Nutrition Choices For Easy Parenting

Do you often have questions regarding food choices for your child? Get all your doubts cleared as Luke Coutinho answers the queries on nutrition.

By Team ParentCircle  • 11 min read

Nutrition Choices For Easy Parenting

The biggest concern for every parent is their child’s nutrition. A mother uses every possible trick up her sleeve to make her child eat right. But sometimes, knowing what’s right for your child a big challenge. The choices that you make will have a profound impact on the little one’s growing body and developing the mind. To help such struggling parents, we have Luke Coutinho, a renowned nutritionist and lifestyle expert with us. Let’s make parenting easy with Luke.

Q. My three-year-old son is allergic to milk? Is there any other food he can eat, which can give him the same amount of nutrients like milk?

A. Milk is great for a child’s growing body. Every glass of milk (200ml) will give you calcium, protein, iodine, potassium, phosphorus and vitamins B2 and B12, just to name a few. If your child can tolerate milk, then it is the best natural health drink you can ask for as a parent. However, as we have seen, around 2 to 3 per cent of children less than three years of age are allergic to milk.

Some common symptoms of milk allergy are an upset stomach, vomiting, blood in stools, hives and rashes etc. Some kids do outgrow their milk allergy by four years of age, but that number is small (less than 20 per cent). Your kid might take years to outgrow from this milk allergy.

However, nature has given us plenty of options to choose from in the meanwhile. If your child cannot consume milk, you can give him substitutes like soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk etc. In addition, to make up for the other nutrients, include fruits like avocado and oranges, oatmeal, seeds like flex, and beans.

Q. Sugar, fibre or starch – which one is good for my child and which are the ones that should be avoided?

A. Sugar, fibre and starch all are carbohydrates richly present in our foods. Even though they belong to the same family of nutrients, they are functionally very different. If we talk about health, I would say fibre is a very important carbohydrate.

Dietary fibre is not digested by the body. It passes through the stomach adding bulk to the content to improve and regulate bowel movement. This helps in keeping the gut healthy. Some fibers also help the intestinal bacteria to flourish. Fibres also help in regulating blood sugar level by slowing down sugar absorption most a carb-rich meal. It also helps in bringing down blood bad-cholesterol levels. Hence, fibre can also help in preventing child obesity which is a major concern these days.

Starch basically is a complex sugar that is broken down by the body into glucose that can be absorbed and utilised. Hence, compared to simple sugars, starches are a better option as they do not cause a sudden spike in blood sugar levels.

So, be it children or adults, fibre is great for consumption. Leafy vegetables are a great source of dietary fibers.

Q. Can my seven-year-old daughter be given protein supplements? She does not drink milk and neither does she take meat?

A. It is true that both milk and meat are among the richest sources of protein. But they are not the only sources of protein. If the child is not allergic to dairy then you may try to incorporate moderate amounts of cheese, cottage cheese or paneer, yogurt, curd, buttermilk in the diet. Derived from milk, they too are loaded with all the nutrients present in milk.

Eggs are also a great source of protein. You can get as much as six grams of complete protein from just one egg. These days, people often discard the egg yolk, but I would say that it is just a food myth. Egg yolk is rich in several vitamins, minerals and enzymes, making whole egg a nutrition-packed food. Apart from eggs, kidney beans, lentils, broccoli, oats, spinach, mushrooms etc. can also boost the protein intake.

If your child continues to be a fussy eater, then you may include a protein supplement after consulting your paediatrician. Whey protein supplements are safe only when given in the right amount. Excess of protein is also not advisable, hence discuss the amount of supplement your child would need and only then put your child on a supplement.

Q. How do I convince my six-year-old son that he should eat his lunch every day? Every day, he returns home with his lunch untouched.

A. Well, convincing a child can be pretty difficult if you impose it on him. Start treating your child as an individual capable of reasoning. Talk to your child and explain the importance of having timely meals. Educating the child is key here, tell him that not eating his lunch can compromise his immunity, making him weaker inside so he might not be able to play with his friends.

Kids are quick learners. If they see you eating healthy and on time, they try to do the same. Set good examples for your kids.

Lastly, make the food a little interesting for your child. Add more colourful ingredients to his lunch box. Along with veggies, toss in some slices of his favourite fruit to maintain the balance. Play with the food in terms of its shapes. Throw in a piece of dark chocolate at times. Add a ‘smiley’ on top of his sandwich with his favourite dressing. Instead of giving veggies and bread or roti, roll them together to make it look interesting. Get innovative and your child will fall in love with food again.

Q. I recently read an article that says consuming probiotics can help a child recover from diarrhoea? Is this true? And, if so, should I buy foods that contain probiotics for my child.

A. The concept of probiotics for diarrhoea is logical. Diarrhoea destroys the good bacterial population in the gut and probiotics supply the gut with good bacteria that maintain bowel health. So, having probiotics to recover from diarrhoea is indeed a good choice. However, probiotics would help if the diarrhoea is due to an infection and not due to wrong eating habits or having contaminated food. Also, if diarrhoea is due to being on antibiotics then in this case too, probiotics can help replenish the bacteria that were affected by the antibiotics.

Probiotic can be naturally obtained from fermented products like yogurt, buttermilk etc. Probiotics drinks are available in the market as well. Just look for these words in the ingredients, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus reuteri, and even the probiotic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii.

Q. My daughter suffers from an upset stomach and rash every time she drinks or eats dairy products. Are there other alternatives that I can give her?

A. The symptoms suggest that the child is allergic to milk. As I mentioned, upset stomach, rashes, hives, vomiting are symptoms of milk allergy. Naturally, the child will be allergic to dairy products too as they are derived from milk. It could also be that the child is lactose intolerant. A physician is the best to help you with the correct diagnosis. In either of the two cases, the child cannot have dairy-based products.

Milk substitutes are widely available and are great sources of nutrition. Oatmeal milk, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk etc. can be given to the child. Adding greens, fruits, lean meat, and nuts to the diet can provide all the nutrition that the child might miss on.

Q. Are milk allergy and lactose intolerance different? If so, could you please explain?

A. Milk allergy, as I mentioned, is being allergic to milk and hence all the products derived from milk. The common symptoms are rashes, hives, vomiting, bloody stools, etc.

Lactose intolerance is being intolerant to a sugar called lactose. In lactose intolerant people, the body is unable to break down lactose and digest it. Lactose is also present in milk. However, lactose intolerant people can have dairy products (in small amounts) that are low in lactose like yogurt, cheese. Fermentation reduces the lactase content considerably.

Luke Coutinho, Integrative and Lifestyle medicine - Holistic Nutrition

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