Nutrition for your toddler

By the time your little one reaches 2 years old they should be eating a wide variety of foods, and ideally they should be eating the same as the family for the evening meal. But what do you do when your child refuses to eat what is on offer and wants to have something completely different, do you then get in to the unenviable position of having to cook two or more different meals each night?

It is important to establish good ground rules from the time your child is eating food without assistance. This is a vitally important time in your child’s life to set up good habits, which will last a lifetime.

Meal times should be stress free and not allowed to develop in to battlegrounds. Offer the food to your child and as soon as they have finished eating, remove the plate. Do not insist they finish everything on their plate. Your child’s developing unhealthy habits of overeating will not feed the starving children in Africa. To eat according to individual appetite is what we want to achieve.

Never resort to bribing a child to eat. Never say if you finish all the food on your plate you can have a lolly or an ice cream. If you do this, what exactly do you think you are teaching your child? You are teaching your child that eating your main meal is something horrible that has to be done in order to get to the good bit. If your child pushes the food away, remove it calmly and don’t offer anything else. This becomes easy if you have set this pattern as long as your child has been feeding himself. It is the normal calm thing that happens at meal times.

When your child becomes around two years old, what is known as the terrible two’s set in – there is a good reason this age acquired this somewhat scary name.

Not long after your angel learns to talk they discover the awesome power of the word “No”. Suddenly your angelic, obliging child becomes a wilful, stubborn little demon. I think the look of shock on their mother’s face the first time they refuse to do what ever is requested is so powerful and satisfying they do it again, and again, and again…

The way to negotiate your way through this minefield is to never ask your child if they want to do something important like eat or sleep. Instead announce “it is time for dinner” or “it is time for bed”. This is not negotiable and can’t be changed; it is just simply time to do that. Expect that your two year old will develop somewhat of a mono diet. Often at this age a child picks a small number of foods they will eat and can stick to this limited range for what seems to be a very long time. As long as the foods they have chosen are nutritious don’t worry about it. No child has voluntarily starved itself to death. Most mothers worry a lot about a child eating a small range of food and fear their child is not getting adequate nutrition, but if you can calmly ride this period through, they will increase their eating range. Offer healthy small snacks for morning and afternoon tea as well as meals. Children don’t like to be faced with a large amount of food at mealtimes; small amounts more frequently are a better way to go. If children don’t like the taste of cooked vegetables they will often eat them raw. Many vegetables can be eaten raw, including frozen peas.

Continue to offer new tastes to your child. Often a small child will want to eat something their mother is eating and this is a good opportunity to allow them to taste something new. With the little bits of one thing and another the child eats during the day it adds up to enough food. Remember too, when a child is between growth spurts they have less of an appetite. Try not to let the child have large amounts of milk. This of course fills them up and then they are not hungry at meal times. Three bottles or cupfuls, about 600mls is plenty of milk per day. Encourage your child to drink water – this is better for them than lots of juice, which contains a lot of sugar. Any juice given should be diluted with water, half and half.

When your child is a little older and you are looking for a childcare centre or kindy for them to attend, I would advise checking out what food they provide to assure yourself it is healthy. Most childcare centres are very aware of nutrition for little ones.

There are a number of vitamins and minerals that growing bodies need, the main ones are listed, along with common food sources.

Iron is needed for healthy blood and muscles and deficiency can lead to poor mental development.
There are two types of iron, one from meat and one from other sources. The iron from meat is the easiest for the body to assimilate. Examples of iron rich food include red meat, eggs, beans, tofu, tuna, apricots, raisins and prunes (try to choose unsulphured), cereals and breads, and green vegetables. Some foods have added iron, such as breakfast cereals.

You can help your child absorb iron by giving the food in combination with Vitamin C rich foods, such as meat and green vegetables and cereal and orange juice.

Vitamin C
This vitamin is used in just about all of the body’s function. It cannot be stored so we need to get our supply daily.

Most fruits and some vegetables are rich in vitamin C. Examples are citrus fruits, berries and melons and vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Vitamin A
This is needed for healthy skin and hair, good night vision, and growth. Full fat milk, egg yolk, unsalted butter and full fat cheese and fish such as mackerel are all good sources.

This is needed for development of bones and teeth. A good supply of calcium in childhood ensures strong bones in adulthood. You will get this in milk, cheese, yoghurt, green vegetables, (did you know broccoli is a very rich source of calcium?) and canned fish such as sardines and salmon.

Vitamin B
These are vital for healthy nervous system and immune function, and in the production of red blood cells. These are found in just about everything, vegetables, meat, vegetables and fruit, as well as bread and cereals.

Protein contains the building blocks of life. It is used for repair to cells and muscles, all tissues hair and organs, and for immune and hormonal function. If your child regularly eats meat, fish, eggs, cheese and milk they are likely to get enough protein. Other good sources of protein are beans such as baked beans and tofu. For an older child nuts and nut butters are an additional protein source.

These are the body’s primary source of energy. There are two sorts of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars and complex are starches and fibre. It is a good idea to limit simple carbohydrates and to concentrate on the complex. Too much refined simple carbohydrate such as sugar and honey, cakes biscuits and lollies can lead very quickly to weight problems and dental problems. Stick to natural foods such as good quality bread, sweetcorn, potatoes, bananas, rice and pasta.

There are three types of fat, saturated, mono saturated and polyunsaturated. Butter is saturated, olive oil is mono- saturated and sunflower and safflower oil is polyunsaturated. Your child needs some of each type for a supply of energy. Animal products such as milk, cheese, meat butter and eggs all contain saturated fats. Oils, nuts and seeds and avocado all contain unsaturated fats. Children need a higher amount of fat than adults and should not be given low fat foods until they are over five years.

Remember, the foods we like are the foods we become used to eating in childhood. A taste for fresh, healthy food is a preference that will stay with your child for life.

Nutrition for Babies and Children

We all want the very best for our children and there is nothing more important we can give them than the basis of a lifetime of good health. We can do this by starting from the very first thing we feed our babies. Obviously breastfeeding is the best start any baby can have, but it is not always possible, and if it isn’t, nothing is helped by making the mother feel inadequate about her inability to feed. There are many excellent formulas on the market and a lot of help available to new mothers to assist with that choice.

Usually at around six months the baby starts to indicate he or she is hungry and it is time to introduce some solid food. When food is introduced to baby and in what order, is extremely important as it is possible to avoid a lot of the more common allergies by not introducing baby to the better known suspect foods until much later.

There is an excellent argument for cooking the food you feed your baby and children as opposed to buying it. Obviously by cooking the food yourself you avoid any additives and colours and preservatives, but there is an even more compelling reason. Babies do not have so much a sense of taste as a sense of texture. If you start them on commercial baby food they quickly become accustomed to the smooth gluey texture and turn up their noses at the more grainy texture of home cooked purees. This then starts a chain of problems that never seem to go away as you attempt to move from commercial food to the food the family is eating. Don’t be surprised when you first offer food to your baby if the most they eat is half a teaspoonful. It takes a lot longer that you would have thought to get the eating pattern established.

It is the easiest to buy a small packet of baby rice cereal (these are quite free of additives). Cook an apple or a pear in water and then blend to a puree with a blender or use a stick blender. (These make a good useful present for a new mother.) Of course you have way too much prepared. You don’t waste it, you freeze the remainder in an ice cube tray and each day you take one out to thaw out and to mix with your rice cereal. A couple of teaspoons of rice cereal is mixed with a small amount of breast milk or formula to a runny paste, and then the apple or pear added. Only add a teaspoonful at first. You will need to add a little more when your baby begins to accept food more readily. At this stage offer food twice a day until the baby eats the cereal and fruit. The next thing to offer is pureed vegetables. Cook a small combination of pumpkin, potato, beans, carrot, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato. Choose two or three or more and cook and puree. This can be offered to baby for lunch and dinner, with the rice cereal and fruit offered for breakfast. As baby gets used to eating, the fruits offered can be increased to include banana and avocado. In fact both of these foods are as easy to carry around for meals away from home as commercial food. Natures convenience food!

It is important not to attempt to get babies or children to finish any food after they have indicated they have had enough. It is at this early stage that ideas about food begin to form, and you want your child to develop a healthy relationship with food. When the child says they have had enough, or the baby indicates they have had enough, clear away the food. A great deal of problems with overeating, undereating, anorexia and bulimia, originate in food becoming a battle ground. I know we were all told about the starving children elsewhere in the world in order to get us to clear our plates, but that is exactly what we don’t want to instil in a child, the idea that you only stop eating when the food is gone. It doesn’t take much imagination to see where that kind of thinking can lead.

When baby has teeth it is time to introduce a chewier texture. The food no longer needs to be pureed, but can be mashed with a fork and some pieces can be big enough for the baby to put in their mouth. As the baby gets a little older, 8 – 10 months, they will be trying to feed themselves, something that leads to very messy mealtimes. At this stage pasta (but not wheat pasta) and wheat free bread can be introduced. Small amounts of cooked meat can be blended in with the vegetables.

There are a few foods it is better to hold off introducing to babies until they are over 12 months old. These are the foods that cause the most common allergies and food intolerances.

When a new food is introduced it is a good idea to give it once only and then not give it again for at least three days in order to assess if there is any reaction. Reactions can take the form of rashes, sore red bottoms, diarrhoea, eczema, tummy pains. If you suspect your child reacted don’t offer the food again for a few months.

Cows milk is one of the biggest troublemakers. This of course includes cheese. Many mothers fear their child won’t be getting enough calcium if they don’t eat dairy products, but remember dairy products are not eaten by the majority of the world’s population and they manage to develop strong bones without it. Green vegetables contain calcium and broccoli is a rich source. Sheep’s yoghurt is easily digestible and delicious, as is goats, and there are plenty of cheeses made with both sheep and goat milk. These are a safer choice for your child in the early days. Nuts are another strong allergen. We have all heard of the awful results peanut allergies can bring, and therefore caution is needed when introducing peanuts, usually in the form of peanut butter. When this is given for the first time keep a close watch on your child for any reaction. If you have relatives with peanut allergies be especially careful. One way to see if there is going to be a reaction is to rub some of the substance on the inside of the child’s forearm, and if there is a red patch around it after ten minutes, then don’t offer the food.

Tree nuts such as almonds and hazelnuts and brazils can also be strong allergens and should be introduced with caution. Egg allergies are common, usually in the form of dermatitis and eczema and their introduction should be left till after the child is 12 months. Another big cause of trouble is wheat. This can to introduced in the same way as other potential allergens, giving some to baby one day and then watching for a reaction for the next two days. Weetbix is a good choice to try.

When a child is about two years old and they first discover the power of saying ‘no’, they tend to refuse a lot of foods offered. It is better not to ask them what they want, but to offer a selection of foods. At this stage it is common for a child to start to eat a very limited range of foods. Sometimes there will be as few as three things only they will eat. Hard as it is, it is better to just keep offering different foods and not commenting on their limited choices. Often the child will want to try something that the mother is eating, and this is a good way for new foods to be introduced.

Don’t keep foods such as lollies and biscuits and chocolates in the house so that a child isn’t used to eating them and therefore doesn’t ask for them. Don’t bargain with a child, e.g. if you eat all your dinner you can have icecream. This just impresses on the child how awful it is to have to eat meat and vegetables and what a reward, how desirable it is to eat icecream. Sweet drinks should not be offered. No cordial, definitely no fizzy drinks, not too much fruit juice. Fruit juice should be diluted 50/50 with water. The very best drink is water. If the child is okay with cows milk then no more than 500 mls per day should be given. Milk fills children up and they then will not eat their food as they are already full.

Tastes and food preferences are set early in life, and we like to eat what we are used to eating. Giving children the taste for good food will stay with them all their life, even if they go off the rails somewhat during their teenage years, they will come back to what they are used to and enjoy later.

Eating and enjoying healthy food is a lifelong pleasure and the very best gift you could possibly give your child.

Successful weight loss

We all know how the story begins.  First of all comes the trigger.  Maybe it is as simple as a glimpse of yourself in a shop window, or a horrible experience with a dress shop changing room mirror, maybe a remark made by a friend.  This is it, we say.  This time we will definitely lose that bit of extra weight we are carrying.  We begin with great enthusiasm, we have confidence in our ability to finally lose those extra kilos we are carrying.  We begin….

What is it that happens to us to stop us being successful in something we want.  How do we change our minds, how does our enthusiasm fizzle out.  What is it that gets in the way of us achieving what we want?  Why do we self sabotage?

Let us have a look at some common themes.

“It’s not fair”
We are on our eating program when up pops an occasion.  It may be as simple as a colleague’s birthday at work and the offer of a piece of cake.  We think to ourselves that it is so unfair we can’t have something nice to eat.  We feel hard done by, it makes us think of all the other unfair things in our lives.  We think ourselves in to a state in which the only way to right a few of these wrongs is to eat the cake.  We eat it.

“Nobody Loves Me”
We feel resentful we are not allowed to eat anything we like, we lose sight of our primary objective and we feel to only way to provide love, nurture and care in to our lives is to eat something soothing like chocolate or cake or to drink some alcohol.

“I know you love cake, chocolate, wine, whatever…….”
Sometimes the sabotage doesn’t come from ourselves, it comes from those close to us.  It can be your partner, your Mum, or your friends.  This sabotage often comes when a weightloss program begins to show results.  A partner can fear what may happen if you become slim, confident and gorgeous, and may set out to sabotage your success, becoming afraid you may leave them.  This is probably not done consciously, but is done unconsciously with the result you eat whatever is offered to please them.  Or you feel angry with them for not helping you, which in turn creates its own set of problems.  The saboteur can be your Mum or a friend who see your success as in some way pointing out their own lack of success if they could do with shedding some weight.  Most people fear change and when ever someone close to them begins to change in some way, they begin to act in a way that says change back to what you used to be.

Some Solutions to keep the “will to Succeed” Strong

Do some or all of the above sound like you? Before you begin a weight loss program it is a very good idea to spend a little time thinking through exactly what role food plays in your life.  Have you handed over all your power to food?  Is food the ONLY thing that can make you feel better, take away your blues, make you feel nurtured and loved? (In the food category I am also including drinks such as alcohol and sweet milky things).  If you realise you have done this you then need to think if this is something you are willing to continue.

It is an excellent idea before beginning another (and this time, final) attempt at weight loss to make a list of all the things food means to you, and all the occasions you feel like eating.  What are the emotions?  Anger?  Sadness?  Tiredness? When you have your list then spend a while thinking what you could do instead of eating.

If you feel angry you could try a very fast and furious walk around the block.  You could go in to the bedroom and punch a pillow.

If you feel sad and unappreciated you could try a long sweet smelling bath, give yourself a facial, paint your toenails bright red.

If you are tired and craving to eat, register the time in your mind and make sure you have a snack at least an hour before.  If you always feel like eating chocolate at 4.00pm, then have your healthy afternoon tea at 3.00pm and the feeling of crashing will be avoided.

The essence of the above is planning and forethought.

What IS a Healthy Diet?
There are just so many faddish ideas that you may be tempted to try on the path to weight loss, but sad to say there is no magic solution.  We would all like a magic pill we could take which would do the job for us, with little effort on our part, but this just does not exist.  The important thing in successful weight loss to change the way we think about food.  We need to begin to think of food as the fuel that drives our bodies and to want to feed ourselves a good healthy diet in order to maximise how vibrant and alive we feel.

A healthy diet is rich in vegetables, lean meat, fish, chicken and whole grains and contains little processed food.  The best food is the food you cook for yourself and your family as you then know exactly what goes in to it.  That way you are avoiding the things in modern processed foods that cause so many allergies and behavior problems in children.  All of the excessive sugars, colours, dyes and preservatives that are added to processed food are avoided with great and important health benefits.

An example of a day’s healthy eating for weight loss would look like this:
30 grams of cereal with low fat  milk
1 egg, poached or boiled with 2 slices of whole grain toast, no butter.  Mushrooms or tomatoes can be added.

Morning Tea
Cup of tea or coffee
1 Piece of fruit with 10 almonds
1 tub low fat yogurt
10 rice crackers or two rice cakes with hummus or low fat cottage cheese and tomato.

Large salad, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, capsicum, grated carrot with one small tin of tuna or with 30 grams of fetta or 60 grams of cottage cheese.
A soup made with lots of vegetables and including a can of three bean mix or a can of chickpeas and a piece of bread or a rice cake.  The soup is made more satisfying by removing a couple of cups and the blending the rest to make it thick and smooth and then adding back the reserved cups.

Afternoon Tea
Same as morning tea

100 grams of meat or chicken or 200 grams of fish with lots of vegetables and one cup of rice or pasta or one potato.

Sweet tooth satisfiers.
One of these per day.
2 dried figs and 8 almonds
10 rice crackers or 2 rice cakes spread with 20 grams of jam
1 50 gram scoop of low fat ice cream.

Now I know the first thing that will come to mind is “I don’t have time” to do all of the shopping and planning for this.  You do have time, you choose not to have time if you reject a weight loss program for this reason.

It is very satisfying to spend a bit of time thinking what you will eat for the next week.  Writing out a list of the meals you will eat and the ingredients you will need to shop for.  This planning ensures you are prepared and don’t have occasions when you find yourself hungry and tired and just eat everything in sight.

It is a good idea to ask for help from those around you, particularly in the case of those who sabotage your efforts.  Explain to them how important this is to you and ask them to help you by not feeding you.  Give them a specific task you would like them to do.  A good one is to clean up and wash up after dinner so you are not tempted by left overs.  Involve those around you in your success and progress.

Do I have to Exercise?

There is no doubt exercise helps with weight loss.  But, when most people think of exercise they imagine themselves looking terrible in tight spandex shorts and sports tops.

What I mean here by exercise is any thing at all that will get you moving.  It may be a walk to the end of the street, some vigorous sweeping up of the back yard, a swim.  Whatever is a form of movement you don’t usually do.  Getting the blood circulating has such a lot of benefit in making you feel energised and well.  A small amount of effort will pay off in allowing you do more and more as you feel able.

What is essential for success with your weight loss program is the time you spend figuring out what has stopped you in the past, where do your stumbling blocks lie, what are the triggers that send you down the wrong path.

Spend a little while thinking these suggestions through and then get started on your way to where you want to be.

Alison Johnson ND DBM Dip. Hom. Is a Sydney naturopath with more than 20 years experience in herbal medicine, homeopathy, nutrition, iridology, Bach Flowers and Counseling.  She specializes in general naturopathy with a special interest in weight loss and female reproductive system problems.  Alison is the Naturopath on the Good Medicine website, appears frequently on TV and in print and was the Dean of the Australasian College of natural Therapies for the past 20 years.  She practices at Glebe Healing Centre, 1 Booth St, Annandale, phone 02 9566 1222 and at Wholistic Medical Centre, 17 Randle St., Surry Hills, 02 9211 3811