We had the pleasure of interviewing an award-winning health writer and child nutritionist; Emma Derbyshire.
Emma talks overcoming obstacles, effective child nutrition and parenting tips!
How important is a child’s nutrition compared to an adult’s, and why?
“A child’s nutrition is so important as they are still growing and developing. The foods that children eat and are introduced to also set the standard for lifelong eating habits. Children also tend to be more active in body and mind than the average UK adult. For these reasons it is imperative that they eat the right foods to provide the best source of fuel during this significant life stage.”
What do you think are the most important things to keep in mind when feeding an active child?
“For active children, it is essential that they eat regularly to keep their energy levels up. These can typically plummet after a long day at school and if they take part in after school activities. Normally an energy boost is needed between these.
Energy does not necessary mean sugary foods. Foods with a lower glycaemic index, such as oat-based snacks can be great, as can a banana or raisins which contain natural rather than ‘added’ free sugars. Some protein can also be beneficial to active children to help strengthen their muscles and support their growth. ”
How can parents get their children to eat less junk food, often so prevalent in school lunch boxes?
“This can be difficult. Children typically see what their friends are eating and want the same – usually chocolate or sweets!
With my daughter I use fun cutters to give a different shaped sandwich every day, put stickers on her fruit skins and draw faces on her banana skins. I also look out for foods that are ‘healthier alternatives’ to typical junk foods so she feels that she is not missing out.”
What should a parent do when their child is also a fussy eater?
“Fussy eating can be very difficult for parents. My advice is don’t give up. Repeated exposures – a process where a food is given several times has been found to lead to gradual acceptance. This could take up to 6 or 7 attempts but keep doing and give the food a different way each time. So broccoli trees, broccoli and cheese sauce, broccoli within a soup, or as a sauce, or with a dip!
For those who are worried about their children not getting the right balance of nutrients due to fussy eating, taking a multivitamin or a daily fortified shake could help to top these up. These, however, should not replace a healthy and balanced diet – so keep going and if they don’t want to eat it, don’t give another option instead.”
Lots of children discard salad and vegetables, how can you be effective in getting children to eat healthier?
“This stems right back to weaning. Children need to be introduced to veg and salads right from the start so they develop a taste for these. There is often the temptation to give sweeter fruits first and the veg can get pushed aside. For older children going in reverse can work. So hiding the veg in sauces or within soups, then casseroles or stews and then steamed or in its natural state.”
Do you think children consuming supplements is a problem or frowned upon?
“No, there are many dietary gaps in UK children’s diets. For example, the levels of vitamin D needed are very difficult to get from the diet alone. Omega-3 fatty acids are under consumed as children are not eating enough oily fish. Supplements can play and important role in bridging such shortfalls, although they should not be seen as a substitute to a healthy and balanced diet.”