Is yoghurt good for you?

Yoghurt is a traditional food which has been enjoyed for thousands of years.  It is made by fermenting milk, with certain bacteria or ‘cultures’.

Fermenting the milk changes the sugar in the milk, the lactose, into lactic acid.  Plain yoghurt will have a tart or sharp taste because of the lactic acid.

Yoghurt made in this traditional way has lots of benefits.  As with any fermented food, you are eating bacteria which is great for your gut health.  Milk is much easier to digest once it has been fermented, so even people who are lactose intolerant might be able to consume it.

The traditional method of yoghurt making can be easily replicated at home.  You just need a starter.  This can be either some yoghurt (which you might have to buy), or some probiotics.  To incubate the yoghurt, you can use an electric yoghurt maker, a thermos flask style yoghurt maker, or an oven with just the light turned on.  It takes 24 hours fermentation to digest all the lactose.

If you are buying yoghurt, you need to read the ingredients carefully, as some yoghurts are very far removed from traditional yoghurt.

The best choice is a yoghurt with a very short ingredient list, preferably made from organic milk.  These will often be in a larger tub, such as a 1kg container.  The ingredient list should have full fat milk, cultures and very little else.  There may be added milk powder which can be used to get a consistent product no matter what season (cow’s milk is a natural product and changes with seasons).  Buying 1kg tub is also much cheaper and creates less plastic waste than buying smaller containers.

Squeezy yoghurts are super popular with kids, and a super expensive way to buy yogurt.  This is the section of the fridge where you will find lots of food like substances masquerading as yoghurt.  Taking a squeezy yoghurt to school is convenient, but make sure it is a healthy choice.  Don’t rely on food in pouches too much as it doesn’t promote normal eating habits and jaw development.

My favourite ‘squeezy’ style yoghurt is Vaalia yoghurt with 3x the probiotic.  The probiotic in this yoghurt is Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG.  This probiotic is great for reducing allergies in kids and improving gut health.  This is not a perfect choice however, as sugar is the 4th thing on the ingredient list, and it also contains rice starch, acidity regulators, natural flavours and gelatin.

Another reasonable choice is Rafferty’s garden plain yoghurt with no added sugar.  It literally contains milk, milk solids, cream and cultures.  The pouch size is tiny though, only 70g, so this really only is for very little kids.  It also costs about three times the price per kilo, compared to buying a 1kg pot.

Watch out for outlandish claims also.  One Petit Miam squeezy yoghurt says on the front ‘with real fruit and veg and the goodness of milk’.  Let’s examine this claim!  It contains 4% beetroot.  The pouch weighs 70g.  4% of 70g is 2.8g.  Bear in mind a serve of vegetables is about 75g.  This yoghurt contains 3% of a serve of vegetables!!

Musaman beef curry

Ingredients

6 teaspoons ground coriander

6 teaspoons ground cumin

4 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cloves

2 large onions, chopped

8 cloves garlic, chopped

2kg chuck steak / gravy beef, trimmed and cut into cubes

2 x 400ml cans coconut milk

1kg baby potatoes

2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate

1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

In a large pan, add the oil, chopped onions and garlic.  Cook on medium heat until the onions are soft, stirring frequently.

Add the spices and cook until fragrant.

Place the meat, spice and onion mixture, tamarind concentrate, coconut milk, and potatoes into the slow cooker.

Cook on LOW for 8 hours

Spiced lamb and sweet potato casserole

Ingredients

1kg lamb mince

2 onions, diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cumin

4 cloves garlic

2 x 400g tinned tonatoes

140g tomato paste

3 large sweet potatoes, chopped into small cubes

250ml chicken stock

Method

Heat the oil in a large pan.  Add the onion and garlic, stirring for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft.

Add the lamb, cinnamon and cumin.

Break up the lumps in the lamb with a wooden spoon.  Cook until browned.

Pour the mixture into the slow cooker.

Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken stock and sweet potatoes.

Cook on LOW for 8 hours.

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

Chicken Stock

Chicken stock is very easy to make and very versatile.  It can be used as a base for soups, sauces, mashed potatoes and risotto.

Put whole chicken in large pot.  Fill with filtered water.

Add pinch of celtic sea salt.

Heat to boiling and simmer for 1.5-2 hours.

Lift out chicken.

Put stock through sieve.

Store in fridge.

Drink the stock with meals, or use to make soup.

 

 

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.

Nightmares. 

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!

Best sources of iron for kids

It has been drummed into us that babies need to start solids, specifically fortified rice cereal, by the age of 6 months in order for them to top up their iron stores.  Human breast-milk is low in iron, so it is true that iron stores will get depleted if that is all that is eaten.  What isn’t true is that fortified rice cereal is the best way to top them up.  Did your baby start solids and magically and suddenly get constipated?  That’s because the form of iron that cereal is fortified with is the same as in cheap iron supplements, notorious for making adults constipated.  I made the mistake of giving my first child rice cereal, and watched the discomfort she went through with constipation straight away.  With my next two children, I skipped the rice cereal, and the constipation.

Why do we need iron?

Iron is a trace mineral that we need to make red blood cells.  These cells transport oxygen around our body.

Children need iron to keep their immune systems strong, to help them grow, and for brain development.  If they don’t get enough iron, they can be pale and listless, and have lower energy levels than their friends.

They can also get headaches and be breathless when they run around.

Not having enough iron can reduce your appetite, making it a vicious cycle.

Iron deficiency is also linked to restless legs.

What clues are there that my child might be low in iron?

  • Your child really, really, likes to eat ice
  • Your child is very sensitive to the cold
  • You child is very prone to infections
  • You child gets tired very easily, or lacks energy
  • You child has very brittle fingernails
  • Your child has a swollen tongue

These might prompt you to get a blood test done, by your GP or Nutritionist.

What types of iron are there?

There are two different type of iron – haem and non-haem.

Haem iron will come from animal products.

Non-haem comes from plants, animals and supplements.

Haem iron is the type that the body can most easily use.  Non-haem iron is poorly absorbed, but eating with vitamin C can improve absorption.

About half the iron in meat is haem, and the rest is non-haem, so it is good to have vitamin C when eating meat.

How can I get iron from my food?

Haem sources include:

  • Liver and other organ meats
  • Red meat
  • Oysters
  • Mussels
  • Eggs

Non-haem sources include:

  • Molasses
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Tomato paste
  • Lentils
  • Dried apricots
  • Almonds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pecans

As you can see, it is much easier to get the iron from the haem sources than the non-haem sources.  If you are bringing your child up to be vegetarian or vegan, you will need to carefully construct each day’s menu to ensure a good intake of iron.

If your child is on reflux medication, you need to work extra hard to make sure they get enough iron.  This medication will reduce the absorption of iron.

Too much iron can be as bad as too little, and some people are genetically programmed to hang on to too much iron.  That’s why you should never supplement iron without having a blood test to check levels first.

Luckily, it is hard to overdose on iron when you are just eating food.  The body is clever enough to absorb more iron when your stores are low, and absorb less iron when your stores are sufficient.

Moroccan Lamb Shanks

Ingredients

3cm fresh ginger

2 tablespoons cumin seeds

1 tablespoon ground coriander

pinch celtic sea salt

4 garlic cloves

4 lamb shanks

1 large eggplant – cut into thin slices

2 red capsicum – cut into thin slices

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Method

I blitzed the ginger, cumin, coriander, sea salt and garlic cloves in the Thermomix, and added some coconut oil to make a paste.

In a heavy based fry pan, brown the lamb shanks for 1 minute. then add the spice paste and continue on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until you can smell the spices.

Add the shanks to the slow cooker, add in the eggplant and capsicum.

Cook on high for 4 hours.

Serve with mashed potatoes, rice or cauliflower rice

Garlic and ginger pink fish and veggies

Ingredients:

1 large clove garlic

2cm fresh ginger

700g salmon

2 tablespoons tamari

For veggie platter:

1 large red capsicum

2 carrots

1 avocado

1 cucumber

Method:

Finely chop the garlic and ginger, or blitz in a food processor if you have one.

Mix with the tamari.

Place the salmon in a glass dish, coat with the marinade and put back in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Line you sandwich press with baking paper and cook the fish in the sandwich press for about 5 minutes.

Chop the vegetable into pieces the right size to pick up.

Serve

 

Green smoothie with avocado

If you need to rush out the door in the morning, at least the the 90 seconds to make a smoothie to take with you.  If you have the ingredients prepped the night before, it’s a no brainer.  Just don’t make the smoothie the night before.  Boil an egg or two to bring with you too to make it a more substantial meal.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups spinach, washed
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1 apple cored and chopped
  • Half a lemon, peeled
  • Sprig of parsley
  • ½ avocado

Method

  1. Place all the ingredients in a high speed food processor for 30 seconds.
  2. Serve