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Natural health tips for parents

Dietary knowhow to help children grow strong and healthy

A healthy, nutritious diet is essential to ensure that children maintain a strong immune system as well as good energy levels. But this can sometimes be tricky if children are fussy eaters. Here we speak to three children’s health experts to get their top natural health tips for parents.

Feed their gut bugs

“Supporting your child’s gut health from an early age can have significant long-term benefits,” says Anna Mapson, a registered nutritionist and founder of Goodness Me Nutrition ( “To help develop healthy gut bacteria in children start by feeding them a wide range of fibre-containing foods. Children from two to five years old should eat around 15g fibre a day, and from five to eleven they should have around 20g a day. Our gut bacteria thrive when we eat a diverse diet. The microbes ‘eat’ fibre which we can’t break down, and so a higher fibre diet creates a healthy digestive system, as well as supporting a healthy heart. Aim to eat as many colourful foods each week as possible. A good gut health aim for any family is to eat 30 different plant-based foods a week. Look for mixed grains, mixed salads or mixed seeds. Include frozen fruit and veg, tinned beans or lentils, grains like rice, wheat or oats and different seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower or flaxseeds.”

Top tip

“Don’t eliminate foods unless there is a recognised allergy,” says Anna. “I often see people who cut too many foods containing gluten or dairy out of their children’s diets thinking it’s healthier. There is no reason to remove these foods from our diet unless there is a severe intolerance or allergy.”

Support their immune health

“There are certain nutrients that can help to support immune health in both children and adults,” says Lydia Collins-Hussey, a specialist paediatric allergy dietician ( “However, it’s important to remember there is no specific diet that will ‘boost’ immunity. Many micronutrients are involved in the normal functioning of our immune system, such as vitamins A, C, D, B12 and B6 as well as minerals such as copper, iron, selenium and zinc. A well-balanced diet with a variety of foods will provide adequate amounts of nutrients. In children, we can often see low intakes of iron. This can be found in meat, beans, pulses, nuts, and fortified cereals. Remember to have a vitamin C source alongside to aid in absorption (citrus, kiwi, potatoes, peppers and tomatoes).”

Top tip

“It isn’t always easy to get five-a-day into children, especially if they are fussy eaters,” says Lydia. “Try adding nutritious foods into baking, smoothie bowls or using cookie cutters to make into different shapes to make food more interesting and fun!”

Encourage healthy habits

“I feel it is really important to avoid labelling food as healthy or unhealthy, good or bad,” says Lisa Simon, a registered dietitian at Plant Based Health Professionals ( “This immediately demonises certain foods that can actually be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. Avoiding negative language around food and body image is so important. Using food as a punishment or reward can also create negative relationships with food. For example, telling a child if they eat all their greens they can have chocolate cake, or if they don’t eat all their greens they can’t have chocolate cake. This can lead to them associating these types of food with a certain mood and lead to disordered eating habits later in life. Children learn from you, so teaching them positive habits can ensure they carry them forward. For example, all sitting at the table together as often as possible teaches good feeding behaviours, encourages mindful eating and the all-important social aspect of food. Studies have shown that family meals are associated with improvement in overall diet quality.”

Top tip

“When it comes to snacks, try and make them fruit or veg-based and pair with something that contains protein to help children feel full for longer,” says Lisa. “Some examples are sliced apple with peanut butter, veg sticks with hummus, or grapes (cut in half for little ones) with cheese.”

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