Ask Me Anything: Childhood Nutrition

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I find the world of social media absolutely fascinating, and an incredibly useful tool to easily interact with people and share my passion for optimal health.

I was recently asked by one of the lovely people I connected with last year to collaborate on a Q&A session on her Instagram feed, whereby for a day people could ask anything related to baby, toddler or childhood nutrition, and I would answer. A simple concept but one that was just absolutely brilliant and so interesting for me to see what people wanted help with.

So I thought I would compile the questions and pop them on here, creating a resource for people to refer to in case they had similar questions.

I will be hosting one of these sessions every month on Instagram going forward covering a range of topics, and if you have any suggestions please do get in touch.

With healthy wishes,

Phoebe x

QUESTION:

Tips on food ideas to make sure my 9 month old is getting enough iron? Very mixed messages out there regarding iron supplies depleting after 6 months? I’m still BFding but not really sure on how to introduce meat (and we are not big meat eaters!) and what else can I offer instead of meat? Thank You

ANSWER: If you are still breastfeeding and your iron status is good you will be passing on ample iron to your little one. Low birth weight or premature babies are more at risk of iron deficiency but this should be significantly lessened by breastfeeding. In terms of including food sources to boost iron there are many that don’t have to be meat based – green leafy vegetables, pulses, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains and eggs all provide iron, and the absorption is increased by the presence of vitamin C. Blending any of these together and adding a squeeze of orange juice or some fresh parsley at the end is a great boost, and try to keep them apart from dairy foods and the protein in cows milk can interfere with iron uptake.

 

 

QUESTION:

I’d love to know the deal with protein. There are so many mixed messages out there about how much kids really need! I have a 2 and 4 year old… What would you recommend?

ANSWER:

There is a mathematical equation that says they need about 1-1.5g per kg of their body weight per day. I usually recommend a much easier measure which is to use their own hands as portion guides – try and include a palm sized portion of protein rich foods per meal, and when offering them snacks opt for protein rich things like eggs (little muffins or fritters are easy to make ahead) houmous and bean pates, smoothies with some greens and a little smooth nut butter or tahini, plain live yoghurt with berries or grated apple, or oatcakes with some cheese or avocado, over the more purely carbohydrate based options

 

QUESTION:

Hi Phoebe 👋🏻 Have just started my second round of BLW with my youngest who is now 6m. She’s very happily playing with/sucking on various fruits and veggies. I can’t remember when it’s okay to introduce egg- chopped hard boiled etc. Also, my 2yr old is a bit of a gobbler! I’m really unsure of how to get her to slow down and take smaller bites. Any advice?! X

ANSWER:

Hi Rachel 😊 eggs are an interesting one, egg yolks don’t contain the potentially allergenic proteins whereas egg whites contain 4. If there is a history of egg allergy in the family the recommendation is to wait until at least 12 months, if there isn’t one some experts are saying it’s a great first food, you could always go with egg yolks first and add the whites later. The concern is that little ones have more permeable intestines and large proteins can trigger the immune system, however if they have been breastfed and have good intestinal bacteria levels this will be protective of that intestinal integrity. For your 2 year old why not introduce games at meal times, talk to her, encourage her to help you match things around the kitchen, you could even give her bits of the meal in stages if you wanted. Overall however I wouldn’t be massively concerned, better to have a strong appetite now for good wholesome foods, she can worry about her table manners a little later ☺️

QUESTION:

Fussy eater 1.6 year old over here! I feel like I give her the same things in rotation a lot 😑 but I want to expose her to many foods and textures (she doesn’t like meat). I need some ideas for how to make veggies more desirable to her?!?!? Any tips, tricks, secret sauce, recipes lol

Also this is food and behavior but if I make my daughter a good dinner with at least 3 small options and she eats some of it but is being “picky” and fussing for something else should I give in and fed her an alternative dinner too ?? I don’t want to be a short order cook/her to learn if she cries or doesn’t want what I made there’s another option but I don’t want her to be hungry or to power struggle about food ??!

ANSWER:

It’s always tricky as they start to become more mobile as we’re working against an innate protective mechanism which makes them less open to new foods (originally designed to prevent them from eating poisonous berries etc when we foraged for foods) little ones also have a naturally sweeter tooth, I love to use a simple banana pancake recipe but use baked sweet potato instead, or make them with banana but add some spinach. You’re absolutely right sauces and soups are the way forward to sneak veggies in, sauté celery, onion/leek and carrot in a pan, then go to town with peppers, courgettes, herbs anything really, add tomatoes and a little stock, then purée smooth when cooked. The same can be done with soups, and blend in pulses or chickpeas with a little coconut milk to make them lovely and creamy whilst also being rich in plant based protein. Different dips work well too and are easily adapted – you could try butter beans blended with roasted root veg and a little orange juice on crackers/toast or with cucumber slices, to get those veggies in under the radar. In terms of exposing her to new things persistence is key, and savoury foods can take up to 15 times to be enjoyed, even if you just start with a simple smoothie with lots of green leafy things and a little bit of banana or some berries that’s fab, you can even use less liquid and make it more like ice cream which usually goes down well!

I would try to avoid doing that, if she is hungry she will eat what you give her and encouraging those behaviours from the start is a slippery slope. Definitely don’t make it into a battle though, if she refuses something just move it to one side but leave it near enough for her to reach, you might find she reaches for it after all.

QUESTION:

Hi!! Thanks for the opportunity! My baby is almost one year, we started BLW since he was 6 months… but I will like to know if I have to offer in every meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) a protein, carbohydrates and veggies or fruits? He is a good eater… and how many oz of each one he suppose to eat??

My baby is also having troubles with cows milk I will like to try with almond or any other milk … which one is better nutritional speaking?

ANSWER:

Hiya, my pleasure! I would try to offer some kind of root vegetable, other veg like broccoli and a little protein at each meal as then they become exposed to more foods and are having a good balance of macronutrients. If this doesn’t happen every single time that is ok, I just wouldn’t advise giving them solely fruit or carbohydrates by themselves. If you as an example you gave some colourful veggies and little protein followed by some fruit then that’s absolutely fine, and continue with your other feeds in between. It’s easiest to use their hands as a guide, their palm sizes for protein, cupped hands for carbohydrates and 2 handfuls other veg

You could first try something like goats milk or fermented dairy like kefir as the fermentation process digests the lactose that may be causing the issue. If you feel it is the dairy protein causing the problem a plant based milk is good but they do not offer the complete nutrient profile of a cows milk so it’s best to rotate between them. Hemp milk is also a good one but again should be rotated with other forms, for plant based milks look for those without additional ingredients like sweetened and emulsifiers, I like the PLENISH ones or Good Hemp.

QUESTION:

Following above about trying not to offer purely fruit and carbohydrate, I’d love some balanced breakfast inspiration! And any ideas for calcium rich foods now my little boy just has cow’s milk. Thank you 😊

ANSWER:

Little fritters of eggs and veggies, or baked in muffin cases, fishcakes, pancakes made from banana/baked sweet potato flesh and a little flour, porridge with some yoghurt stirred in at the end, or just roasted veggies and some salmon or chicken make great breakfasts. Calcium is wonderfully abundant in green leafy veg so a quick whizz of some of those into veg purées, soups and sauces, or blended with fruit as a little smoothie will keep his calcium levels nicely topped up

QUESTION:

Hi! My 13 month old tends to take a few bites and then throw most of his food on the ground. Any suggestions on how to get this behavior to stop? I give him milk after food and only 3 bottles per day. He refuses drinking out of a sippy cup… 🙄 any suggestions for this as well? We have tried so many brands! He likes straws but, if I fill his straw cup with milk he will only drink an ounce or 2. Versus 6 out of a bottle.

ANSWER:

Hi Paige, the best remedy is calm persistence unfortunately! If he throws things down don’t acknowledge the behaviour, simply wait until he has stopped, go and pick it up and place it back in front of him and then leave him to it (pop a piece of wax cloth or something under his chair during meal times so you know it’s clean) when there’s no reaction they eventually lose steam. With his milk this will be entirely comfort and habit, stick with the straw and then if he drinks less milk he will probably be more hungry for his main meals later and that may as a consequence help with the food throwing

QUESTION:

1) how do I know if they are eating enough or getting enough nutrients? Now that my twins turned 1, n I reduced one milk feed. 2) is there any food that a 1yo shouldn’t eat right now? 3) how much sodium/ sugar intake can they have? 4)how do I start introducing utensil to them? Fork or spoon first? THANKS!

ANSWER:

If they have energy, are growing well and sleep relatively well then they are probably getting enough nutrients, always try to encourage as much variation and fresh produce in their diets as possible, and include plenty of healthy fats and fermented foods if you can, or add a probiotic powder. In terms of things they shouldn’t have no not really, only things that would be a choking hazard, or raw meat/fish. In terms of sugar and salts I would never add these to their food, they will gain what they need from the foods they are eating, and avoid all premade sauces and products, especially those containing tomatoes, as these will have extra added to them. Offer them both utensils and see which they pick, a spoon will probably be easiest for them to start with.

QUESTION:

My son is 2.5 and I give him almond milk in his bottle. It’s unsweetened and organic. Is this okay?

ANSWER:

Yes absolutely, just check there isn’t any oil added as an emulsifier and vary with other nut or plant based milks to ensure a variety of nutrients as their protein profiles aren’t complete like an animal based milk would be.

QUESTION:

I’m always wondering how much meat I should give to my toddler. My toddler doesn’t eat a whole lot of green veggies, tofu, tempeh… etc. so meat and dairy are her main source of protein/iron. She eats a lot of fruits.

ANSWER:

The easiest way to judge their requirements is to use their own hands, a portion is the palm of their hand. I would really try to encourage her to have those green leafy veggies, even if you sneak them into smoothies with the sweeter fruits, as they provide really important nutrients for her. Also just be aware that the dairy protein will interfere with iron absorption so try to keep her dairy and iron rich foods separate

QUESTION:

My daughter is in first grade and still quite picky. Any suggestions on how to combat picky eating for an older child???

ANSWER:

It’s tough with older kiddies, the best way is to try and get them involved, take them shopping and let them pick something new (from the fresh produce) they’d like to try. Absolutely congratulate them if they try something but don’t get upset or annoyed if they have a picky moment and turn it away as then you start to tread on the dangerous territory of making food a source of anxiety. You could make a rainbow chart – get her to paint a big rainbow of different colours and then when she tries a fruit or veggie from each band she can add a star to it (also a good way to see that she’s getting a good variety of things)
Encouraging her into the kitchen with you, smelling, touching, feeling things will spark her natural curiosity and gives her a bit of ownership of what ends up on her plate, that pride definitely helps turn the tables.
It is important to just serve up the same as everyone else though, if she doesn’t want to eat some bits just say that’s fine but don’t clear it away, leave it in front of her and ignore any negative behaviours, calmly talking to others at the table or leaving her to it until she calms down, without a reaction the wind will go from her sails pretty quickly.
Hope they give you a few ideas to start with!

QUESTION:

Hello! My baby is 7 months old and exclusively breastfed. Around a month ago I started to give her some apple, sweet potato and carrots to experiment new flavours and textures, I want to try some avocado too..the point is I am taking it super easy, don’t really follow a schedule, I breastfeed her on demand and if we have a busy day and she is particularly clingy, I don t even bother to give her new food to try, I just do it the following day. Is this ok? Also, as she has milk proteins allergy, what do you think about coconut yogurt? I eat one which is made with just coconut milk, tapioca starch and non dairy probiotics. Thank you very very much!!! Saraxx

 

ANSWER:

Hi Sara, what you’re doing is absolutely fine and a lovely gentle way to start introducing things with her. All babies have their own tempo and if she is content with this then go with your instincts 100%. And yes avocado is lovely for her to try, i would also try to get some greens in their somewhere, perhaps a little blended in with some apple purée?
And yes coconut yoghurt is great and that sounds like a perfect choice of product ✨

QUESTION:

Hi. How much variety does a baby need? I have a 9 month old- and I do try and give her a variety of foods each week (we are now on 3 meals a day) – but there are days when it is just leftovers …sometimes I feel a little bad about this. Also I freeze food that I have cooked in batches for her- are nutrients kept ok?

ANSWER:

Hiya, absolutely don’t worry about leftovers, these are absolutely fine! Far better to give leftover home cooked food than feeling overstretched and reaching for a convenience option, or absolutely knackering yourself out! And yes freezing is perfectly fine, it will actually preserve more nutrients compared to if it were to sit in the fridge for a few days before being used.

 

QUESTION:

Hi. My daughter is 6months old, she has been eating solids since 4months, but I noticed she is struggling with her stool. Is there anything I can give her to help?

ANSWER:

The most important thing to do is increase her water intake, and then ensure she is getting enough soluble fibre (the inside of fruits and vegetables) you could also give her some prunes soaked in warm water and then blended until smooth with a few spoonfuls of yoghurt to help move things along

 

 

QUESTION:

Hi there ! My little 19 month is a picky eater and it really stresses me when she will take a few bites of something then throw it or refuse it and say no. I’ve heard some people say to just not stress cause they will eat if they’re hungry but I’m always worried she isn’t eating enough… I do still give bottle formula for mornings and nights and for her nap…should I cut down on bottle milk to help her eat more solids ? Also as she does not have all her teeth yet I find it most likely limits what she will prefer to eat… besides tofu (cause that’s our go to food) are there any other ways to prepare food or food choices you recommend that are an easy to eat texture and full of nutrients ? Anything to get her to actually eat the food versus bite it take a few chews and spit it out 😆😆😆

ANSWER:

Hiya yes absolutely don’t stress that she isn’t eating enough, if she throws things down pick them up and pop them back in front of her calmly, if she doesn’t want it then keep it to one side and try again later. I would try cutting down on the milk as it will stimulate her appetite for more solids and in terms of her not having teeth yet you can give her soft pieces of different veggies to munch on with her gums, and for tougher things simply blend them and give them to her as a purée to make sure she’s getting a good range of nutrients. Are you vegetarian/vegan?

QUESTION:

My kids enjoy mostly everything they eat raw, especially their veggies. Is this ok? We do have some cooked with dinners but I would say 80% of what they eat is raw produce.

 

ANSWER:

That’s absolutely fine in terms of having mainly raw bits as long as their tummies can handle them and you’re giving them some good quality protein and fats as well

 

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