Nutritional Yeast Flakes

This is something that I discovered when attending a vegan, raw food ‘cooking’ course in Cape Town a few months ago. For all the lactose-intolerant or dairy-intolerant little ones out there, this is one of the best ways to add a cheesy flavour to any savoury dish for your family.

Essentially, nutritional yeast flakes is the deactivated extract from yeast, and is harvested and dried to form a flakey ingredient that can be easily sprinkled into recipes. Because the yeast has been deactivated, there is no chance of nutritional yeast flakes contributing to any of the inflammatory issues that are associated with the commonly known ‘bad’ yeast Candida Albicans. In other words, nutritional yeast flakes offers none of the negative side-effects of other yeast strains, only goodness!

Each serving contains a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals and proteins: it contains nine out of the eighteen essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce, a daily dose of vitamin B, and a solid serving of fibre, iron and zinc. If you are worried that your child isn’t getting in enough protein, this is a smart and sneaky way to get that added boost of protein in!

For those who won’t combine meat and milk for religious or personal reasons, this is an excellent way to ensure that the amazing recipe you found doesn’t need to taste all that different to the way it was intended.

This is a truly brilliant way to create ‘cheesy’ dishes with an ingredient that is soya-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and low sodium. Sprinkle it into sauces, marinades, crust mixtures or directly sprinkle it over veggies, scrambled eggs, omelettes, soups, pastas and even popcorn!

You can find it at most health stores and it can be stored in an airtight container in a dark place for up to a year.

I’m a huge fan of this flavour-filled, nutrient-dense discovery!

Chia Seeds

This superfood has been a Mexican staple for years, and has more recently been creating waves due to the powerful punch of protein, omega-3 fatty acids and fibre found in every teaspoon. Chia seeds are mainly made-up of omegas – at a whopping 60% – which makes this one of the richest plant-based fatty acid sources. Essentially this is some pretty impressive brain food for growing little people.

With 20.4g of protein per 100g, (2g per tsp) your child is getting in a healthy dose of the building blocks needed for their growth and development; skin, bone, hair, muscle, tissue and blood formation. The protein found in chia seeds therefore makes this little seed an ideal protein source for vegetarians and vegan children.

For vegan recipes or if your child has an allergy to eggs, chia seeds is a fantastic substitute for eggs: simply mix 1 Tbs chia seeds with 3 Tbs water and allow to thicken. You’ll then have a gel-like consistency that you can easily mix into any recipe.

Chia seeds’ ability to soak up liquid means that you can make delicious puddings in a matter of minutes. All you need to do is combinine chia seeds with anything from cow’s milk to yoghurt or even coconut cream, with the flavour combinations of your choice (fruit purée, grated fruit, vanilla, cinnamon). For best results, pop your mixture into the fridge overnight.

Each serving packs in the antioxidants to assist your little one in fighting off free-radicals and toxins in the body and may be a more favourable antioxidant source for those kids allergic to berries. Calcium, manganese and phosphorous can also be found in these tiny black powerhouses, which adds to the list of reasons why you should also love chia seeds.

Chia is a wonderful alternative to flaxseeds: they contain more fibre per serving and, unlike flaxseeds, don’t need to be ground before eating in order to be digested. You can therefore sprinkle these guys directly onto porridge, yoghurt or in smoothies for your child to add a nutritional boost or to aid their little systems with constipation.

There seems to be some conflicting opinions about when is the most beneficial time to introduce chia seeds into your child’s diet: some experts seem to be of the belief that any form of nutritional supplementation – over and above a healthy and balanced diet – is not needed in babies, and rather that breastfeeding and pregnant mothers should eat chia seeds to pass on the nutrients to their child. Some experts say that babies are actually unable to digest chia seeds in the same way as adults do, and it is therefore recommended to only give your child chia seeds in their toddler years.

Remember that too much of a good thing can be bad…and all that. Too much fibre can also have the reverse effect and lead to constipation. Moderation is therefore key and you should hold back on raining the chia seeds down on absolutely everything. If you notice any signs of discomfort, gas and bloating in your child then it is recommended to rather get off ‘chia seed train’ and try a smaller quantity another time.

*The above information should never replace the advice of your pead, GP or nurse

Coconut Oil

Although it has been around for centuries, used by cultures spanning the globe, this ingredient is one of the hottest pantry items out there at the moment. It has been described as a “miracle food” and a “super oil” due to the number of health, healing and nutritional benefits that can be found in every jar. Over and above the extensive list of nutritional benefits, coconut oil is anti-inflammatory, moisturising and antibacterial, making it the perfect cure for a number of ailments that plague our little people (teething pain, nappy rash, cradle cap and even lice). Coconut oil also helps regulate blood sugar levels, improves insulin secretion and has even been linked to reducing seizures in epileptic children (you can read up more around the benefits and studies on this superfood here).

Coconut oil is packed with medium-chain triglycerides (the good type of saturated fats): these are the guys that are responsible for the metabolism of ketones in the body, which play a fundamental role in supplying blood flow to the brain and in maintaining brain health and development. It is therefore a fantastic source of brain fuel for little ones!

While previously argued that coconut oil is high in saturated fats (which has been directly linked to heart disease), extensive studies have shown that the majority of the saturated fatty acids found in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is the same type of fatty acids found in breast milk. This is the biggest reason that the nutritional benefits of coconut oil have been likened to the super powers of breast milk. Pretty impressive no?

Opt for virgin or organic varieties and rather avoid the processed options wherever possible. For those who would like to use coconut oil in cooking and baking but would rather avoid the taste and smell of coconut in every dish they prepare, then deodorised or odourless varieties are a recommended choice.

You can add coconut oil to just about any recipe for added flavour or even use it in place of butter on toast, baked potatoes and veggies. Blending it into smoothies is another way of getting it in as an added boost of brain fuel. For lactose intolerant children, it makes an ideal butter substitute in baking.

As a side note, both butter and olive oil have a number of different nutritional benefits that aren’t in coconut oil, so my advice would be to switch things up (unless your child has a food allergy to dairy).

All in all, just another superfood from nature that you can incorporate into doubly- nutritious meals for your child and something to get creative with!

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