Things to DITCH:

1. Refined sugar and carbohydrate

Foods high in refined sugar and carbohydrate are often energy dense, but lacking in nutrition. Not only do they wreak havoc with your child’s blood sugar levels (think hyper one minute, tantrum throwing or disagreeable the next), but they also supress immune function, promote inflammation, contribute to tooth decay and exacerbate behaviour or learning issues. High sugar consumption also competes with the absorption of vitamins and minerals, leading to nutrient deficiencies.

NB: Artificial sweeteners (Equal, Splenda, Nutrasweet etc) are just as detrimental, and should also be avoided. Opt for sweetness from fruit or a little maple syrup or honey, and choose whole grains or pseudo grains like quinoa & buckwheat.


2. Soft drink and commercial juices

Not only are these both high in sugar and nutritionally void, but soft drink in particular contains a host of other bad guys – including caffeine, artificial flavours, colours and phosphoric acid. Phosphoric acid is added to many soft drinks to give them their acidity/tang – but is also wonderfully effective at removing rust! The consumption of phosphoric acid causes the improper utilisation and excretion of calcium, leading to an increased risk of bone fractures, lowered bone density as well as kidney stones. Opt for some natural sparkling mineral water mixed with a little fresh fruit juice as a treat.


3. Trans Fats

Trans fats are polyunsaturated fats that have been manipulated by food manufacturers in a process called partial hydrogenation. This basically makes the fats more stable resulting in a longer shelf life. Great for food manufactures… not so great for you or your little ones. Trans fats are found in many commercial foods such as pastries and baked goods, margarine, some frozen foods, fast food and many other items. There is a large body of evidence that shows that dietary intake of trans fats increases cholesterol levels and risk of cardiovascular disease, impairs hormone synthesis, compromises immune function, promotes weight gain and improper insulin metabolism, reduces the body’s ability to repair as well a range of other issues. This evidence is so alarming that the use of trans fats has been seriously restricted in many nations around the world.

NB: Due to food labelling standards in Australia, there is no definitive way to know if you are consuming trans fats. If the ingredient list mentions partially hydrogenated oil, or some variation of this, then it DOES contain trans fat. The only real way to avoid trans fats is to follow a diet of whole, unprocessed foods. Opt for good quality, unrefined oils such as coconut oil, flaxseed oil, olive oil and ghee.


4. Packaged and processed food

While packaged food may be convenient and quick when you have rumbling bellies to attend to, they are often laden with some of the ingredients mentioned above, along with artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. On top of this, commercial processing methods can severely degrade the nutritionally value of ingredients, leaving your kids with an energy dense, nutritionally void “food like” item.

NB: Food companies are releasing healthier snack foods more frequently, but still read ingredients lists carefully, and be mindful that just because you bought it in a health food store or aisle, doesn’t make it inherently healthy! Opt for home made snacks or nature’s most convenient foods – fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds.


Things to INCLUDE:

1. An abundance of vegetables

Anything from pureed carrot, beetroot, sweet potato, pumpkin, zucchini etc mixed with ghee or coconut oil for bubs, to carrot, celery, cucumber, capsicum sticks for little lunchboxes. The more vegetables the better! Be sure to choose a rainbow of colours to ensure you are capturing the widest variety of vitamins, minerals and antixoxidants. Vegetable sticks with hummus or guacamole make a fun, nutritious and delicious snack!


2. Organic eggs

Providing your child does not have an allergy to eggs, these little power houses are a great way to incorporate protein, good fats as well as vitamins A & D which are super important for neurological, immune, visual and digestive development. Cooked egg yolk can be introduced from 6-8 months, while cooked whole egg should be reserved until 12 months when the digestive and immune system are more mature.


3. Organic meat, chicken and offal

Yes offal! Remember, just because you have a mental aversion to something, doesn’t mean that your child does. Organically sourced organ meats are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, and can be easily concealed in child friendly foods such as Bolognese, home made pies (with home made pastry!), or slow cooked casseroles. Animal meats are a rich source of protein, zinc and iron in particular, which support proper growth and development in all systems of the body.

Protein is vital for rapidly growing children as it is the structural component of all cells. Animal proteins are the most bioavailable, and therefore the most easily utilised by the body.


4. Sustainably sourced seafood

Omega 3 essential fatty acids are a vitally important nutrient for children as it not only helps with their brain development and learning abilities, but it supports their immune system, mucous membranes as well as mood and behaviour. While omega 3 can be found in vegetarian sources (such as flax or chia), the conversion to the active constituents (EPA/DHA) is limited, and is therefore best consumed from seafood. Deep sea fish (such as salmon, trout, sardines and anchovies) are best as they are less polluted. Avoid large fish e.g. tuna, shark (flake), stingray, barramundi, gemfish, orange roughy (deep sea perch), ling, king mackerel, catfish, swordfish & marlin as these are too high in mercury. Sardines, mashed with the bones are a great source of essential fatty acids as well as calcium and other minerals. Fish cakes with a homemade dipping sauce are great for little fingers and lunchboxes.


5. Bone broth and fermented vegetables

Homemade broth or stock, from organic bones, is an incredibly rich source of vitamins, minerals, protein, good fats, glucosamine and gelatin. This wonderful medley of nutrition is amazingly supportive for growing bodies and can be gradually introduced from 6 months of age. Not only does it soothe and nourish the immune and digestive systems, but it supports the growth of bones and connective tissue, skin, teeth and joints. Fermented vegetables, another less common inclusion, are hugely beneficial for children and can also be slowly introduced from around 6-8 months old. They are a wonderful source, not only of fibre, but of active probiotic bacteria that aid in the development of the immune system and gut, as well as the prevention of allergies. Start by adding spoonfuls of broth and the juice from fermented vegetables to purees, or offer both as delicious and nurturing sides to older children.


Remember, no two children are the same, even within the one family! Listen to your child’s requests and complaints, but don’t forget that you are the parent and you get the final say. Provide them with interesting options, talk to them about the importance of healthy eating, and most importantly, if you have any concerns around specific health issues or nutrient deficiencies, seek professional advice from a trained health care practitioner.


Kate Johnston

ND (Adv Dip Nat, Adv Dip Nut)

Naturopathic Clinician