Welcome to the VERY FIRST Fork Talk interview. Today's guest is the wonderful Tara, aka The Nutrition Guru, from The Nutrition Guru and The Chef, and Baby Guru Nutrition. Tara is a university-qualified nutritionist (she also lectures for the Sunshine Coast University) and provides simple, no nonsense advice in a world of nutrition misinformation. Tara is famous for her #nowankery approach to nutrition! Her husband is a practising chef and her daughter, Lucy-Belle, is 2 years old.
Here she answers our Fork Talk questions and shares her approach to feeding her family.
Meal plan or wing it? Totally wing it. Meal plans completely freak me out, and I find I actually waste more food that way. My husband (chef) has really taught me to make use of what you already have in the fridge, rather than just running to the store every time you need two zucchinis or some shredded coconut. He opened my eyes to the fact that you can make use of that half-eaten apple by slicing it up and chucking it into your porridge; you can make a pasta dish with half a tomato, a soggy zucchini, a shrivelled mushroom and a can of corn, if you have to!!
Low-fat or full fat dairy? We do full fat.
Peanut butter in the fridge or pantry? Pantry, because it’s a nicer texture when it’s at room temp, but after a week or so of it being opened, I’ll pop it in the fridge to prevent the oils from going rancid from the heat (we live in Queensland!).
What sort of bread does your family eat most often? Always a multigrain type bread (rather than white bread) with lots of seeds and grains. I look for one that has more than 4 grams of fibre per 100 grams, as this is a good indication that it has more good ‘stuff’ in it, as opposed to white bread. Sourdough is delicious too. Lucy-Belle will happily eat multigrain, because that’s all she’s ever eaten!
Which drinks are regularly available in your house? Water and milk.
How old was your child when she first started solids? Lucy-Belle was 5 and a half months old.
What were the first 3 foods you introduced her to? Her first experience with food was actually unplanned. I was sitting scooping out an avocado for a salad and she grabbed the spoon from me and started to eat it. This was a great indication that she was ready to eat. Over the coming days, we gave her a lamb chop bone (under supervision and sharp bits removed), which she absolutely loved. She also had mashed pumpkin.
What is an important thing for you to teach your children about food? It’s vital to teach children not to fear food. I see many children now actually fearful of foods because they are seeing their parents undertaking diets, or the parents are trying to teach them healthy eating by making a big deal of all the unhealthy foods. I take a simpler and more positive approach: Educate kids on all the positives of healthy food and how wonderful each of them are for their body, and leave the scary food rules about sugar and fat, and weight and diabetes, and cancer etc, for when they are older and have the cognitive and emotional ability to understand the consequences of unhealthy eating, without becoming fearful and afraid.
Where do you sit for meals or snacks? Lucy-Belle is very physical and never stops running around. I have always made a rule though, that we sit down when we eat meals AND snacks, to teach her to be mindful of when she is eating, and help with her digestion. This way, she recognises that she has actually eaten something, rather than just running around and grazing all day. This will be important for her adult years, as many adults nowadays struggle to eat mindfully and therefore overeat or binge on junk type food. We are setting the mindful eating habits early!
What time does Lucy-Belle eat dinner? Really early actually – around 4:30pm. If I feed her later than this, she gets super cranky and over-tired, and she won’t eat anything. She becomes really fussy if she eats too late. Earlier meals work better for us, and if she is hungry leading up to bed, I will offer her a piece of toast with peanut butter, some fruit, or yoghurt.
What do you try NOT to do when feeding your child? I don’t get stressed, or rather – I don’t let her SEE or FEEL my stress. Life is busy, and it’s so easy to get angry and snappy at kids when they drop food on the floor, make a mess, or tell you they don’t like your food. But if they feel our stress, they will get stressed too and mealtimes should never be a time of feeling stressed or anxious. If it is, kids will start to hate meal times and hate eating and this can lead to fussy eating and potentially issues about food later in life.
What would you do if Lucy-Belle didn’t want to eat the carrot on her plate? She is 2.5 years old, so at the moment I tell her it’s ok that she doesn’t want it, but the trade-off is that she has to leave it on her plate. She can’t pick it off and throw it away or ask to put it on my plate because she doesn’t want it (lots of kids want the disliked food as far away from them as possible). This is to get her used to the carrot (the disliked food) and take that fear of the unknown out of the equation. So, it just become a ‘normal, everyday food’ rather than a hated/weird/strange/scary food.
Hopefully one day she will just pick up that carrot and eat it, instead of saying she won’t like it. This technique has worked very well for us so far, and many clients have been able to use this technique to help their children move on from their disliked foods.
What would you do if Lucy-Belle refused to eat her dinner? I don’t pressure or force her to eat her dinner. Research shows that using pressure and force to get a child to eat can lead to fussy eating. It can also cause a child to develop a dislike for the food that you are pressuring them to eat, which can last a lifetime.
Instead, I ask her what her ‘Belly Voice’ is telling her. We talk a lot about her belly voice to get her in-tune with whether she is hungry, or not. Or full, or not. This is all part of the mindful eating process. Sometimes, like us adults, kids are just honestly full and don’t feel like eating much. It’s important that we don’t teach them that they HAVE to eat, even if they are full.
If she refuses to eat dinner and says that she is full, I will not press the issue. I will wrap the meal up and offer it in half an hour or so. If she says she is hungry, I will offer fruit or yoghurt, or a piece of toast and they are her options. However, if there was a pattern though of her beginning to do this every night (refusing dinner in an attempt to eat toast), I would stop offering the alternatives.
Where can we find you? Come and say hi:
Check out the Baby Guru Nutrition page here and the Nutrition Guru and the Chef page here.
Tara is also on Instagram and shares lots of articles and recipes on her website.
About Mealtime Building Blocks
Dr Kyla Smith is a paediatric dietitian specialising in fussy eating, feeding difficulties and childhood nutrition. She has a private practice called Mealtime Building Blocks in Perth, Western Australia. You can connect with Kyla on her website and sign up for her newsletter, and her Facebook page or on her Instagram page.
You can also email her.