Gluten & Wheat-Free Living

Recent statistics have shown that gluten intolerance and celiac disease are very widespread conditions however many of those affected walk around without even realising it: some children don’t always show all the tell-tale symptoms, making it tricky to diagnose. It’s no wonder we hear stories about parents who go through the run-around, over prolonged periods, trying to get to the bottom of their child’s ailments!

We hear a lot about households going gluten-free or wheat-free, but when is it really necessary and what should you know about it?  

It all starts with understanding what you are dealing with and how to get to the bottom of it:

Celiac disease is a type of gluten intolerance and a hereditary disease affecting around 1 in 100 people. It is an autoimmune disorder, which means that the body will actually attack gluten (a protein found in what, rye, barley to name a few) in the intestine, causing inflammation and impacting nutrient absorption. As a result, damage is done to the walls of the small intestine, and in serious cases it may result in malnourishment and could even be fatal if left untreated.

Wheat allergy is an immune reaction to one of the many proteins found in wheat, whereby the body’s immune system will attack wheat and cause an allergic reaction. It is an extremely common allergy which children tend to outgrow (along with other allergies by the age of 5).

Non-celiac gluten intolerance is not an immune response nor is it an allergic reaction but is a blanket term to describe other adverse reactions to gluten in the body. It has become more common over the years due to a higher number of different foods including gluten, an increased gluten content in modern-day grains and overuse of antibiotics, which lead to poor gut absorption of gluten.

How to diagnose your child? 

While celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance have very similar symptoms –  cramping, diarrhea and constipation, joint pain, headaches, and fatigue – symptoms of a wheat allergy are very distinct: itching, hives, trouble breathing or anaphylaxis.

While celiac disease and wheat allergy can be ruled out with blood screening and skin-prick tests respectively, non-celiac gluten intolerance can only be diagnosed by ruling out other allergies, and then eliminating  gluten from the diet. If you feel as though you simply aren’t getting to the bottom of the problem after undergoing some of the key diagnostic tests mentioned, keep a food diary and track how your child reacts to certain foods in order to identify the culprit in the diet.

If you suspect that your child may be intolerant to gluten to wheat, make an appointment with your health care practitioner immediately to get the right diagnosis and guidance.

Note: Gluten-free living has been recommended by experts for children with neurological disorders like Autism, Cerebral Palsy and ADHD as part of their therapy treatment program, and to assist with ailments such as chronic diarrhea and stomach cramps (amongst others).

Living without gluten or wheat

After finally having gotten to the bottom of what is causing your child’s ailments, it’s time to tackle how to go about your living your lives and it all seems a little over-whelming.

You need to remember that it is up to you to make this transition as seamless as possible for your little person, and it starts with choosing an approach that best suits your household. At the end of the day, you need to do what is right your family: some families prefer to buy gluten or wheat-free products only for the affected child, while others prefer to banish all offending foods from the household entirely.

There is no right or wrong way (unless you have received strict instructions from your health care practitioner), and factors like the severity of your child’s allergy or intolerance, along with their age (and ability to understand) and other family diet restrictions will ultimately guide your decision.

It is important to become aware of foods containing wheat or gluten, and to always double-check ingredients on food labels (sometimes gluten and wheat can be found in unexpected foods and even foods claiming to be gluten or wheat-free). While gluten is found in the obvious culprits –  like bread, pasta, some oats, crackers, cereals, biscuits, cakes, cous-cous, spelt, barley – it can also be found in the less obvious foods like lunch meat, marinades, soya sauce, sweets and even in some personal care products like lip balm.

There are so many gluten and wheat-free food options available in health stores,  regular grocery stores and in many restaurants that – more than ever –  we are spoilt for choice. Almond, chickpea, rice and coconut flour are amongst other excellent alternatives to conventional flour and can be used in most cooking and baking recipes.

Without gluten and wheat-containing foods, you will need to ensure that your child is getting in enough fibre, iron and B vitamins through a healthy, balanced diet of fruit,  meat, eggs, dairy, leafy greens and alternate grain sources like rice and corn.

Get organised, get creative and get clued-up and soon gluten or wheat-free living will be a nutural part of your child’s lifestyle!

To find out more information about celiac disease, non-celiac gluten intolerance or wheat allergy, read further here.

*The above should never replace the advice of your paed, GP or nurse.

 

Banana & Date Bread (Gluten-Free)

At the age of two and a half – like most toddlers – my son knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to tell me all about it. He flat out refuses to eat most things green and would rather avoid trying anything new unless it is coated in something sweet. I witness so many home-made meals being fed to the dog, and then cry a little inside when my hard work lands up in the bin.

In true toddler style, my son loves two things probably more than anything on earth: bananas and cake. He lived off brand muffins while we were away over the holidays under the guise that he was eating ‘brown cake’, and I was not surprised in the least when we arrived back home and he demanded cake for breakfast.

Determined to get him back into getting some real nutrients into his little body, I wanted to bake something truly delicious that would excite him as much as cake (sans the butter icing and sprinkles of course).

This recipe is honestly one of the easiest things you’ll make and it tastes delicious (my husband gave it the thumbs up – someone else in my house who also isn’t afraid to tell me how he really feels about my recipes!).

I have opted to use coconut flour in the recipe, which is a high-fibre and gluten-free alternative to regular flour. It adds the most delicious flavour to baking and packs in a host of health benefits; lowering glycemic index (preventing those nasty sugar spikes), contains a powerful punch of protein and contains medium-chain triglycerides (the type of saturated fats that provide little bodies with instant energy).

If you would prefer to use regular flour, then use 1 cup of regular flour with 2 eggs and half the amount of oil (coconut flour requires more moisture as it soaks everything up!).

You’ll want to use very ripe bananas – the riper, the better. If you are using dried dates, then soak them in some boiling water for 15 minutes to soften and then drain them well before adding them into your mixture.

What you’ll need:

  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 1 cup pitted, chopped dates
  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • OPTIONAL: 1/4 cup finely diced nuts (pecan or walnut recommended)

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C
  • Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl using a fork
  • Sift the flour and baking soda into the mixing bowl
  • Add in the rest of the ingredients
  • Using a hand mixer, mix the ingredients together until well mixed (do not over-mix)
  • Pour the batter into a loaf tin lined with baking paper
  • Bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean, on the middle rack
  • Allow to cool for a few minutes on a wire rack before removing from the tin
  • Allow the bread to remain on the wire rack to cool slightly before serving
  • Serve plain or with a spread of butter or sugar-free nut butter

If you have any leftover bread, store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It can be stored there for up to 1 week. You can also choose to freeze the bread in individual portions and then defrost before using.

*This recipe will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients listed above.

*Never leave your child unsupervised while eating.

Healthy Holiday Snacking

Going on holiday generally means that routines and good habits take a backseat, and the taboos that were frowned upon all year sneak their way into the family festivities. Meals are no exception but there are some small things that you can do to ensure that your little munchkin is getting some solid nutrition between all the ice cream cones and hot dogs:

  • Plan ahead: although the words ‘planning’ and ‘holiday’ don’t necessarily gel, a little pre-thought will go a long way in stocking up your fridge, cooler bag or handbag with healthy and nutritious foods that are easy to serve up wherever you go. Pre-empting that your little one is more than likely to get bored in the car or plane on your journey, make sure you have enough entertainment on hand in the form of a variety of delicious snack choices.
  • Tools for freshness: pack a cooler bag and a few ice packs so that you don’t have an excuse not to have anything healthy on-hand. If you would rather not schlep a clunky cooler box around, look out for the fabric varieties that could double as a grocery bag/travel/beach bag.
  • Store it: instead of feeling as though you would rather avoid the mess of leftovers and debris after packaging has been opened, throw a few small storage containers and package clips (or even clothes pegs) into your packing. By doing so, you’ll have a smart way of separating serving portions and keeping leftovers intact.
  • Be practical: look for those products that are re-sealable and easy to serve straight from the packaging, and those snacks that won’t make an unholy mess! Pre-packing portions of snacks into single servings (packets or containers) will make it easier to hand snacks out when the time comes.

Here is some healthy snack inspiration to keep in mind when doing your holiday grocery shopping:

  • Fresh delights: look out for fresh fruits that are easy to eat (naartjies, grapes, strawberries, blueberries) or ready cut-up fruit and veg options to make life even easier. For more mess-free options, opt for slithers of apples, banana, strawberries and pears, or carrot and cucumber battons.
  • Skewer it: to keep little hands busy, skewer an array of mixed fruit pieces –  like banana, apple, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple- onto a skewer stick (look for blunt-ended sticks). Store these in your cooler bag for a playful and delicious treat!
  • Dried goodness: dried fruit is such a simple snack to store and dish out easily on-the-go, just don’t overdo it or your little one may end up with a sore tummy.
  • Stack it: what’s a family holiday without some home-made sarmies? Opt for wholewheat, rye and low GI options and get creative with fillings, cutting each sandwich into fingers to hand out to little people with ease. Some healthy fillings include; sugar-free nut butter and banana; egg mayo; chicken mayo; cold meat with cucumber and tomato; smashed avocado and lemon juice.
  • Meaty treats: biltong sticks and dried wors serve as a healthy, high-protein snack for the whole family. Remember to store dried meat in an airtight container once removed from the packaging (note that biltong can be high in salt, so ensure that your little one is hydrated if they are eating it and limit portions).
  • Fuss-free nibbles: Rice crackers are fantastic to keep on-hand to eat plain, add a topping to or to dunk into a dip. Dried cereal is also super easy to hand out – preferably look out for options that aren’t loaded with sugar (retailers like Woolworths keep a kiddies’ cereal range that has no added cane sugar). Organic toddler snacks (look out for awesome products from Happy Baby and Olli) also make for a fantastic healthy snack.
  • Dip it: re-sealable packs of guacamole, hummus and cottage cheese are healthy and delicious dip options for crackers, bread sticks or even veggies.
  • Something cheesy : wedges, cubes or strings are high protein options that make for easy eating on the backseat, plane, beach or whilst missioning around. Remember to keep cheese cool to prevent it from spoiling in warm weather.
  • Freeze it: pop some mini yoghurts in the freezer and keep these on-hand for hot days (not forgetting to pack some spoons!). For an even easier (and less messy) eating option that can be eaten straight from the packaging, try this with tubes of drinking yoghurt or no-sugar-added fruit purée in pouches with a nozzle – like Squish (found in most stores in the baby food section).

Note:

  • Remember to keep an eye on your child at all times when they are snacking (with one eye on the backseat if you are sitting in the front of your car!).
  • Keep your child hydrated at all times on your travels and especially when spending time in warmer weather.
  • Be prepared for some mess wherever you are. Spills and accidents happen, so keep those wet wipes close on-hand when dishing out food and drinks.

Most importantly, enjoy the time with your children and don’t sweat the small stuff: if your little one has consumed more sugar, sodium and refined carbohydrates than they probably should have over the holidays that’s OK –  2018 and the new year resolutions that come along with it are just around the corner!

Crumbed Chicken Strips

Since my son could run around I have been planning my outings based on whether or not a restaurant has a kiddies’ menu and a play area – something I didn’t quite grasp before I had a child of my own.

Like most parents, I find it frustrating that the kiddies’ meal choices at most places, are generally the greasiest and most nutritionally-empty dishes around: leaving you weighing up whether the pizza or hot dog is the ‘healthier’ choice for your little one (sounds a little crazy but hey…we don’t have much to work with!).

There is a reason that chicken strips are on every kiddies’ menu I have ever come into contact with: it is because pretty much all kids LOVE them (and most crumbed things for that matter). It is the same reason that crumbed chicken can be found in most home freezers across the world, ready for parents to serve up to their children in a matter of minutes.

The problem with some crumbed frozen chicken, meat and fish is that they tend to be loaded with sodium for added flavour. They are also regarded as ‘processed meat’ which should be limited in your child’s diet given that processed foods have been linked to Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease. I’m not suggesting you need to steer clear of these family favourites (I am no stranger to keeping a supply in the freezer for a quick and easy meal) but it is important to remember that processed meat should be served to your little ones in moderation.

In an effort to create my own healthier rendition of the famous chicken strip, I decided to get cooking with the healthiest ingredients.

The key to this recipe is to ensure that you use a good quality non-stick pan (or you will have a bunch of batter stuck to it!) and to use enough oil at a time. That’s not to say you should be deep frying the strips at all, but rather using just enough oil to coat the pan when frying.

You could use this batter to crumb meat, chicken or even zucchini! You’ll just need to adapt the cooking time accodingly.

What you’ll need:

  • 5-6 free-range, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp celery salt/ Herbamare
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 3 Tbs spring onion, very finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 1 cup milk (any milk of your choice)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2-3 Tbs olive oil for frying

Method:

  • Beat the egg in a medium-sized bowl.  Combine with the milk and lemon and set aside.
  • In another medium-sized bowl combine the flour, spring onion, spices and sesame seeds. Set aside.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut each chicken breast into three strips. Giving you around 15-18 strips in total (some pieces may be larger than others).
  • Heat 1 Tbs of the olive oil in a non-stick pan on a medium-high heat.
  • Then take each strip at a time and coat it in the egg wash and then roll it in the flour mixture until totally coated. Place it onto the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes a side (depending on the thickness of the chicken strip).
  • Fry strips in batches of 5 strips at a time (to avoid over-crowding the pan).
  • Once each strip is finished cooking, place it onto a clean plate with roller towel to drain any excess oil.
  • Add another Tbs olive oil to the pan for each batch of chicken strips. Continue until all the strips have been used.
  • Serve with sweet-potato fries and homemade tomato sauce (or any choice of sides).
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within three days.

* The above recipe will need to be adapted if your child has an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned. Never leave your child unsupervised when eating.

 

 

Homemade Tomato Sauce

There is no getting away from it: kids love tomato sauce.

I never thought that I would be the parent who would turn to tomato sauce to get her child excited about a meal. I honestly thought I could keep my son away from the stuff until school-going age (OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration but you get my drift).

The reality, however, is that when my son stumbled upon some earlier this year, I witnessed a love affair that I knew – there and then – I would not easily intercept. Ever since that day, he will spot the shiny red bottle in any eating environment, with the precision of an eagle, demanding that he dips (or “dit” in his case) whatever he may be eating.

Tomato sauce actually provides a number of health benefits to growing little people, including its high lycopene content. Lycopene is an antioxidant, which means it protects the body’s cells from free radical damage, fighting off disease and cancer. Each serving also packs in a powerful punch of vitamin A for healthy skin, eyes, hair and immune functioning.

The problem with store bought tomato sauce is the sugar content (high glucose corn syrup and cane sugar): each tablespoon serving includes anywhere from 4 grams of sugar, which equates to roughly 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of sugar. According to The American Heart Association, children should be consuming no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar daily to avoid a weakened immune system, flu symptoms and tooth decay (amongst a host of other nasties). If your child is laying on the tomato sauce with most meals, over and above consuming sugar in other food and drinks, they are most probably exceeding this recommended daily limit.

Light tomato sauce options, whilst lower in sugar or sugar-free, are packed with artificial sweeteners: OK in moderation but not regarded as nutritionally substantial enough for the growing needs of children.

With this in mind, and knowing that some sugars are unavoidable in certain foods, I wanted to make my own sugar-free sauce that packs in the flavour, but without the unnecessary sugar. In this recipe I have used unsweetened apple sauce to add in a natural sweetness, but you could also use unsweetened pear, date or prune purèe.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 tin crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup Passata sauce
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce/purèe
  • 2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
  • Juice of 1 small lemon (1/2 large lemon)
  • 1 Tbs All Spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cracks black pepper

Method:

  • Bring all of the ingredients to the boil
  • Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 45 minutes (until the mixture has reduced by half)
  • Remove from the heat
  • Remove the bay leaves
  • Purèe until smooth
  • Store in an airtight, glass jar in the refrigerator for up to one month

*The above will need to be adapted should your child have an allergy to any of the ingredients mentioned.

Mindful Parenting & Fussy Eating

With a two year old son of my own, I am no stranger to trying every trick in the book to get him to expand his repertoire of beige foods (chicken nuggets, fish fingers, potato, pasta, bread, bananas, cereal – you get the picture?) and embrace some colours (or maybe one other) of the rainbow in his diet.

Experts say that fussy eating is more common in children with heightened sensory sensitivity and it has been traced back to genetics. What’s important to note is that most picky eating habits kick in from about the age of two and generally disappear anywhere between three to six years old. Neophobia is the fear and anxiety associated with any new foods (most commonly experienced by two year olds) however, as they grow older and learn to cope better with the unknown, so their anxiety dissipates.

Since embarking on the journey of becoming a mommy and starting this blog, I have become hyper aware of how parents react to and deal with their children’s eating habits  – including my own!

This is a topic that I take especially seriously because parental behaviour around feeding times is one of the greatest influences on our little people’s relationship with food for the rest of their lives. We sometimes aren’t even aware that we are behaving in a certain way, or that our own bad habits now have a greater impact, and it requires taking a step back to consider how our actions (including all the little things we say) may be internalised in all the wrong ways by our children.

Now, while we have limited or no control over some of our  children’s challenges with food, we absolutely have some control over their relationship with food. Here are some tips to keep in mind the next time you serve something up to your little ones:

Never EVER force the issue 

‘Gently guiding’ a spoonful of food into your child’s clenched jaw is never ok – as tempting as it sometimes may seem to get them to just taste something. The consensus amongst feeding professionals however is that any type of extreme pressure or force is traumatising for a child. Sometimes the things that you may perceive to be minimal may, in fact, be severe for your child: your child’s reaction will guide you (tears, crying or vomiting are loud and clear red flags that your are causing extreme pressure for your child.) Watch for and listen to the signs, even when they aren’t able to yet vocalise how they feel.

Repeated exposure is recommended as the most effective tactic to overcome neophobia: a child should be exposed to the same food between 10-15 times, without any pressure to eat it. Feeding your child the things they actually like is a good thing (even if you feel a little boring) but do it in conjunction with exposing them to new foods. That means that persistence is key (even when your pet is the one eating the carrot and cucumber batons that have been artistically sprinkled all over the kitchen floor).

Ditch the labels and name-calling

Us parents are quick to find names for our kids, especially the ones we hear other parents talking about, leading us to quickly jump to the assumption that our child is/has something based on what we believe may be the ‘tell-tale symptoms’. If you label your child as a ‘fussy eater’ or any similar names – and then proceed to call them this in their presence – you are setting the scene for them to conform to these expectations.

Don’t get caught up in ‘the worry cycle’

 One sure way to elevate your child’s anxiety around mealtimes is a parent who notably stresses about how much their child is getting into his/her tummy. Now as parents, it is our natural instinct to worry about our children’s growth and development: that is our role as nurturers, after all. The problem is that – largely due to the endless amount of information at our fingertips at any given moment – we worry ourselves about our children’s challenges around eating, which may be totally unfounded. The result is some seriously anxious parents who, in turn, transfer that stress onto their kids, and so begins a vicious cycle of worry and anxiety for both the parent and the child (something that has been termed ‘The Worry Cycle’). Remember two little words: KEEP CALM.

Avoid shame, guilt and bribes

From the less severe  – “If you have one more bite of these yummy veggies, you can watch Paw Patrol”– to the slightly more so – “If you loved mommy you would eat these vegetables.” and to the downright extreme – “If you don’t eat your veggies, you’ll be punished.” – all of these ‘tactics’ are often  potentially damaging to your little one’s relationship with food for the remainder of their lives.

Whether to please you or to avoid punishment, you don’t want your child to learn to eat for all the wrong reasons: something that will no doubt stand in the way of them developing a healthy awareness of their own internal cues, now and later on in life.

Rely a little less on distractions

We are all guilty of it…turning on the TV or iPad to get your child to sit in their chair and taste the meal you desperately want them to like. Whilst we may believe that turning on a screen may get a few more bites in, what actually happens is that kids zone out: something that experts believe interferes with a child’s ability to tune into their own appetite in the long-term. Over and above this, children can actually become too distracted to eat in the moment. I have seen it, first hand, with my own son: he becomes so utterly transfixed by the screen that he is unable to focus on taking another mouthful of food (I’m convinced that if I got all dressed up in a Barney the Dinosaur suit, he wouldn’t even glance my way).

We are human and sometimes we turn to these distractions in sheer desperation but the point is everything in moderation: don’t make a habit of turning on the TV/iPad with every meal. Sit down together for real family interactions during mealtimes, keeping the distractions as the exception rather than the norm.

My two cents:

A simple rule that every parent should remember during mealtimes  – from picky eating experts Katja Rowell and Jenny McGlothlin –  is to take a step back and remember their role: for the parent, it’s deciding when, where and what should be offered. For the child, it’s deciding whether and how much to eat. Pretty simple, no?

*If you are genuinely concerned that your child’s growth and development is suffering as a result of their restrictive diets, speak to your medical practitioner for some guidance.

*The above should never replace the advice of your GP, Paed or Nurse.

A Balanced Diet 101

I’m know I’m not the only mom out there who stresses constantly about whether my child is getting in all the right nutrients. This is then further compounded by those times when my son will refuse to eat anything other than toast, yoghurt and bananas. At twenty months, my son decided to stop drinking milk altogether. I have tried just about everything to tempt him to enjoy some milk with a meal, simply to get in more calcium, but it appears that no amount of cocoa powder is going to convince him otherwise. He has become a master at shaking his head profusely, whilst repeatedly saying the most defiant (and the cutest) ‘No’.

I know every parent has a story like this to share, and the concern that comes along with it: is my child getting enough of all the good stuff? 

With global child obesity rates and learning disorders resulting from poor nutrition on the rise, never has there been a better time to become more aware of the nutrients consumed by our little ones.

The American Association of Paediatric’s recommends a whole balanced diet for children, to ensure that they are getting in as many nutrients as possible, and that parents limit or avoid the empty calories found in processed and refined foods (not an easy feat when you have two doting grannies with treats on hand for every occasion).

Parents also need to steer clear of over-feeding or forcing their children to finish meals, and to rather offer regular healthy meals that will, in turn, teach their child about self-control and to self-regulate. Most importantly, children should be getting in a healthy dose of protein, whole-grains, fats, fruits and vegetables.

So you’re probably thinking that this is not exactly new news at all, and yet life gets busy and we tend to compromise on nutrients for convenience (no wonder why the Chicken Nugget Nation is a real thing!).

According to the British Nutrition Foundation the magic number(s) is 5 5 3 2:  that means 5 starchy foods, 5 fruits and vegetables, 3 dairy foods and 2 protein foods daily. They have provided the below guidelines for a toddler that should in no way confuse parents, but show you more or less what your child should be getting into their tummy on a daily basis. I have selected popular food choices but this does not cover every option around. It is simply a guideline. If your child is older than 3, then you have a good starting point to build on (remember that children under one should be consuming milk as their primary source of nutrients).

Starchy foods: an essential source of energy, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Opt for wholegrain and fortified choices wherever possible, and serve starchy food with, at least, every main meal. Choose 5 servings per day, where one portion is equivalent to:

  • 1/2 – 1 slice bread
  • 3 – 5 Tbs cereal
  • 2 – 4 Tbs cooked rice, cous-cous, pasta
  • 1 – 2 rice cakes
  • 1 – 3 Tbs mashed potato
  • 1/4 – 1/2 baked/ boiled potato
  • 2-4 potato wedges

Fruits and vegetables: one of the best sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre around. The good news is that if your child is not a big fan of veggies but loves fruit, they are still getting in enough goodness! Offer your child a fruit/veggie serving with each meal and in between for snacks. Fresh, frozen, canned (no sugar or salt) and dried varieties all count however dried fruit should be reserved to one snack serving per day due to the high sugar content. Choose 5 servings per day, where one portion is equivalent to:

  • 1/4 – 1/2 medium apple/ orange/ mango/ pear
  • 1/4 – 1 medium banana
  • 3 – 8 rasberries/ strawberries/ grapes/ blueberries
  • 1 – 3 dried apricot halves/ figs/ dates
  • 1/2 – 2 Tbs dried raisins/ cranberries
  • 2 – 4 Tbs canned fruit
  • 1/2 – 2 Tbs cooked squash/ greens/ sweetcorn/ green beans/ peas/ leeks/ spinach/ broccoli/ cauliflower/ baby marrow/ roasted vegetables
  • 1 – 3 cherry tomatoes/ button mushrooms
  • 2 – 6 carrot sticks

Dairy: an essential source of calcium for healthy bones and teeth, and B vitamins for energy. Children under two should only receive full-fat dairy options, and those older than two can be switched to low-fat dairy provided that they are eating well. Choose 3 servings per day, where one portion is equivalent to:

  • 100ml milk (cow’s milk/formula/breast milk/ calcium fortified non-dairy milk)
  • 1 – 3 Tbs cheese sauce (cooked with veg/ in a recipe)
  • 1 cheese string/ cheese triangle
  • 2 – 3 Tbs grated cheese
  • 1 pot yoghurt (125ml)
  • 2 small yoghurt tubes
  • 1 pot soya yoghurt/ dessert (calcium fortified)
  • 5 – 6 Tbs dairy-based dessert

Protein: the essential building blocks of our bodies. Your little one should be getting in at least 2 fish servings every week, where one is oily fish (salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel). Choose 2 servings per day (or 3 for vegetarian diets) where one portion is equivalent to:

  • 1/2 – 1 slice beef/ turkey/ pork
  • 1/4 – 1 small fillet hake/ small fillet salmon/ burger patty
  • 1 – 2 fish fingers
  • 1/2 – 1.5 Tbs tinned tuna/ salmon/ sardines
  • 1 – 2 Tbs peanut butter/ hummus
  • 2 – 3 Tbs dhal/ chickpeas/ lentils/ baked beans/ kidney beans/ scrambled egg
  • 3 – 4 Tbs minced meat (beef/ ostrich/ lamb/ chicken/ turkey)
  • 1/2 – 1 boiled egg/ poached egg/ fried egg

For the full British Nutrition Foundation leaflet, download it here.

It’s easy to see how – if you child is eating a number of empty calories throughout the day through processed and refined foods – your little one may not be getting in the required amounts of quality nutrients to sustain their growth and developmental needs.

Remember that these habits need to start in the home: if you are setting an example of eating unbalanced meals when on-the-go and seldom sitting down to enjoy a healthy meal as a family, then it cannot be a surprise when your child starts demonstrating the same bad eating habits.

Our little people are depending on us to create healthy associations for them from the onset – to ensure that they have a happy relationship with food throughout their lives. and it all starts right here.

*The above should never replace the advice from your nurse, paed or GP.