Katherine Megaw, mother of three and co-author of the book Feeding Sense, became a qualified clinical dietitian in 1995. She started her career in the paediatric wards of Durban then moved to Johannesburg where she set up private practices at many different hospitals. Kath has a passion for navigating parents through paediatric nutrition, ranging anywhere from allergies to childhood obesity and even fussy eaters.
Here are some of the most asked questions she has answered:
1. Q: When is the best age to wean my baby and what foods do we start with?
Weaning age has been an area of controversy and disagreement among healthcare professionals over the years. It’s no wonder parents are so confused.
However, consensus has been reached thanks to science catching up with common sense. We know that exclusive breastfeeding for 4 to 6 months and adding complementary foods from 4 months of age is in line with scientific research, baby development, and mom's instinct. It is also now printed in the infant feeding guidelines of the The European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) and the American, Canadian and Australian Society for Paediatrics.
Between 4 and 6 months, when you introduce your little one to complementary foods, start with fresh seasonal vegetables like sweet potato, butternut, carrots, gem squash and fresh seasonal fruit like apples, pears, bananas, avocados and strawberries.
2. Q: When can I introduce high-risk allergen foods like eggs, nut butters and fish to my weaning baby?
This is another topic surrounded in conflicting advice and confusion. Thankfully science has shown that the earlier your little one is exposed to these allergen-laden foods, the more likely they will build tolerance against a reaction.
Early exposure is threefold:
The first phase is during pregnancy, especially the last trimester. So eat as much allergen high-risk food varieties as possible.
The second phase is the early months of breastfeeding. A breastfeeding mom should NOT eliminate any high-risk allergen foods or gas-causing foods from her diet. The more varied your diet during breastfeeding, the more likely your baby will tolerate new allergens, new textures and new tastes.
The third phase is when weaning baby in his first year.
- Also see: Treats for kids with food allergies
3. Q: How can I prevent my baby becoming a fussy eater?
This is the million dollar question! The answer lies in the wording of the question, which we rephrase: "How do I navigate through the fussy eater stages to end up with a child, teen and adult that has a good relationship with food?"
This implies that the majority of babies and children will go through a fussy eating stage (89% of them will!). This is normal and part of development as your child finds their voice. Asserting their opinions, likes and dislikes in the food arena is one very powerful aspect of them cutting the umbilical cord!
The challenge as parents is to not take this personally, avoid food battles, keep the responsibility designation simple but consistent: The parents' responsibility is what, when and where they eat and the child’s responsibility is how much they eat.
Keep a variety of healthy foods available at all meal times and snack times and manage your expectations.
Check on their intake but don’t become anxious and paranoid. Should a food jag last longer than 2 weeks, take them for an objective opinion by your paediatric dietitian or paediatrician.
- Also see: Tips and tricks for fussy eaters
4. Q: What are the best foods to pack in my child’s lunch box?
A lunch box should be colourful with enticing food that’s quick and easy to eat.
The food should look appetising when the lunch box is opened four hours after being packed.
Pack food that your child likes and food that your child can help pack themselves.
Some food ideas include:
- Crackers, bread sticks, baked pretzels
- Mini muffins
- Dried fruit squares with no added sugar, dried fruit pieces free of sulphate dioxide, mini raisins or cranberries
- Small apple, mini banana, strawberries, blueberries, baby cucumber, baby carrot, mini corns
- Cheese sticks, cheese wedges
- Mini yogi sips, mini yogurt tub with a cool scoop spoon
- Nut butter squeeze sachets – if nuts are allowed at school
- Biltong, mini meatballs, mini chipolata chicken sausage
- Water, water, water
5. Q: Should we feed our kids a low-carb, high-fat and high-protein diet?
We should feed our kids a range of healthy seasonal foods that are the least processed we can find. The food we serve should also resemble the food as naturally as possible. So starchy seasonal veg and fruits are totally acceptable, also grains that are not processed. Adding a variety of grains are important to cover the B group of vitamins and boost energy levels.
Good fats like full cream dairy, nuts and seeds are an important part of a child's diet, as are avocado and coconut fats, virgin oils and olives.
Protein foods like fish and chicken and eggs should be included daily, while red meats and game meats should be included twice a week. Pulses like beans and lentils are good sources of protein and should be included too.
So all simple, good, healthy food from the earth should form part of your child’s diet. Be wary of advice where you are told to leave out a whole food group, but be equally wary of advice where you are told all nutrients are created equal! In the words of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, "All nutrients are created equal but some nutrients are more equal than others."
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Is there anything else you feel should be put in your child's lunchbox? Let us know by emailing us at chatback@Parent24.com and we could publish your comments. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.
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