Answered by a paediatric dietitian
By Karina Savage
How do I get my fussy eater to try new foods?
- Offer them healthy foods throughout the day. Toddlers have small tummies; therefore, snacks can provide up to 50% of their nutrition. Dinner is only one sixth of their day, so if they don’t eat vegies then, include them in other meals and snacks.
- Serve meals earlier rather than later. Tired, distracted or anxious children eat poorly.
- Keep snack times consistent rather than a rolling buffet of food on offer all day.
- Eat at the table with them and remove as many distractions from eating as possible (NO screens). We are our children’s role models and eating together will help to improve their variety and acceptance of foods – over the years.
- Persistence and repetition are KEY. When introducing new foods, it may take up to 10-15 attempts before they accept a new food. We probably needed to have coffee or wine 10-15 times before we developed a taste for it – right? Whilst it is easy to get disheartened and stop offering the food after the first 4 or 5 times, do keep trying. Just put a teaspoon of the “test food” on the plate (and don’t make a fuss) …. but make sure that you are also eating it!
How can I get them to eat more veggies?
- Make it fun: make the food appealing to children. Remember a child’s whole world revolves around having fun!
- Incorporate it into snacks – ie chopped veg as part of a platter or giving them home-made muffins that contain grated zucchini or carrot. Other options include hommus or pesto dip with vegie sticks or crackers.
- Get them involved in food preparation: this will help over time.
- Don’t make a fuss; the more you push, the more they will run!!
- Be a good role model; always eat them yourself and show you enjoy doing so (without going over the top!)
Note: Hiding pureed veg in food or smoothies is fine, but also make sure they are given and encouraged to eat pieces of vegetables.
Are probiotics useful?
- Probiotics can be very effective in certain situations to build immunity and protect gut health. Probiotics come in all different forms. There are those that are found naturally in foods such as yoghurt and other fermented foods such as sauerkraut. In terms of probiotic supplements, there are probably only a handful of strains that I would actually recommend. Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG (LGG) has been shown to be beneficial to strengthen immunity and helping to outgrow allergies. This is also the probiotic found in Vaalia Kids yoghurt.
What are some great kids’ dinner ideas?
- Honey soy chicken (I use organic) with noodles, steamed broccoli and capsicum
- Homemade pizzas with a side salad
- Homemade sausage rolls plus side salad
- Good quality sausages (more than 80% organic beef) with side of pasta and chopped veg
- Omelette (with finely diced veg) or scrambled egg with vegetables on the side
- Kids fried rice
- Baked beans on grainy bread with side of chopped raw vegetables
- Chicken schnitzels with roast potatoes, steamed broccoli and raw capsicum
How do I increase calcium in my kids?
- Calcium is richest in dairy products such as milk, yoghurt (Vaalia kids and Vaalia My First is good source of calcium) and cheese. Non-dairy sources of calcium include milk substitutes (such as soy and almond milk) which often have calcium added to them. Tinned salmon (with bones), sardines and tofu (made with calcium) are other good sources. The dark leafy greens that contain calcium are bok choy, collard and kale. Almonds are a good source and seeds such as poppy, sesame and chia are also rich in this important mineral.
My child isn’t eating much meat. How do I get enough iron into their diet?
- Iron is found in both animal products and plant foods. Aside from liver and kidney, red meat is highest in iron, followed by pork, poultry and fish. Often young children do struggle to eat meat, therefore using the vegetarian sources of iron can be very helpful. Vegetarian sources include eggs, legumes, spinach, wholegrains, cereals that are fortified with iron, dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Whilst the iron from the vegetarian sources isn’t as well absorbed, you can significantly help this (by up to 70%) by eating Vitamin C with it. Foods such as citrus, strawberries, tomato, red capsicum, broccoli and parsley are high in Vitamin C and will help absorption of iron.
Do children need supplements?
- If children are eating a healthy balanced diet, they theoretically shouldn’t need a supplement. Having said this, we know that 1 in 5 young children are low in iron, so in some cases specific supplementation is required. If you have a super fussy eater, they may benefit from a multivitamin; however if your child is only slightly fussy, then they shouldn’t need one. The only times I would generally recommend a supplement is either if they are iron deficient, or when they are becoming ill – extra zinc and Vitamin C can be useful at this time to help a speedy recovery from sickness.
How do I improve my child’s gut health?
- We can boost our children’s immune system by making sure they eat plenty of plant foods on a daily basis. We need to be regularly including foods such as fruit, vegetables, oats, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes – using them both in main meals and snacks. Not only are these foods rich in many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, they also provide invaluable fibre. Fibre, otherwise known as a prebiotic, is incredibly important for nourishing our gut cells and therefore supporting a healthy robust immune system. Another way to supplement their natural gut flora is to give them foods naturally rich in probiotics such as Vaalia kids yoghurt and fermented foods such as sauerkraut.
What are the best packaged kid’s snacks?
- This is a great question as I feel society really has succumbed to an acceptance of giving our kids refined packaged carbs on a regular basis. Foods such as rice crackers, puffed potato sticks, potato crisps and rice wheels are all snacks that fit into this category. I don’t have much respect for those types of foods because they are very processed/refined and rarely resemble the food that they originally came from. They release sugar quite quickly into the bloodstream (high GI) and we know that this is linked to weight gain and poorer metabolic health. These foods usually contain very little fibre and nutrients. Better choices of “packet” carbohydrate snacks include lightly salted popcorn, dried legumes (chick peas, Fav-va beans), vita wheat crackers, rye cruskits with avocado, wholegrain breakfast cereal dry (such as Weetbix bites, sultana bran buds). Another good snack to consider which will satisfy their appetite is Vaalia Kids yoghurt which is a source of protein and provides valuable nutrients such as calcium and probiotics.
How much milk should they be drinking?
- Milk contains nutrients essential for their development, including calcium. By the age of three, children should have a maximum of 350ml milk total per day. Drinking any more than this may displace important nutrients obtained from other foods such as plant foods.
Karina Savage is a Paediatric Gut Health Dietitian and mum of two from Smartbite Nutrition.