Dealing 10 Tips for Starting Your Baby on Solids

So the time has come to introduce my almost 6 month old baby to the word of solids. After months of having the convenience of milk “on tap”, there’s no denying that solid introduction does require more time and planning on mum and dad’s part. However, enjoy this exciting milestone with your bub, as I intend to, and have fun introducing him/her into the world of food. The good news is you definitely do not need to be a master chef to prepare your baby healthy and nutritious meals that require very little effort. Here’s my top ten tips to ease yourself into the world of solids.

  1. Between 4 to 6 months old it is recommended to start your baby on solids. No later than 6 months as this is when baby’s iron levels begin to drop.
  2. No need to buy expensive kitchen appliances, all you require is a steamer insert and saucepan, and something to puree or mash the food (a potato masher, ricer or blender, stick blender or food processor will do the trick).
  3. Steam food (don’t boil) to retain flavour, nutrients and colour.
  4. Prepare additional meals to freeze individual portions – a great time saver and means you will always have nutritious, homemade food ready to go.
  5. Freeze portions in small glass storage containers – easy to defrost and warm straight from the freezer and avoids chemicals such as BPA and phthalates found in many plastics.
  6. To defrost and warm a portion of food either place in the fridge the night before or in your steamer over simmering water in your saucepan. Avoid microwaving.
  7. Avoid fruit for first 6-8 weeks. Your baby has been used to drinking sweet milk for months, adjust baby’s palate to vegetables and protein (after 4-5 weeks) first to avoid fussy eating later on.
  8. Introduce one food every 3 days, if bowel movements remain normal continue with next food. If bowel movements change wait 4-6 weeks until trying that food again.
  9. Begin baby led weaning from 7 months by offering chunks of cooked vegetables as finger food at the end of the meal.
  10. Remember breast milk or formula remains a baby’s main source of nutrition for their first year.

Have fun and enjoy this wonderful time with your baby’s as they explore their new world of tastes and textures!

 

The Contraceptive Pill

The oral contraceptive pill (OCP) is one of the most commonly used pharmaceutical drugs worldwide. While it was originally developed for women to prevent them from falling pregnant, it is often prescribed for a wide range of hormonal issues including irregular menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding, PMS and acne, even for girls as young as 12.

It is important for anyone taking a pharmaceutical medication to understand and educate themselves on not only the benefits it may provide but also the potential side effects and interactions of taking the drug. The OCP is no exception, and while it is convenient and beneficial for some women, for many women the OCP is contraindicated due to one or more health concerns and for other women can cause side effects.

One of the most noteworthy side effects of taking the OCP is the way in which it depletes women of a number of essential nutrients, many of which are in fact important for preventing PMS. Of particular concern are the B group vitamins and zinc. These nutrient deficiencies can cause a range of symptoms including loss of libido, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, lowered mood, fluid retention, poor immune function and more.

Following cessation of the OCP the effects can last for up to 3-6 month, before it is completely metabolised and removed from the body. It is interesting to note that it is not uncommon for a woman to report a greater sense of wellbeing (both physically and psychologically) and more specifically a lift in mood after going off the OCP.

If you are suffering from any type of hormonal imbalance the OCP may help to “mask” the symptoms with synthetic hormones. It is however important to ascertain and treat the cause of the problem. By seeking help from your naturopath the cause of the hormonal imbalance can be investigated and treated to rebalance the body, and therefore help to remove the related symptoms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Low Down on Low-Fat Foods

For years we have been told that to be healthy, watch our weight and keep our cardiovascular system in check we should avoid dietary fats, particularly saturated fats. But are these low-fat foods and diets really as good for us as we are led to believe?

Supermarket aisles are laden with low-fat yogurts, milks, cheeses and ready-made meals, fat-free desserts, biscuits and lollies. While these presumed “healthier” choices appear limitless, Australian waistlines keep on expanding.

The low-fat movement all started in the 1970s when a major report came out, identifying dietary fat, specifically saturated fat, as the single most important change that needed to be made in order to improve diet and health. The recommendation was for people to significantly reduce their saturated fat intake and replace it with more vegetable oils. This was thought to ultimately reduce cholesterol levels and protect cardiovascular health.

The problem that evolved is that food companies began replacing animal fats with unsaturated vegetable oils and large amounts of sugars. Why? Because removing the fat from foods meant they had to replace it with something to enhance the taste and texture. However the calorie content often remained the same, yet food companies were able to claim “low-fat” and “no-fat” on their products. On top of this the vegetable oils were put through a process called hydrogenation to produce a solid form easier to work with in foods. We now know that hydrogenated fats increase levels of trans fats, which are both bad for the heart and our cholesterol.

It’s taken many decades and much bad press for our poor friend “fat”, but what is now known is that this bad reputation originally began by a misinterpretation of a flawed study all those years go. What the study actually showed was that the subjects had only a temporary reduction in cholesterol, coupled with an increase in mortality rates! So it turns out saturated fat is not the enemy (trans fats found in hydrogenated oils are), it’s essential for health, we just need to get the right balance of the right types of fat. In fact, research now shows that eating the right fats can actually lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and improve your cholesterol levels.

It is easy to get confused about fats – so what fats should you be eating for optimal health? Essential fatty acids (omega-3 and 6) are the fats our body cannot make, but needs for a variety of important functions – for maintaining healthy blood vessels, making hormones and for a healthy nervous system. They are found in oily varieties of fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and their oils.

Saturated fats are primarily found in animal foods, but are also found in coconut oil and cocoa butter. If you are consuming a dairy product choose full fat (organic is best as fat holds onto pesticides) as not only will you feel fuller for longer, you are consuming all the fat soluble vitamins that would otherwise be removed in a low fat/fat free version. However, if you have health concerns and your practitioner has recommended you address your saturated fat intake avoiding dairy or choosing reduced fat may be a better option.

Remember incorporating a healthy balance of fat in your diet will not only optimise your overall health, but also provides many other important nutrients found in fat-containing whole foods.

Dealing with Morning Sickness

Many women who experience so called “morning sickness” will very quickly discover that nausea can occur at any time of the day, not just in the morning. Not only is every woman different, but so is each pregnancy. Morning sickness doesn’t occur for every woman, and there isn’t a one size fits all remedy. The good news though, is that there are things you can do. The trick is to find out what works for you.

Around half to two-thirds of all pregnant women will experience morning sickness to some degree, particularly in the first trimester. Symptoms of morning sickness often begin by the 4th or 6th week and last throughout the first trimester of pregnancy. Most women find that the nausea settles down by about the 12th to 16th week of pregnancy. Read more

Back to Basics – Why Homemade Baby Food is Best

Making your baby’s meals from fresh whole foods has so many benefits that far outweigh the inconvenience of preparing homemade meals. Whilst there is such a large range of commercial baby foods on the market, unfortunately there is almost always a downside. They are often heated at high temperatures which destroys many important nutrients, have added salt, sugar, colours, preservatives or fillers.

The most important benefit of preparing homemade baby food is the increased nutritional value. Gradually introducing a range of good quality, fresh vegetables, fruit, proteins and healthy fats means your baby will not only be enjoying a wonderful array of essential vitamins and minerals, it also enables your baby to develop a healthy palate for a diverse range of foods and textures. I encourage you to choose organic foods where possible. There are two main reasons for this, firstly it will increase the nutrient density of the foods your baby eats and secondly reduces the pesticide load. It is of particular importance when buying fats such as eggs, butter, ghee, meat, milk and cream as pesticides and chemicals store in fat.

As a general rule commercial baby purees come in one texture – super smooth and sloppy. Having different textures in foods is so important for your baby to develop a healthy relationship with all sorts of food. Have you ever tried commercial baby food yourself? It’s a great experiment to prepare some homemade baby puree and compare it to a commercial baby food with similar ingredients. Not only will you notice a distinct difference in textures, you will be surprised how much more flavoursome your homemade version is. Commercial baby foods also tend to contain a much higher percentage of the sweeter ingredients such as apple and pear in comparison to the vegetables, while still tasting fairly bland and savoury. Likewise they tend to have fairly low percentages of protein. Babies are more likely to be open to new flavours and textures if they are exposed to a wide range during their early days of starting solids. By making your own baby food the combinations, ratio of each ingredient and resulting texture are endless!

You might be surprised to learn that from a budget perspective you will actually save money by cooking your own baby food. You will also be doing your bit for the environment by avoiding excessive packaging waste by using your own reusable storage and serving containers.

So get into the kitchen and get creative. Not only will you feel great knowing that you are contributing to a healthy bub from the inside out, you are also playing an incredibly important role in helping your baby develop a healthy, happy relationship with all kinds of amazing, healthful foods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bone Broth – Much More than Just a Trend, and How to Make It

There’s a fair chance you’ve heard about bone broth, it’s certainly become trendy of late. Food bloggers regularly discuss the benefits of drinking it, Instagram has 55,208 #bonebroth and even some bars in New York are selling shots of bone broth alongside their cocktails. But there’s good reason for this trend as bone broth is more than just a tasty warming cup of “soup”, it’s packed with bio-available nutrients in an easy-to-digest form. So here’s the what, why and how of bone broth, so you can try this wonderful health tonic for yourself.

While it seems to be a trend of late, actually bone broth is nothing new, it is quite possibly one of the oldest meals on record, dating back to the stone ages. People have been consuming bone broth for eons for its wonderful mineral rich health tonic properties, and it turns out Grandma was right about the healing and immune enhancing properties of her homemade chicken soup after all!

Put simply bone broth is a big pot of good quality bones slow cooked for an extensive period of time often with vinegar, vegetables, herbs and spices. The long cooking process of anywhere from 12-48 hours helps to break down the bones, releasing nutrients and minerals including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium in forms that your body can easily absorb. It is also rich in the amino acids glycine and proline, along with collagen, gelatin and glucosamine, just to name a few.

There is a wealth of reasons why you would want to include bone broth in your diet.

It’s immune enhancing – as it is rich in easily absorbable minerals.

Helps heal and seal your gut – due to its amino acid structure and high gelatin content it helps to restore healthy mucosal lining of the digestive tract.

Great for your joint heath – with all the glucosamine and chondroitin sulphates and other compounds it supports joint health by reducing inflammation and promoting repair.

Helps aid digestion – by assisting in the breakdown of grains, legumes, beans, vegetables and meat. It also attracts digestive juices to the food in your gut.

Improves hair and nail health – due to its high gelatin and collagen content helps to strengthen hair and nails.

Has anti-inflammatory properties – the glucosamine content of broth helps to reduce inflammation in the joints and promote repair.

Bone growth and repair – from the rich source of minerals.

So that’s the what and why, now for the how to. When it comes to making bone broth there are so many different versions out there, but the most important thing to remember is to only use bones from organic, grass fed animals.

Bone Broth Recipe

2-3 kg organic grass fed bones

Cold filtered/spring water

½ cup apple cider vinegar

Optional: add vegetables and herbs of your choice for flavour and nutrient value eg. Onion, carrot, celery, thyme, parsley, peppercorns, ginger, turmeric, garlic.

Place the bones with very little meat on them in a large saucepan/slow cooker, add the vinegar* and cover with water. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the bones.

Place remaining bones that have some meat on them on an oven tray and roast in a 180 degrees C oven for 30 minutes or until browned**. Add bones to your saucepan/slow cooker along with any vegetables/herbs that you choose and top up with additional water if required to cover bones. Cook on low for 12-48 hours. Stock will keep for several days in the fridge, or freeze in portions.

*The vinegar is really important as it helps to extract minerals including calcium out of the bones and into the broth.

**Roasting helps to improve the flavour of the broth.

So how do you use bone broth? You can simply warm it up and drink as is, or add it to other meals including soups, stews, stir-fries, braising vegetables, as a base for gravy, the list goes on. It adds not only a lovely intense flavour to your meals, but most importantly it ups the nutrition content of any savoury dish in an instant.

So there you have it! Bone broth is extremely inexpensive to make at home, is packed full of health promoting nutrients and is so easy you could cook it with your eyes closed. If you aren’t already making bone broth, I encourage you to start today! Your body will thank you for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Easy Steps to Building Super Smoothies!

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I can get stuck in a smoothie rut and let’s be honest, it can get a little boring for the taste buds. Variety really is the key to keeping meals exciting and boosting your smoothies with a wide range of nutrients.

Smoothies are such a good “liquid meal”. Great to start the day, for lunch on the go or that 3pm pick-me-up. So here’s 5 super easy steps to help you get creative with your blender.

Most importantly keep it simple! There is nothing worse than a cup of murky brown sludge that doesn’t taste much better than it looks. Trial and error over the years has taught me that when it comes to smoothies less is more, so keep the number of ingredients to a minimum.

1.     Start with the base – that’s the liquid part. Start with 250ml per person and add more if needed:

  • Nut milks
  • Spring or filtered water (add nut butter to “milk” it up!)
  • Fresh vegetable juice
  • Coconut water

2.     Add some smoothie “body” and flavour – ripe seasonal fruits and/or veggies. A few ideas….

  • Berries
  • Banana
  • Peach
  • Mango
  • Pear (make sure it’s juicy)
  • Pineapple
  • Orange
  • Kiwi
  • Avocado
  • Cucumber
  • Baby spinach
  • Kale
  • Mint

3.     Boost up your protein with a couple of tablespoons of good quality vegetable or whey protein powder– this will keep you satisfied until your next meal.

  • Pea protein
  • Rice protein
  • Whey protein
  • Nut/seed butter (almond, cashew, tahini, sunflower etc)
  • Raw nuts or seeds (soaked overnight, only recommended for high power blenders)

4.     Add some healthy fats – they keep you satisfied and your skin glowing

  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado
  • Flaxseeds/oil
  • Chia
  • Hempseeds

5.     Supe it up with some superfoods! Get creative to maximise the flavour and health benefits of your smoothie. I recommend using just 1 or 2 at a time.

  • Maca
  • Acai
  • Cacao
  • Spirulina
  • Lucuma
  • Maqui berry
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric

Tips:

Freeze chopped fruit for smoothies, not only does it make your smoothie thick and icy cold, it’s a great way of using up fruit that is bordering on overripe.

If you can invest in a high power blender they really do make the smoothest of smoothies! You can then add whole nuts such as cashews or almonds (soak over night to soften) to make your own nut milks in an instant.

Here’s three of my favourite smoothie creations, try them out and let me know what you think…..

Nutty Cacao Banana Smoothie

  • 250ml almond milk
  • 1 ripe banana (can be frozen)
  • 1 heaped T natural peanut butter
  • 1 rounded T pea protein powder (optional)
  • 1 t chia seeds
  • ½ t vanilla powder
  • Pinch Himalayan salt
  • 1 medjool date (optional)
  • Ice

Blend until smooth!

Spiced Pear and Cashew Smoothie

  • 250ml spring or filtered water
  • 1 very ripe pear
  • 1/3 cup raw cashews* (can be soaked overnight in water)
  • 1 t chia seeds
  • ½ t vanilla powder
  • 1t ginger powder
  • 1t cinnamon
  • Ice

Blend until smooth. *If not using a high power blender use 2 rounded T cashew butter instead.

Kiwi and Ginger Green Smoothie

  • 250ml spring/filtered water or coconut water
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 handful kale
  • 1 handful mint
  • ½ avocado
  • 1 ripe kiwi fruit (green or gold)
  • 1 small knob ginger
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 2t ground flaxseeds
  • 1T coconut oil
  • Ice

Blend until smooth.