11 top tips for fussy eaters

Lots of families have at least one fussy eater.

Trying to get a fussy eater to eat a nutritious diet can make meal times a very stressful event, and unfortunately it’s a viscous cycle.

As a fussy eater self limits their diet, their gut health goes down hill, and they restrict their food choices even more.

Here are my 11 top tips to help your fussy eater be a bit more adventurous!


  1. Presentation is everything when it comes to kids and food.

This can be a very simple solution to a very big problem.

Invest in a decent spiralizer and spiralize anything and everything!!

Zucchini, beetroot, apples, carrots and cucumber can all be spiralized.

Other presentation ideas include:

  • Make a ‘platter’ with lots of different finger food
  • Include dips like hummus or babaganoush, and chop up veggies to dip in them
  • Make a salad into a smiley face
  • Have different bowls and containers for different parts of the meal
  • You can even use cookie cutters to cut some fruits or veggies.


  1. Get messy.

When a child is exposed to a new food, they know nothing about it.  They don’t know how it tastes, how it will feel in their mouth or what it smells like.

To help them feel comfortable, they need to explore it with their hands before they take the next step of eating.

So give you child permission to play with their food, it’s the first step in eating the food.


  1. Be a Role model

If you turn up your nose at vegetables, or refer to them with negative language, your child will pick up on this. 

Don’t say ‘you can’t have dessert until you eat your vegetables’.  It makes it sound like vegetables are something to be dreaded and endured, before you get to the good stuff.

The vegetables are the good stuff!

Try to eat together as a family as much as possible.  This makes eating a social event and a time when children can talk about their day, as well as encouraging them to eat.

No one likes to eat alone.

They need to sit at the table until everyone is finished, whether they are eating or not.  Eating in front of the ipad or TV is not a good idea.

Eating should be a mindful, conscious experience, not a pastime in front of the TV.


  1. Remove addictive foods.

If your child has a very high proportion of gluten and dairy foods in their diet, you can consider them addicted.

Whilst they still have these foods, they will not be interested in other foods.

If this is the case for your child, you can either go cold turkey and remove the gluten and dairy foods and endure a few days of tantrums.

Or you can do it gradually over a few days, and try to wean them off them.

Once these foods are gone, they will be more accepting of new tastes and flavours.


  1. Make healthy foods accessible.

Keep unhealthy food out of the house, or at least inaccessible to children.  Instead, keep lots of interesting fruit in the fruit bowl, and chopped vegetables in the fridge, at eye level.

Boiled eggs are another great healthy snack.

In the pantry, have a range of nuts and seeds to nibble on.


  1. Stick to a schedule.

Grazing is bad for your gut health, your teeth and bad for kid’s appetite.  There should be at least 3 hours between each meal or snack.  A child who sits down to a meal hungry will be more likely to eat the food put down in front of them.  Kids (and adults) get confused between boredom and hunger.

Food isn’t a pastime to relieve boredom, and it is not a crutch when you feel sad. 

Decide on a meal and snack schedule for the family and write it up on the fridge.

Whenever someone asks for food, you can refer them to the schedule!!


  1. Give tools for expression.

Children can find it difficult to articulate how they feel about a food, and just call it ‘yuck’.  Teach them words to describe the texture of the food (crispy, tough, crunchy, slimy, soft), the taste of the food (sweet, salty, spicy, sour, bitter), the smell (smokey, spicy, sweet), the look of the food (looks hard, rough, lumpy).

When they can articulate, they will be able to feel more control over their food.


  1. Look for underlying causes of fussiness.

Zinc deficiency is common in kids, and can reduce someone’s sense of taste, and therefore their appetite.  Magnesium deficiency can cause sweet cravings.  Run some tests and find out, so you can supplement appropriately.


  1. Variety.

Don’t give the same foods every day. Give new foods alongside familiar trusted ones.  Make each plate a rainbow, and use the colours to teach your children about nutrition.  Give the foods names, like broccoli trees or cucumber ribbons.  It makes it a fun colours experience, not a white bland one


  1. Use positive reinforcement.

Children will often start off very adventurous eaters, and then when they are about 18 months and develop a sense of self, they will start to reject previously loved food. It is important to push through this stage, and keep giving the same healthy choices. Praise them emphatically for eating their dinner, and give them rewards like stickers or stamps.  Remember a child has to try a food 13 times before you can definitely say that they don’t like it.  Never use food as a reward, and don’t show them you are upset by this change in preferences.  Just finish up the mealtime and move on with the day.

 11. Get them involved.

It is never too early to get your child involved in food preparation.  Young kids can help put cherry tomatoes into bowls, then they can progress to ripping up lettuce or kale.  Once your child is about 6, they can use a sharp knife to cut up vegetables under supervision.  Going shopping with your child can be good as long as this doesn’t lead to junk ending up in the trolley.  Let your child choose a new fruit and vegetable every week

How to avoid unnecessary antibiotics

Climate change and antibiotic resistance are two big issues that really worry me.   They are both major threats to mankind, and they are pretty much inevitable unless we all make changes.  Yet the majority of people carry on without thinking about them.

With antibiotic resistance, I think there is a general feeling that most people won’t be affected, but that is not true.  Before the dawn of antibiotics, a scratch from a dirty nail could kill you.  The ramification that is closest to my heart is the fact that major invasive surgeries will not be possible any more.  This means no more open heart surgery, and certainly no transplantation.  As my little girl needs more open heart surgery later in life, it is important to me to do something to avoid this situation.  The other big medical treatment that won’t be possible is chemotherapy.  Antibiotics are given during chemotherapy when the patient’s immune defences are down, so when antibiotics are no longer of use, chemo will be more dangerous.

So why don’t the drug companies just make better antibiotics?  Unfortunately, it isn’t a financially viable proposition any more.  Why spend money developing a drug, when it will only be useful for a few years before bugs develop resistance?

A major change in drug technology is needed, but is not on the horizon yet.

In the meantime, it is down to each and every one of us to avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary.

The same way we all need to recycle, reduce single use plastic and use public transport.

I’ve had my fair share of sick kiddies, and no-one wants their child to suffer.  So here I have put together some strategies to help you deal with the conditions that doctors most likely give antibiotics to in children: Upper respiratory tract infections, tonsillitis and ear infections.

At the end of the day, in some instances, your child will need antibiotics.  But never put pressure on your doctor to give antibiotics, and try to evaluate other options. Focus on prevention, through healthy diet and lifestyle (read how to do this here), and antibiotic use will reduce.

Upper respiratory tract infection:

This is usually the common cold, but can also be bronchitis or sinusitis.

Often, this will be caused by a virus, not a bacteria, so antibiotics will not be helpful.

Doctors will sometimes give antibiotics to prevent a secondary bacterial infection.

Once you have a respiratory infection, the most important thing to do is rest.  If it is a child, they should home from school, and definitely stop doing extra-curricular activities for a few days.

The other really important thing to do is to drink lots of fluids.  The reason that this is so important is that it keeps all the mucus very runny, so it flows out.  If it can’t flow out, it will accumulate as a warm soup, just waiting to get a bacterial infection.

If you know others have a cold, or if your child is at day-care, be really scrupulous about hand washing.  All you need is soap and water, not antibacterial soap or hand sanitiser.

Other things to try are:

  • A good dose of Vitamin A. My favourite way to give this is from cod liver oil, and you get bonus vitamin D also.
  • Vitamin C can not only help prevent infections, but can shorten the duration of the infection also. Give frequent doses throughout the day.
  • Zinc will also make a child’s immune system strong, and reduce the duration of an infection. If you don’t want to take a supplement, have lots of high zinc foods like seeds and red meat, or for the adventurous child, oysters!
  • Garlic is amazing when it comes to respiratory infections, and should be eaten as raw as possible. If your child is old enough, you can chop the garlic clove up enough for them to swallow with water.  Otherwise, crush and mix with a bit of honey.
  • Make chicken soup and add lots of mucus thinning foods like onion, leeks and garlic.


One of my daughters has had tonsillitis twice and it was horrendous, so I can’t imagine how awful it is if your child has recurrent tonsillitis.

If it keeps happening, you need to focus on strengthening the immune system, and recovering from the antibiotic already taken.  Once your child already has tonsillitis, you obviously want to soothe the throat and reduce the swelling in the lymph glands.

If you go to the doctor, get them to take a swab.  This will help to determine if it is bacterial or viral, and will also help select the appropriate antibiotics, if they are required.  If you need an antibiotic, you want to be sure it is the right one.

Again, vitamin C is really important, give it at frequent intervals through the day

Drink lots of water, at least a litre a day.  You can add a bit of Manuka honey to make it more palatable.  Manuka honey is a great anti-bacterial agent.  It is expensive, so save it for these therapeutic applications, not everyday use.  Another way to get fluids in is through chicken soup, healing and hydrating at the same time.

Rest is really important, but so is fresh air.  So try to keep the child warm, but exposed to fresh air – windows open, or lying outside in a sheltered area.

Often at the first sign of tonsillitis, the ice cream will come out, but this is not helpful.  You actually want to avoid dairy including ice cream, cheese, milk, as well as processed food.

Instead focus on yummy healthy foods like mango, apricots and berries.  If you want your child to have something cold to soothe there throat, puree some frozen fruit and make a healthy slushie.

Homemade ice blocks will also soothe, and as well as having tasty ingredients like honey and fruit, you can smuggle in some chicken stock!

You may have some helpful spices lurking in your cupboard.  Turmeric and ginger are anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial.  If you can buy fresh, great, if not just use the powdered form.  You can make a mild curry, make herbal tea or even add to the ice block.  Cinnamon is another great spice, just pop a cinnamon stick in hot water and leave until cool.  The child can then gargle this if old enough, or just sip through the day. You can add powdered cinnamon to stewed apples as a comforting snack.

If your child can gargle, add one teaspoon chopped sage and one teaspoon chopped thyme to 150ml boiling water.  Let it sit for 10 min, then strain.  Use the lukewarm water as a gargle.  Do this 2-3 times per day, or just sip.

Essential oils are great, in the bath or a spray bottle to keep room fresh.  Just be careful because some essential oils aren’t safe for little ones.

To break the cycle of infection, change tooth brushes frequently and never share them.

Ear infections

If you child is having their first ear infection, you can play it by ear (pun intended).  Just help them get over the infection, and ease the pain.  It has been demonstrated that antibiotics shorten the duration illness by only a small amount, if at all.

For pain relief, use some mullein oil or garlic oil.  Garlic oil can be bought in a capsule.  Mullein oil can be purchased from a health food shop.  Put a few drops in the ear (not if the ear has perforated).  This will reduce the swelling and therefore the pain.

My favourite treatment is the onion earmuffs!  Cut an onion in half and bake at 160C for about 12-15 minutes.  Let the onion cool down enough to handle, wrap in a cheese cloth, and stick a fork in each half.  Hold the flat side of the onion near the sore ear for 5 minutes, obviously keep it far enough away from the ear so as not to be uncomfortable, and move it closer as it cools.  Hold it there for 5 minutes, and do this 3 times a day.  The fumes from the onion are anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory.

To fight the infection, give Vitamin C, zinc and garlic.

Avoid foods that produce mucus like dairy, white flour and bananas.

If your child has recurrent ear infections, than you need to ask why.

One of the most common reasons is allergens.  To find out if this is the case for your child, you can do an elimination diet, or do a blood test.  The straightforward removal of irritating foods can make the world of difference.

The other nifty little trick is to help the Eustachian tubes to drain, so the soupy mucus can’t sit and get infected.   A few ways to do this is to blow up balloons or blow bubbles in a drink or the bath.

If your child does need antibiotics, then support their gut health during treatment as well as after treatment.  You can do this with probiotics, fermented food and prebiotics.

It takes from 18 months to 4 years to recover from a course of antibiotics, and repeated courses will make this time even longer.  So spend a little time weighing up the pros and cons of taking a course of antibiotics.

How can I help my child gain weight?

For some children, putting on weight can be a struggle, especially if they have a chronic health condition.

If this is something that you worry about, the first thing to think about is:

Are they actually in need of rapid weight gain?

People love a chubby baby, but that is not necessarily appropriate or healthy.

There is no other stage in life where people view slimness as unhealthy or undesirable!!

To make an objective judgement, look at the growth charts – are they keeping on their own trajectory, or are they falling off it?

If they are actually falling off it, let’s have a look at a few reasons why that might be.

  1. Are they a fussy eater?

If they are, then you need to deal with fussiness.

Imagine someone blindfolded you, put a plate of food in front of you and said “now eat this”.

  • What colour is the food?
  • Is it lumpy or smooth?
  • Does it look like it might be too cold or too hold?
  • What will it taste like?

Imagine this is how a child feels when presented with a new food for the first time.

Unless they get a chance to sniff it, touch it, lick it, how will they feel comfortable to eat it?

So let them get messy!!

Tips to get started to help with fussiness are:

  • Eat together as a family
  • Model good eating behaviour – sit down, chat, put away the phone, enjoy your food.
  • Try to make mealtimes relaxing – possibly have a pre-dinner routine – read story, wash hands, then sit at the dinner table
  • Introduce foods very gently and patiently
  • Let them play with the food – squeeze it, roll it, push it etc.


  1. Are they constipated?

If your child is constipated, this will have a negative effect on their appetite.

One likely cause of constipation is a lack of fibre.

To add more fibre to the diet stick to fruit, vegetable, nuts, legumes and seeds.

And whenever you increase fibre in anyone’s diet, make sure you increaser the water too.  If you add the fibre and not the water, you can make things worse.

Some foods which are particularly helpful are kiwi fruit, beetroot and blackberries.

  1. Do they have diarrhoea?

If your child has chronic diarrhoea, food will not be in their system long enough to absorb all the nutrients, and they will struggle to food on weight.

Find out why they have diarrhoea:

  • Is it food intolerances?
  • Do they have a parasite or other infection?

Dietary changes and probiotics can make the world of difference.


Which foods will help with weight gain?

Don’t fall into the trap of giving your child fast food, processed food and ice cream to increase weight gain.  This might make them put on fat, but will lead to other health and behavioural issues.

Stick with real food.

  1. Liver – this is nutrient dense, high in iron and should be served in small amounts, frequently. Choose organic liver, and make a chicken liver pate. Or just fry some liver with a slice of nitrite free bacon.
  2. Oily fish has a great amount of healthy fat. Most children really like foods like salmon as it is soft and easy to chew.  Other more economical options include sardines for breakfast, or salmon cakes made with tinned salmon
  3. Nut butters are high in calories and kids love them. Choose the non-peanut varieties, as peanuts are more inflammatory.  Either make your own nut butter or buy one with no added preservatives, flavours, salt, palm oil etc.
  4. Bone broth and chicken stock. Learn how to make your own bone broth and chicken stock and use this instead of water when cooking.  If you are making risotto, cook in this liquid gold.  If you are making mashed potatoes cook in stock and then mash the stock into the potatoes (usually about 250g of stock is right for 1kg potatoes).  Chicken stock will help heal and seal the gut so nutrients are better absorbed.  Bone broth has lots of minerals in it which will help nourish a growing child
  5. Roast starchy vegetables in fats like olive oil and coconut oil to add some extra calories, like sweet potato chips.
  6. Avocado can be added to dips, smoothies, or eaten as a snack with a spoon.

If your child has a history of allergies, autoimmunity or behavioural issues, look at GAPS diet to correct gut problems and help with weight gain.  Once the child is digesting properly, they will achieve their goal weight more easily.

If you are on a tight timeframe to gain weight (for example trying to achieve a goal weight for surgery), you might want to invest in some testing early on.

Suggested testing avenues to explore:

  1. Are they deficient in zinc – this is easily checked with a blood test, and supplement if necessary. Foods high in zinc include seeds, oysters and beef.
  2. Identify allergies, and screen for coeliac disease. If certain foods are causing irritation to the digestive system, nutrients won’t be properly absorbed.
  3. Check for candida overgrowth, as this can cause failure to thrive
  4. Parasites – you can do a test on your child’s poo to look for parasites. If there are parasites there, they will be stealing food from your child!

Supplements to consider

  1. A good multivitamin can be useful, but it needs to be a good quality one, not one of the ‘lolly’ type vitamins you can buy in the shop.
  2. Probiotics – certain probiotics will be helpful to help to heal the gut after exposures to allergens, medications etc.
  3. Celloids – this is a type of practitioner-only supplement that works really well in children, and some of them work really well to stimulate gastric juices.  If your child isn’t producing sufficient gastric juices, they won’t be digesting their food properly.


The bottom line is, don’t fall into the trap of giving junk / processed food.

It might put on weight, but it isn’t nourishing and will lead to other problems.

If you would like to discuss your child’s individual circumstances with me, book in for a free 20 min chat here.


Diet and child behaviour problems – fact or fiction?

Children’s behaviour can be a big motivation for families to change how they eat.

There has been an explosion in the diagnosis of behavioural issues such as ADD and ADHD in the last generation.

This is partly driven by a change in expectation of how children should be behaving, but also due to the change in diet and lifestyle that has happened over the last 50 years.

Our society now has so much stimulation, adults and children find it hard to switch off.

Whether your child has a diagnosis or not, if you want to address behavioural challenges naturally, here are some things you can start to work on right away.

Nutrition and child behaviour:

There are a few different things to look at when it comes to food and behaviour.

  1. Hypoglycaemia

When a child’s blood sugar drops too much (think hangry!), their behaviour can quickly deteriorate.

If you know your child is prone to outbursts of bad behaviour  when they haven’t eaten for a while, you need to plan for frequent ‘snacks’.

I hate to use the work ‘snack’ as people immediately think of ‘snack food’ and bring out the rice crackers, rice cakes and other processed food.

If you think your child would benefit from eating frequently, make sure all this food is nutrient dense.

Choose snacks like these:

  • hummus and carrots
  • a boiled egg
  • some chicken and avocado.

Giving ‘cardboard food’, like rice crackers is filling them up with empty calories.

This starves the good bacteria.

It also sends blood sugar on a roller coaster, the exact thing we are trying to avoid.

There should be protein, fat and a vegetable at every meal or snack.

  1. Sugar:

Studies show that hyperactive children eat more sugar than non-hyperactive children.

The rocket fuel boost that children get from sugar will cause their behaviour to worsen.

All sugar and refined carbohydrates should be removed from the diet.

This includes:

  • soft drinks
  • juices
  • lollies
  • ice cream
  • chocolate.

These should be replaced with nuts and seeds, and real food.

  1. Food sensitivities:

Processed food is full of chemicals that we should not be eating, such as artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.

Children are often the canaries in the coalmine,as they are more sensitive to these chemicals.

We should all learn from these sensitivities.

Many of these additives now carry warning labels in some countries, as studies have shown the negative affect on behaviour from consuming them.

By eating real, whole foods, it is easy to avoid these chemicals.

  1. Food allergies:

Allergies and intolerance are very common in children and can negatively affect their behaviour.

The six foods most likely to cause are reaction are wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, corn and soy.

Any food can be a culprit however, so thorough investigation is necessary.  To determine the allergies, you can do allergy testing, or an elimination diet.

  1. Salicylates:

Foods high in salicylates are some of the most healthy foods, but lots of children are sensitive to them, which affects behaviour.

Don’t avoid healthy foods high in salicylate long term, but focus on healing the gut instead.

By improving gut health, you can improve tolerance to high salicylate foods.

Increasing omega 3  fats can make salicylates less of an issue, so try supplementing with a high dose of omega 3.

It is important to note that the fish oil you buy in the supermarket very cheaply is not the best way to supplement.

  • this fish oil can have high levels of contaminants such as mercury
  • the fat can be oxidised through improper handling
  • the dose is low so you have to take lots and lots of capsules.

For kids, I prefer a high quality liquid, so only a small amount is needed.

What supplements help children’s behaviour:

  1. Multi-vitamin:

A high quality multivitamin supplement can improve brain biochemistry and correct lots of mild deficiencies.

Sure, a child should be able to get all the vitamins and minerals from their diet.  This usually doesn’t happen, for a few different reasons.

  • Lots of children are not eating enough fruit, vegetables or high quality protein.
  • Vegetables grown in depleted soil have much lower levels of vitamins and minerals than organically grown ones.  So if your child isn’t eating organic produce, they may be missing out
  • If a child’s gut health isn’t great (through multiple courses of antibiotics for instance), they might not be absorbing the vitamins and minerals from their diet as well as they should be.

Stay away from lollies masquerading as multivitamins.  They have too much sugar and not enough vitamins

2. Magnesium:

This is a very calming nutrient.

Low levels of magnesium can lead to fidgeting, restlessness, and insomnia.

Good food sources of magnesium include:

  • almonds
  • cashews
  • eggs
  • figs
  • leafy greens.

In the short term, your child might need a supplement to get their symptoms under control while you improve the dietary intake of magnesium.

  1. Essential Fatty acids:

These are nutrients for the brain, and important for concentration.

Children with behavioural issues will often be low in essential fatty acids.

If your child has excessive thirst, dry skin, eczema and asthma, they may be deficient in essential fatty acids.

You can do a blood test if you want to check, or you can go ahead and supplement with evening primrose oil or fish oil, and increase foods like linseeds or walnuts in the diet.

If you can’t get evening primrose oil into your child (try my bliss ball recipe), try rubbing a teaspoon into the skin twice a day instead.

  1. Zinc:

Zinc is often deficient in children with behavioural issues.

Children who have had 3 or more courses of antibiotics before the age of three can be low in zinc.

This is because antibiotics disrupt gut health, and therefore absorption of nutrients.

Another reason for low zinc is pyroluria (a genetic condition leading to low zinc and vitamin B6).

Before you supplement with zinc, or if you want to know if your child has pyroluria, you need to do a blood test.

Foods such as:

  • beef
  • egg yolk
  • sunflower seeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • seafood

are high in zinc, and you can increase these without doing a blood test – it’s hard to have too much of a nutrient through food, but it can happen through supplementation

  1. Probiotics:

These good bacteria are great for dealing with gut issues.

Gut issues are very much related to behaviour issues.

Not all probiotics are created equal however, and some will help with behaviour more than others.

Depending on your child’s overall health and symptoms, I can recommend a specific therapeutic probiotic.

Why do I recommended spending money on some biochemical tests?

If a parent brings their child to see me with behavioural concerns, I like to do some tests to start off with.

Although testing is expensive, it removes a lot of the guess work.  With solid information, I can construct a treatment plan which is much more specific and can get to the root cause more quickly.

In the end, it often works out cheaper to have the information from the testing up front.

  1. Hair tissue mineral analysis:

This looks at heavy metal toxicity.

High levels of mercury or lead can be a factor in behaviour issues.  These contaminants are all too common, especially in some areas of the country.

Doing a hair test can identify if heavy metals are a problem, and then steps can be taken to reduce the heavy metals.

  1. Organic acid test:

This a urine test which can look for vitamin deficiencies, yeast over-growth and neurotransmitter levels.

Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals which are really important for behaviour.

For example, one neurotransmitter is called dopamine.  Low dopamine can lead to behaviour issues.

This test can also show if candida (yeast) is a problem.  Too many antibiotics can lead to yeast overgrowth and cause your child to act a bit drunk!

  1. Blood tests:

I also recommend some blood testing to look at magnesium levels, blood sugar, zinc, copper and essential fatty acids.

Deficiencies in magnesium, zinc or essential fatty acids can be a trigger for bad behaviour.

High copper levels can also be a problem.

And if blood sugar drops dramatically, you child can act out.

4. Food allergy testing:

This can be a very useful shortcut, instead of doing months of tedious elimination and reintroduction of suspect foods.

Food allergies and intolerance can be quickly identified and the offending foods removed.

Children’s behaviour can be vastly improved by making some changes to their diet and lifestyle, and this is an area that I focus on a lot.

Get in touch for a FREE 20 minute health check if you would like to learn more about how I can help with your child’s behaviour.

20 tips for healthier grocery shopping

Before you leave the house:

  1. Plan meals for the week – breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
  2. Take stock of what you have in the freezer, fridge and pantry.
  3. With budget in mind, make your shopping list based on the gaps between what you have in the house and what you need for your meal plan.
  4. Even though you have a plan you may need to stay flexible – e.g if a fruit or vegetable in the organic section is close to use by date, substitute this in place of other fruit and vegetable and adapt your recipe. Similarly, you can often pick up good deals on organic meat which is close to expiration.
  5. Have something to eat – never shop hungry!
  6. Add more fruits and vegetables to your meal plan. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. You can get your 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day for about the cost of a large takeaway coffee.
  7. Add beans and lentils to your meal plan. Pick beans and lentils (pulses) instead of meat for 2 or more dinners every week – lots of protein for less money
  8. Skip processed foods like frozen pizza, cookies and soft drinks. They usually cost more than fresh, healthy food

When you get to the shop:

  1. Try something new every shopping trip – a new cut of meat, a new fruit or vegetable or a new pulse.
  2. Shop the perimeter of the shop – spend the majority of your time and money in the fruit and vegetable area.
  3. Eat a rainbow – choose a wide range of fruit and vegetables of different colours – colours reflect the vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient contents of the fruit and vegetables
  4. Don’t be seduced by marketing of food or deals on processed foods. Don’t hand your power over to marketing.
  5. Always choose the least processed version of foods – for example oats: steel cut oats are the least processed, so choose them first. They take longer to cook at home because less processing has happened at the mill.  Next choice would be rolled whole oats. Still a really good choice and quicker to prepare.  Then would come quick cook oats.  These are very quick to prepare but higher in glycemic index – this means they cause your blood sugar to spike more quickly, and leave you feeling hungry sooner.  Last choice is flavoured sweetened oats prepared in the microwave.  The health benefits of oats are now overshadowed by the sugar, flavours and fineness of the oats. Buying the least processed version will be a lot cheaper.
  6. Choose real food – would your grandmother have bought it? How close does it represent the food?  How many processing steps has it been through to get from the field to the supermarket?
  7. Don’t buy junk food for anyone in the house. If is in the house, it gets eaten.  If it isn’t in the house, it doesn’t get eaten.  Remember food is fuel, not to quell boredom
  8. Avoid foods with more than 5 ingredients, artificial ingredients or ingredients you can’t pronounce
  9. Buy locally produced food when possible
  10. Stock up on healthy foods with a long shelf life, especially when on special – rice, pulses, frozen foods
  11. Buy fruit and vegetable in season. It will be cheaper
  12. Packaged foods which can be good to have in your house include: organic frozen berries – for a smoothie to a sweet craving, frozen vegetables – big packs or individual packs, so there is never an excuse to have a meal without vegetables, canned salmon for some quick fish cakes.
5 tips to nourish your family on a budget

Budget is a big concern for people when they move to a whole food diet.

This is a valid concern, when you see Dominos selling pizzas for $4.99.

There are lots of strategies you can bring to life to help manage your budget

1. Reduce Food waste

Everyday Australians throw out vast quantities of edible food.  By thinking differently about how we treat our fruit and vegetables, we can get a lot more value and nutrients per dollar.

Ideas to reduce food waste:

Beetroot leaves – use in place of spinach or kale.  Similar nutritionally to other leafy greens, you can cook with them the same way.

Cauliflower and broccoli leaves – cauliflower leaves can be trimmed to remove the ends and roasted with your fat of choice and some spices, until they are crispy. Broccoli leaves are milder in flavour than the florets, and can be added to smoothies or salads.

Cauliflower and broccoli stalks – these are just as good for you as the rest of the vegetable, and can make up a lot of the weight.  Roast with the rest of the vegetable or make “rice”.  Can also be juiced.

Potatoes – save time and money by scrubbing your potatoes (and sweet potatoes) rather than peeling.   There are lots of nutrients and fibre in the skin, which you lose when you peel them.

All vegetable scraps – collect in a bag in the freezer, and then add to stockpot when you are making a batch of bone broth

Vegetables approaching end of shelf life – make into a soup and have as a cheap and nutritious meal

Kiwi skin – this is edible and has more fibre and vitamin C than the flesh.  It also makes it less difficult to eat, instead of peeling, or scooping.

Citrus peel – store in freezer for use in marinades, or add vinegar and leave for a few weeks to make a citrus infused cleaning solution.

Chicken bones – boil to make either chicken stock (short simmer, 1.5 hours) or bone broth (24 hours).  Ditch the stock cubes and UHT stock.  Check out my recipe for chicken stock.

2. Buy direct from farmers

Cut out the middle man and find local farmers to source your meat and chemical free vegetables.  This way you are supporting your local economy and not paying huge margins to supermarkets.  Supermarkets spend millions on advertising, that you pay for when you shop there

3. Eat imperfect fruit and vegetables

Supermarkets have been working on the assumption that consumers do not want misshapen fruit and vegetables.  I know a lot of consumers would prefer to have cheaper fruit and vegetables than have perfectly formed fruit and vegetables.  Luckily one Supermarket in France made the brave move of selling “ugly fruit” and now the majors in Australia have followed suit.   But why does this matter, and what are the impacts of food waste?

To produce food takes inputs of land, energy, transport and fuel.  When the food isn’t used, all this is wasted with many negative consequences.

4. Nose to tail eating

Depending on your culture and how you were fed when you were growing up, you may find nose to tail eating too hard to stomach.  It is worth challenging your perceptions on this, as there are many benefits of moving away from the leaner choice supermarket cuts of meat.  People often like to be disconnected from the origin of the meat and just buy meat nicely packaged in plastic.

These perceptions lead to food waste and lots of missed opportunity for nutrition.  Every cow that is slaughtered has kidneys, liver etc.  If consumers don’t want them, they go in the bin.  Think of how much cheaper meat would be if these vast quantities of the animals weren’t disposed of?

To save money in your meat shopping, consider buying the cheaper less popular cuts.

With offal, you really do want to buy organic for things like liver and kidneys.

Buy in bulk, like a half a cow or a whole sheep.  It works out much cheaper, and makes organic meat affordable.

5. Don’t buy processed and packaged food

When you buy food that is 10 little packets with 20g of food in them, you are paying a huge amount of money for packaging, and for people or machines to put the little packets in the big packets.  The cost of the food is minimal.  So try to make as much food as possible at home, and put small portions in reusable containers instead.  This will also reduce the amount of packaging you send to landfill every week.

How to keep your bones healthy

I recently broke my toe.

My first broken bone at the age of 40!!

Such a minor injury can be quite frustrating.  I have to walk quite slowly, and if I rush, it hurts!

So my diet has to focus on bone building nutrients to ensure the bone heals as quickly as possible, and doesn’t cause me any lasting issues.

Who is at risk of fractures?

Some children are more likely to get fractures than others, such as those

  • Who have taken reflux medication
  • Who take warfarin (which many kids with congenital heart disease have to take for life)
  • Who have nutritional deficiencies (fussy eating)
  • Who have bone abnormality conditions
  • With Cystic fibrosis
  • With Downs syndrome

And, in my experience, the biggest risk factor: TRAMPOLINES!!!

So if your child is in any of these categories, it would be wise to follow these guidelines proactively!

What foods are good for strong bones in children?

As usual, the best diet for bone health is one that focusses on wholefoods, and avoids processed foods.

Due to massive marketing by the dairy councils in most Western countries, everyone knows that calcium is important for bone health, but this is only part of the picture.

What you might not know is:

  • Calcium needs to be eaten alongside other nutrients for optimum bone health.
  • These other nutrients include magnesium, vitamin K, boron, silica, vitamin C, Vitamin D and zinc. Eating a wide variety of real food, will provide these nutrients.
  • Dairy does not contain all these other nutrients
  • Calcium on its own can reduce absorption of magnesium.

If you are eating dairy, one serve a day is optimum for bone health.  Get the rest of your calcium from other sources.  And eat your dairy fermented, for example kefir or properly fermented yoghurt.

Dairy does contain calcium, but it is by no means the only source.

High calcium foods:

  • Green leafy vegetables – If your child is on warfarin, you need to eat a consistent amount of green leafy vegetables every day. Ideas for getting green leafy veg into your child: green smoothies, frittata, bolognaise with hidden veggies and kale chips
  • Tinned salmon with bones in it
  • Fermented soy. Fermented soy: tofu or tempeh in a stir fry or soup
  • Almonds
  • Chia seeds

High magnesium foods

  • Almonds, brewer’s yeast, cashews, cocoa, eggs, figs, kelp, leafy greens

Vitamin K foods

  • Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale

Boron foods

  • Found in apples, almonds, dates, hazelnuts, legumes, pears and prunes

Silica foods

  • Green beans, mussels, oats, raisins and root vegetables

Vitamin C foods

  • This is needed to build collagen, necessary for repair. It is found in abundance in many fruits and vegetables, like strawberries, capsicum and citrus fruit.

Vitamin D foods

  • Cod liver oil, egg yolk, butter, sprouted seeds

Zinc foods

  • This is needed to help rebuild the bone. Beef and pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc.  Oysters are especially high if you can convince your child to eat them!

Bone broth helps with strong bones

Cooking bones in water for a long time with some apple cider vinegar leaches minerals out of the bones.  These are then consumed in the bone broth, and contribute to build strong bones.

Gut health and bone health

Consuming a diet rich in prebiotic fibre (the food for the good bacteria) helps to increase the amount of calcium you can absorb from your diet.  Good sources of prebiotics include onions, leeks and garlic.

What foods are bad for bone health?

Avoid foods that encourage your body to get rid of calcium.

These foods include sugar, salt, too much animal protein and soft drinks. For adults, unfortunately it also means cutting out coffee, alcohol and tea.

Exercise and children’s bone health

Lots of exercise for kids will give them strong bones for the rest of their lives.

Swimming is not very useful for bone health as it isn’t weight bearing (however it is wonderful for other aspects of health and wellbeing).

Activities that will help build strong bones include anything weight bearing: dancing, jumping, tennis, soccer etc.

The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is crucial for bone health, and it is so easy to get in Australia!  Safe sun exposure all year round will keep vitamin D levels topped up, and protect bones.

Smoking and bone health

Just in case you didn’t get the memo…..do not let your child be exposed to cigarette smoke under any circumstance.  Smoking is bad for your bones (and everything else).

If your child has broken a bone, you need to up the ante, and possibly take a supplement for the healing phase, as prescribed by a nutritionist.

When sleep training doesn’t work

Sleep issues are one of the frequent issues I see in clinic.

Having a child who can’t sleep steals parents of their ‘grown-up time’ in the evening, and leads to cranky children in the morning.

Parents will frequently spend thousands of dollars on sleep trainers.  This will certainly help with some behavioural issues.  But if the issue is biochemical, all the sleep training in the world won’t help, and will just lead to a lot of stress for parents and child.

The next thing that people might do is a sleep study.  This is where you go to a centre for a night, and your child is wired up to a machine to monitor their body as they sleep.  This can diagnose issues such a sleep apnoea or periodic leg movement disorder.

Having this information can be interesting, and you get a firm diagnosis, but it does little to solve the problem.

Getting to the root cause of the sleep issues will help the child’s sleep, but will probably also help in other areas of their life to, as poor sleep is just another symptom.

What does sleep do to your body?

Sleep is very important for adults and children alike.

When we sleep our body has a chance to restore and heal itself, on a physical and emotional level.

Bodily processes like metabolism and detoxification are regulated by sleep.

Our immune system is bolstered by sleep.

Growth occurs during sleep.

Learning and memory are consolidated by sleep.

When should babies sleep longer at night?

With newborns, sleep can be erratic, but by 4-6 months a regular sleep-wake cycle should have emerged.  In an ideal world, 6-8 month old babies should be sleep close to 12 hours at night, without a break.

If this isn’t happening then there are a few areas to trouble shoot.

Why won’t my baby sleep through the night?

  • Nutritional deficiencies. Especially if baby was a premmie, they could be deficient in some nutrients which are affecting sleep, such as zinc or magnesium
  • They could have food sensitivities which are irritating them, either through the foods they eat, or what the mum eats if breastfed.
  • They might have too much sugar in their diet (even through fruit)
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke can have a big impact on sleep
  • Babies thrive on routine, and if there isn’t a routine, this could disrupt their sleep
  • Some babies will still be suffering from colic at this age. There are probiotics which are scientifically proven to help with colic.
  • Poor gut health – not enough good bacteria can effect sleep. Perhaps due to taking antibiotics, or reflux medication.
  • After-effects of birth trauma can lead to residual sleep issues.

Sometimes the easiest thing to do at this point is give them a dummy, but this can be counterproductive.

Dummies can lead to poor growth of the tongue and palate, which causes mouth breathing, snoring, sleep apnoea and tonsillitis.  The sucking action of breastfeeding however produces a better shaped palate.

Will my child ever sleep?

Once children are at primary school you would hope that sleeping would be a ‘dream’ however this is definitely not the case!

Lots of sleep disorders can present at this age.

I talk about some of the more common ones below, and how natural therapies can help with them.

Bed wetting. 

This is a common issue with children.  It can be related to stress, anxiety, constipation, sleep apnoea or enlarged tonsils.  Sitting on an adult toilet means that children can’t completely relax their pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to constipation and urinary tract infections, which lead to bedwetting.

It is also caused by neurotransmitter imbalance (see below).

Bruxism (teeth grinding).

If you child wakes with a headache or sore jaw, they may be grinding their teeth.  Your dentist will also be able to tell you if it is happening, as it damages their teeth.

And if you co-sleep, you will be able to hear it too.

Things to consider for teeth grinding are intestinal parasites, nutritional deficiencies, anxiety, neurotransmitter imbalance (see below) and allergies.


These will happen in 10-50% of children.

They usually happen in the second half of the night.  The child will remember it, and be too scared to go back to sleep.

Addressing stress and anxiety and giving some supplements can help.

Night terrors.

These are different to nightmares.  They usually happen early in the night.  The child will be crying or screaming, and be inconsolable.  It is awful to watch, but the child will not remember it.

Supplements to calm the nervous system can help, as will some gentle liver detoxification.

Obstructive sleep apnoea.

There may be some obvious signs this is happening, such as sleeping in an unusual position, and sweating a lot during the night.

The child will be unsettled and wake up a lot.

They may wet the bed, have nightmares or night terrors and chronic runny noses or ear infections.

During the day they will be inattentive and drowsy at school.  This can lead to hyperactivity, irritability and aggressiveness.

Some children who snore will have sleep apnoea, but not all of them.

If your child snores, you should consider that their airway is being narrowed.

The reasons why the airway might be narrowed include enlarged tonsils, allergies and obesity.

Sleep apnoea can also lead to obesity as the child tries to get energy from food that they should be getting from sleep.

Restless legs or periodic limb movement disorder in sleep.

Children with ADHD are more likely to suffer from this.

It can also be due to an iron deficiency, which you need to have a blood test for.  Supplementing with iron is not a good idea unless you know how much the child has to start off with.

Exercising during the day can help some people, as can a foot massage or meditation before bed.

Nutrients such as magnesium and a low sugar diet will help.

Difficulty getting to sleep (initiating sleep).

This is the problem I see most, at home, and with clients.

There are lots of sleep hygiene practices which you can do first to help with this.  These include:

  • Taking all electrical equipment out of the bedroom, and checking what is on the other side of the wall also.
  • Having a good bedtime routine, at a set time
  • Getting up at the same time every day

Once these basics are in place, it is time to think about ways to establish a proper circadian rhythm, and look at neurotransmitter balance

Neurotransmitters and circadian rhythm

Circadian rhythm is your body’s internal body clock, which tells you when it is time to go to bed at night, and get up in the morning.

Melatonin is a hormone which is important for your circadian rhythm and is made from the neurotransmitter serotonin.

So you need to have enough serotonin, and a good supply of the vitamins and minerals to convert serotonin to melatonin.  Taking a melatonin supplement just takes a steam roller over the body’s natural biochemical process, and jumps right to the last step.  It is better to get all the neurotransmitters and vitamins correct, so your body can make its own melatonin.

Too much light will disrupt circadian rhythm and sleep.  Ipads, TV, night lights can all cause problems for kids sleep.  Dimming the lights in the evening and turning off devices will help with sleep initiation.

Other neurotransmitters can also be out of balance, and have an effect on sleep

What does gut health have to do with sleep?

There are several ways that gut health can effect sleep.

There is two way communication between the gut and the brain.  That is why gut health is linked to anxiety, ADHD and autism.  These three conditions can impact sleep.  So improving gut health will improve sleep in people with these conditions.

For people without anxiety, ADHD or autism, the gut brain connection will still be important.  Having healthy bacteria in your gut will mean a better night’s sleep.

Having an irritated gut lining will cause abdominal pain, which will impact sleep quality.

Gut microbes also help us to make serotonin, which is needed to make melatonin.

Poor gut health makes it more likely that candida infection can take over.  Candida effects the kidneys, which disrupts sleep.  It produces acetaldehyde which can cause sleep disturbances.  It causes inflammation which can cause sleep apnoea.

How can a nutritionist help with sleep?

Food intolerances and allergies have a big impact on sleep.  They can cause enlarged tonsils and therefore sleep apnoea.  They also cause general irritation and inflammation, making falling asleep harder.  Bed wetting is also made worse by food intolerances, which leads to a disrupted sleep.  Food intolerances can be tested by a Nutritionist

There is a urine test (Organic Acids Test) which shows levels of neurotransmitters your child is producing and some nutritional deficiencies.  If these neurotransmitters are out of balance, sleep will be affected.

For instance, low levels of serotonin will lead to insomnia.

Eating foods high in tryptophan such as turkey and bananas will bolster serotonin, as will taking a supplement.

This urine test helps pin-point exactly what neurotransmitter is out of balance, so you can target it specifically.

Heavy metal toxicity testing is done through hair analysis.

Heavy metal toxicity will lead to poor sleep quality, and can be addressed though food and supplementation.

You can also test for hormones directly such as melatonin, but these are influenced by neurotransmitters, so you are best to start there.

If your child’s sleep problems are stealing your evenings, get in touch with me for a free 20 min chat to discuss if I might be able to help!

What should I eat on GAPS?

What should I eat on GAPS?

GAPS is a gut healing protocol.

The introduction stage of the diet is based on 3 main categories of food:

  1. Stocks and soups made from meat or fish, with vegetables
  2. Probiotic foods like sauerkraut juice, kefir, sauerkraut and 24 hour yoghurt
  3. Fats

The stocks are made by boiling joints of meat, with the bone and cartilage etc for a reasonably short amount of time.  Vegetables are added to the pot during cooking.  The meat is then taken off the bone and eaten with the stock and the well cooked vegetables.

The stock, meat and vegetables can be eaten as a casserole, or blended to make more of a soup.

You can use meat from any animal, but it has to be mostly from around a joint.  Example include lamb shanks, osso bucco or chicken drumsticks.  We included kid (goat), when we did GAPS, as it was a way to increase diversity in our diet.

Organ meats are a very concentrated source of nutrition, and you can include these in your soups and casseroles.  If your children are not used to eating these, add small amounts so they don’t notice.

The vegetables that you eat in the early stages should be well cooked and peeled, with tough stalks removed.  So peel the carrots and the zucchini, and compost the thick stalk of broccoli.  Potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnip are not allowed on any part of the GAPS diet.  Make sure to include vegetables like onion and garlic as they are prebiotic and help feed the good bacteria.  This is important as the starchy vegetables are removed, which normally act as prebiotic fibre.

Animal fats are used plentifully in the GAPS introduction diet.  Pesticides are concentrated in the fat of animals, so it is really important to choose organic fats.  Tallow, lard, goose fat, duck fat and ghee are all good choices.  You can buy these, or make your own.  When you roast meat in the oven, collect the fat and store in the fridge for cooking, then its free!

Probiotic foods should be consumed several times a day.  The first one to start with is sauerkraut juice, so you don’t have to digest the cabbage.  Then you can introduce sauerkraut, kefir, 24 hour yoghurt, whey, cultured cream and other fermented vegetables.

Choose your water carefully.  Unfiltered water will contain contaminants (things that shouldn’t be there), as well as chemicals which have been intentionally added.  Chlorine is added to the water to disinfect it.  The problem is, if it can kill bacteria in water, it can also kill bacteria in humans.  For this reason you need to filter your water.  A carbon filter is sufficient.  If you own, you can get one plumbed in for convenience.

Organic teas are also allowed, which is nice when you are weaning off coffee.  They should be organic, and stick to ginger tea or chamomile tea.

Honey is the only sweetener that is allowed, so you can add it to some yoghurt or kefir for ‘dessert’.  If you know that your blood sugar is going to be low when you start the diet, mix together some butter and honey and keep it in a little jar, so you can take a spoonful when you need to.  You should only need to do this for a few days.

As you move through the stages of the GAPS introduction diet, you get to gradually introduce other foods, like eggs, avocado, raw vegetables, activated nuts and seeds and eventually fruit!

Why are we doing GAPS as a family?

My health

Although now I eat very well and have a very healthy lifestyle, my gut health has been compromised many times over my life.  My diet as a child was great, a very wholesome and traditional diet.  It was largely meat and three vegetables, and no takeaways.  All treats were homemade, so no preservatives and additives, but still lots of sugar and white flour.  I never missed a day of school, never had to take medicine, and was generally very robust.

The first major assault on my gut health was when I was a teenager.  I developed acne and was put on antibiotics by my local GP.  These were broad spectrum antibiotics and I was on them for years.  Not only did they not fix the acne, but they wiped out my gut flora, leaving me even more susceptible to bacteria which cause acne.  I often wonder why my doctor kept me on them, when they were clearly not working.

The next catastrophe for my gut health is actually a pretty extreme event, not the typical scenario.  While I was at university, I was did a Master’s Degree in Food Microbiology.  I was investigating the effect of high pressure processing on E. Coli bacteria.  As with all bacteria, there are good E. Coli and very, very bad E. Coli.  My project was intended to look as a non-pathogenic strain of E. Coli, one that can’t make you sick.  So I was happily working away in the microbiology lab, taking minimal precautions.  Unfortunately, I had accidently been given a pathogenic strain of E. Coli, called E. Coli O157.  That’s the one that kills people.  So began the stomach cramps and diarrhoea, which then progresses to bloody diarrhoea.  E. Coli O157 is called “enterohaemorrhagic”.  That means it haemorrhages you from the inside out.  So over the course of the next week or so, in isolation in hospital, my entire gut lining went down the toilet.  The hospital bacteriologist came to see me to discuss antibiotics.  As I had been studying the bacteria, I knew that antibiotics would actually make me sicker, as they would split open the bacteria and release toxins into my bloodstream.  So I advocated for my own health and declined the antibiotics.  He later came back to see me, to tell me he had done his research and I was right!

Knowing what I know now, I should have started an intense period of gut healing, with fermented foods, broth and probiotics.  But the 21 year old me went to meet her boyfriend in Tenerife for a week of holidays instead J.

About a year later, I developed an auto-immune condition in my eye, called uvetitis.  I researched and realised that this was probably as a result of my illness.

A few years after that, I took Roaccutane, for my skin that still had acne.  No surprises that acne was still an issue, as acne is so related to gut health.  This is a really strong medication that would have continued me on a downward health spiral.

Through all this, my health was actually really great, other than having regular severe migraines.

About 10 years ago, I developed a bit of a rash on my scalp, which the doctor said was psoriasis.  It was only when I was studying health myself that I found out the sunlight is very helpful for psoriasis.  My scalp got significantly worse in the sun.  So I went for a biopsy which indicated I actually had something called Discoid Lupus, also an autoimmune disease.  I now have a crater and a bald spot on my scalp for ever.  This really shocked me and forced me to get even more serious about my health, and I haven’t had gluten since.

Since doing GAPS, I don’t get migraines any more.  Healing and sealing my gut has stopped my body being so sensitive to hormones and foods.  Sometimes being gluten-free isn’t enough.  You need to remove all grains, as GAPS does.

My daughter’s health

My middle child has congenital heart disease.  When she was born, she was greeted by a roomful of medical staff, who whisked her off to intensive care.  By the time I got to see her she had lots of tubes poking out everywhere.  Over the course of the next few weeks, she had 9 general anaesthetics, diuretics, antibiotics, morphine, paralysis drugs and probably more.  For the first week she was fed via a central line into her neck with total parenteral nutrition.  All this had a very negative impact on her gut health.  Luckily, I breastfed her from about day 16 onwards which would have helped, but a lot of damage was already done.  On the plus side, she was alive, and without all that medical intervention, she wouldn’t have survived.

I recently did a poo test on her which showed the diversity of bacteria species in her gut was poor. She was also lacking some of the bacteria which are really important for regulating emotions and controlling anxiety.  Her gut was crying out for healing.  When we started on the GAPS introduction diet, she was doing a wee every 20 minutes or so as her kidneys desperately tried to flush out the toxins that were being released into her bloodstream.

Nearly dying by inhaling a pathogenic E. Coli and having congenital heart disease are quite dramatic examples of why you might need gut healing.  For most people, the stories are much more subtle.  Caesarean births and recurrent ear infections are the scenarios that crop up more regularly.  The consequences on gut health can still be devastating, and the need for gut healing just as strong.