Mother and Baby

Wednesday Lunch Club Q+A With Nutritionist Zoe Gray

Section: Food & Recipes

Missed our Wednesday Lunch Club with nutritionist Zoe Gray? Don’t worry, you can read all of the expert advice she shared here

Every week at Mother&Baby we bring you the Wednesday Lunch Club – a chance to get brilliant advice for your parenting questions from a top expert. This week, nutritionist Zoe Gray, founder of ZNutrition was on standby to answer questions.

ZNutrition provides personalised nutrition and lifestyle programmes specialising in optimising fertility, healthy pregnancy and children's health. Zoe carries out nutrition consultations, runs educational seminars and lectures to health professionals, nutrition undergraduates and corporate organisations.

If you missed the chat, here’s what happened…

All I can ever get my son to eat is pasta. Have you got any tips on how to introduce him to more nutritious foods? I've tried sneaking some veg in to his pasta but he just won't touch it. Sam Anders

Zoe Gray: If he’s used to pasta it can be hard to introduce new foods, but as quickly as he got used to pasta, I’m sure he will start to enjoy other foods too. Rather than adding into the pasta, keep it the same but less of it and put some homemade salmon fish fingers with it. Simply dip a stick of salmon filet in beaten egg and roll into ground oats and fry in coconut or olive oil.

Also try meals that have no pasta and don’t offer anything as a replacement. Try not to mention that the meal is different or give him any attention for not trying it. Eat the same meals as him together so he can see that what you are eating is OK. It may take a few nights of a 'this is it, or there's nothing else' approach for him to realise that he really needs to eat what he is given.

It sounds harsh but he is unlikely to refuse more than two nights in a row. I hope he starts enjoying more food soon!

I have a two year old boy and he can go for days without eating a proper meal. He’s fine with eating his snacks and loves his fruit and veg, but as soon as I put a sandwich in front of him he’ll refuse to eat and I’m struggling.  He won’t eat bread, crackers, ham, chicken, potatoes, eggs, breadsticks or rice so his diet mainly is pasta, cheese, yoghurts and veg.  Is this ok? And how to I get him to eat a more varied diet? I thought it was a phase but he’s always been like this. Anonymous question.

Zoe Gray: Try to get him involved with the food that he is eating so that he feels like he has some control. Perhaps do some cooking together. Eat together as much as possible as he will learn about food from you. Put different food groups on his plate so he can see what they are and get used the smell, texture and taste of each rather than putting them in a sandwich.

The most important nutrients for him consume are proteins and fats with vitamins and minerals from vegetables and fruits including salad. Most children tolerate raw vegetables much more, so cucumber, tomato, raw pepper, raw carrot and maybe use some natural yoghurt to dip. Don't focus too much on the breads and crackers, they will fill him up and not give him as many nutrients as other foods.

Limit snacking so that he is hungry at meal times and avoid commenting too much on what he has or hasn't eaten, as this can encourage him to stress out or rebel. Keep it as relaxed as possible.

For proteins, try natural full fat yoghurt with fruit or honey, egg-based pancakes, diced chicken, white fish or turkey or tinned salmon in with his pasta and maybe some prawns at lunch. Also try sweet potato mash with butter instead of white.

I would like some quick and easy lunchtime ideas for my 19 month old. I tend to give him a hot meal for dinner, so at lunch I like to give him something to accompany rice cakes, raisins or yoghurt. I usually do something like a bagel or cheese sandwich or toast but now I’m after some new ideas. Anonymous question.

Zoe Gray: He might enjoy some soups (with your help!) at this time of year and it’s a great way to pack in the vegetables. You can make them in bulk and freeze them, but make sure you add a protein source for him like some slices of boiled egg. Frittata (omelette) is nice cut up into pieces and freezes fine, too, if you want to make it in bulk.

Try some houmous, fish pates made with natural yoghurt and tinned fish to go on his rice cakes for more finger based foods. Good quality hams (high meat content) are nice cut up on the side and go well with raw pepper slices and houmous.

Try blueberries and raspberries with his pudding instead of raisins sometimes and make sure it’s a full fat natural yoghurt that he’s having.

Since having my baby I get really low moods and binge eat carbs. What can I eat instead that will give me that comfort hit but make me feel better? Anonymous question.

Zoe Gray: I would encourage you to start by adding in foods to your diet rather than taking anything out. This will help reduce your dependency before removing/reducing anything from your diet.

Make sure you are balancing your blood sugar well by having a sufficient amount of protein at every meal which can help reduce sugar cravings. Pregnancy is very nutrient-demanding and can leave mums running low on nutrients so stock up on Omega three (sardines, salmon, trout), zinc (nuts, seeds, eggs, meats, seafood) and try to go for dark chocolate with some Brazil nuts for a snack.

My baby won't eat any greens at all. Should I be worried? Anonymous questions.

Zoe Gray: It would be great if your baby ate greens but worrying isn't helpful for you or your baby. Green vegetables are rich in calcium, magnesium and gentle fibre, so giving him other sources of these would be good idea.

In the meantime keep giving him small amount on his plate will help him to get used to them and try them, as tastes develop every day to appreciate a wider range of foods.

Nuts and seed butters (not peanut) are a great source of calcium and magnesium as are tinned sardines. Diced spinach added to sauces is usually tolerated by babies.

I know you're not supposed to eat for two when you're pregnant, but I am. My appetite's huge and I just feel the need to snack and have extra helpings at dinnertime. Any ideas of what I can do so I don't put on too much weight? Anonymous question.

Zoe Gray: There is a big increase in the need for vitamins and minerals in pregnancy, but only a small increase in calories required. Extra hunger can indicate your body wanting nutrients, so getting your calories from the most nutritious foods can help. Ensure that there is sufficient fat and protein with your meals to help reduce the hunger pangs.

Try adding uncooked extra virgin olive oil to meals, avocados to salads, eat red meats with some meals and snack on fruit and nuts. As long as you are not overdoing the starchy carbohydrates (potato, rice, bread and pasta) you should encourage a healthy weight. Keep a portion of rice, for example, to quarter of the plate rather than half and have extra veggies instead.

When can I introduce cake and chocolate to my nine month old? I want her to taste them but not get obsessed (like me)? Anonymous question.

Zoe Gray: I would avoid this until at least one year due to the caffeine and allergenic potential. It will probably happen naturally at a party so I wouldn't make an effort of introducing it yourself. If you do, have it after dinner rather than on an empty tummy to help avoid it causing a big rise in blood sugar.

The first few months and years can really set up your baby's palate for life so make sure she enjoys a range of flavours and is not over stimulating the sweet taste buds. This should help avoid her becoming addicted to sweet foods.

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