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Did you know that hundreds of industry manufactured baby foods are inappropriately marketed as suitable for babies?  The baby foods also contain added sugar disguised as natural sugar.


Baby food: industry secrets on natural sugar 


If you are health conscious and good nutrition for your baby is important then I know that this will worry you.  


The problem with any type of added sugar is that babies instinctively gravitate towards sweetened flavours.  It’s no surprise that the industry adds natural sugars to some baby foods to gain repeat purchases. 


The current advice from paediatric dietitians is to start solids by offering vegetables first.  It’s trickier to get babies to love “bitter” tasting courgette or spinach especially if baby has been devouring finger-licking banana or puréed delicious apples.


Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with fruit. It’s an important source of fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and some minerals.  But the increasing presence of deceptive natural sugars in baby food isn’t supporting our babies to be adventurous with their palette.


From that perspective, some babies become very reliant on sweetened foods and afraid to explore other tastes and flavours.  This can lead to feeding problems with nutritional deficiencies.


There’s so much more to consider when preparing your baby for starting solids.  There are questions around food allergy, additives, superfoods, and whether you go organic or not.   If you are also a busy mum you are probably craving convenience.  Shop bought baby food may be the answer but you’ll still need to read through food labels very carefully.


The good news is that you don’t need to avoid fruit.  Suitable baby foods to start weaning with are fruit and vegetables. They really are the perfect first choices. 


Having said that, try not to offer only the fruit.  Do expose your baby to a good variety of both fruit and vegetables separately during the initial weaning phase.


Feeling confused?  Book an online consultancy package with a children’s dietitian who can give you a step by step weaning plan to get started.

Why is natural sugar a problem?

The trouble is, beyond the initial weaning age of 6 or 7 months, fruit purée added to savoury foods or packaged baby food snacks can contain unwanted sugars.


In fact, depending on whether you believe that sugars like coconut or date syrups are the equivalent of Bickram yoga to a grown-up, (you know what I mean, you feel amazing after a class), the truth is, sugars that have been broken away from its original cell or structure are ‘free sugars’.  Aka sugars.


This means that most sugars once broken down are virtually the same.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s been processed and refined, organic in origin, obtained from a Medjool date or grown in a royal garden. Once it’s in a powder, granulated or liquid form it is a free sugar. 


The main problem with sugar for babies is that it doesn’t offer any nutritional benefit.  Give them too much and they can develop a preference for baby food that’s sweet and this could lead to unwanted weight gain or nutritional imbalance.  


Confused? Let’s dive deeper into the differences between natural sugars and refined sugars that may be added to baby food.

The ingredient in baby food you need to be aware of



The difference between natural sugar and refined sugar is that natural sugar is obviously naturally occurring. 



Natural sugars are found in fruit and are called fructose.



Another place to find natural sugar is in dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt and they are called lactose.  You can read more about this in:


Refined sugars, however, are added to baby food in the processing or preparation phase to improve flavour. 



This is where it can become a little confusing, as natural sugars can also be classed as refined sugars. 



Did you know that natural sugar can be added to baby foods that wouldn’t usually contain it?  Have you ever wondered why a certain food appears to have a high quantity of sugar but has predominantly fruit based ingredients?



Yoghurt for example naturally contains lactose, but it may also be sweetened with fructose syrup.  This can be confusing as they are not listed as ‘sugar’ on the ingredients list.



Look for the below keywords when screening for any type of added sugar: 

  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Honey 
  • Syrups like date, agave, maple, fructose.
  • Or scientific terms such as dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose.


If you spot any of these words in the ingredients list and the amount of sugars in the nutrition table per 100g is high, check where the added sugar is coming from.



If you don’t know how to read labels, then I suggest reading “How to Screen Breakfast Cereals”.

Free sugars

You now know that free sugar is one that has been broken away from its cell within the food source.   Free sugars are created on juicing, making a puree or concentrating it.


When this happens the majority of fibre has also been taken away. 


Processing makes it much easier for your baby or toddler to eat three to four apples all at once. 


Children wouldn’t normally eat so many whole apples in one sitting.   The fibre in the fruit would fill up their bellies and help them recognise that they are full after one serving of fruit (depending on how hungry they are feeling of course)!


This is why it’s important to look out for these ‘natural sugars’ that can be added to baby food.

Should you offer fruit as part of weaning?


Yes, of course.  Continue to offer fruit when you start solids as it is a great source of fibre, vitamins and antioxidants in your baby’s diet.  


However, try to offer a variety of both fruit and veg in your baby food and remember that vegetables are often less sweet than fruit.  


It’s no surprise that variety is important for helping your baby develop their preferences for a broad spectrum of flavours. A simple way of thinking about variety is to literally eat the rainbow.  


Remember to create a colourful plate for your baby.  This is a brilliant visual reminder to make sure that you are offering a good mix of fruit and vegetables in your baby’s diet. 


But wait there’s more. 

  What about processed dried fruit?


The type of fruit offered as part of weaning is important as dried fruit can also be a stickler for high natural sugar content. 


Often marketed as healthy due to its high fruit content, the truth is dried fruit does contain ‘free sugars’.


Public Health England advises parents to limit dried fruit products and to avoid it in-between mealtimes.


Don’t fall for the sugar trap of the “healthy” baby snacks in supermarket shelves such as fruit crisps.  These are often laced with sugar hidden in the form of scientific names such as maltose.  


Other baby foods known as wiggles, fruit winders or fruit snack rolls also contain very high amounts of concentrated free fruit sugars and should be limited to special occasions.  Avoid as a daily choice in school lunch boxes.

How can natural sugar harm your baby?

Babies are naturally drawn to sweeter flavours.  Your baby needs your help to become familiar with both bitter and sour tasting vegetables.   Help your baby learn to develop a taste for bitter, sour and umami flavours. 


Unfortunately, too much natural sugar can provide excess calories.  This can cause excess weight gain, but can also be a problem for your child’s teeth.


Did you know that almost 9 out of 10 hospital tooth extractions among children aged 0 to 5 years are due to preventable tooth decay? (Figure was taken from Public health England survey). 


Don’t be afraid to persevere with bitter or sour tasting foods.  It’s perfectly normal if your baby doesn’t like these new flavours straight away.  


At first, your baby will find the flavours to be new and unusual. It may just take a couple of tries when sampling all these new flavours! 


Once your baby experiences the new food at least ten to twelve times he/she will be happy to tuck into these with pleasure.


How your baby eats now could determine what choices they make as adults or what they naturally prefer to eat as older children.


For example, will they happily reach for fruit as a snack?  Will your child adjust to filling up on vegetables when hungry?


For more delicious snack ideas for kids check out this blog post:

What about sweet-tasting vegetables?


Though it’s recommended to reduce natural sugar by consuming less processed fruit, I don’t recommend limiting sweeter tasting vegetables. 


For example, sweet potato and carrots are rich in vitamin A which is crucial for your baby’s immunity and the normal development of vision.

Can I offer my baby industry prepared baby food?


Yes of course you can.  We understand that life can be busy.  


What I do recommend is to always check labels and make sure that savoury dishes don’t have added fruit or sugars (including natural sugar from juice or dried fruit). 


Some savoury dishes are deceptive with their vegetable content.  It can have more fruit than veg, so do make sure to check that the name of the product matches the ingredient list. 

Can I offer my baby industry prepared snacks from the baby aisle?


Most baby snacks have high amounts of natural sugar.  These can be in the form of dried sugar. As mentioned before, some of the highest sugar content in baby food products comes from dried fruit products which are marketed as healthy due to their high fruit content. 


An example of a dried fruit product could be a fruit shape, or a fruit bar.  It’s OK to buy these occasionally but do avoid relying on these items frequently or using these as daily snacks. 


Baby biscuits, wafers, puffs, rusks and oat bars can also contain a lot of natural sugar. These should also be kept to a minimum and if you do choose to have them be wary of the sugar content in the ingredient list. 


Don’t forget if you have older children in the house, you can bake together and reduce the sugar in recipes by 30%.

Top tips on how to identify and reduce added sugar in your baby’s diet
  • Avoid adding honey or syrups to your baby food (honey should be avoided for babies less than 12 months of age)
  • Check the ingredients list on your baby’s food packaging and keep an eye out for added fruit, honey or syrups
  • Prepare savoury veggie finger food in advance for easy on the go snacks. Foods like broccoli, cauliflower, courgette and green beans are brilliant easy snacks that encourage self-feeding.
  • Prepare mashed veggie food in advance like butternut squash, carrots, potato and parsnip which can easily be paired with a protein food like cut up eggs, lentils or chickpea dishes.
  • Try avoid giving your baby dried fruit products as snacks in between meals and switch to fresh fruit instead
The bottom line

Remember, it’s always best to prepare baby food at home when possible and skip the baby aisle when you go grocery shopping!  

The majority of snacks or baby food in the baby aisles can be used for parties but are likely not appropriate for daily meals and snacks.

If you do choose to buy baby food from your supermarket then check labels carefully for all sugars, including natural sugars which may be added to sweeten and improve flavour.

Want to discuss your baby’s nutrition in further detail?  No problem book a free call and I can talk you through my nutrition packages for 1:1 consulting with you.

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Ten healthy snacks for kids

If you need help choosing healthy snacks for kids then you’ve come to the right place.

Regardless of whether your child is a toddler or a teenager, much to my dismay no one believes me when I recommend fruit or a bit of yoghurt as healthy snacks for kids.

You may be looking for healthy snacks either because you are worried that your child is overweight or because they tell you that they are constantly hungry over the school holidays!

Planning the snacks for kids pays off for everyone.  The children know in advance what’s on offer and parents can relax knowing that the pantries are stocked with healthy snacks for the kids.

Here are my suggestions for ten healthy snacks for the kids that are quick and easy to make.


I know that looking after your child’s health is fundamental as a parent.  There can be uncertainty about what to offer children as a healthy snack but fruit really is one of the perfect options.

It’s a source of fibre helping to keep their bellies full whilst topping up their daily dose of vitamins and minerals. 

Don’t forget that fibre is also important to feed the trillions of microbes that live in your child’s gastrointestinal tract.  During the early years, your child’s microbiome continues to develop so make sure that they get enough fibre to feed the good bacteria that live and grow in their gut.

Children need to eat at least two servings of fruit a day as part of their Five-A-Day portions. Keep the fruit bowl full so that they can help themselves when hungry in-between meals.  Fruit should always be one of the first things that they reach for when hungry and is also a perfect toddler snack.

By teaching them this healthy eating habit, they’ll continue to eat fruit as a snack through-out their life.  

If you need to make it a little more exciting, why not serve watermelon slices or fruit salads with chopped mint through this?  It really only takes less than five minutes to chop up a couple of pieces of fruit and herbs.

For school why not invest in one of those trendy and fun looking fruit shaped storage boxes that can be attached to a key ring? These will help prevent bananas and apples from getting bruised in the school bag.

Rice cakes

I especially like Biona organic rice cakes with amaranth.  Rice cakes generally provide around 3g fibre per 100g but this particular type provides 4.2g per 100g.

At home, these would be perfect with a thin smear of nut butter but for school, why not slap on hummus, Vegemite or serve it on it’s own?  These are all appropriate for children following a vegan, vegetarian or milk free diet.

These rice cakes also provide a decent amount of protein due to the presence of Amaranth which is an ancient grain that is naturally gluten free.  Like quinoa it also contains the full sequence of essential amino acids.

Corn thins

As a variation to rice cakes, these provide at least 7-10g of fibre per 100g making it a high fibre healthy snack for kids.

Serve on its own or at home you could prepare a fish based sandwich filler like this smoked salmon rillete in the article “12 child friendly fish recipes to delight”.



Sliced seasonal vegetables

During the summer sweet cherry tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers and corn are all in season.  

They are perfect sliced and can be dipped into a selection of dips prepared from beans or beautiful purple beets to make hummus like dips.

If your child is not following a dairy free diet then you can offer a portion of cream cheese.  Some children may enjoy eating these raw and on it’s own.

When you pop these into your child’s lunch boxes they make great snacks for kids.

You can try sending them with the sliced vegetables daily for at least two weeks before they will cave in and eat them when hungry.  Mix up the colours of the vegetables so they look visually appealing too.


A source of protein and calcium yoghurt is useful particular as a toddler snack.

Some varieties (particularly milk free yoghurts) can be high in sugar so it’s a good idea to learn how to screen nutrition labels for these.

I recommend reading “How To Choose The Best Children’s Yoghurt”.


A few simple tips for transporting yoghurt is to freeze it first so that the pottle thaws out in children’s lunch boxes during the warmer days.

If you are sending them with sliced fruit and vegetables in their lunch boxes then the frozen yoghurts could keep these cool.

If your child’s preferred brand is higher in sugar, try not to worry too much about this.  Balance the rest of their snacks using the nutritious choices listed in this article of healthy snacks for kids that are quick and easy.

Home made mixed fruit bread rolls

You can buy commercially made easter buns or bread rolls but if you are prepared to invest a little bit of time baking with the kids, you’ll be rewarded with a supply of delicious home baked fruit bread rolls that the kids will love!

I’ve prepared these fruit bread rolls in a variety of ways using a different combination of dried fruit, nuts and seeds.

I especially loved using part spelt flour instead of strong white bread flour mixed with wholemeal flour which resulted in very soft textured bread rolls.

Spelt is fabulous as it is another grain that is high in fibre (> 7g per 100g).  The sweet and nutty spelt flour that I used was lower providing only 4.7g fibre per 100g but provided higher levels compared to standard self-raising flour. 

Wholemeal flour by far provides the highest proportion of fibre by up to 10g per 100g.  Fibre is important for hungry bellies as it helps fill them up and keeps them full for longer.

Home baking also helps minimise their intake of any added preservatives and additives.  It’s a great activity with the kids during the weekends.  Get them to help you shape the dough into circular dough balls ready for baking in a hot oven.



A family favourite kids love popcorn!

You can prepare these at home and store in air tight containers.

This recipe is for wild rosemary popcorn which makes a delicious change.

Corn kernels are also incredibly budget friendly and is available all year round.  Just be mindful of how much oil and salt is added when preparing it.

Apart from this, it’s a delicious source of fibre and a bowl can be happily shared amongst friends after school or if added in your child’s lunch box.

Homemade flap jack

Public Health England have recommended that children reduce their intake of added sugars.  Although breakfast cereals and sweetened drinks are one of the biggest sources of added sugar in children’s diets, baking can be another.

If your child enjoys the taste of sweetened foods then don’t despair.  They don’t need to completely give up sweetened foods.

Instead, I would encourage you to bake together so that you can control the overall amount of added sugars.

This milk free fig and dark chocolate flapjack is a strong contender but I’ll be honest, it does contain a fair amount of sugar.  You could try reducing the brown sugar by half and try adding a banana instead to sweeten naturally.

The final recipe should then be lower in added sugars.  Alternatively, keep the portion sizes small and try not to make this the hero snack. 

Offer it with fruit, sliced vegetables and any of the other healthy snack options described in this post.


Sugar guide

Do you want to learn more about how to identify and reduce the amount of added sugar in your child’s diet?

Join the FREE five day challenge where you will receive an email a day with tips and advice.  This challenge will remain free for a short time only, so do join by clicking on the image below and follow the instructions to subscribe for free.

Wholegrain toast

The humble toast often gets overlooked but is a brilliant snack.  It’s a smart carbohydrate providing the right sources of energy from carbohydrates, fibre and when topped with protein like hummus or similar dips prepared using tahini can be a filling and nutritious mini meal.

For children who are not following a vegan or vegetarian diet, you could consider using eggs or fish like tinned tuna to prepare an open sandwich.

For an after school snack, a nut butter that has been oven roasted in its skin without added oil is perfect over toast. 

Savoury mini muffins

As another opportunity to bake with your children, why not whip up savoury muffins using the mini muffin hole trays as a healthy snack for kids?

You can choose from a variety of fillings such as sun-dried tomatoes, green peas, beans, tofu, sweet corn, grated courgette or carrots and so on.  If you need a dairy free muffin, skip the cheese but use fresh herbs for delicious flavours.

For egg free baking, flax eggs prepared using ground flax seeds will do the trick.  Soy or oat based yoghurt and creme fraiche could be used to replace cheese and yoghurt in recipes.

Have you got a recipe to share?

Roasted chickpeas or green lentils

A fabulous nut free crunchy healthy snack option for kids.

Experiment with different spices at home to sprinkle over the chickpeas before roasting in the oven.

 Suggested spices
  • mild curry powder
  • garam masala
  • turmeric
  • ground cumin


Make sure that the chickpeas or green lentils are thoroughly cooked then dried before coating in oil and any of the spices described above.

After tossing well to coat evenly with the spices, spread it out on a baking tray and roast in a hot oven for up to 40 minutes.

Due to the risk of choking you may wish to avoid these for children under the age of five years.


Did you enjoy today’s post on ten healthy snacks for kids that are quick and easy?  Don’t forget to listen to the podcast episode by clicking play on the media player below.  You can also subscribe to the show by or on your favourite music listening app.


Let Me Help

Would you like to meet a children’s dietitian who has successfully helped families solve their nutrition problems from around the world?

Whether you are worried about picky eating, food allergy or need to help your child build a healthy relationship with food, I’ll help you manage these with confidence.

For bookings and enquiries email me on bahee.vandebor@gmail.com or book a free 15 minute call to discuss how I can help you at one of my London clinics.

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What’s the verdict: are organic fruits and vegetables really worth it?

How will you decide?  Will the deciding factor be the nutritional profile of organic fruits and vegetables, the reduced exposure to pesticides or because the farming methods used are possibly more sustainable?

If you need help deciding then join Rhaya Jordan and I over on the podcast called Healthy Eating for Kids.  It’s available on all major podcast listening apps.

Or simply click play on the media player above or at the end of this blog post. 

Rhaya and I first met at a Daylesford event where I was invited to be part of an expert panel to discuss eating well from childhood and beyond. Rhaya is a nutritionist and herbalist specialising in people with diabetes.

 Let’s talk organic fruits and vegetables

For a long time, the health benefits of organic fruits and vegetables were unclear.

A systematic review, which is high level evidence by the way,  concluded in 2012 that there was no significant difference between organic fruits and vegetables compared to the conventional types.

If pesticide exposure worries you, then the good news is that the paper did find that exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic resistant bacteria was found to be lower in organic fruits and vegetables.

So why organic?

If there’s no profound nutritional benefit, then why such a hype on organic foods?

Let me explain.  The history of organic fruits and vegetables changed after a UK study published it’s findings in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2014.  


The international experts found that the antioxidant profile in organic fruits and vegetables was 20% to 60% higher than in conventionally grown crops.  This was also true for cereals.  

What does it mean?  This is the equivalent of eating an additional 1-2 portions of fruits and vegetables without the additional calories.

A healthy sign you say?  The trouble is true statistical significance was only observed for fruits.  

But here comes the good part. Phenolic acids and compounds was calculated to be significantly and substantially higher in organic fruits than in conventional crops (reference)

This is good news because polyphenols have a role in keeping bodies working well and may have anti-inflammatory properties.

Flavones and flavonols, another type of antioxidants were also found to be higher, but only in organic vegetables and cereals.  Onions, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, apples, grapes and berries are rich sources of flavonols. 

Celery, parsley, red peppers, chamomile, mint and ginkgo biloba are among the major sources of flavones. 

Flavonoids are considered to have antioxidant properties that may be beneficial in cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and atherosclerosis. Not that kids care about that stuff, but getting them to eat a good range of fruits and vegetables early is important.

 Vitamin A

Organic fruit may also contain significantly higher concentrations of carotenoids which are a type of plant vitamin A.

Vitamin A is important for immunity, vision and healthy hair and skin. 

It’s the little details like this that probably excite you about eating organic fruits and vegetables.

But wait, there’s more.

If you are not working with a registered paediatric dietitian and you’d like to chat about your child’s nutrition in more detail, then I invite you to book a free call with me to discuss how we can work together.  

Healthy fats

A team led by Newcastle University showed that the fatty acid profile in organic meat was better in 2016.

The scientists attributed the superior omega-3 fatty acid content in organic meat (beef, lamb and pork) and milk down to the outdoor foraging lifestyle adopted by organically grown livestock.

Organic milk may also be worth considering as it offers a better overall polyunsaturated fat profile, higher levels of vitamin E and iron. 

The downside?  There’s less iodine and selenium in organic cow’s milk.  Both minerals are important for growth, to support normal immune function and to keep tissues healthy by preventing cell damage.

Cadmium concentrations and pesticide residues

Pesticide residues was found to be four times higher in conventional crops, which also contained significantly higher concentrations of the toxic metal cadmium.

This advantage combined with an additional increase of 20-60% antioxidant intake could support making the switch to organic fruits and vegetables in your home.


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The bottom line
  • Organic fruits and vegetables contain less pesticide residues
  • Offer higher antioxidants such as flavanoids and polyphenols.
  • Organic fruits may also contain significantly more vitamin A
  • Organic meat and milk have a better profile of healthy fats, but contain less iodine and selenium which are important minerals.
  • It is not yet known what the impact of a higher intake of antioxidants would be for our health.
  • You still need to thoroughly wash all fruit and vegetables prior to cooking and eating.
  • If your budget does not allow for organic fruits and vegetables, simply increase the amount of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that you offer your child.
 Do I buy organic?

Yes I do.  Meat, chicken and eggs purely for reasons around animal welfare.

We have also switched to calcium enriched plant drinks and yoghurt at home for exactly the same reason.  Needless to say, French cheese is a little more difficult to give up!

I don’t pay any attention to the US list of the “dirty dozen” or whatever it is called. 

In fact, I’ve decided not to refer to the annual list in this article as I can’t imagine what the goal of that would be?

I do however love visiting the local farmer’s markets. I generally buy a mix of organic and conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. 

You can read more about organic produce over at the environmental working group, the soil association and community supported agriculture.

At the end of the day, if your child is a fussy eater, it may seem desirable to push organic fruits and vegetables. 

As pleasurably healthy as that sounds, getting children to love any fruits and vegetables and eating enough of it should be the main priority regardless of whether it’s organically grown or not.

Whether the environment, animal welfare or your family’s health drives you to purchase organic fruits and vegetables, as long as your budget allows you to do so, then of course you can.

Feel carefree but still scared of missing out?  Aim to get your family to eat their daily five portions of fruit and vegetables regardless of how it’s been grown.  All types of fruit and vegetables offer health benefits.

Would you agree?  Let me know over on Facebook or Instagram.

Let Me Help

Would you like to meet a children’s dietitian who has successfully helped families solve their nutrition problems from around the world?

Whether you are worried about picky eating, food allergy or need to help your child build a healthy relationship with food, I’ll help you manage these with confidence.

For bookings and enquiries email me on bahee.vandebor@gmail.com or book a free 15 minute call to discuss how I can help you at one of my London clinics.

The post Are Organic Fruits And Vegetables Really Worth It? appeared first on UK Kids Nutrition.

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What’s the deal with when to start introducing solids?  Everyone appears to be an expert when it comes to weaning, so when exactly can you start, especially if your baby has a milk allergy?

BSCAI paediatric allergy group and the British Dietetic Association (BDA) Food Allergy Specialist groups (which I am a member of) have put together an excellent document on preventing food allergy when you are thinking of starting solids.

The advice is clear and cuts through any myths that you may have read online around starting solids.  If you are not working with a registered paediatric dietitian then I invite you to book a free call with me to discuss how we can work together.  

Step One On How To Start Solids For Your Baby With A Milk Allergy

The first step is to identify the style of baby feeding that you wish to adopt.

Should you spoon feed or follow baby-led weaning? The choice is entirely yours but think about why you are planning to start earlier than the recommended 6 months.

Is your baby showing the correct signs of being ready as per the NHS guidelines?

  • able to sit upright and hold their head steady
  • co-ordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at the food, pick it up and put it in their mouth by themselves
  • swallow food (rather than spit it back out)

If you’re joining us today because you suspect that your baby might have a dairy intolerance or a milk allergy and you are looking for advice on starting solids, then I recommend reading the blog post below first:

Step TwoBefore starting solids for your baby with milk allergy..

Continue to breastfeed or use your baby’s special infant formula recommended by your GP, paediatric dietitian or allergy doctor.  

Depending on your baby’s initial symptoms, your baby may have been prescribed an extensively hydrolysed feed or an amino acid formula.  Both are suitable for babies with a milk allergy. 

If your heart is set on baby led weaning, then please do wait until your baby is six months of age.

A recent UK paper published in Appetite 2019 showed interesting results.  As parents, we tend to be overly critical of ourselves so I hope that the results of this paper reassures you.  

The researchers found that babies who followed baby-led weaning were more likely to be offered vegetables and join  the family meals. 

With a few tweaks to your family meals to ensure that foods available at the table are dairy free, there’s no reason why your baby with a milk allergy cannot join either.

Baby led weaning is safe so if this is your preferred feeding style, then go for it!

In fact, this UK paper showed that babies at increased risk of choking were those who were not given finger foods alongside their puree foods.

Regardless of the type of feeding style you choose, always remain with your baby during meal times to minimise any potential risk of choking.

Step ThreeBe familiar with the signs and symptoms of milk allergy

If your baby has been well since starting their special infant formula or whilst you’ve been following a strict milk free diet for breastfeeding, you may have forgotten the earlier signs and symptoms that your baby had when first diagnosed with a milk allergy.

The first thing that you will notice if your baby is accidentally given food containing milk is an allergic reaction, whether this is immediate or delayed.

Signs and symptoms of milk allergy (usually immediate within 2 hours)

  • Swollen lips, face or eyes
  • hives, urticaria
  • abdominal pain, vomiting

Serious symptoms (rare)

  • swollen tongue, persistent cough, hoarse cry
  • difficult or noisy breathing
  • pale/floppy/unresponsive/unconscious

Symptoms for delayed non-IgE mediated cow’s milk protein allergy

  • recurrent tummy pain, worsening reflux and vomiting
  • food refusal
  • loose frequent stools > 6-8 per day
  • or constipation 2 or less bowel motions per week
  • skin reddening or itch
  • worsening eczema
Step Four When You are Ready For Starting Solids For Your Baby With Milk Allergy

If your baby is less than 4 months of age start with puree of vegetables and then fruit.  

Simply peel, chop and then cover with water to cook in a saucepan.

Mash with a fork using the water in the pan, breast milk or your baby’s special infant formula.  There’s no need to purchase a high grade commercial blender for this weaning stage. 

Your arm power is perfect and the residual lumps useful for baby’s overall development for texture progression.

If your baby is over 6 months of age, you can start offering finger foods.

Use very soft pieces of steamed or cooked vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, root vegetables and then move onto fruit.

During this phase of weaning, focus on the variety rather than the amount that baby eats.

Babies are so clever, they will naturally adjust their volume of formula or breast milk as they start to eat more solids.

 Step Five For Starting Solids With A Milk Allergy

Focus on Iron rich foods.  From around 6 months of age, baby’s iron stores and the amount of iron present in breast milk starts to decline.

Once your baby has confidently tasted a variety of vegetables and fruit, do move on swiftly onto iron rich foods such as meat, chicken or fish. 

If you are following a plant-based diet, then you can introduce lentils and beans which are good choices of iron.

Recommended iron rich foods to give when starting solids for your baby with milk allergy include:

  • Lentils
  • Nut butter
  • Meat, chicken, fish, eggs
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Iron fortified breakfast cereal
To prepare iron fortified breakfast of oats (see pear and chia powered oats) use breast milk or your baby’s special infant formula.
Just remember to substitute the whole milk in the recipe above with breast milk or your baby’s special infant formula. 
Avoid using plant based drinks at this stage as it’s low in protein, calories, vitamins and minerals.
 Introducing other high allergenic foods
Egg, nuts, fish and gluten may be causing you some worry and confusion.
If your baby also has moderate to severe eczema your allergy doctor, GP or paediatric dietitian may recommend introducing cooked egg and peanut from 4 months of age.   This may help prevent your baby’s chances of developing an allergy to these foods.
Speak to your health care professional for personalised advice regarding this.
For all other babies with a milk allergy, once baby is ready for solids and has been enjoying vegetables and fruit, you can start introducing high allergenic foods described above one at a time.
Wait at least a few days before introducing a new food and start with small amounts such as 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cooked food.  Gradually increase the amounts offered.
If your baby accepts these foods and doesn’t have a reaction then continue to offer these foods as part of their weekly menu plan.
If your baby has an allergic reaction, then please stop giving your baby the food that they react to and speak to your family doctor for further advice.
Step six

Plan a daily menu with calcium for your baby with a milk allergy.

Aim for 3 balanced mini meals per day.

From around 9 months of age, you can start to use a plant milk to prepare porridge, dairy free pancakes or homemade bread for breakfast.

Not all plant based milks are suitable and your dietitian may recommend using some types over others based on the source and amount of protein, the over all calories, presence of added calcium, vitamins and minerals.

 Lunch and Evening meals

It seems early to think about “meals” but you can start creating mini meals with texture.

  • Use a root vegetables or grains like quinoa, amaranth, oats, rice, cous cous
  • Add iron rich vegetables and green leafy choices
  • Protein (meat, chicken, fish or lentils)
  • Use infant formula or a calcium fortified plant drink to get the desired texture
 Dessert or snack

Breast milk or specialist infant formula

Dairy free yoghurts (check that they are calcium fortified)

Finger foods: cut up pieces of bread or toast dipped into hummus or calcium fortified yoghurt based dips

You can use mild herbs and spices for flavour

Custard using a dairy free custard powder and then mix with baby’s specialist formula

Raw vegetables and/or fruit

Mini sandwiches or rolled up bread with avocado, nut based spread, hummus or another dip prepared with tahini

Why not listen to this podcast to help you choose the best plant drink for your baby.

Other useful foods containing added or natural sources of calcium include:

  • dairy free custard prepared with dairy custard powder, infant formula or plant drink.
  • oat based creme fraiche and cream that is also calcium fortified
  • tahini paste, a plant source of some calcium
  • tinned fish with it’s bones to prepare sandwiches (excellent source of calcium)
  • broccoli, kale
  • beans and pulses
  • specialist infant formula


See the full list of non-dairy source of calcium in this podcast and blog post called ‘What you need to do before reaching for calcium supplements’.

Step Seven – Read All Food Labels, Including “Free From” Range

There are many ways that milk can be labelled and it’s not always obvious.

Never assume that foods from a “free from” range will be free from cow’s milk protein.  

Remember that you are also avoiding milk and food products made from sheep, goat or buffalo as the protein is very similar to cow’s milk protein.

Confused?  Book an appointment and we can go through the entire list of words and hidden sources of dairy so that you can confidently prepare and execute a dairy free diet for your baby.

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It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to my long time friend and dietitian Miriam Raleigh, a registered dietitian based in Australia.  She’ll be taking us through the low FODMAP diet and how you can trial it as early as the weaning phase if you suspect that your baby has difficulty digesting certain foods.

Tune into this week’s episode to learn about FODMAPs.

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAPs are a group of short chain carbohydrates that your child’s gut may have difficulty digesting.  They can be poorly absorbed in the small part of the bowel (small intestines).  Unabsorbed, they remain in the small intestine where bacteria ferments these to produce gas.

F .  Fermentable

O .  Oligosaccharides (fructans and galactans)

D   Disaccharides (lactose)

M . Monosaccharides (fructose)


P .  Polyols (sugar alcohols)

FODMAPS are usually absorbed in the small intestine and fermented in the large part of the bowel. 

Some children’s bodies may not handle FODMAPs well and can suffer from IBS-like symptoms like constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, flatulence and abdominal pain or discomfort.

If you are wondering whether a low FODMAP diet could work for your child, it’s really important to speak to your child’s GP or gastroenterologist first.

They can organise a set of tests first though these are not always necessary to start the diet.

 FODMAP myths

A low FODMAP diet isn’t a lifestyle choice.  When you work with a paediatric dietitian, your child’s dietitian will guide you through a 4-6 week exclusion phase. Your child will be asked to follow a diet low in FODMAPs.

Miriam Raleigh explains that it’s best not to rely on Dr Google for the list of low FODMAP foods. 

You can read a lot about FODMAPs but you’ll quickly get fed up with the amount of inaccurate data published online.

Whilst the internet gets noisier, save your sanity and hours of searching in the dark by speaking to your dietitian who can provide you with a list of accurate resources to help you navigate through this artificial but effective diet.

Power hour education sessions with an expert can help streamline your thoughts, answer any burning questions and help you design a purposeful yet nutritionally balanced low FODMAP diet for the exclusion diet phase.

Example of FODMAPs

Fructans (also known as fructo-oligo-saccharides) or FOS are chains of the sugar fructose of different lengths.

Galactans are known as galacto-oligo-saccharides (GOS) which are chains of the sugar galactose.


Foods that are high in fructans or GOS include:
  • wheat and rye based foods such as bread, pasta, breakfast cereals.
  • vegetables like onion, garlic, legumes (chickpeas and lentils), leeks
  • fruit such as apples, nectarine, watermelon
  • some nuts and seeds
  • processed foods where FOS has been added as a prebiotic
What is lactose?

Lactose is the main type of carbohydrate found in milk and dairy products.  

A lactose breath test can be organised by your child’s doctor if you suspect lactose malabsorption.

During the elimination phase, switching from regular cow’s milk to the lactose free range may just do the trick.

This is not a dairy free diet.  If you identify that actose drives their loose stools as a result of the FODMAP trial and child cannot handle lactose they may still be able to enjoy small amounts of regular milk, cheese and yoghurt.

Foods high in fructose

Nearly all fruit and vegetables contain fructose but for a happier gut, only the fruit high in fructose is reduced during the elimination phase.

These only need to be restricted if your child has a fructose malabsorption.

You’ll be relieved to know that vegetables with excess fructose are asparagus and artichokes which children don’t tend to eat in large quantities.

As part of the low FODMAP trial, it’s still important that children meet their daily quota of five servings of fruit and vegetables per day.

Your dietitian may suggest restricting fruit with excess fructose such as:

  • apples
  • pears
  • dried fruit
  • fruit juice

Don’t despair, there’s plenty on the list that your child can still enjoy such as bananas, berries and clementines.

When you work with a children’s dietitian you’ll find that diet can still be carefully balanced with sufficient calories from the major food groups such as carbohydrates, fat, protein, fruit and vegetables. 

If necessary the diet may be topped up with a suitable vitamin and mineral supplement but the emphasis will be on encouraging children to get their daily dose of goodness through whole grains and veggie inspired dishes. 

Click to download FREE tasty dairy free party recipes
What are sugar polyols?

These are sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol.

They can be found naturally in fruit and vegetables such as apples, some types of pear and cauliflower.

Some foods can be artificially sweetened with the above, therefore always check food labels of low-calorie or sugar-free packaged food items.

Why is the low FODMAP diet not a long-term solution for children’s gut symptoms?

The goal of the diet is to identify which of the FODMAP sugars are troublesome for your child’s gut.

When you identify which FODMAP group are the problem during the reintroduction phase, your dietitian will help you identify how much of these your child can eat without experiencing symptoms of, constipation or diarrhoea.

Monash the founders of the FODMAP diet emphasise how important it is to reintroduce high FODMAP foods back into the diet to promote the growth of good bacteria. 

This is because some high FODMAPS are also prebiotics and a source of fibres thus feeding and nurturing the overall composition of the gut microbiota.


The Bottomline

The low FODMAPs diet is usually used as a diet therapy for adults with IBS.  

Relief from symptoms such as persisting constipation and diarrhoea of unknown cause may be relieved through a low FODMAP diet within two weeks of starting the diet.

Let Me Help

Would you like to meet a children’s dietitian who has successfully helped families solve their nutrition problems from around the world?

Whether you are worried about picky eating, food allergy or need to help your child build a healthy relationship with food, I’ll help you manage these with confidence.

For bookings and enquiries email me on bahee.vandebor@gmail.com or book a free 15 minute call to discuss how I can help you.

The post How To Use The FODMAP Diet To Restore Your Child’s Gut appeared first on UK Kids Nutrition.

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Calcium supplements are only a quick fix to what could be a long term problem.  If you’re worried that your child isn’t getting enough of their daily calcium requirements, then lets get to the root of the problem first.  Whilst an insurance policy like calcium supplements appear safe, over-doing the supplements aren’t and you could end up compromising the absorption of other crucial minerals like iron. 

So here’s what you can do.  Why not plan your child’s diet with the right food choices, so that children eat their way to strong bones and teeth regardless of the type of diet they follow?

Daily calcium requirement by age

The first step is to identify how much calcium your child needs. 

Before you panic, you’ll be relieved to hear that requirements are easy to meet through calcium rich foods and without calcium supplements. 

A portion of dairy or alternative calcium enriched food does the job – yes really – and also doubles up as a protein food.

If your child follows a dairy free diet or is vegan/vegetarian then keep reading for more great choices.

If your toddler has stopped drinking milk because they no longer enjoy it, then why not try a calcium fortified plant drink?

Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth.  It also has a role in helping muscles contract, and helps blood vessels regulate the natural flow of blood in your child’s body.  Additional roles include aiding nerve cells to communicate with each other and contributes towards normal blood clotting.

However there’s a time limit.  Did you know that boys have until the age of around twenty years of age to reach their peak bone mass? Girls achieve at least 90% of peak bone mass by the age of eighteen years.  

It’s no wonder that bones are compared to a bank balance. During your child’s adolescent years more calcium is deposited than withdrawn to help build a skeleton of good density. 

Help your child deposit as much calcium as possible before their adult years to reduce the likelihood of fractures or osteoporosis in adulthood.



How To Choose The Best Dairy Free Milk On A Plant Based Diet

How To Design The Best Dairy Free Meal Plan

Advanced Guide To Vitamins And Minerals For Healthy Hair

Sources of calcium

With the exception of organic varieties, calcium fortified plant drinks have comparable amounts of calcium added (at least 120mg of calcium per 100ml).

If your toddler has 100ml of calcium enriched plant drink with their breakfast cereal, try using an additional 100ml in a home prepared white sauce.  Then pack in as many of the plant sources of calcium rich foods described below and your child will be unlikely to require calcium supplements.


Calcium bioavailability

Your child’s body must be able to absorb the calcium used to fortify plant drinks.

The good news is that most calcium supplements used to fortify plant drinks are absorbed well.   Absorption rates vary from 20 to 40% depending on whether calcium citrate or carbonate is used. 

More importantly, remember to shake the carton vigorously before each use or the calcium added to plant drinks will settle at the bottom of the carton.  For best absorption, calcium enriched foods should be distributed evenly through-out the day to encourage maximum absorption once in the gut.

  Calcium rich foods

When you are planning your child’s diet, do consider how much of calcium from the calcium rich food is bioavailable – meaning can your child’s body absorb and use it?

For example, spinach has a decent amount of calcium on paper, but the calcium present is bound to a compound known as oxalate.  This unfortunately makes the calcium within spinach unavailable when eaten.

Chinese spinach and rhubarb also have good amounts of calcium, however, only 8% of the calcium present is absorbed.  Luckily, Chinese spinach is abundant in calcium so a reasonable amount of calcium is eventually absorbed in the body.

In comparison, at least 60% of the calcium in broccoli and 50% found in kale is absorbed making this a more reliable daily source of calcium for children.

Other non dairy sources of calcium

Porridge oats, 30g, raw (15mg)

Okra, 80g cooked (175mg calcium)

Spring greens, 80g raw (170mg)

3 dried figs, (150mg)

Chickpeas, cooked, 80g (35mg)

Aduki beans, cooked, 75g (30mg)

Black-eye beans, cooked, 75g (15mg)

Broad beans, cooked, 75g (25mg)

Cannellini beans, 75g (70mg)

Butter beans, 75g (25mg)

Baked beans, 75g, canned (30mg)

Mung beans, cooked, 75g (22mg)

Pinto beans, cooked, 75g (35mg)

Tofu calcium-set, 80g (170mg)

Sardines, canned, 75g (340mg)

Pilchards, canned in tomato sauce, 80g (200mg)

Salmon, fresh, 75g, (11mg)

Salmon, pink, canned and drained, 75g (80mg)

Salmon, red, canned with bones, 75g (120mg)

Turbot, grilled, 75g (45mg)

Anchovies, canned, 75g (225mg)

 Calcium food sources (20% of quoted calcium is absorbed)

Almonds whole, 30g (80mg)

Almonds, ground, 15g (35mg)

Tahini paste, 1 teaspoon, 5g (35mg) 

As children are likely to only eat small amounts of almonds in the form of almond butter and the same for tahini paste, I would classify these as poor choices of calcium for kids.  

These are still nutritious foods with protein contributing some calcium, but I wouldn’t rely on these as the main sources of calcium in a young child’s diet.

Calcium and vitamin D

The story of calcium doesn’t end here.  You can load up with as much calcium as you want, but if your child has poor vitamin D status then their body will not be able to absorb the calcium eaten.

The best way around this is to ensure that your child under five years of age or drinking less than 500ml of infant formula is given a daily vitamin D supplement providing 10ug.

Older children may require a vitamin D supplement over winter, particularly if your child is dark skinned or has limited opportunity to spend time outdoors.

Salt and Calcium

Research suggests that diets that are high in salt or sodium can increase calcium losses.  This is especially important for young and adolescent girls. 

If your child eats a lot of foods that are high in salt there’s a higher chance of increased calcium loss and therefore reduced peak bone mass in their 20s.

Take care with high salt foods (anything processed with added salt), takeaway meals, smoked foods and salt added to cooking.

Seasoning can of course be added, but limit the amounts used during cooking.

Smoked tofu for example can be enjoyed, but consider frequency and opt for fresh herbs and mild spices to enhance flavour.

See 9 Easy Ways To Cut Back On Salt.

Image Source: Action On Salt

Potassium and Calcium

There is some evidence that eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruit and vegetables which are sources of potassium can promote bone mineral density.

Why not pick up a gardening project to nurture your child’s undiscovered green thumb?  

You’ll love this episode with Charlotte the gardener:

How To Get Kids Excited About Growing Vegetables

 Bottom Line

If your toddler or adolescent child no longer enjoys milk or follows a dairy free or vegan diet, you may not necessarily always calcium supplements.

A combination of dairy or calcium fortified plant drinks, beans and pulses, some types of leafy and green vegetables as well as fish with bones are fantastic calcium rich foods if you plan to include it.

Remember that vitamin D supplements are important so that your child’s body can utilise the calcium eaten and do pay attention to their salt intake as well as the overall intake of potassium from whole grains, fruit and vegetables.

If your child is a fussy eater and you’d like to chat to a specialist children’s dietitian, then do book a call to find out how I can help you.

Let Me Help

Would you like to meet a children’s dietitian who has successfully helped families solve their nutrition problems from around the world?

Whether you are worried about picky eating, food allergy or need to help your child build a healthy relationship with food, I’ll help you manage these with confidence.

For bookings and enquiries email me on bahee.vandebor@gmail.com or book a free 15 minute call to discuss how I can help you.

The post What You Need To Do Before Reaching For Calcium Supplements appeared first on UK Kids Nutrition.

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Why growing vegetables even in small spaces can transform your child’s eating journey from bumpy to a smooth ride.  

Listen to the latest podcast episode with Charlotte who is a gardener and garden designer. She shares practical tips about growing vegetables in small spaces with your kids.

She’ll teach you the easiest vegetables to grow with your kids using amazing tips to introduce and get your children excited about growing vegetables.

Research suggests that children who grow their fruit and vegetables are TWICE MORE LIKELY to eat their recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables per day.

Gardening and growing vegetables is a simple and effective way to encourage children to eat their fruit and vegetables.

The future’s more likely to be positive if you are able to sneak in some gardening time with your children.  And it will be even better if you complement growing vegetables along with regular appointments with your paediatric dietitian to transform your picky eater into a food explorer.

Introducing Charlotte

Charlotte first got into gardening when she was suffering from postnatal depression. 

“I really found it therapeutic, just weeding for hours and just lost myself in it.” 

The business all came about when she overhead someone trying to find a gardener.  She heard a man ahead of her in a supermarket que say “nobody wants to be on their hands and knees weeding for four hours.” But, she did so she said, “I do, I’ll do it.”

And that’s how she got her first gardening job.

Growing vegetables with kids in small spaces – what to grow
  • Strawberries
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Radish
  • Herb pots e.g. parsley, basil, mint
  • Lettuce
  • Radish
If you have a balcony – decorate it with strawberries or cherry tomatoes

Plants that look great on balconies are strawberries which are really fun and really easy to grow.

Visually they look great hanging down over a basket on a sunny window ledge or next to other plants sitting on the balcony.

Similarly growing vegetables like cherry tomatoes in a basket look really pretty as well. Tomatoes are great to grow with kids because if you can find its seeds they germinate really quickly.

Within a couple of weeks, kids can watch it transform and then every day they’ll be able to see a significant difference in how much they grow.

Charlotte created an Instagram post about a week ago because even she was amazed.

She had them on her kitchen window sill and enjoyed looking at them every day. She couldn’t get over how fast they were growing.

Kids enjoy being able to see transformation happening quickly. 

They’re impatient and they want to see their fruits of labour growing quickly. So growing vegetables like cherry tomatoes or strawberries offers a reasonably quick win.

What you need to grow cherry tomatoes

A pot, seed compost or multipurpose compost, cherry tomato seedlings, a seed tray, a pair of gardening gloves, a trowel and a fork.


Step by step instructions for planting cherry tomatoes
  • Plant your seeds in the seedling tray using the seed or multipurpose compost
  • The seedlings will start to germinate within a couple of weeks
  • Once at least 3-4 tiny green leaves appear, the seedlings are ready to be transferred into a pot.
  • Using a pencil, delicately lift it up by the tiny edge of the leaf, scoop it out and pop it into a pot on its own.
  • If you do this in April, leave it in the pot for about a month until its warmer.  During this time, keep transferring it into bigger pots until you are using 12-inch pots.
  • It can be displayed on the balcony or grow it indoors.

Bonus tip: cherry tomatoes are attractive plants and smell delicious too.


Gardening tip from Charlotte

Don’t worry if you get it wrong. You’ve just got to try things and if you make a mistake, then you just learn how to do it differently next time.

Why not grow peas?

If you are planning on growing vegetables with your children, another great vegetable to grow in small spaces are peas. 

When you pick the pod off a plant, break it open and eat the fresh pea raw they are absolutely delicious!  For children to see where peas come from, it’s fantastic. 

Not only does it taste sweet, kids won’t believe that it’s the same thing as the bag of peas in your freezer at home.

 Never too early to get started

Charlotte recommends involving your children with growing vegetables as early as possible.  I couldn’t agree more. 

Charlotte’s son has been out in the garden from quite an early age.  He was quite happy to as well.  He loved getting his hands dirty in the soil.  It’s one of the nice times that you can enjoy being outdoors without worrying about keeping their clothes clean.

Allocate tasks to get kids excited about growing vegetables

To get kids excited, ask them to bring along their favourite toys such as trucks, buckets and spades.  Give them little jobs to do such as pulling out weeds or fetching items for you.  Kids love getting involved and they love having jobs to do which makes them feel important and part of the gardening project.

Charlotte recommends getting them engaged by letting them touch the soil, talking about the plant, smelling these and describing the different smells (think lavender)!

Toddlers as young as three or four can help with planting seeds.  Tomato seedlings might be too small to be handled by young children, but sunflower seeds are perfect as these are large enough for children to hold in their hands. 

Sunflower project

If you have more than one child or if your toddler has a best friend, invite them to plant a sunflower plant each to see who can grow the tallest plant.

When the sunflower head dies and falls, ask children to look at its interesting pattern, talk to them about how the seeds go round in a circle.  

If they enjoy art, ask your child to try drawing out the pattern and discuss the transformations of how the seed grew into a tall iconic plant with  beautiful bright yellow flowers.


If you are planning on growing vegetables like lettuce with your children, make sure that you choose a window sill that receives lots of natural lighting.

If the plant starts to lean heavily towards the window, then turn the plant around to help them straighten up.  With the exception of seedlings, keep your pots away from windows that have radiators sitting underneath them.  Plants generally don’t like direct heat from radiators.


Secret to growing herbs like a pro

Supermarket herb pots are not designed to last long.  If you do buy a herb pot, after discarding the small plants, look for four to five of the “healthy” plants with its roots attached and then transfer it to a new herb pot. 

When it comes to watering, over watering is probably one of the main culprits for killing supermarket herb plants. 

Questions from social media followers.

Gemma Stow, business coach for female introverts asked “what’s the best way of getting kids excited about plants that they loved last summer (plants like strawberries) to get them involved again?”

Charlotte recommends lifting the older plants and using different planters like barrels or pots with holes in them for strawberries to poke through.

Also consider stacked terracotta pots or invite the children to decorate the plant pots.

To get kids really excited about gardening, use insect hotels or homes, their favourite toys and lots of creativity in the garden.

For guidance on how to look after your dahlia plants, orchids and tips for growing different types of mint, listen to the full podcast episode here.


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Let me help

Would you like to meet a children’s dietitian who has successfully helped families solve their nutrition problems from around the world?

Whether you are worried about picky eating, food allergy or need to help your child build a healthy relationship with food, I’ll help you manage these with confidence.

For bookings and enquiries email me on bahee.vandebor@gmail.com or book a free initial consultation here to talk about how I can help you.

The post How To Get Kids Excited About Growing Vegetables appeared first on UK Kids Nutrition.

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Would you like to have 12 different creative child friendly fish recipes to encourage your children to eat fish? 

In this article and podcast episode, I take you through 12 fantastic fish recipes that your kids will love.

Worried about mercury and microplastics in fish recipes?  I cover sources of fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids but also the types of fish that are low in mercury and a realistic way to check if your fish has been sourced using a sustainable fishing method.

Fish Recipes For A Fussy Eater?

Got a fussy eater?  The examples of the child friendly fish recipes will delight any toddler even if he is new to the concept of being a food explorer. 

Remember, you can offer fish recipes up to ten times before moving onto a different presentation of fish.

If you need support nurturing a food explorer, don’t forget to sign up to the waiting list for the fussy eater’s course which I am creating for you.

The course will be a combination of e-learning as well as 1:1 consultations with me virtually. 

Should Your Kids Be Eating Fish?

By the end of this blog post on should your kids be eating fish, you’ll discover the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids when your child eats a portion of oily fish every week.

No panic required if sustainable fishing methods are important to you (and so it should).

Download this comprehensive pocket guide by the Marine Conservation Society.

It’s clear, visual and beautifully describes which fish to enjoy whilst supporting sustainable fishing methods with ease.

Read: Should Your Kids Be Eating Fish?
Navigating Fish Labelling

You can download the good fish guide app, for up to date sustainable seafood advice or simply look out for the MSC blue sign on any packaged fish.

If you enjoy prawns or other types of fish that are farmed, then look for the ASC sign on packaging which quickly let’s you know that your seafood has been farmed responsibly.

The MSC and ASC signs are widely used in the U.K and Germany which makes shopping for fish sourced responsibly easy for busy parents.

The podcast episode by the Food Medic called “Sustainable Seafood” is brilliant.  She interviewed a guest from the Marine Stewardship Council who shared the research findings by Dr Ray Hilborn.  She explains that eating a mix of seafood and plant-based proteins has a low impact on the environment.  So if you are worried about adopting a “part-time” vegan diet or would like to include fish in your plant-based diet, then you absolutely can! 

Fish is also a brilliant source of iodine and contains iron.

Thinking about following a vegan lifestyle?  Then read ‘Is A Vegan Diet Safe For Children?’ 

Vegan nutrition for children can be complicated but it doesn’t need to be scary.  

You can book a free 15 minute call with me to discuss how I can help you at one of my London clinics..

Low Mercury Sources Of Oily Fish

Examples of low mercury oily fish are:

  • mackerel
  • herring
  • pilchard/sardine
  • trout
  • salmon


Other low mercury fish are:

  • cod
  • haddock
  • plaice

These types of fish are significantly lower in omega 3 fatty acids and count as a portion of ‘white fish’ providing protein, some iron, vitamin B12, selenium and iodine.

For children aged 1-4 years of age, a portion size is roughly 1/2 cup or 75g of weighed cooked fish.

DHA, The Brain Fat

Remember, the advantage of including a weekly portion of oily fish in your child’s diet is that your children can benefit from the important omega 3 fatty acid, DHA. 

From pregnancy until about 2 years of age, your child’s nervous system accumulates DHA to support the normal development of the brain and eye for vision.

What does DHA do?  During the early years, the brain develops rapidly and DHA helps support and nurture this growth. 

In infancy, breastmilk is another source and levels are influenced by the amount of oily fish you eat during the breastfeeding years.

 DHA USDA Guidelines

Infants: birth till 6 months of age require 0.1 to 0.18% of total energy intake

Infants: Babies until 2 years of age require 10-12 mg/kg/day of DHA

Toddlers:  2 to 4 years require both EPA + DHA 100-150 mg/day

Children: 4 to 6 years require both EPA + DHA 150 – 200 mg/day

Children: 6 to 10 years require both EPA + DHA 200 – 250 mg/day

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding mothers: 200 mg/day

 DHA UK Guidelines (> 6 months)

Linolenic acid (LA): 3-4% total dietary energy

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): 0.4-0.6% total dietary energy

Note these calculations assume that DHA will be converted in the body from ALA rich foods.  


Can DHA be made in the body?

Research suggests that conversion of ALA found in green plant tissues, walnuts, flaxseeds, rapeseed oil, soybean oil and flaxseed oil to biologically active DHA in humans is poor (as low as only 1%) and advice is therefore always given to eat preformed DHA rich foods such as seafood and oily fish.

In adults, the benefits of including EPA and DHA rich foods include benefits of the heart (including reduced risk of mortality), improvements in inflammatory conditions including arthritis and asthma.

12 Child Friendly Fish Recipes

Fish in soy and honey glaze (by taste.com.au)

Children will adore the sweetness from the honey.  You may wish to start with 1 teaspoon of soy sauce and honey first to control the amount of added salt and sugar.  If you are feeling super organised, why not marinade the fish overnight?


Fish pie with prawns (recipe by Jamie Oliver)

Who can resist fish pie? If your child is following a dairy free diet, then choose a plant milk and vegan cheese to achieve creamy potato mash.

You can also try using a variety of different fish in this recipe but always pick at least one source of oily fish.


Thai fish burgers (recipe by BBC Good Food)

This recipe was sent to me by a mum who I am working with.  This recipe was a hit with her daughter who previously hated fish so it’s definitely one for you to try.

She recommends that you refer to these as “burgers” and said, “they are tasty (especially with sweet chilli sauce!), very healthy (without the sauce!) and they only take about five minutes to prepare.”


Fish cakes with sweet potato (recipe on the blog dairy free and gluten free)

Fish cakes are easy on the palette, especially with the addition of sweet potato.  It’s a great opportunity to get children into the kitchen too so that they can practice on the go messy play.  

For more ideas on messy play to overcome fussy eating read this blog post and listen to the podcast here.

Sweet potato is also a type of smart carb which means that it is a source of fibre and is slowly digested in the body.

Fish kebabs (zesty recipe by GoodtoKnow)

These would be gorgeous in the summer, but equally a hit in the oven in the colder months.

I know kids aren’t always thrilled at the sight of mushrooms so fine-tune this recipe by adding sweet red bell peppers or sweet corn on the side.

Don’t forget to ask the kids to help you make these.


Anchovy based pasta in tomato sauce (see recipe suggestion here)

I first came across the idea of adding anchovies to a tomato sauce via Jamie Oliver.

Anchovies dissolve into a tomato sauce rather effortlessly, leaving behind a DHA enriched sauce for the kids.  One of the best ways of sneaking in omega 3 fatty acids without drama at the dining table so that children don’t need to feel overwhelmed by a big piece of fish.


Fish fingers (recipe by BBC Good Food)

Another easy recipe with spinach and peas. To encourage children to eat fish recipes, it’s always a good idea to get them to prepare it by getting them involved in the kitchen.  Remember to switch up the carbs by using wholemeal flour or bread crumbs for additional fibre, vitamins and minerals.


Fish tacos (recipe with a pineapple salsa)

The best fish tacos I had were in Costa Rica.  The kids loved it too when we ate it under a sun by the pool.  Simply gorgeous!

I love the idea of serving these with a pineapple salsa but you may wish to skip the chilli in the recipe.

Alternatively, look through recipes online with older children and pick a recipe to make together.


Pan fried Mahi mahi, fresh tuna or sword fish (recipe by Delish) are lovely on the BBQ or pan fried for a meaty texture.  

Just remember that sword fish is not suitable for children under 16 year of age due to the high levels of mercury.


Fish and vegetable stir fry (recipe by Taste)

I prepare variations of this recipe and use any vegetables that I have in the fridge.

My girls love sweetcorn so I usually add these or serve corn on the cob to get them excited about the meal, but to be. honest, anything with noodles get them to the dining table with minimal effort.


Smoked salmon rillette (recipe by MSC)

Posh French sandwiches sound excellent for an after school snack or during the weekend. 

If your child follows a dairy free diet, try using coconut cream with an alternative oily fish or dairy free oat based double cream.

 Fish high in mercury

Other fish high in mercury do include fresh tuna, shark, marlin, canned albacore (white) tuna, orange roughy and escolar.  You may wish to restrict these types of fish to one serving once a month as per the Canadian guidelines.

Imported fish from Asia, especially dried fish may also contain high amounts of mercury. To lower your child’s risk it is best to choose a variety of fish.

Low mercury fish you can include in fish recipes (but check for sustainability):
  • anchovy
  • capelin
  • char
  • flounder
  • sole
  • clam
  • mussel
  • oysters 
  • hake
  • herring
  • haddock
  • Atlantic mackerel
  • mullet
  • pollock (Boston blue fish)
  • sardines
  • salmon
  • smelt
  • rainbow trout
  • lake whitefish
  • blue crab
  • shrimp
  • lobsters
  • canned “light” tuna*

*There are many types of canned light tuna such as skipjack, tongol and yellowfin. You do not need to limit the amount of these types of canned tuna that you eat. Check the label to see what type of tuna was used. Š 

*Albacore canned tuna is higher in mercury than other canned tuna. Children and women who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding should limit the amount of albacore tuna they eat. Otherwise those 12 and older do not need to limit canned albacore tuna unless they eat it every day. It is best to choose a variety of fish. 

Let me help

Would you like to meet a children’s dietitian who has successfully helped families solve their nutrition problems from around the world?

Whether you are worried about picky eating, food allergy or need to help your child build a healthy relationship with food, I’ll help you manage these with confidence.

For bookings and enquiries email me on bahee.vandebor@gmail.com or book a free initial consultation here to talk about how I can help you.

The post 12 Child Friendly Fish Recipes To Delight appeared first on UK Kids Nutrition.

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“11% of Londoners who undertake the school run regularly stop on the way home so that their children can have some dinner, nearly three times as outside London.”see reference.  

Eating out as a family can spark joy when it’s a special occasion.  Do it regularly and it’s a habit with the potential for salt and the daily recommended sugar intake for kids to blown by undesirably high levels.

UK has a cosmopolitan palate but if families stop at bakeries and coffee shops daily to pick up breakfast, food choices will be high in sugar.

This routine practice may be convenient and something to look forward to as a Friday morning treat, but as a daily habit, thats worrying.

Are we really starting to move away from traditional eating habits such as eating breakfast at the table? 

Why do kids exceed the recommended daily sugar intake?

  • Label reading can be confusing
  • Hidden sugars in foods
  • Perception that natural sugars are healthy choices
  • Increased frequency of eating out
  • Unlimited access to high sugar foods
What is hidden sugar?

Hidden sugars can certainly be a problem which is why label reading is crucial in helping children stick to their recommended daily sugar intake.

See How To Screen Breakfast Cereals for detailed information on how to identify hidden sources of sugar.

There’s a worrying trend promoting natural sugars as “healthy” when in fact it’s still a free sugar.

Hidden sugars in foods

The goal isn’t to eliminate sugar from your child’s diet but beware of recipes or brands promoting ingredients such as maple syrup, date syrup or coconut sugar as a healthy addition.  Often misinterpreted as healthy sugar alternatives, they are in fact not. 

There’s a promise of antioxidants, minerals and fibre but the truth is, children would need to eat kilos (yes really) to reap any of the proposed benefits.

If you use breakfast cereals as an example, by choosing a cereal based on wholegrains with either fresh or dried fruit, children can reap the benefits of fibre, vitamins and minerals without the extra free sugars from the fancy coconut sugar.

Unless you are making pancakes for weekend breakfast, then obviously yes of course maple syrup is a delicious must as a planned meal with added sugar.

My ultimate guide on sugar

Beat the confusion and grab your guide on sugar.

Simply click on the image to download your free pdf with simple alternatives for high sugar foods.

You will also receive an email a day for five days with activities to help you identify hidden sugars in everyday foods.

Don’t forget to listen to this podcast episode with Louise from Dietitian’s Life who is also a registered dietitian.  We chat a little about the UK’s sugar tax and her recent media appearance on BBC midlands TV where she chats to Nick about sugar.

Snacks – sugar free or not?

Many of you have shared with me that you worry that your children get bored easily with simple snacks such as fruit.

The truth is fruit is perfectly fine as a snack alongside items like popcorn, mini sandwiches, crackers, milk or yoghurt. 

Most snacks that are packaged are either high in salt or sugar.  You don’t need to go sugar free, but do screen labels of everyday foods.

Yoghurt for example is a useful option as it provides calcium and protein, but unless its natural, plain or plain Greek style, it will have added sugar.

You don’t need to avoid yoghurt with added sugar but do select a brand providing natural sugar from pieces of fruit or with sugar at levels less than 10g per 100g.

Read ‘How To Choose The Best Children’s Yoghurt’ for additional tips.

Other great snacks for kids following a plant-based diet without added sugar include:

  • fresh or tinned (drained) fruit
  • rice cakes or corn thins with nut butter
  • slice of wholegrain toast with hummus or vegetable spread prepared using tahini paste
  • wholemeal fruit bread or easter bun
  • vegetables with a nut or hummus based dip
  • calcium fortified dairy free plant pudding (check the levels of added sugar)|

If your child eats animal foods then the following can be useful snacks:

  • mini egg sandwich or stuffed in pita pockets
  • cheese with crackers or oat cakes

Remember, if the first three ingredients listed contain any of the words that mean sugar, the food item is likely above 10-15g of sugar per 100g.

Should I sugar count?

Absolutely not!  But do screen labels and choose brands for snacks containing less than 10 – 15g of sugar per 100g.  

If children are eating around 11g of sugar at breakfast before school, that’s their entire sugar allowance for a 2-3 year old in just one meal!

Why not listen to the podcast if you’d like to hear me practice screening two real examples of food labels?  You can scroll down to the player to listen.

One example I used was a food label of Waitrose’s wholemeal easter buns.   The second food label belonged to a fruity date bar.

As I’ve said before for a valuable way of balancing sugar: remind kids that all foods are delicious. 

Vegetables are delicious and so are high sugar foods. 

My philosophy with food is that my children should be able to enjoy all foods including any with added sugar.  Children can safely enjoy small amounts of high sugar food or drink as part of balanced eating.

Let me help

Would you like to meet a children’s dietitian who has successfully helped families solve their nutrition problems from around the world?

Whether you are worried about picky eating, food allergy or need to help your child build a healthy relationship with food, I’ll help you manage these with confidence.

For bookings and enquiries email me on bahee.vandebor@gmail.com or book a free initial consultation here to talk about how I can help you.

Want to master a food explorer? 

Join the waiting list to learn how you too can empower your child who may be a fussy eater.

The fussy eaters course will be a selection of e-learning, activities and 1:1 time with me virtually via video consultations.

Drop me a line on bahee.vandebor@gmail.com if you’d like more information.

The post What Is The Recommended Daily Sugar Intake For Kids? appeared first on UK Kids Nutrition.

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Have you thought about how the right messy play activities can help empower your toddler to try new foods?

Are you thinking that you know all about messy play activities? Perhaps you’ve read about it or have watched YouTube videos and even given a couple of activities a go?  Would you like to pick up further tips? 

Let me start by sharing a couple of success stories with you.

My clients applied some of the techniques that we discussed at my London clinic and had great results.

In this blog post, you’ll learn about the power of messy play for picky eaters.

Learn how you too can unlock your child’s eating potential.

“Something resonated with my son.  He tried the recipes using the techniques we discussed and it worked. He took the smallest bite but it's a start.  Thank you.”

Mother of 5 year old boy

Another mum wrote to me after two weeks of trialling messy play activities. “She is doing so much better with her eating,” she said. “She actually looks better and isn't as tired.  She's making an effort with meals and all in all I think we're heading in the right direction.”

Mother of 9 year old girl
Messy play activities work

If you are worried that there’s no hope for your fussy eater, then here’s a true story. 

I was thinking about the time when I burst into tears. Yes, torrential tears after the midwife informed me that my baby who was under a week old had lost more weight.  She was also jaundiced.  Through my love struck eyes, I had assumed yellow orange was her colouring.

The fact that she was losing weight was a complete shock (me being a paediatric dietitian and all).

I even had a trip to the hospital with her that included a short stay.  After the initial shock, I finally created a feeding plan to help bubba grow and gain weight appropriately.

My story

This same young lady is an 18-month-old toddler going on 18 years! Stubborn, knows her own mind and our journey with food hasn’t entirely been easy.

So, if you think that you’ve got a fussy toddler and you’re worried that they will never out grow their selective eating tendencies, try not to worry.

Today I’m going to show you how you too can empower and nurture your child to become a food explorer using messy play activities.

If my daughter listens to this podcast episode in the future, she’ll probably be really cross that I’ve shared so much about her.  She has been known to spit out food, play with food instead of eating it and if you do a happy dance because you think her plate looks empty – wrong! 

You’ll soon discover food all over the step and seat of the high chair and on the floor. It’s easy to give up at this point, but don’t give up. Try some of the messy play activities that I’m about to share with you and you will get results.

Messy play for babies

If you have a baby at home, the most important thing to remember is to engage your baby early with messy play activities.  Babies who are exposed to a wide variety of flavours and textures early are more likely to accept new foods in a variety of presentations.

This will utimately minimise any fears that they may develop when presented with new or unfamiliar food, flavours and textures.

Dry textures for messy play activities

For toddlers who might be a fussy eater, start with messy play activities involving dry textures.  These activities are perfect if your toddler is usually repulsed by wet textures.

Use dry foods that don’t leave a mess on their hands such as pieces of dried pasta, rice, lentils, or even pulses, which are all great options.

Encourage sorting activities with the dried pieces of food.  Use food colouring for a bit of fun and ask your toddler to sort items by type, shape or by colour.

Have you got a toy kitchen?  You can use it to compliment messy play activities and you could even sneak in toy vegetables.  When you use toys that represent real foods, you are showing your child how food can be both safe and fun. 

These activities seem simple and yet are imperative for helping your child build a positive relationship with food (without any pressure to eat).

Once your child is comfortable with dried foods you can switch to cooked pieces of food.  You can offer cooked pasta, fruit and vegetables as part of the messy play activities. 

Recipe books for messy play activities

Consider consolidating these activities by gawking over picture or recipe books that include a good selection of fruit and vegetables.

You don’t need to over think this, simply grab your favourite cookbook, get comfortable on the sofa with your little one and leaf look through the pictures. 

Ask your child what they think of some of the pictures and whether they would like to make the green beans in a white sauce or a tomato based sauce for dinner.  Notice how I’ve chosen the vegetable as a side dish but have  given the child the option of selecting which accompanying sauce to prepare?


Effortless mess

Once your child is enjoying playing with dried textured foods, it’s time to move onto mess.  It’s one of the questions that I get asked most often by parents who have fussy eaters.  How do you incorporate mess if your child doesn’t seem to enjoy it?

Yes, I am not denying that this can seem tricky at first, but once you get into a routine it will transform the way your child eventually approaches eating.

The most important thing to remember is to lay off the pressure, maintain a relaxed environment and simply try to have fun with your toddler.  It’s all about enjoying the activity and increasing your child’s confidence with different foods.

Flour as a messy play aid

An excellent way of approaching this is by using flour.  It’s a common household ingredient so you are bound to have some at home.   

Invite your child into the kitchen and allocate reasonably simple tasks such as measuring flour using a set of kitchen scales. 

Or why not ask your toddler to help you roll out the dough if you plan to bake?

Pastry and bread are good examples for this activity, as your child gets the opportunity to visualise transformations of flour into everyday food that they enjoy eating. 

Positive messy play activities

A trick to getting your child excited about this activity is by letting them know how helpful they have been.  Don’t forget to thank them for their valuable help in the kitchen (even if looks upside down after your activity together).

You can also talk about transformations of food by crumbling up dried pieces of toast or a wheat biscuit.  Feed this cereal to your child’s favourite doll, soft toy or figurine.

As you can see, this activity isn’t too messy. It might get messy, but don’t worry about it.

Have you thought about hosting a tea party or picnic with your toddler’s dolls and figurines? You could even practice this activity outdoors, in your garden or in the park.

It’s a valuable way of getting your child to start thinking about food in a positive light.

The next step is to move onto wet textures that don’t leave too much mess.

These activities are ideal if your child does enjoy some foods in its dried form, but needs encouragement to try it in its ‘wet’ form.

Oat & Raisin Cookies (Dairy Free)
‘Soft’ messy play

For example, think about playdough and cookie cutters that come in a variety of shapes.  Ask your child to shape the playdough into any shape they like using their hands. You could even make your own at home using cornflour and food colouring.

Using imagination, ask your child to build ‘pretend sandwiches’, cakes or biscuits.  Eventually, start introducing the concept of nourishing foods, but do it in a way that they enjoy the activity.

If your child enjoys the activity, have fun together using ‘pretend eating’ through play.  You’ll know when your child is ready to move onto the final stage where you’ll be introducing wet textures as part of these messy play activities.

Messy mess

You could build on the “let’s feed your dolly activity” by adding milk to the wheat biscuit or add yoghurt to cut up pieces of fruit. So, you’re merging textured foods here by introducing textures that have been previously accepted with a new texture that’s wet such as liquids.

This activity doesn’t need to be complicated or scary.  The smallest of changes can really help increase your child’s confidence with textures. 

If your child feels overwhelmed with real vegetables, why not try toy vegetables with sauces?  Your child may be more comfortable with this initially.  You can still demonstrate to your child what it’s like to eat that food.

You can also role model at the dining table which is another opportunity to reinforce the same messages around promoting a variety of foods.  This is exactly why it’s important to eat together as a family as much as you can.

You’ll be amazed at how something as simple as a family meal seated at the table can have a positive effect.  Remember to switch off electronic devices including the TV and remove iPads or mobile phones away from the table. 

Your toddler needs your full attention.

If you have a baby at home do encourage them to get messy with their food whilst seated in a high chair.  Your dining table and home may look look like a hurricane has visited your house, but try not to let that bother you.

You can always clean up afterwards.  This is a great example of messy play activities that you can introduce to baby using real foods.

I remember when I used to wipe mess from my daughter’s hands and mouth straight away.  I was obsessed about keeping her clean. I hated stains on clothing and the laundry was a never-ending chore. 

Needless to say, I now know how important it is to forget about keeping chairs and white sofas sparkly clean and to just embrace the mess.

Grow vegetables

If you have a garden then research shows that children who are involved in gardening or any growing of vegetables are much more likely and willing to try new foods. 

Do find that green thumb and trial growing your own vegetables.  If you live in a flat or you want a simple task, another approach to this is to grow your own herbs.  Basil, thyme and coriander are brilliant and your toddler can be in charge of watering the pot. 

Don’t worry if you don’t have a green thumb.  I certainly don’t and have managed to kill several pots. 

When it’s time to cook together, ask your child to pull out the herb leaves to prepare the meal that you’ve chosen together. That’s a gentle way of getting them involved in the cooking process, particularly for children with a long history of food version.

Courgette Boat Stuffed With Tuna
Food pairing

Have you thought about food pairing?  And by that, I mean using foods that your child usually loves to eat with a food that they are currently not enjoying.  At the dining table, always have at least one food that your child enjoys..

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