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Minimondo Meets Nutritional Therapist Jessica Childs

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

In this article Jess gives us lots of professional hints and tips to improve your little ones eating habits along with recipe inspiration so that you can get cooking together too!


Last week I sat down with Jessica Childs, qualified nutritional therapist and founder of Natural & Nourishing, to pick her brains about what we should be feeding our little ones so they grow up enjoying healthy foods.


She talks about the healthiest way to give kids chocolate, gives us recipes for healthy snacks and provides tips for us mamas to stay energised throughout the day so that we can be the best mums possible!


I can tell you it was eye opening and I've already made some changes to mine and my kids diets (without any tantrums), take a look below…


What’s your take on cooking with chocolate - are there any health benefits at all or just full of sugar?


Cocoa in its natural state (100% raw and organic) has some amazing health benefits; it contains magnesium, copper and zinc which are good for energy, nervous system health, immune health and antioxidant protection. I use Naturya organic, raw cocoa powder, you can find it here.


The issue with milk chocolate is that it’s full of sugar (more sugar than cocoa), butter and milk (all of which can increase fat storage in the body) as well as giving sugar highs and lows, impacting mood, increasing tantrums maybe?!.


If you are cooking and adding chocolate to cakes, cookies etc. either try cooking with 1 or 2 tablespoons of raw cocoa powder to give the end product a chocolatey taste (minus a sugar rush) or use dark chocolate drops. Kids will still think of it as a chocolate treat but with a lot less sugar. ‘Moo free’ do dairy free chocolate drops, and cocoa is the main ingredient followed by sugar (better this way round!)


Chocolate drops are also a really good alternative to a bar of chocolate as they are way smaller and can be mixed with seeds and/or dried fruit as a good snack that’s still a treat!


Try out this Banana Bread recipe I’m sure kids will love…

Image by Sylvain Dumond

Banana bread with chocolate chips


Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 40 mins


Ingredients

• 3 very ripe bananas

• 1 cup oats

• 1 cup buckwheat/spelt/coconut flour

• 2 eggs

• 1 tsp baking powder

• Splash of milk (if needed for consistency)

• 1/4 cup dark chocolate drops

• Coconut oil for greasing


Instructions

Blend all of the ingredients excluding the chocolate drops. Once you have the right consistency add the chocolate drops. Heat the oven to 180 Grease a bread baking tray with coconut oil, pour in your mixed ingredients and bake for 40 mins.


What do you think is the next biggest food health trend relevant for kids?


I think as the world is becoming more aware of the state of the planet - and we read more and more about the increase in ‘lifestyle’ disease - I’m hoping there will be more done to increase kids’ awareness of where our food comes from and the importance of eating well at a younger age - this may be at home and at school.

Image by Claudia Dumond

It would be great to see more families growing their own fruit and veg, being mindful of where and how they buy their food (local farmers markets, seasonal, plastic free) and involving kids in shopping and cooking (perhaps in a way to reduce screen time!) Schools and clubs could offer fun education about food - where and how it grows, trying new foods and how foods can help the body to be healthy.


I also think kiddie menus (when eating out) are slowly becoming less beige – more of this would be great to see - kids can enjoy flavours too! And as home cooking becomes more inspirational through social media and exciting recipe books, so too should kids menus.


What’s the first thing you would tell people to swap out of their kids diet that would shock them and why?


Processed foods! These are the worst culprits for hidden sugars and vegetable oils with no health benefits, and they barely contain any nutrients due to the processing. Baked beans, cereals and ketchup are the kind of products I'm referring to. One of the healthiest changes you can make is buying food in its natural form - grains, fruit, veg, fish, meat, nuts, etc. and making recipes at home.

4-6 year olds should have no more than 4 tsps of free sugars per day, 7-10 year olds should have no more than 5 tsps of free sugars per day - NHS Choice, 2015

Half a can of Heinz baked beans contains just under 3 tsps. Ketchup contains 1 teaspoon of sugar per 1 tablespoon of product! Cereals vary but one of the worst offenders (Crunchy Nut) contains 7 tsps for a large bowl! Once kids are used to these I can understand it will be very hard to swap out - perhaps try to slowly change habits, for example, by making ketchup a ‘treat’ for eating out and simply don't buy it at home.


Another reason to get rid of processed foods and ready meals, as well as containing a lot less nutrients to home cooked meals, is that the product almost always comes in a plastic container which may leech into the food, particularly when heated. Although there has been a big push to swap BPA out of plastic products (e.g. in water bottles), it’s only being replaced with other types of plastic with a similar effect - can’t imagine this is great for the body in large doses.


Specifically, focus on swapping out everything ‘white’ carb related as most nutrients are lost during the process to get to the final product and wholegrain carbs don’t cause a sugar spike which can lead to less ‘ups and downs’ in adults and kids - Perhaps improving tantrums as we go! Check out my table of recommended swaps below…


And here's a recipe for overnight oats to inspire you…


Apple and Coconut Overnight Oats (for 2 kids)

This contains no refined sugar and gets its sweetness from apple, coconut and cinnamon


Prep time: 5 mins

Cook time: Overnight


Ingredients

• 1 cup of oats

• 2 tbsps desiccated coconut

• 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

• 1/2 tsp chia seeds

• One grated apple

• Berries to serve (optional)


Instructions

In a bowl mix all of the ingredients excluding the berries. Cover with milk and leave in the fridge overnight - ideally in a large glass jar. Serve the next morning for breakfast with some fresh berries (optional).


What do you think is the Best ‘snack’ brand on the market at the moment for kids and why?

I like Coco Nutters - if your child can’t have dairy then its great for replacing yoghurt. Also, its a good alternative for dairy if your child has a lot - calcium can displace iron absorption in the gut, therefore excessive dairy (at every meal and between meals as milk) is something to be mindful of. Coconutters do yoghurts for ‘on the go’ snacks (mainly made of coconut milk, water, fruit purees and some non dairy cultures which support good bacteria in the gut), and they also do ice creams for an occasional treat (they use grape juice as the sweetener and chicory (inulin) which is a prebiotic feeding good bacteria in the gut).

Other brands offering ‘healthier’ biscuits are ok as a treat, and better than a chocolate digestive for example, but don't think just because they are marketed for kids that they are super healthy - many have high amounts of fruit sugars in them (which can be damaging for teeth as well as blood sugars) and vegetable oils with no nutrition.


Your son comes out of school starving, what’s your go to afternoon snack?

I would say always vary snacks - a varied diet is good for building healthy eating habits later on - some ideas include...

Here’s a recipe for Sweet Potato Chips for dinner and an afternoon snack for the kids…


Sweet Potato Chips


Prep time: 10 mins

Cook time: 40-50 mins


Ingredients

Sweet Potatoes, sliced

2 tsps Cinnamon

2 tsps Paprika

Coconut Oil for mixing


Instructions

Mix the potato slices with the cinnamon, paprika and coconut oil. Heat the oven to 180 and cook for 40-50 mins - really delicious, healthy version to chips!


And finally, lets not forget all of us tired mamas out there! For all of us consuming coffee from the early hours of the morning, what would you recommend we eat to give us lots of energy to get through the day?


Unfortunately there’s no exciting magic wand, but keeping blood sugar levels stable will really help to avoid sugar highs and lows which would cause energy crashes throughout the day. This is achieved by eating 3 meals with protein (plant / fish / lean meat), veg and a starchy carb such as brown rice, sweet potato, chickpeas and have a mini snack in between each meal - examples below. This is very much the ‘low GL’ diet which is great for losing excess weight, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling mood swings and energy crashes. Patrick Halford is the man behind this diet and there are lots of cook books available.


Example meal plan to keep energy levels consistent

  • Breakfast - 2 egg omelette, spinach, rye bread

  • Lunch - quinoa salad, beetroot, rocket, hummus, seeds

  • Dinner - salmon, peas, asparagus, brown rice (tamari and olive oil drizzled at the end)

  • Snacks - 1 teaspoon almond butter and half an apple, 2 oatcakes and guacamole, 2 teaspoons yogurt and handful of berries, veg crudites

Ideally have your one coffee each day between breakfast and lunch to avoid caffeine reliance. Its better to give your body good quality fuel to operate before a stimulant, also, early morning cortisol levels are high so you can operate on this for a few hours, before they dip around 10am.


A green tea / matcha latte in the afternoon is ok too as a mini boost; in fact, the L-theanine and caffeine in green tea have been shown to help improve both alertness and focus.


Thanks so much for all your great advice Jess, I’ve already swapped out the white bread and one of my sons only refused to eat the brown bread for a day and now doesn’t even mentioned it. I can’t wait to try out some of these recipes too and swap out some more of those white carbs (maybe not the pasta ones – as an Italian I might struggle to go that far )


And here's our finished banana bread that the kids made (mostly) by themselves!

Image by Sylvain Dumond

For more nutrition advice get in touch with Jess through her website here

and follow her on instagram @jessica.childs


#Food

#Healthykids

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