Your Personal Paediatric Nutrition Guide

Your Personal Paediatric Nutrition Guide

We all run busy lives and though we know the incredible value that nutrition plays in our kids development, overall health and wellbeing, with so much going on it’s not always easy to keep on top of what your kids are putting into their bodies! That’s why we ‘ve asked Mandy Sacher, a paediatric nutritionist and author of A Wholesome Child: A Complete Nutrition Guide and Cookbook to share some practical tips and advice including:

What are the pillars of a healthy lunch box?

What is your guide to buying packaged foods and what should parents look out for in labels / packaging?

What are your tips and go-to’s for parents struggling to find time to make food and experiment with recipes, but want to improve the nutritional intake of what their kids are eating?

What are your tips for parents with fussy eaters?

A healthy lunchbox for kids should ideally include a variety of foods from the following food:

  1. Fruits and vegetables: Aim to include at least one serving of fruit and one – two servings of vegetables in the lunchbox. Be sure to include 3 different types of vegetables to increase variety. To ensure your child eats their five serves per day, also include veggies in their recess box.
  2. Whole grains: Choose whole grain breads, crackers, or pasta for the lunchbox. Whole grains provide more fibre and nutrients than refined grains. A wholemeal sourdough bread is my favourite wholegrain choice for lunchbox sandwiches
  3. Protein: Protein is important for growing kids. Good sources of protein include grass-fed meat, organic poultry, low-mercury fish, organic or free range eggs, seeds such as chia seeds, sunflower and sesame seeds (most preschools and schools are nut-free), and plenty of legumes and beans.
  4. Dairy: Dairy products like natural yoghurts with added probiotics, low-sodium yellow and white cheeses are good sources of calcium, which is important for strong bones and teeth. However, there are also plenty of non-dairy calcium rich foods including hummus, sesame seeds, chickpeas, seaweed, lentils, beans and leafy greens
  5. Water: Children should learn to get their energy through food and hydrate with water. This means that children should be encouraged to drink water throughout the day and avoid sugary drinks and flavoured milk.

When it comes to purchasing packaged foods for your family, it’s important to read labels and make informed choices. My top tips include:

  1. Look for whole foods: Choose packaged foods that contain whole food ingredients like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts.
  2. Check the ingredients list: Make sure the first few ingredients are whole foods or names you recognise as real food. You do not want to see names that are unfamiliar or sugar as a first ingredient. Also avoid products that contain long lists of ingredients, anything with artificial ingredients, preservatives, and additives such as flavourings and colourings.
  3. Check the sugar and sodium content on the nutrition label: Look for foods that are low in added sugars and sodium and high in fibre, contain protein and vitamins, and minerals which come from food not synthetic ones that are named in the ingredient list.
  4. Choose minimally processed foods: Foods that are minimally processed are often healthier than heavily processed foods. For example, choose unsweetened applesauce over sugary fruit snacks.
  5. Consider portion sizes: Pay attention to the serving size and choose snacks that are appropriate for your child’s age and activity level.
  6. Opt for the best options with no added sugars and free from flavouring: For example, choose natural plain yoghurt instead of flavoured yoghurt with added sugars, choose plain wholegrain crackers over the cheesy flavoured ones. This is the best way to avoid the nasties.
  7. Choose snacks that provide nutrients your child needs, such protein-rich bliss balls instead of a Freddo Frog or Tiny Teddies. Another easy swap is lightly salted homemade popcorn over storebought sweet popcorn.

By following these tips, you can make informed choices when purchasing

packaged foods for your kids that are both convenient and healthy.

What are your tips and go-to’s for parents struggling to find time to make food and experiment with recipes, but want to increase the Nutritional intake of what their kids are eating?

  1. Plan ahead: Take some time on the weekend to plan meals for the coming week. See this as an activity to do with your child. This can increase their confidence with new foods and aid in their oral motor development. By doing this and being prepared you can squeeze in more homemade meals and avoid last-minute food decisions. 
  2. Batch cook: Cook large batches of meals and freeze them in individual portions. This will save you time during the week and ensure your kids have access to healthy meals.
  3. Use a slow cooker: A slow cooker is a great tool for making healthy meals with minimal effort. You can throw ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning and have a healthy dinner ready by evening or overnight for a delicious oaty breakfast. 
  4. Keep it simple: You don’t need to create complex recipes to make healthy meals for your kids. Stick to simple meals that are easy to prepare, such as grilled chicken with vegetables and brown rice. You can make rice or pasta in big batches and freeze to save time preparing mid-week meals. 
  5. Involve your kids: Let your older kids help with meal prep and cooking during weeknights. This can make mealtime more fun and enjoyable for everyone.
  6. Boost meals with healthy foods: Sneak in healthy foods into your kids’ meals, such as adding spinach to a smoothie or pureeing vegetables into spaghetti sauce.
  7. Be creative with leftovers: Use leftover ingredients to create new meals. For example, leftover chicken can be used in a salad or sandwich the next day. Mincemeat can be used to create healthy Tacos or Nachos meal for dinner and sent in a thermos with pasta the next day.

What are your tips for parents with fussy eaters?

  1. Offer a variety of foods: Offer a variety of healthy foods at every meal, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy. Encourage your child to try new foods, but don’t force them.
  2. Make food fun: Make food fun by arranging it into fun shapes or designs, or by letting your child help with meal prep.
  3. Be patient: It can take many tries for a child to accept a new food. Keep offering healthy foods and be patient.
  4. Offer healthy snacks: Offer healthy snacks between meals, such as sliced fruits, vegetables, or whole grain crackers.
  5. Don’t use food as a reward: Avoid using food as a reward, as this can create unhealthy associations with food.
  6. Get creative: Find creative ways to incorporate healthy foods into your child’s favourite dishes. For example, you can add pureed vegetables to spaghetti sauce or make homemade pizza with a hidden veggie base and veggies blended into the pizza sauce. 
  7. Set a good example: Be a good role model by eating a variety of healthy foods yourself.

What would you recommend for babies who are having trouble gaining weight?

  1. Offer nutrient-dense foods: As the baby starts to eat solid foods, offer nutrient-dense options like avocado, coconut oil. nut butters, cooked and pureed meats, and whole milk yoghurt. These foods can provide healthy fats and protein to support weight gain.
  2. Work with a healthcare professional: If the baby is struggling to gain weight to determine if there are underlying medical issues that need to be addressed.

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