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A Nutritionist Answers Your Family Food, Diet And Mealtime Questions

Missed our Wednesday Lunch Club with nutritionist Naomi Mead? Catch up on everything that happened here…

Every week at Mother&Baby we bring you the Wednesday Lunch Club – a chance to get brilliant advice for your fertility, pregnancy and parenting questions from a top expert.  

This week, nutritionist Naomi Mead was on hand to answer your questions.

Naomi Mead is a nutritional therapist and was trained and accredited at the Institute of Optimum Nutrition. She founded Food First Nutritional Therapy and is a nutritionist for Healthspan as well as being passionate about the role of nutrition in health and the therapeutic power of good food.

Here’s what happened…

I would absolutely recommend you to make your own fruit and vegetable purees and you can try a range of combinations

My baby's just started weaning (he's seven months old) but doesn't seem to like many of the shop-bought baby foods. Are there some I can make from home easily?

Naomi: Yes, I would absolutely recommend you to make your own fruit and vegetable purees, and the beauty with this is that you can try a range of combinations! For example, butternut squash and sweet potato both make a lovely sweet puree. You just need to roast, boil or steam the veggies, and then blend up with a little bit of butter or olive oil. I would recommend batch cooking in small separate pots and you can then also freeze them for convenience.

Another popular combination is parsnip and apple. The fantastic thing about making these purees yourself is that you are in control of the level of sweetness. Shop bought baby food is often overly sweet and can encourage babies to develop an unnaturally sweet tooth.

My two year old has lost his appetite quite a few times in the last few weeks and I think it may be the heat. Do you think this is the case?

Naomi: The heat could well be contributing – we can all lose our appetite a bit in the warmer weather. Try smaller, more regular snacks and meals rather than larger meals. Also try high water ‘juicy foods – so fresh fruits such as watermelon, cucumber, tomatoes and crunchy iceburg lettuce. This is a great time to introduce some child-friendly, colourful salads into the diet.

Smoothies are another great idea for packing in a good amount of nutrient-dense foods, and you can involve children in the preparation of these. These are especially great in the warmer weather.

Toddlers develop at their own rates and as long as you’re able to get your little one to eat from a range of food groups you shouldn't be concerned

I'm struggling to get my 18 month old to eat lots of different things. She seems to only be interested in soft foods and isn't interested in trying chunks of apple or similar things. Anything you recommend to make sure she eats everything she should or doesn't it matter?

Naomi: Most importantly, don’t worry. Toddlers develop at their own rates and as long as you’re able to get your little one to eat from a range of food groups you shouldn't be concerned.

If he enjoys eating soft foods, make sure you get a wide range of veggies into this category. So for example pea puree, sweet potato mash, butternut squash mash and parsnip mash. You can blend up some green veggies into these too. Pulses also make a great mash (blend butter beans with a little olive oil) and these provide a good source of iron and other important vitamins and minerals.

You can flake fish into mashed veggies, too, and try meat in the form of lean mince. Fruits can also be pureed and added into natural yoghurt. Keep trying with the harder foods – offer your child small portions so that he doesn’t feel overwhelmed.

Keep offering new foods as it can take between seven and 14 attempts before a child will accept a new food

Keep offering new foods as it can take between seven and 14 attempts before a child will accept a new food. Repeat exposure is recommended and also, try not to make too much of a fuss when it’s rejected. Some children eat better in the company of other children (they learn by copying!) so arrange for your child to have meals with other little ones. If he sees other trying different foods, they may want to try them, too.

I have a three-week-old baby and have been told to cut dairy and egg from my diet as the doctor thinks she may be allergic (my older son is) and I want to continue breastfeeding if possible. How long would it take for dairy and egg to get out my system? Also, I’m vegetarian, so which nutrients am I likely to be lacking and need to concentrate on to remain healthy while breastfeeding?

Naomi: If you and your doctor suspect your baby is reacting to dairy and/or eggs, you need to eliminate these from your diet for at least three weeks to see if your baby’s symptoms improve. Cow’s milk protein can remain in your body for one to two weeks and so it may be another one to two weeks before the protein is out of your baby’s system.

As a vegetarian, you can still get all the nutrients you need, however you just need to be a bit more mindful about what you are eating. The main vitamin lacking in a vegetarian diet is B12, and to get this into your diet I would recommend getting some Nutritional Yeast, which you can stir, into sauces, soups and salads. 

You also need to ensure that you are getting enough calcium, zinc and iron. You can get these by eating a good range of green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage), nuts, seeds, lentils and pulses. Tinned pulses are quick and easy to add to soups, stews and salads. Flaxseed and chia seeds make a great addition to your diet (sprinkle them on salads and add them to smoothies) as they provide a good plant source of omega-3 fats. You may also want to take a good-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement and a vegan DHA supplement to help support your diet.

Have healthy snacks on hand so you don’t allow yourself to get hungry and your blood sugar to get too low

I am really craving sugar at the moment as I am so tired all the time. Is there anything I can do to prevent these urges?

Naomi: I have some key bits of advice to help support sugar cravings:

1) Make sure you eat a protein rich breakfast in the mornings. This will help to stabilise your blood sugar levels, and prevent your blood sugar becoming low (this is what leads to cravings!). An egg-based breakfast is one really good option. If you normally have cereal, have this with some full-fat Greek yoghurt and sprinkle over some nuts and seeds, which are all great sources of protein. Nut butters are another great source of protein and can be spread on toast, or even blended into smoothies.

2) Have healthy snacks on hand so you don’t allow yourself to get hungry, and your blood sugar to get too low. Raw unsalted nuts, boiled eggs, raw crudités with hummus, homemade granola bars and falafel are all great protein-rich snacks. 

3) Rather than fizzy drinks (which provide nothing nutritionally and are packed with sugar, sweeteners and additives), opt for sparkling water and add your own fresh fruit. Strawberries, raspberries, orange, lemon and lime all provide delicious, natural flavourings! 

4) If you have some chocolate, opt for a dark chocolate, which is rich in antioxidants and magnesium and has several proven health benefits!

My 18 month old has come up with eczema on the backs of his knees, inside elbows and chin and I was wondering if this might be diet related? Or if there might be some foods that can help to calm the condition?

Naomi: Without doing a full consultation, it’s difficult for me to advise on whether specific elements of your child's diet may be contributing to his condition. There are other factors that could be contributing, such as detergents and bath products. In some children, cutting out dairy can be beneficial.

However, if you wanted to try this I would recommend getting professional advice on how to do this in a safe and healthy way. Eczema is an inflammatory condition, and you should therefore try and up your child's intake of anti-inflammatory foods – especially essential fats. These are found in oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), nuts and seeds.

Ensuring your child's diet is rich in a wide range of fruit and vegetables, and as free as possible from processed foods will also be beneficial.

Plenty of new mums ask us about diet plans to stay healthy, but how does a busy mum balance her own health with the time demands of her new child?

Naomi: It is so important that a new mum doesn't neglect her own dietary needs. The key is to always have really good, nutrient dense portable snacks on hand. So raw nuts, crudités, oatcakes, falafels, nut butters – things that can be eaten on the move, but that keep your energy levels up so you don't succumb to sugary snacks.

A breakfast smoothie first thing in the morning is also a fantastic way of getting a good boost of nutrients into your diet first thing, before the day runs away with you. I love superfood powders such as Maca, Spirulina and Lacuma, which you can add to these.

My three-year-old son won't eat most fruits. He will eat bananas and grapes and we give him smoothies with other fruit in. Any tips on how to encourage more fruit eating?

Naomi: One tip is to encourage your child to be involved in the whole process. So take him shopping, show him the whole array of lovely, colourful fruit, and get him to help you choose.

Then allow him to be involved in the preparation of the fruit – chopping it and arranging it on the plate. You can even encourage a bit of food art. Children eat with their eyes, so teach them about different fruits being every colour of the rainbow.

You can freeze fresh fruit in fruit juice or natural yoghurt into iced lolly molds.

What topics would you like covered on our Wednesday Lunch Clubs? Let us know in the comments box below.

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