Ask a Nutritionist: 10 Burning Questions About Feeding Kids

Raising kids is hard and trying to feed them can be one of the toughest daily battles we face especially when there seems to be so much conflicting information out there. If only there was someone who would answer all those “What the hell to feed our kids” questions we have been dying to ask! Meet Lauren Gayfer, aka The Fairy Food Mother. Lauren is a nutritional therapist and she knows her apples! Let’s do this….


1. Q. Breakfast. Let’s be honest, we would all love to send our kids off to school with a tummy full of freshly homemade chia seed, goji berry and almond meal muffins served with a blueberry and kale smoothie…. But life ain’t like that. At the other end of the scale some kids are sent to school literally pinging around off a bowl of Frosties. There must be a happy medium?
A. Look for better options of what works for you and add goodness where you can. If your kids love cereals, go for ones with lower sugar content. If they love toast, aim for whole wheat bread with added seeds and nuts and spread them with nut butters rather than jam. Offer you kids fruit at breakfast even if it is just sliced apples or blueberries and also offer protein if you can (eggs, yogurt, sausage, bacon).


2. Q. Kids need water… but love squash and juice. What is the best approach to keeping kids hydrated without exposing them to too much sugar in the process?
A. Drinks are a really easy way to unknowingly load our kids up with sugar. Some of the worst culprits are the squashes that advertise themselves as “no added sugar” or “double concentrate”. They are often loaded with sugars PLUS sweeteners. Aim for organic cordials or just dilute fruit juices, at least that way there will be some vitamin uptake too.


3. Q. With so much conflicting information out there, what is the simplest way to know what to feed our kids?
A. The simplest guide for building a healthy meal is to aim to fill half of your plate (and not one the size of a manhole cover!) with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with unrefined carbs (whole grains, legumes, etc.), and one quarter with a lean source of protein. Try to optimise calories by eating colourful foods and good fats (nuts, avocado, eggs, etc.) and reducing our intake of processed and refined foods. In terms of portions, obviously kids need less than adults but as a guide a portion of meat should be the size of the palm of the hand of a child.


4. Q. Lots of parents fear exposing their kids to too much salt. Does this mean that we should compromise on flavour and not season our kid’s food?
A. This comes down to both quantity and quality. Salt can get out of control if you lose track of how much you are eating, which is easily done when consuming processed foods. The better approach here is to avoid processed foods and cook real food and season it… food tasting good is an important aspect of any meal! Also, not all salts are born equal. Regular table salt is heavily processed which eliminates minerals and often contains anti-clumping additives. Options like sea salt or Himalayan pink salt are naturally rich in iodine and tons of minerals.


5. Q. What foods would you recommend kids eat more of?
A. Most parents know what is good for their kids but we should keep a close eye on protein intake if we can. Protein is essential for growth and repair and even whilst eating a healthy diet it is easy to overlook protein. Many breakfasts are low in protein, school lunches may be sandwiches, pasta or baked potatoes and if protein is not offered at dinner times then kids can easily go a whole day without any protein intake.


6. Q. What foods would you recommend that kids don’t eat?
A. Processed foods are the ones to watch. The key with any food is knowing what you are eating. Even healthy looking products can contain really high levels of salt and sugar and other additives.


7. Q. Many parents avoid carbs. Is it ok for kids to share this diet?
A. Carbs are important for kids as they tend to be much more active that adults. Many ‘official’ recommendations advise that half of a child’s diet should be carb based but a quarter is probably closer to the mark. Try to make carbs nutrient rich; whole-grain bread, pasta and cereal, brown rice, fruit, peas and beans.


8. Q. The World Health Organisation has recently increased the number of recommended portions of fruit and veg per day to 10. How much of a priority should this been when feeding kids?
A. Many people struggled to eat 5 per day and see 10 a day as a real challenge. A great way to approach fruit and veg intake is to just make sure that every meal or snack includes a portion of fruit or veg. If you stick to this you have already won half the battle.


9. Q. What would be your top 3 pieces of advice / things to keep in mind for parents when feeding their kids?
A. 1. Keep an eye on protein intake, as discussed, it is easy to let it slip with kids.
2. Be aware of what you are feeding your kids – Read the labels.
3. Keep going! Keep offering healthy food and new foods and don’t stress about it.


10. Q. Turns out that none of us are perfect parents, is an 80/20 approach ok with kids food?
A. Absolutely. One thing that comes along with being a parent is a whole lot of guilt. Don’t feel guilty about your kids eating crap now and again. We all do it and we need to give ourselves a break and give into our desires now and again. Just make sure that you get the 80/20 the right way round, it is easy to slip into 80% unhealthy food and 20% healthy!


Lauren Gayfer is a nutritional therapist and founder of The Fairy Food Mother, specialising in helping busy women feel fabulous with food. Her online membership club ‘The Secret Kitchen Club’ provides delicious, healthy meal plans and recipes that take the thinking out of food shopping and meal planning


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