp & golden.

4. Remove from the oven and top each with

  • some of your home made tomato or “hidden veggie” sauce,
  • a little minced chicken or meat,
  • a little red, green & yellow diced capsicum (bell pepper),
  • chopped or sliced cherry tomatoes
  • a scattering of cheese OR your child’s favourite topping. A little silken tofu can be used instead of cheese for a dairy free version.

5. Bake for a further 5 minutes until the filling is warm and the cheese is melted.

6. Garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley and/or chopped olives.

7. Make sure you let the pizzette cool a little before offering them to your child.

Enjoy!

You will find the full recipe for this and the recipes for the tomato and vegetable sauce in my “Food for Picky Kids” recipe book.

Why? Physiological Influences on Eating Behaviour

Sick Child

Of course the reasons why children may reject foods can be many and varied and will differ with each child. Try to understand the possible reasons for your child’s fussiness. Is it due to innate issues, due to particular habits being created around food initially or is there some other underlying condition?

Consider this. Is it a sore throat, a cold, teething, gastric reflux, constipation, already full from snacking, over tired or upset, is there a specific nutrient deficiency that will affect eating behaviour and choices or are family mealtimes excessively stressful? All these and more have the potential to cause picky eating.

Research at Brown University in the US showed that damage to the taste system from ear infections and tonsillectomies alters taste perception and does have an effect on food preferences. Certainly in my naturopathic practice, the majority of children I see with picky or poor eating behaviour are found to have an underlying health issue of some type. This might be a subclinical chronic respiratory infection, allergy or intolerance or nutrient deficiencies that can be both the cause and effect of less than ideal health and picky eating behaviours.

A deficiency of the minerals zinc and iron are commonly behind these types of problems. Zinc specifically will influence both smell and taste. If you can’t smell or taste food it is then very difficult to have any enjoyment or interest in food.

Remember too that little ones are not just little adults but have a different approach to eating and different appetites. They are also likely to dawdle over meals or may be too busy and excited about what they are doing to settle to food so quickly lose interest or become distracted very easily.

Physiologically a child’s gut, brain and immune system are not yet fully developed. Each of these systems and the interrelationship between them is especially vulnerable to imbalances. Their gut lining is still rather “leaky” and liver detoxification ability is not mature so children are not capable of handling toxins from foods or their environment effectively. This can have a significant impact on their overall health as well as mood and eating behaviour.

Why? Development and Growth

Developmental and Growth

THE INFLUENCE OF DEVELOPMENTAL AND GROWTH RATES ON EATING BEHAVIOUR

As we know, young children have variable appetites and often become picky with food. Why might this be? As a baby your child was fed constantly and grew rapidly. By their first birthday they will have probably tripled their birth weight.

Toddlers and young children grow at a much slower rate than when they were babies so their requirements for food are a little less than many parents expect. As well, they are usually too busy learning about their world to sit still for anything, even to eat.

Children’s limited and sporadic appetites are also affected by their growth cycles or “growth spurts” and by variations in activity. It is quite common for children to be hungry one day or for a few days in a row and then picky the next. They are more likely to eat better (and their requirements will be greater) during periods of more rapid growth.

Young children and fussy eaters tend to do better having most of their food as frequent nutrient dense snacks rather than fewer, larger meals.