My biggest concern with going dairy and gluten free was finding the appropriate replacements and filling Poet's belly with lots of nourishing goodness that she actually enjoys eating. In this day and age, we are literally inundated with dairy and wheat alternatives and while this is most definitely a good thing, it is also overwhelming. Earlier this week I had a consultation with Paediatric Nutritionist and Feeding Consultant, Mandy Sacher of Wholesome Child. I wanted some basic advice from Mandy; how to boost the calcium in Poet's diet, the best options for breakfast, yummy alternatives to wheat flour and how to increase the protein and fats in the lunchbox. Poet has an amazing appetite and is usually open to trying new foods but for me, the brain power and the sheer amount of time required to muddle my way through new recipes is a bit arduous.
Mandy is passionate about making small steps to change, regardless of what you child's diet is like. She also understands the intricate relationship between children and food; the emotional and behavioural connections can't be denied. She firmly believes that treats are absolutely fine, dinnertime is a terrible time to introduce new foods and, most importantly, children are adaptable.
As part of my consultation, Mandy offered me a fabulous shopping list including preferred brands, a slew of delicious (and not difficult) recipes to try out, ingredients to create the perfect wheat alternatives and a range of calcium-rich non-dairy foods. She also sent me a detailed follow-up to our consultation with easy-to-follow suggestions that most definitely put my mind at ease.
A few things I learned:
Calcium-rich foods should be served three-times a day. Dairy alternatives include: canned sardines or salmon with bones, almonds, sesame seeds and tahini, hummus, bone broth, egg yolk, green leafy vegetables, white beans, chickpeas, dried figs, oranges, seaweed and chia seeds.
Rotating grains will help to avoid reactions or sensitivities which occur when there is too much wheat and gluten in the diet. Including other grains will also ensure a broader range of vitamins and minerals.
Fats and oils are an important part of the diet as they contribute to a wide variety of bodily functions, ranging from eye health and calcium absorption to bone growth and brain development. Suggestions include olive oil, organic animal lard, coconut butter, avocado, banana, hummus, tahini, good quality mayonnaise, nuts and seeds.
Mandy happily answered all of my questions and, with you in mind, I thought it best to share some hints and tips that resonated with me:
Three small changes we can make to improve the way our kids eat:
Swapping to wholegrains. Start with small steps...if you child eats white bread on a daily basis, swap to a wholegrain variety. The same goes for pasta and refined crackers.
Reducing sugar – try to phase sugar out and offer “sometimes food” at special times so your child knows when to expect them and doesn't constantly nag you for them. Most of the sugar we consume is hidden in our everyday food products – so learning to read food labels and to spot the hidden sugars in things like sauces, yoghurts, healthy muesli bars is really useful. For children who are use to eating lots of sugar, it can be too hard and not achievable to take an all or nothing approach. Offer healthy version of favourite sweet foods and use and use an unprocessed sugar such as coconut sugar in baking.
Focus on including the right fats in their diet… children need fat, it’s a precursor for healthy hormones immune systems and cognitive development. Try to reduce processed vegetable fats and margarine and opt for unsalted butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, avocado, raw nuts and chia seeds.
Three things to remember about kids and food:
Create fun and pleasant mealtime experiences! We can’t force children to love food we need to help them to develop an enjoyment for the right kids of food by helping them develop a positive attitude towards food.
Focus on variety! We need to ensure they are not eating the same foods over and over again, we need to ensure there is variety and even if they refuse to eat something such as veggies we need to still keep offering it and ensure the opportunity exists – what is not eaten today may become a firm favourite in the future – but if we stop offering it because they have refused it a few times, there wont be opportunity to enjoy it again … children’s tastebuds are forever changing!
Offer new foods at the appropriate time - after sport, at a park, at a picnic. Choose a time when there is less stress or when they show the most interest in food. Some kids are great breakfast eaters and others eat well at lunch. Dinner time is not always the best time to offer new foods as their sensory systems are often overloaded and parents are tired.
Mandy is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund her first cookbook and is offering a special consultation discount to my readers - you can get a 45minute consultation, a menu planner, shopping guide and a copy of the new book for $90 (usually $180). If you're interested, head over to Mandy's kickstarter campaign to offer your support. And, if you would like to make the banana bread pictured above this weekend, head over here for the recipe (substitute spelt for 1/2 cup buckwheat, 1/2cup arrowroot and 1/2 cup coconut flour).