A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to get the chance to meet and interview the very lovely Melanie McGrice.  Melanie is one of Australia’s leading dietician and runs her own practice, based in Melbourne, called Nutrition Plus.  She has over 10 years experience in the industry since completing her Master in Nutrition and Dietetics, including working in one of Melbournes leading teaching hospitals.  She is also in the midst of writing a book which is due to be released later this year – EXCITING!!

I specifically wanted to ‘pick’ Melanie’s brain with some burning questions that I have on children’s diet and nutrition.  Specifically under 5’s – as I have three of them (well almost, Master J would kill me for saying that he is 5 when he is in fact 6!!!).  I have one kid that is really not that fussed about food AT ALL and will literally eat to survive.  He is FAR too busy with other important 6 year old stuff, that worrying about food is really not at the top of his agenda.  I then have a rather fussy middle child who says “I don’t like that!” to EVERYTHING that isn’t sweet!!!  Finally I have my little bubs who started off brilliantly but now either spits everything out or just throws it on the floor or across the kitchen (or at me!!).  Any of this sound familiar????  Please say yes!!

So I put together a few questions for Melanie that I thought us mums (and dads) would find useful.

Me:
There is a lot of ‘buzz’ around at the moment about the amount of salt or sodium found in kids foods.  What is the maximum amount that we should look out for per serving when reading the back of food packaging?  What is your take on how much salt our kids should be having in their daily food intake?
Melanie:
On food labels there is two columns, a ‘per serve’  column and a ‘per 100g’ column.  Look for foods with less than 500mg per 100g.  Salt is used to add flavour to foods, and like many things in life, the more you have, the more you need.  Unprocessed foods such as fruit, vegetables, meat, rice and milk don’t have any salt – so try to make sure that unprocessed foods make up the bulk of your family’s dietary intake.

Me:

Would you say it’s better for kids to eat little and often or to stick to three main meals a day?
Melanie:
Definitely little and often.  Kids have smaller stomachs than adults so they should be eating every 3-5 hours to provide them with plenty of energy and nutrition for play and brain food.

Me:

What are you top 5 healthy snacks for children under 5?
Melanie:

  1. Veggie sticks – these are great to keep in a container and take out with you to the shops, appointments or errands.
  2. Milk – calcium is really important for children’s teeth and bones.
  3. Fruit salad – kid’s love fresh, cut up fruit.  Get them to tell you all the colours of the differnt pieces of fruit.
  4. Toast soldiers – Wholegrain bread is a great source of fibre and energy.  Cut into fingers or ‘soldiers’ for little fingers.
  5. Yoghurt – yoghurt contains good bacteria which is important for a healthy digestive system.
Me:
How long should children be offered a high fat diet and what ‘fats’ do you consider essential in their diet?
Melanie:
The Australian Dietary Guidelines changed a few years ago to recommend that children can start using reduced fats or skim dairy products from the age of two.  If your children are older than two it is better to use low fat products where possible, however, you will also need to include a small amount of ‘good fats’ in their diet such as olive oil, canola oil or avocado.  They only need a teaspoon of these good fats on sandwiches or in cooking each day, so don’t use too much.
 
Me:
What are your top 5 tips to encourage fussy eaters to eat?
Melanie:
  1. Role modelling – if you aren’t eating a wide range of foods, don’t expect your kids to.
  2. Start early – research suggests that a lot of your children’s palate is developed while they are still in your womb, so make sure that you eat a wide range of healthy foods while you are pregnant and breast feeding.
  3. Taste testing – children need to develop a taste and mouth-feel for foods – which is why toddlers put everything into their mouth and then spit things out again.  Dont force them to eat large amount of foods that they don’t like, but DO persuade them to try it.
  4. Don’t give up – ask your child to try the food repeatedly   Sometimes children (and adults) need to try a food over 20 times before they develop an acceptance for a food.
  5. Rewards – when your child tries a new food, reward them using your voice tone, words of affirmation and a big hug.
Me:
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Which cereals would you consider best for children?
Melanie:
Porridge is the best choice.  Make it more tasty by adding fruit and yoghurt.
 
Me:
What would be your top piece of advice for parents regarding nutrition for their kids?
Melanie:
Always eat at at the table so that you can see what they are eating and share meals as a family.

xxxxxxx
 
Melanie and her wonderful team do a lot of work with mum’s who have children with allergies, food intolerances, eating disorders or are just plain fussy eaters.  They also work with mum’s to help them improve their nutrition too!  If this is something that might interest you, then please do get in touch with them.
 
You can find them on Facebook at NutritionPlusNews or go directly to their website at Nutrition Plus.
 
Lastly I would really just like to thank Melanie for taking the time to chat to me and for sharing her knowledge and advice.
Mrs d signature4

10 comments on “My interview with one of Australia’s leading dieticians, Melanie McGrice, on ‘Nutrition for children under 5’”

    • Thanks Nat, I really enjoyed chatting to Melanie and found her so tips so useful. We really have to make much more of an effort to eat around the table as a family in our house xx

  1. Great questions and answers. I have wondered about using lowfat milk. Its what the adults in our house always have and sometimes I give it to the kids. Wont feel bad about only buying one type of milk now.

  2. Great, my kids do eat those top five foods. Whew! They eat a lot of old rubbish on top of it though, teens are terrible once they have their own money. My take home message is to get them to try, try, try. Two of mine are too fussy and I need to work a bit harder on getting them to simply taste tiny tiny bits of new foods.

  3. Great information! I love that question about sodium content. It’s remarkable how much sodium content there is in so called “Healthy Baby Snacks”

  4. Very handy to know some of these things! I am trying to make most of my almost 1 year old boys food from scratch. He has only just started getting really fussing and yes, spitting out food or piffing it off the high chair, though not at me so far haha!
    I wonder too at what point you start letting them feed themselves? I let Perry have finger foods for lunch but feed him porridge for breakfast and something with veges and or meat/pasta/rice/whatever for dinner. He has started refusing dinner altogether (unless I replace it with banana/fig/stewed fruit with yoghurt, and then all of a sudden he’s hungry again.)
    I will be doing the offering small meals trick from now on too.
    Many thanks to you both 🙂

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