Published on 25th October 2018


 

We chat to Lucinda Miller, a naturopath and functional medicine practitioner specialising in children’s health and wellbeing. Lucinda recently published her first book, The Good Stuff (Short Books).

 

What made you specialise in children’s health?

“My passion for supporting kids; nutrition and health stems from my three children’s health issues. My eldest had very poor co-ordination with ongoing gut problems that had stumped even top gastroenterologists. My daughter was bitten by a tick and developed Lyme disease, and I felt antibiotics were only part of the support she needed; and my youngest had a significant cow’s milk protein intolerance – and I was determined for him to be able to enjoy eating dairy products again, as I know personally how frustrating it is to have to follow a restricted diet. 

“I worked out quite quickly that there was almost no one at the time in the UK who could help my kids, as very few practitioners specialise in child nutrition and wellbeing. So, this is where I embarked on studying functional medicine and attended as many conferences as possible on child health. Luckily, I figured out how to help our kids during this time and, thankfully, all three are now healthy, happy and self-confident kids who have become real foodies.”

 

What are the biggest challenges when recommending dietary changes for children?

“Picky eating and sensory issues can make changing a child’s diet quite a challenge. However, very often these issues are due to nutrient deficiencies such as zinc or iron, or are a sign there are gut problems. Often, we find that getting these right can help both with the picky eating and the sensory issues.”

 

What are the common mistakes you see in practice regarding children’s diets?

“I find that many parents cut out entire food groups from their children’s diets but do not compensate for the nutrients lost in other ways. Most people realise that calcium needs topping up when on a dairy-free diet but think that shop-bought almond milk is going to suffice. They also forget about the need for iodine and other minerals that milk provides. We spend more time expanding a child’s diet than restricting it!”

 

The major components of a healthy diet are…?

“Food cooked from scratch from good quality ingredients, with a focus on plant-based foods to include vegetables, salads, fruits, nuts, seeds, pulses and wholegrains, not forgetting plenty of healthy fats and oils.”

 

With Halloween and Christmas on the way, not to mention children’s parties, how can parents deal with the amount of sugar on offer?

“My biggest tip is to feed your kids a hearty meal before they head out to a Halloween party. This way they are not going to be hungry and are less likely to be tempted to eat lots of sweets. Also, at the party organise fun games like apple bobbing, pumpkin carving, face painting and other crafty activities, so the main focus is not on the food.”

 

Should children snack between meals? If not, why? If so, what should they be having?

“We have learnt in recent years that allowing time between meals is important for optimising the metabolism, so my aim with all the recipes from my book The Good Stuff is to make the meals incredibly filling so that kids are much less likely to want to snack between meals.

However, I am a realist and know that kids do get hungry, and I feel letting a child get ‘hangry’ can be worse. Kids going through growth spurts, especially teenagers, can get extra hungry and this is where they might need extra food in between meals. If this is the case, then structure their day so they get one mid-morning snack and tea mid-afternoon rather than continuous grazing. 

“If a child is going to have a snack, then aim for this to be as highly nutritious as possible and try and include some healthy fat and protein. This could be an apple with a chunk of cheese, a banana topped with nut butter and berries, or carrots with hummus.”

 

Are there any natural ways to help support a child’s immune system this winter?

“My top tips for child immunity this winter is to nourish kids’ gut microbiomes with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as kefir and live yoghurt. We also use a great deal of ginger and garlic in our cooking and use fresh ginger in juices and garlic in pestos. Honey from bees that feed off the Eucalyptus tree such as Jarrah or Red Gum Honey have fantastic antimicrobial activity (more so than Manuka) and kids love the toffee taste. We always have elderberry syrup in our first aid cabinet as this is Mother Nature’s natural antiviral.”

 

What are your top go-to family meals?

“The most popular family meals that my kids always ask for and are in my cookbook The Good Stuff are: Mini Toad In The Hole (made from chickpea flour), Nasi Goreng, Turmeric Kedgeree, Pulled Duck with Persian Coleslaw and Cauli Couscous as well as my Crunchy Lemon Chicken Goujons with Smart Sweet Potato Chips and Omega Mayo.


Lucinda Miller leads a team of NatureDoc UK-wide nutritional therapists and naturopaths specialising in women’s and child health www.naturedoc.clinic  Also look out for her www.naturedoc.shop  online which holds a hand-picked collection of specialist food supplements, specialist health foods and organic skincare. 

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