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A healthy school year ahead

Its that time of year again! And what an amazing Summer it was! School bags by the door again and the school lunches to be made. After a litany of BBQs, picnics & ice-cream, we are all looking forward to a bit of routine I think. We all know how difficult it can be to get kids to eat healthy all of the time, but at this time of year especially we really need to build them up with cooler temperatures on the way and cold & flu season approaching.

Eating a colourful varied diet full of natural wholefoods, like fruit, veg, wholegrains, good protein sources, good fats, and free of refined foods and sugars is going to give kids all they need to get through the day, growing and functioning as they need to be. These foods packed with micro-nutrients, omegas, phyto-nutrients are essential for the proper functioning of their bodies and brains.

Another good rule of thumb is to ensure they are getting enough protein. Including protein in their meals & snacks is going to keep blood sugar balanced & will keep them full for longer as well as giving them the much needed amino acids they need so badly.

Heres some practical ways to make it a healthy school ahead for them!

Breakfast:

Most important! Start the day with a good healthy breakfast. Ditch the refined carbs and make that a great sustaining breakfast that is going to get them through the morning and build those bodies.

Eggs are a fantastic start to the day and a true ‘super’ food, everything in there from protein to good fats, perfect brain food! Eggs are a great protein source for them, sending them off on their day ahead. Boiling some the night before is a very handy way to save time. Or scrambled in the microwave takes just 2 minutes!

eggmuffins

Make fruit a regular feature at the breakfast table, maybe a bowl of fruit salad, even just the fruit bowl itself, and let them take their pick. Lots of colourful fruit and berries included in their breakfast is going to give them a great nutrient boost to start the day. Warming a few berries, with a little honey, can make a very tasty ‘jam’ for toast or porridge.

Oats makes a great base for breakfast that you can add to and make your own. As muesli or as porridge, you could lay out a few little containers of ‘toppings’ and let them work away themselves, with fruit, berries, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, fruit puree. Oat based breakfast bars are a great one that can be made ahead of time, to make things easier on those busy or fussy mornings!

Pancakes made using banana and egg simply, or with oats added too are a fantastic flour-less option.

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Milk is a staple of most breakfasts. You can have fun trying out different milks with them trying all the different tastes and seeing what they like.

Smoothies and juices made from veg and fruit are a great way to get lots of nutrients into kids in the morning. Veg like pak choi, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, carrot, generally go undetected when mised with apple or orange. Our favourites are carrot spinach and orange or also pakchoi, cucumber & apple with a little cinnamon goes down well. A smoothie left very thick without adding any water can be a breakfast smoothie bowl , eaten with a spoon. You can add things here again like porridge oats, nuts, seeds.

Probiotics are a good thing to include in the morning at this time of year, they can really boost their digestion, immune systems & health. Especially with all the bugs going around at school, this will help their defences. Good probiotic yogurt and kefir are good or probiotic powder is pretty much tasteless and so handy for throwing into their breakfast or smoothie.

Lunch

Lunchboxes is a place where most of us get stuck in a bit of a rut, maybe sending them same thing day after day to avoid it coming back uneaten! Top tips would be to have a lot of little Tupperware containers at hand, so handy for all little snacks, like berries, nuts, fruit, etc Include lots of different colours. Change things up, like using different kinds of breads or crackers or rice cakes. Wholegrain pasta in a mini thermos is nice for a novelty.

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It’s a great idea to get the kids involved in making their own lunch and talking to them about lunch time in school, how does it go, what do other people bring, is there something else they have seen that you could get for them (within reason of course!). Making snacks in bulk once a week is a great idea so they are on hand when you need them. Oat cookies, breakfast bars, flapjacks are great options that will keep them going all day.

Dinner

Having something ready for when they come in is a good way to stop them looking for rubbish, if dinner is not till later. A plate of veg sticks and hummus or nice warming soup are good ones.

At dinner make a choice of colourful veg a staple at meal times, a great way to get kids picking away.

Hidden veg sauces are a great way to squeeze veg into their diets unbeknowns to them. Just sautee off garlic, onion and any veg of your choice. Cook it down, then add meat if you wish, maybe turkey mince, some passata and tomato paste, some seasoning and a touch of honey. Then blend and you are left with a bolognese style sauce, that is secretly packed with veg and goodness!!

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Eggs again are great at any meal. They are a fantastic protein source and so handy to add veg to, in say an omelette or fritatta or even egg muffins.

Turkey is a great meat to use for kids. Its a brilliant source of protein. You can buy it minced and it is so handy to make into burgers or hot dogs.

Oily fish is very important for their omega 3 intake, essential for the developing brains and bodies. Salon & mackerel are great sources. If they are not inclined, an omega 3 supplement would be a good idea for the Autumn.

Using veg as a base is great, whether it be a sweet potato or a pepper for stuffing or a courgette slice length ways and topped like a pizza.

Sweet potato or courgette fries are a great substitute for chips. Or sweet potato mash is another great side. Simply changing to brown rice or pasta or quinoa will be another great boost to their nutrients.

 

Snacks/Treats

We are surrounded by treats; shops, in friend’s houses, at parties, doting grandparents! The list goes on. One easy trick is if its not in the house they cant ask for it.  Often parents want to avoid a battle, and looking for the peaceful way, let kids to have what they want. But what they want is not necessarily what they need! A good moto I think is if they are eating very well 80-90% of the time, then they can afford to have a little treat now and again, often referred to as the 80:20 rule. Back in the day a ‘treat’ would have been an occassional nice thing, not something we had every day or even a few times a day like seems to be the case nowadays. Most schools now have a healthy eating policy which means treats are only allowed once a week, which is great.

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Fruit is great for snacks and treats. Simple fruit on its own, or in a fruit salad. Fruit kebabs are great, and kids can have fun putting their own ones together. Melted dark chocolate is great for dipping fruit into. Or even dip fruit in and then chill it, so you have chocolate covered banana slices or mandarins segments, these go down very well. Apples or pears and nut butter is another great one. A spiraliser or a mandolin too are great tools to have in your kitchen, apple noodles or chips are great.

Veg is also great. Raw veg sticks with hummus or dip of their choice is a brilliant one. Courgette noodles are great and its fun making them, they can be cooked in a tomato sauce they can be passed as spaghetti. Doing different things with veg can mix it up a bit too, grated, slicing, noodles, raw, cooked, gets them used to al the different tastes and textures and will help broaden their palettes.

Popcorn is a handy wholegrain snack, Kelkin do a nice one you can make yourself. Kids love watching it popping in the pot!

Nut butter/homemade Nutella can easily be made in a Nutribullet, kids will be amazed to watch it changing from nuts to butter. Almond butter is so easy to make, a good tip is to lightly roast the nuts first. For the Nutella do the same with hazelnuts and then add some cacao powder and a little honey.

It can be very challenging dealing with fussy eaters. Top tips would be to persist, try and try things again, it could take up to 15 times for them to try something and like it. Giving options works well so if they say they don’t like something you could say ok ‘well the options are broccoli or carrots’, rather than ‘you have to eat broccoli’ they usually choose one or the other, a good way to get them trying things, without them feeling forced, can make them feel grown up and like they have a say or a choice. Discussing it with them, making table rules like everyone needs to try things, they can always spit it out if they don’t like it but they must try it, this sort of thing can be good for getting them used to different tastes and not afraid of trying new things. Having fun with food is another great touchy-feely way of getting kids interested in nutrition, things like food art, funny faces, building their own sandwich, making their own pizza, taste tests (blindfolded for the brave!), build fruit kebabs or fruit flowers, this sort of thing.

Nutrition and wellness coaching - fussy eaters

While you would prefer them to be getting their nutrients from food, if you fear they are not a good quality multivitamin may be a good idea for these few months to boost them.

Best of luck with the year ahead. Wishing you good health!

Getting kids to eat healthy

We all know how difficult it can be to get kids to eat healthy all of the time. So many things working against us, living in a world surrounded by junk and sugar, in shops, in friend’s houses, at parties, doting grandparents! The list goes on. Often parents want to avoid a battle, and looking for the peaceful way, let kids to have what they want. But what they want is not necessarily what they need! A good moto I think is if they are eating very well 80-90% of the time, then they can afford to have a little treat now and again, often referred to as the 80:20 rule. Back in the day a ‘treat’ would have been an occassional nice thing, not something we had every day or even a few times a day like seems to be the case nowadays. One good place parents can start is by stopping buying rubbish themselves, you might find that Mum is buying a treat here, Dad is buying a treat there, Granny calls, Grandad visits, a neighbour calls in with treats, by the end of the week you’d be amazed how it all adds up. Our even ask Granny or Grandad would they mind bringing something else like stickers, collecting cards, arts and crafts, whatever they are into. Or in the situation where its not possible to say that, or they just wont listen! you could always allow them a little and ‘put some away till later’ if needs be. Sometimes it can be tough to stick to your guns, but if you need a little motivation, or a way to visualise it for the kids (or the Grandparents!) a great (& scary) visual exercise in toting up their sugar intake for the day, it can be a real eye opener! 4g of sugar is equal to 1 tsp.

rething

We are seeing more and more cases of behavioural issues among kids all the time, you only have to look at a diet of say; cornflakes, white bread ham sandwich and chicken nuggets and chips to see where the problems lie. With fussy eaters and dinner battles, kids are often not getting enough fruit or veg or good fats in their diets, and left extremely nutrient deficient. These foods packed with micronutrients, omegas, phytonutrients are essential for the proper functioning of their bodies and brains.

Eating a colourful varied diet full of natural wholefoods, like fruit, veg, wholegrains, good protein sources, good fats, and free of refined foods and sugars is going to give kids all they need to get through the day, growing and functioning as they need to be.

Another good rule of thumb is to ensure they are getting ennough protein. Including protein in their meals & snacks is going to keep blood sugar balanced & will keep them full for longer as well as giving them the much needed amino acids they need so badly.

IMG_6879 paleo3

Here are some practical ways to get healthy foods into kids:

Breakfast:

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Make fruit a regular feature at the breakfast table, maybe a bowl of fruit salad, even just the fruit bowl itself, and let them take their pick. Lots of colourful fruit and berries included in their breafast is going to give them a great nutrient boost to start the day. Warming a few berries, with a little honey, can make a very tasty ‘jam’ for toast or porridge.

Oats makes a great base for breakfast that you can add to and make your own. As muesli or as porridge, you could lay out a few little containers of ‘toppings’ and let them work away themselves, with fruit, berries, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, fruit puree. Oat based breakfast bars are a great one that can be made ahead of time, to make things easier on those busy or fussy mornings!

image IMG_5582

Pancakes made using banana and egg simply, or with oats added too are a fantastic flourless option.

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Milk is a staple of most breakfasts. You can have fun trying out different milks with them trying all the different tastes and seeing what they like.

Smoothies and juices made from veg and fruit are a great way to get lots of nutrients into kids in the morning. Veg like pak choi, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, carrot, generally go undetected when mised with apple or orange. Our favourites are carrot spinach and orange or also pakchoi, cucumber & apple with a little cinnamon goes down well. A smoothie left very thick without adding any water can be a breakfast smoothie bowl , eaten with a spoon. You can add things here again like porridge oats, nuts, seeds.

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Eggs are a great protein source for them, sending them off on their day ahead. Boiling some the night before is a very handy way to save time. Or scrambled in the microwave takes just 2 minutes!

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Lunch

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Lunchboxes is a place where most of us get stuck in a bit of a rut, maybe sending them same thing day after day to avoid it coming back uneaten! Tope tips would be to have a lot of little tupperware containers at hand, so handy for all little snacks, like berries, nuts, fruit, etc Include lots of different colours. Change things up, like using different kinds of breads or crackers or rice cakes. Pasta in a mini thermos is nice for a novelty. The best thing is to get kids involved in making their own lunch and talking to them about lunch time in school, how does it go, what do other people bring, is there something else they have seen that you could get for them (within reason of course!). Making snacks in bulk once a week is a great idea so they are on hand when you need them. Oat cookies, breakfast bars, flapjacks are great options that will keep them going all day.

Dinner

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Adding a plate of crudites or any kind of veg to the table at meal times is a great way to get kids picking away. maybe as you are serving they could be eating those, maybe with some hummus or dips.

Hidden veg sauces are a great way to squeeze veg into their diets unbeknowns to them. Just sautee off garlic, onion and any veg of your choice. Cook it down, then add meat if you wish, maybe turkey mince, some passata and tomato paste, some seasoning and a touch of honey. Then blend and you are left with a bolognese style sauce, that is secretly packed with veg and goodness!!

Eggs again are great at any meal. They are a fantastic protein source and so handy to add veg to, in say an omelette or fritatta or even egg muffins.

Turkey is a great meat to use for kids. Its a brilliant source of protein. You can buy it minced and it is so handy to make into burgers or hot dogs.

eggmuffins image

Using veg as a base is great, whether it be a sweet potato or a pepper for stuffing or a courgette slice length ways and topped like a pizza.

Sweet potato or courgette fries are a great substitute for chips. Or sweet potato mash is another great side. Simply changing to brown rice or pasta or quinoa will be another great boost to their nutrients.

pizza IMG_5718

Snacks/Treats

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Fruit is great for snacks and treats. Simple fruit on its own, or in a fruit salad. Fruit kebabs are great, and kids can have fun putting their own ones together. Melted dark chocolate is great for dipping fruit into. Or even dip fruit in and then chill it, so you have chocolate covered banana slices or mandarins segments, these go down very well. Apples or pears and nut butter is another great one. A spiraliser or a mandolin too are great tools to have in your kitchen, apple noodles or chips are great.

Veg is also great. Raw veg sticks with hummus or dip of their choice is a brilliant one. Courgette noodles are great and its fun making them, they can be cooked in a tomato sauce they can be passed as spaghetti. Doing different things with veg can mix it up a bit too, grated, slicing, noodles, raw, cooked, gets them used to al the different tastes and textures and will help broaden their palettes.

IMG_5649 IMG_5786

Popcorn is a handy wholegrain snack, Kelkin do a nice one you can make yourself. Kids love watching it popping in the pot!

Nut butter/homemade Nutella can easily be made in a Nutribullet, kids will be amazed to watch it changing from nuts to butter. Almond butter is so easy to make, a good tip is to lightly roast the nuts first. For the Nutella do the same with hazelnuts and then add some cacao powder and a little honey.

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It can be very challenging dealing with fussy eaters. Top tips would be to persist, try and try things again, it could take up to 15 times for them to try something and like it. Giving options works well so if they say they don’t like something you could say ok ‘well the options are broccoli or carrots’, rather than ‘you have to eat broccoli’ they usually choose one or the other, a good way to get them trying things, without them feeling forced, can make them feel grown up and like they have a say or a choice. Discussing it with them, making table rules like everyone needs to try things, they can always spit it out if they don’t like it but they must try it, this sort of thing can be good for getting them used to different tastes and not afraid of trying new things. Having fun with food is another great touchy-feely way of getting kids interested in nutrition, things like food art, funny faces, building their own sandwich, making their own pizza, taste tests (blindfolded for the brave!), build fruit kebabs or fruit flowers, this sort of thing.

IMG_5545  image

Probiotics are another thing to include in kids diets, they can really boost their digestion, immune systmes & health. Especially with all the bugs going around at school, this will help their defences. Good probiotic yogurt and kefir are good or probiotic powder is pretty much tasteless and so handy for throwing into their breakfast or smoothie.

Hope this is a help! Best of luck!!

brassicas

‘Eat Your Greens!’ – the age old battle lives on…..

Getting greens into kids has always been a challenge. We all remember orders to ‘eat your greens’ from our mothers! It is even more of a challenge nowadays with all the alternatives that are available. Back in the day of the more traditional cooking of our mothers and grandmothers, the only challenge was getting the children to eat the greens on their plate, but nowadays there are multiple problems; in a lot of cases is the greens are not even being served up, if they are they may have been grown in nutrient depleted soil, have possibly travelled across the world or been sprayed within an inch of their lives with pesticides.

Green foods are some of the most beneficial we can eat when it comes to giving our bodies the nutrients it needs to function properly. Packed with the whole range of vitamins as well as, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. The benefits are endless; blood clotting, energy, vision, bone health, cholesterol, skin can all benefit from eating green veg. Easy to see why we need to be eating them every day in every meal. We only have to glance at the average Irish daily diet for many kids of breakfast cereal, ham sandwich, chicken goujons, sausages, chips, treats and it is easy to see how many kids are not eating any greens at all. The results are clear in ever rising list of symptoms we are seeing in kids today, like pale skin, lack of concentration, child obesity, behaviour issues, the list goes on. We are doing the next generation an injustice! Feeding today’s kids well and educating them in health and nutrition is the simplest, quickest, most cost effective way to turn our obesity and healthcare crises around.

Heres our top suggestions on how to get greens into kids? What to do with fussy eaters? And how to avoid those dreaded dinner rows!

Smoothies/Smoothie Bowls

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Smoothies are such a handy way to get veg into kids. A little of most leafy greens e.g. Spinach, lettuce, pak choi, kale can be added to a berry, banana smoothie and a little chunk of other veg like carrot, celery or peeled courgette usually goes unnoticed. Yes some of you will argue that it is better to eat the veg rather than blend it, but if it’s a choice between getting it into them or not this is a good option to get the nutrients into them. Start with a tiny bit and build it up from there!

Soups

soup

Soups are a great versatile way to vary your child’s diet. Whatever your child’s taste from tomato to creamy chicken there is room there to slip in a little veg without too much of a battle. Again start with getting them to like certain types and then add more and more veg each time. And remember a little of a lot of different veg is going to give your child the whole range of nutrients!

‘Hidden’ Sauces

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Sauces are a fantastic place to sneak in some hidden veg. Many kids enjoy saucy meals like Spag Bol or lasagne etc A Nutribullet or blender makes it so easy to blitz a little extra veg through your sauce, slipping it past your little angels lips without a complaint. A great tomato sauce can be made by sautéed onion, garlic, celery then add carrot, peeled courgette and fry further and then adding passata, seasoning, honey/ brown sugar to sweeten slightly, dash balsamic vinegar. Perfect for little ones! 

Veg sticks 

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Making raw veg sticks a staple at snack time can get kids picking away at veggies in no time. Even if they don’t eat them at first keep it up, you can pick away at them yourself or even  better if their friend is visiting they may partake, nothing better then seeing what their peers are doing and thinking ‘hmmm I might give that a go’. Remember if it’s not out on the table they are definitely not going to try it!

Adding to their favourites

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Focussing on what they like and adding to that is the best way to get them on side, so if they like a bolognese, try and add some veg to the sauce. If they like a sandwich maybe add lettuce or cucumber.

Education

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Simply explaining the benefits of certain foods to kids can get them interested. Especially if a child has certain health concerns, rather than getting into a row, simply explaining that trying certain foods could make them feel better, the whole food as medicine concept, can actually have good results, event if not right away after the idea has time to settle! 

8 a day

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Guidelines now show that we should be eating approx 8 a day of fruit and veg. That amount can feel like a bit of a challenge with kids but with a little bit of thought and planning it can be easily done. Handy tips with smallies are making fruit/ fruit salad a regular at breakfast time, making veg & fruit a part of snack time, having veg at lunch and dinner, having fruit as a treat or dessert, if eating out opting for veg instead of chips.

There are so many benefits to upping your veg intake, energy, skin, mood, digestion, behaviour, There’s no doubt more veg = a happier healthier child. I think we would all agree that is worth a little extra work & perseverance!

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

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Do you love savoury snacks? These are a tasty crunchy snack to have ready for those moments when you need it!

Ingredients:

Chickpeas

Coconut oil

Cumin

Smoked paprika

Chilli

Salt & pepper

Method:

Add melted coconut oil and seasoning to the chickpeas, roast in a moderate oven until crispy!

Super Turkey Quinoa Bolognese

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This is a great dish for all the family, the perfect place to ‘hide’ some veg for fussy eaters and the quinoa makes a really nice alternative to your usual pasta!

Ingredients:

1 lb Mince turkey

Red pepper, Onion, Garlic, Carrot, Courgette

1 cup quinoa

Passata

Tomato Paste

Dash of honey

Dash of balsamic vinegar

Basil

Salt & Pepper

Method:

Saute the chopped veg in coconut oil. Add the turkey & fry for 5 mins, add passata, tomato paste, seasoning, basil, honey & balsamic and cook until cooked through. Pulse the mixture with a hand held blender until it is all a fine mince. Cook the quinoa, 1 part quinoa to 3 parts water. Add the turkey mix with the quinoa and mix well.

Nutrition & wellness coaching - Food intolerance

Navigating intolerances with kids

The world of nutrition can be an absolute minefield with kids, fussy eaters, treats, food myths, the media, all of which can leave us parents feeling totally bamboozled! Add to the mix a suspected food intolerance and we can be left totally stumped not knowing what to do! In a typical Irish child’s diet of cereal, ham sangers, yogurts, a dairy or wheat intolerance can feel like a serious hurdle. Many of us are dealng with kids with excema, bloating, digestion issues, ear nose and throat issues, behaviour problems, the list goes on. All of these conditions are on the rise in Ireland and its no wonder again when you think of the typical Irish lunch box for example. Maybe you suspect a food intolerance? Or simply are curious could reducing allergens improve certain symptoms. Here are some top tips to help you navigate your way through food intolerance in kids.

Identifying the culprit

A food intolerance test or appointment with a Nutritional Therapist would be recommended and can be very helpful. But maybe you have an inkling as to which food it might be? Generally dairy, wheat, gluten are a god place to start. An elimination diet of one food at a time can have dramatic results in some cases. The food in question needs to removed 100% for 3 weeks. So that means no exceptions, if you want to see results. You may notice an improvement in certain symptoms. At the end of the 3 weeks reintroduce the food for a day and see do symptoms reoccur.

Gut Support

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During the course of the elimination (and in general) it would be of great benefit to provide some on-going gut support. A good probiotic will help to repopulate beneficial bacteria in the gut. Stewed cooking apples is an easy one to get into smallies, the pectin found in it is great for healing the gut wall. Chicken stock (made from boiling up a chicken or chicken carcasse for 4 hours) is packed with amino acids with gut healing properties, adding this wherever you can like soups, stews, other dishes. Fermented foods and drinks in small amounts can work wonders at boosting good bacteria but these are more difficult to get into kids, a kefir or kombucha drink may be worth a try in small amounts.

Get Organised

Preparation and thinking ahead are going to be key here. Sending food with the child wherever they go, be it a friend’s house, party, etc. Trying to keep talk about the elimination to a minimum, so as not to make a big deal of it. Talking more about all the foods we can have over the 3 weeks, rather than all the foods that are not allowed. Of course a little explanation will be required but playing it down as much as possible. Even the child will see the benefits if some of symptoms disappear, which will motivate them to keep it up, in many cases.

Alternatives

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Breakfast can be the biggest hurdle with cereal and milk being the nation’s quick and handy go-to. Here are some nutritious dairy and gluten free brekkie alternatives to play around with:

Fruit Salad & coconut yogurt

GF Granola made with coconut oil & maple syrup served with nut milk

Banana, egg & gf oat pancakes with almond butter & chia jam or maple syrup, pecans & coconut yogurt

Oat bread (Loughbeg brand or homemade) with ghee/Pure spread & chia jam

Scrambled eggs with veg/gf oat bread

Smoothie bowl – fruit, veg, avocado & nut milk blitzed

Lunch/Dinner

A good way to make main meals cleaner and allergen free is by adding lots of veggies raw and cooked to the lunch and dinner table. Potatoes, brown rice, quinoa are good additions to add to meat/fish/eggs and veg. Salad is also a great versatile option, and a fun way to get kinds involved in the kitchen. Spiralising, grating, blitzing veg are great ways to fit more veg into a dish!

Snacks

There are so many snack options made up of fruit, veg, nuts, seeds, for example. See a list of ideas below:

Apple & Almond butter

Banana & peanut butter stacks

GF granola & coconut yogurt

Veg sticks and hummus

GF oat crackers & chicken

Fruit Date & Nut Balls

GF flapjacks

Homemade oaty chia cookies

Coconut yogurt & chia jam

Homemade popsicles

Nutrition & wellness coaching - lifestyle factors

Complete Health – more than just diet & exercise

When it comes to our health, we focus a lot on diet and exercise, very important factors of course! And it can be difficult to conquer these two alone in the world we live in today, with so much time pressure and all the processed nasty foods we are surrounded with, without adding anything else into the mix, but full health is about much more than just these two factors. But don’t worry!! The good news is, while you are busy trying to tweak your diet and fit that exercise into your already busy schedule, there are many little things you can be doing, daily habits that don’t take long, that can really impact your health and can even have a bearing on your eating and movement too.

Take a person who is eating really healthy and exercising 5 times a week, but still not feeling at optimal health. What other factors are at play? Stress, connection, relaxation, purpose, so many other elements you may not even think of have such a great impact on our health both physical and mental. Stress plays such a big part in our lives these days, our lives are busier than ever, rushing and racing and jam-packed schedules have become the norm. Sometimes the simplest change in your lifestyle can make all the difference, something really small that you may not even relate to ‘being healthy’ can have huge effect. Here are some tips on small changes that can bring big health benefits.

Slowing Down

We can all get caught up in the rat-race, trying to squeeze everything in, feeling there aren’t enough hours in the day. We can have a day so filled with things to do; work, family, social commitments, exercise, there is no time left to ‘just be’. Sometimes just rethinking the day and thinking ‘I don’t HAVE to do that today’ about one thing on the list, can take the pressure off and allow a little time for ourselves. We can all get caught up in the ‘I have to do’ or ‘I should do’ mentality, which is a stress on us whether we realise it or not. A little flexibility can go a long way. Every now and again simply deciding to leave the housework or the gym and have a cuppa with a friend or a leisurely mindful stroll instead, can be just what the doctor ordered.

When it comes to exercise, the likes of yoga or pilates are great exercise which give good results but are done in a slow relaxing way, great for body and mind. Many of us are exercising to lose weight, so the overall goal is to get ourselves healthier, but the process done in a certain way e.g. racing to the gym and putting our bodies through a gruelling workout every day, can be a major stressor on the body, and end up having the opposite effect on your health than you were aiming for. You may find that a regular yoga or pilates class could give as good results, so good for the whole body, stretching and toning and reducing your stress levels at the same time. Even if you just switched one workout in the week for this slower paced one it really is a win-win for body and mind!

Something you can easily do at home is to do a few simple stretches, when you find a quiet moment or even before you get out of bed in the morning or last thing at night, so good and nourishing for the body, increasing flexibility and releasing tension!  

stretches

Connection

Interaction with other people is so important for our wellbeing. Making time to spend quality time with your loved ones is so good for the soul and is a wonderful stress reducer. A great conversation with a colleague or a good old laugh with a friend reduces cortisol levels and shifts your body into parasympathetic mode.

The type of people we surround ourselves with can make a great difference. Negative people can bring you right down and increase your stress levels. Spending time with upbeat friends with things in common or shared interests can give a great feeling of connection and bonding. There’s no better health boost than surrounding yourself with positive people, who make you laugh! A good rule of thumb – ‘spend time with people who give you a buzz’!  

We can often feel too tired to socialise, but it’s worth making the effort to get out and meet friends. It needn’t involve alcohol or a late night, even a cuppa or a meal, just the chance to have that time to sit, talk and laugh. Laughter is the best medicine!

Relaxation

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Many of us don’t put enough emphasis on relaxation. Whether it’s lack of time or feeling like we should be doing something else or even that we don’t deserve it, whatever the reason we all fall down in this area. We need to take some time doing nothing just relaxing to recharge the batteries and give our bodies a rest from our hectic lives. Simply sitting and reading a book, watching a movie, taking in a show or a good comedian, going to a spa or simply taking a nap. That physical ‘allowing yourself’ is a major thing, just listening to your body and giving it the break it needs. Be good to yourself!

Sleep

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Getting enough sleep is paramount for good health. Lack of sleep can have a effect on our mood, stress levels, energy levels and even on what we eat. When we are tired chemicals are released making us crave carbs/sugar, making it more of a struggle to eat healthy.  When we are asleep is the time when the body does it repairing and regenerating. And the brain needs that time too, it actually shrinks at night and clears out plaque, so important for our health, the build up of this plaque in the brain has been associated with Alzheimers disease. 7-8 hours sleep is optimal, staying up too late or not getting enough hours of sleep can play havoc with our circadian rhythym, our internal clock, which regulates our 24 hour cycle of biological processes. Thats why everything seems better after a good sleep!

Purpose

Ikigai is a Japanese concept meaning “a reason for being”, it is very similar to the French phrase ‘raison d’etre’. Everyone, has an ikigai but finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Such a search is regarded as being very important, since it is believed that discovery of one’s ikigai brings satisfaction and meaning of life.

Finding our reason for being is not something that happens over night, but in small baby steps over months or years. A good start is simply listening to your body and following your heart every now and again, not always doing what you should be doing but what you would like to do. Taking up a new hobby, doing something spontaneous, or trying something you have always wanted to do. Take that time to allow you to be ‘you’, it will do wonders for your health, both mental and physical.

Setting goals is another way to instil some purpose into our lives. Goal setting is a powerful technique that gets you to visualise the end result and commit to that goal, the results are astounding in terms of productivity and achievement. Achieving ones goals can really boost confidence and self esteem, which is going to help our overall health.

Attitude

An attitude of gratitude is a serious health booster.  A good mantra is ‘talk more about your blessings than your problems’, this promotes positivity in yourself and those around you and the end result is a happier healthier you! A simple tip is – each night at bedtime take a minute to write down three things you are grateful for that happened today and also three things you aim to achieve tomorrow. It doesn’t matter how small! You will actually wake up in a better, more positive and motivated mood.

Mindfulness 

If you were to start one new thing today, let it be 5 mins of mindfulness or meditation. You will be amazed at how 5 mins (or even just 1 minute! Whatever you can manage) of uninterrupted sitting in silence, breathing, can change your whole mood and demeanour for the rest of the day. Stress levels decrease and the body is returned to parasympathetic nervous system, which means less stress hormones being released, which is going to have a huge impact on our physical health also, aswell as mental health.

So we must look at the full picture in order to achieve complete healthy. Nourishing the body with the appropriate food and movement and also nurturing ourselves with all of the above. 

Good Health!

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Treating Kids

As a Mum it seems to be a constant stream of ‘Can I have a treat?’ from the kids and who could blame them, surrounding by all those inviting chocolate bars and treats on display in every shop they go in to and with sugar being so addictive, it’s as if once they see it, that’s all they can think about and you’re the worst in the world for not allowing them to have it. It can be a struggle to try to keep them eating healthy!

Of course it’s difficult to leave treats out altogether, especially when you factor in external sources like grandparents, parties, play-dates etc, but applying an 80/20 rule can work really well to reduce the amount of treats they are getting, 80% of the time eating healthy and 20% of the time allowing treats. Mum might be buying ‘the odd treat’ during the week and Dad might be doing the same unbeknowns to each other, it can easily add up over the week, simply making a pact as parents that you will let their quota of junk come from uncontrollable external sources and when they are at home it’s healthier options, that alone can make all the difference.  Sometimes it is unavoidable, but in the situation for example where Granny is bringing a weekly packet of sweets, it may be possible to suggest a pack of stickers or match attacks or something instead.

Now all this doesn’t mean no treats at all, everyone needs a treat now and again even us grown ups, it’s just trying to incorporate healthier options. Some delicious treats can be created with the likes of nuts, dates, cacao, nut butter, dark chocolate, coconut products, dried fruit, seeds, berries, fruit, maple syrup/agave. It may take a little while to win them over but you can start slow making things they enjoy a little healthier over time, substituting in alternative better ingredients. As time goes on  their taste-buds change and you might find down the road when they do have some ‘junk’ they are not as interested in it as they used to be or that it makes them feel a bit icky.

Here’s some simple tips to make it easier when it comes to treating kids at home:

1.       Don’t keep junk in the house and then they can’t ask for it

2.       Keep a stock of healthy treats available, see recipes below or buy some in from your local health food store e.g. Nakd bars, Meridian bars, fruit winders. Even a simple fruit salad can be a nice treat!   

3.       Make water their only drink option, this will reduce their sugar/sweetner intake which will lessen their sweet tooth

4.       Add a bowl/plate of fruit to the breakfast table every morning, a great way to get them into the habit of tasting natural sweetness.

5.       Have raw veg at lunch and dinner times, this will fill them up and adjust their taste-buds

6.       Treats are better eaten at the end of a meal, better on their teeth

7.       Sit down to eat together, slow down the whole process, they will stay full for longer

8.       Have set meal and snack times

9.       If they do get treats from Granny, that’s ok, maybe suggest having half now and half later or tomorrow

10.   Boost their nutrients and combat sugar with a healthy juice or smoothie, especially on a day of party etc where you know there will be junk

11.   Informing them and educating them is a great way to help them make their own decisions when they are out without you

12.   Teaching them how to make simple snacks/treats/meals is a great fun activity to do together and as they get older it can really empower them to make better food choices

For some healthy treat recipes check out the treats page: http://fooducation.ie/wp/category/fooducationrecipes/treatrecipes/

  

Nutrition and wellness coaching - fussy eaters

Worried about fussy eaters?

Dealing with fussy eaters can be very frustrating! Trying day in day out to get them to eat the meals you make, constant dinner battles, worrying about their nutrition and even feeling guilty, it’s not pleasant. Well don’t lose hope! The first thing to remember is there is a lot you can do with kids as regards nutrition, without even going near their food! Leading my example, surrounding them with positive influences and educating them in a fun way about nutrition can set a seed with them and get them thinking (even subconciously) about food and health and can lead to better decisions down the line. Heres our top tips for handling fussy eaters and your stress levels!

Lead by example

The absolute best way to convey any message to kids is by letting them see you do it yourself. So focus on your own food first and that change alone is going to be a great education for your kids. They want to be like you and do what you do, so even if its not an instant change it is definitely passing a good message on to them, even subconsciously.

Get them involved

Getting kids to help with the shoping, prepping, cooking, baking is a great way to get an interest up in them around food and cooking and it reduces the mystery and fear around it all. With no pressure on them to even taste if they dont want to, but just to get involved and it can be a fun family activity too. Making a game out of identifying different veg in the supermarket or simple tasks like peeling veg, kids will love taking part.

Country Markets

An outing to a country market can be a nice family activity for everyone and a great learning experience. There are markets running in most areas now one day or other in the week. This can be a great outing for all ages, with loads of great produce on offer, you can even talk to the producers, kids can really get a feel from where the food comes from and what is involved in producing it. Other options like local producers, farm shops and open veg gardens, usually welcome visitors and this can be a great place to get great quality food at good prices.

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Positive influences

Simple things like reading books about nutrition and health can be a fun activity to get kids thinking about food. There are loads of kids books out now. Also on TV or online now there are cartoons and on devices loads of kids apps. As they get a little older then there are any amount of interesting movies and documentaries that you can watch together. Even colouring pictures, games, quizzes, there is so much available online nowadays and these will all be instilling a positive message.

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Grow your own

A fantastic project to start with kids is to grow something yourselves. Anything at all, no matter how small the garden, even a pot of lettuce or parsley, they will be amazed to see it grow and they will be so proud to see something they grew from a seed going into dishes!

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Reading labels & other activities

An activity kids can find fun is comparing labels of products, purely for interest sake, they will be amazed to see one pack has more sugar than another for example. A good way to do it is to get products that they like and then a similar more healthy alternative and compare products, it can get a discussion going and you never know where that might lead! A simple sugar demo is another activity that is very visual and effective with kids. Simple lay out products on a table, check the label for sugar content (4g=1 tsp) and spoon out that amount of sigar in front of the product, different cereals, biscuits, yogurts work well.

Classes

A cooking class or grow your own veg class could be a fun kids or family activity. There are classes like these running all over the country, if you do a search online or ask in your local area or health shop. Grow HQ in Waterford is definitely worth a visit, they offer great classes and information and you could visit the cafe and veg gardens too!

Tips on actually getting them to eat:

Well this could be another blog of its own, but heres some helpful hints!

Quality – focus first on what they are actually willing to eat and try to improve the quality of that. So if its chicken nuggets, make your own. If its a ham sandwich, try better quality bread (even get them involved in making your own!), boil a ham and sqitch spreads back to plain old butter. Yogurts, switch to a good quality natural probiotic yogurt and add your own fruit or blitzed berries and as little sweetness as you can get away with, whittling it down as their taste buds adapt. The better quality produce is going to be higher in nutrients and less damaging to their gut and health.

Try and try again – when introducing new foods, it can take up to 20 times trying something for a child to come around to it, sticker charts, little rewards can work really well to intice them to try, or they find Youtube clips on tasting foods, blindfold tasting etc very entertaining so maybe you could try an activity like that at home

Hidden goodies – a great way to boost nutrition, is in some food that they do actually like, start to ‘hide’ a small amount of something healthy, maybe blended veg or fruit or even bone broth, building it up very slowly, up are seriously boosting the nutritional value of the meal and their tastebuds will actually start to change over time. A tomato pasta sauce with a little hidden onion, garlic, courgette, pepper, carrot can give them a serious nutrient boost

Take your opportunity – we are all talk about mindful eating, not eating in front of screens etc but when it comes to very fussy kids this could actually work in your favour the odd time. Those moments when they are slightly zoned out watching TV slip a little bowl of chopped veg or fruit in front of them and you might be surprised they they might start munching when they are distracted!

Renaming – Homemade juices and smoothies are a great way to hide some goodies also, renaming a veg & strawberry smoothie with a (little avocado & coconut oil!) a ‘nice strawberry milkshake’, even the tiniest amounts of the good stuff you add in are going to have a benefit.

Good luck!

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Gut health – the basics

‘Gut’ is a real buzz word at the moment. There is so much information flying around it can be easy to get bamboozled and even the terminology can sound so complicated, it can be hard to get your head around it. But it need not be too difficult, hopefully this blog can simplify it for you.

Our gut is an extremely important part of our body for a number of reasons:

  • the gut holds trillions of bacteria, approx ten times more bacteria than cells, we are literally more bacteria than human
  • there are thousands of different types of bacteria, and the specific balance of them is very important for good health
  • our gut lining contains its own immune system, which can have an impact on the rest of the body
  • a gut-brain link is being widely researched in recent years

Our gut lining is made up of tight junctions which is built to let through only the tiniest particles and nutrients. So in an ideal world with nothing to irritate the gut lining and food being chewed sufficiently, the gut would work just fine. Unfortunately this doesn’t describe the modern world we live in. Todays busy lifestyle, means rushing our food, insufficient chewing and poor digestion. As well as a constant stream of toxins, alcohol, smoking, medications, antibiotics, stress all of which can have a detrimental effect on our gut lining.

With these factors weakening the gut wall, the once tight junctions begin to loosen, this is known as leaky gut or intestinal permeability. Chewing our food well is a very important part of digestion. Insufficiently chewing our food puts stress on the digestive system, adding to its workload and the result is that bigger particles of food than are desireable arrive in the gut. The loosened junctions then make it possible for these bigger food particles, as well as toxins and microbes to pass through the gut wall and these can cause inflammation in the body, due to an immune reaction being initiated. The immune system sees these particles as foreign invaders and starts to attack them. These particles can even get lodged in our tissues and then the immune systems starts to attack the tissue also, and this is where we get into the scary area of autoimmunity, the body attacking itself.

Maybe you have low energy or mood issues, food sensitivities or even food intolerances or  digestive issues. Poor gut health could be causing you problems! So what can be done? Well a great place to start is with gut repair and healing the gut wall.

Some very easy daily tips can really help:

  • start the day with a glass of lemon water with 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • make bone broth a part of your daily diet, a great habit to get into is to boil an organic chicken once a week, to keep you in bone broth all week long, add it to dishes or just have as is as a hot drink
  • stewed cooking apples with cinnamon are great for gut healing
  • add more veg and fruit to your diet, both cooked and raw
  • add a green juice to your daily routine (cabbage is great for gut healing if you could squeeze a little of that in!)
  • slow down your eating, chew each bite 20-30 times, remember your gut has no teeth!
  • try to reduce stress, especially around meal times, take a few dep breaths before eating
  • reduce snacking where possible, each 3 good meals and have a good break in between to give your digestion a break
  • reduce alcohol, caffeine and sugar as well as processed and fried foods
  • add fermented foods to your diet, saurkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, kombucha, kefir
  • use coconut oil as your cooking oil, it is much more stable at high temperatures and has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties
  • reduce allergens in your diet such as gluten, wheat and dairy. Listen to your body and if you feel something doesnt agree with you try elminating it for 3 weeks and see if you notice a difference off it, or on reintroduction

Down the line if you wanted to do further investigations into your gut health a Nutritional Therapist can arrange a Comprehensive Diagnostic Stool Analysis, which can tell us so much about whats going on in the gut in terms of the balance of bacteria and even infection

Great books to inform yourself further are ‘Eat Dirt’ by Dr Josh Axe, ‘Gut’ by Giulia Enders, ‘Healthy Gut, Happy You’ by Jennifer Albuqurque, ‘Brain Maker’ by David Perlmutter, ‘The G Plan Diet’ by Amanda Hamilton and ‘10% Human’ by Alanna Collen

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Good Health!