Featured Posts

Can I eat mussels if I have high cholesterol?Can I eat mussels if I have high cholesterol? The short answer is yes - you can eat mussels if you have high cholesterol. Mussels are low in kilojoules, cholesterol and fat. The little fat they do have is mostly healthy unsaturated fat with plenty...


Bran MuffinsBran Muffins These bran muffins (adapted from a recipe by Alison Holst) are super filling - a great snack when you are trying to control your weight. Enjoy these muffins with a cup of tea but don't expect to absorb...


Beat the flu with Chicken Noodle Soup It’s Queen’s Birthday holiday today in New Zealand and thank goodness, the sun is shining. I’m sitting in a sunny room writing this post, sheltered from the icy wind blasting up from Antarctica....


My nanna's recipe for homemade Rewena (Maori) bread Rewena Bread Step 1 2 c flour 1 tsp sugar 1 potato Peel and cut potato into small pieces. Place in pot with 1 cup water, lid on, and simmer to mashing consistency. Mash, cool and when luke...


Should I drink bottled water?Should I drink bottled water? Why would you pay for water when you can drink it straight from the tap? Why indeed? Recently I joined a throng of thirsty wine drinkers at the annual 'NZ in a Glass' wine tasting evening in Sydney. ...


  • Prev
  • Next

Baby’s First Foods

Posted on : 11-04-2014 | By : Cindy | In : Babies, Kids nutrition


When my baby hit six months I freaked out. Breast feeding had been easy – no planning or thought. Now I had to start cooking for this tiny human and my brain was still in sleep deprived mush. So I dug up all the articles I had ever written about feeding babies to remind myself what to do!! Advice has changed since then so The New Zealand Healthy Food Guide (a great magazine which you can read online) asked me to write an update to the fraught subject of Baby’s First Foods. Here is a shortened version of it.

When should I start giving my baby solids?

Start your baby on solids at around six months. As with adults every baby is different and some may need solids a little earlier but definitely not before four months of age.

Starting solids too early (before 4 months) will stress your baby’s immature digestive system and kidneys, and increase the risk of developing eczema, asthma, type 1 diabetes, coeliac disease or food allergy.  If food replaces some of the milk at this early age, your baby may miss out on vital nutrients and energy for growth.

A full term baby is born with enough iron and zinc stores to last around six months. Around the six month mark it is very important that your baby start to eat some iron rich foods. Breast milk contains just small amounts of iron. More than 90% of a breast fed baby’s iron requirements must come from food once the initial iron stores are used up. Starting solids later than six months also increases your baby’s risk of developing a food allergy.

Breast milk is the number one source of nutrients and energy for babies. Babies should be exclusively breast fed for around six months and ideally during the introduction of new foods.


What should I start with?
Most mums start off with an iron rich food such as iron-fortified baby rice cereal thinned with breast milk or infant formula.

Next add a pureed vegetable such as kumara or pumpkin, or fruit such as mashed banana or cooked, pureed apple or pear. The vitamin C in the fruit and vegetables enhances iron absorption by about four times.

You could also start off with cooked, pureed meat, fish, chicken or legumes. These foods provide both iron and zinc.

Introduce just one food at a time.


How much do I feed and how often?
Buy a soft baby teaspoon and start with a half to two teaspoons of food after the usual breast feed. Gradually increase the amount until your baby is having around one or two tablespoons of solids two or three times a day. The amount may vary each day depending on your baby’s appetite.

Babies naturally know when they have had enough. If your baby turns her head away when food approaches or spits out the food, it’s a clear message that she’s had enough. Don’t be tempted to make her finish the plate or force in an extra spoonful. You are responsible for the type of food but your baby is responsible for the amount he or she eats. Over-riding this in-built mechanism could cause your child to over-eat when older.

For the first year of life breast milk or infant formula is a baby’s most important nutrient source. Until 8-9 months solids are simply a ‘top up’ after the usual milk feed.


How do I introduce new foods
Make sure your baby has had a milk feed and is relaxed. Start with a small amount. Mix the new food with a food they are already familiar with such as adding a little pureed apple to a new vegetable, legume or pureed meat. If they refuse it, don’t force it and don’t worry. Try again in a few days.

It may take around a dozen small tastes for a child to like a new food flavour. Don’t give up introducing new foods. Babies who learn to enjoy a wide variety of flavours and textures are most likely to continue eating this wide variety as they grow older.


Is there a particular order I should do it?
Around the six to eight month mark is a critical window of opportunity when a baby is ready to experience a wide variety of tastes and textures. Introduce a wide range of foods quite quickly, especially iron rich foods.

It’s all about texture: Start with pureed food and progress to mashed or lumpy purees and then onto chopped and finger food.

If a baby is not eating lumpy, solid food by around ten months there is a greater chance of feeding problems later on.

Iron fortified baby cereal thinned with breast milk or infant formula
Cooked and pureed vegetables such as carrot, pumpkin, potato, kumara, parsnip, zucchini, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, cassava
Pureed or mashed fruit such as banana, avocado, mango, cooked apple, pear (no skins or pips)
Cooked, pureed meat such as beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish (choose low mercury types). Simmer chopped meat, chicken and vegetables in pot with water, then puree.
Steam boneless fish fillet and puree with cooked vegetables.
Cooked and pureed legumes such as lentils, split peas and chickpeas. Simmer lentils in water with vegetables, then puree.
Rice congee
Whole milk yoghurt, milk pudding or custard. Add puree fruit or banana for sweetness – no sugar or honey.

Thick, lumpy puree, soft mashed, minced, grated, soft finger foods
Grated cheese, cottage cheese
Cooked pasta, noodles, rice
Porridge topped with unsweetened stewed apple or chopped banana
Smooth peanut butter (check label for no added salt or sugar)
Cooked, mashed egg
Grated or cut fingers of carrot, zucchini, pumpkin and steam
Roast whole sweet potato and scoop out centre
Grate roast beef, lamb or chicken over mashed vegetables
Pan fry chicken or fish and grate or flake over mashed vegetables

Firmer finger foods, bite sized pieces, chopped, lumpy mashed
Fingers of cooked vegetables
Mini meatballs
Thin strips cooked meat
Breakfast cereal such as infant muesli or wheat biscuits – only once a day with breast milk or infant formula. (Never add cereals or any other food to an infant’s feeding bottle)
Mini sandwiches
French toast -cut in fingers
Mini pancakes with sliced banana
Peeled raw fruit such as orange, kiwifruit, pineapple
Rinse and drain a can of chickpeas. Blend with cooked pumpkin or beetroot (remove skin). Serve with sticks of capsicum or toast fingers.
Mini corn fritters

There is no need to delay introduction of potentially allergenic foods such as fish, eggs, nuts (apart from whole nuts), wheat and dairy.


When can my baby have cows milk?
Babies can have small amounts of cooked whole milk as part of food such as custard, yoghurt and cheese from around 6-7 months. After 12 months of age they can have whole cow’s milk as their main drink.


What foods are choking hazards?
Whole nuts (wait until 5 years old), crunchy raw vegetables such as carrot, hard fruit, raisins, grapes, large seeds, popcorn, thickly spread peanut butter, stringy bits of celery or silverbeet.
Always supervise your baby when he or she is eating. For older babies, make sure they sit to eat – no crawling, walking or running while eating.


Can I give my baby honey?

Honey contains a spore that can cause infant botulism. Wait until 12 months. Honey is similar to sugar – babies don’t need it.


Should I give my baby fruit juice, soft drink, cordial or flavoured water?
These are high in sugar and play havoc with budding teeth. There is no nutritional reason for a baby to have these drinks. Stick to breast milk, formula or cooled, boiled water.


My baby’s food tastes bland. Should I add a little salt for flavour?
Your baby’s food may taste horribly bland to your adult taste buds but it is perfect for them. A baby’s kidneys cannot handle too much salt and they may become seriously ill. Adding salt or sugar will only make a baby develop a taste for sweet or salty foods and sets them up to prefer these types of foods when older. Limit or avoid salty foods such as corned beef, canned fish, soy or fish sauce, stock, tomato paste and tomato sauce.


Should I give my baby tea?
No. Tea contains the stimulant caffeine (as does coffee and chocolate) and also tannins which reduce iron absorption.


Remember: Just because your baby is eating solid food there’s no reason to stop breastfeeding. If you are able, continue breastfeeding until one year or beyond.


There is no evidence that delaying introduction of potentially allergenic foods such as nuts, egg, wheat, dairy and fish beyond six months will reduce the risk of a baby developing an allergy. In fact allergy specialists think that the old advice to delay certain foods may have partly contributed to the dramatic increase in childhood allergy. The most important way to reduce the risk of developing a food allergy is to continue breastfeeding while introducing small amounts of new foods to your baby. If you are at all concerned, see a dietitian specialising in food allergy for advice.

Key ways to reduce risk of food allergy
* Breast feed for at least 6 months
* Continue to breast feed while introducing solid food
* Start solids around six months
If your baby has a suspected or proven food allergy, eczema or asthma, see your allergy specialist for specific advice.



Diary of a stay at home mum

Posted on : 03-02-2014 | By : Cindy | In : Behaviours, Funny, Insightful perception, Kids nutrition, Uncategorized


I wake from a peri-menopausal sleep and glance at my watch. 6.15am. I jump out of bed, peeling off the sweat soaked PJ’s and race to the shower. I am already 15 minutes late.

I hurry downstairs to chop the apple and almonds for the Swiss Muesli. I stir in plain yoghurt and currants to the apple juice soaked oats and plop a fry pan with a dash of canola oil on the gas for an egg. The leisurely breakfasts and 9am start of primary school are finished. This year it’s high school and a 7.15am start to catch the bus.

My husband is already sipping his coffee and checking his ipad for news, stock prices and mail. The red teapot sits waiting for me on the bench. He’s made me tea and I gratefully pour the amber liquid into my favourite cup. Nothing like a good cup of tea in the morning. I flip the egg, pour a glass of water and place it all on the table with the Swiss Muesli. My son stumbles downstairs, already wired to his ipod and grunts a good morning. I sit down with my cup of tea for a few minutes of meaningful conversation.

“Just let me finish listening to this song, Mum.” He munches on his muesli. Eventually he unplugs himself and is ready to chat. The clock ticks relentlessly towards 7.15. My brain switches from meaningful conversation to task oriented talk.

I make the lunch – hummus filled wholemeal wraps (dietitian interpretation – protein), a few Vita Wheat crackers (extra wholegrain carbs for an active, growing boy), grapes (fruit), cherry tomatoes (vegetables) and homemade chocolate brownie (treat). I do the dishes, wipe the benches, check my phone and ipad for important messages.

I run upstairs and make the bed, put on the washing, brush my teeth and run down to kiss my husband goodbye. I put on lipstick – it’s amazing how a slash of red can transform a face. I help my son do up his tie, pack his books, his lunch and his half frozen water bottle. He runs back up the three stories to get his watch and down again. We head out the door. It’s 7.20am. It’s a beautiful day. I breathe in the fresh morning air and glance at my lovely son.

“Where’s your badge?” There’s a gap on his blazer where the badge should be. His expression melts into Eeyore mode.

“I don’t know. But I have to wear it. Oh, and I forgot my library book.” The ten kilo school bag on his back suddenly looks even heavier.

We head back to the house. I run up the three flights of stairs – we don’t have time to risk a male search for the lost item. I grab the badge off his bed – and the library book. We walk the ten minutes up the hill to the bus stop and I wave him off at 7.40am.

I walk home the long way, down quiet streets and through the park. I stretch and do the eccentric exercises for my Achilles that I never seem to remember to do at home. I think about the day and pray.

8.30am. I hang out the washing, clean the bathrooms and sit down to write this blog. I want to get it written quickly so I can write some of my novel before writing group tomorrow but the phrases plod at tortoise speed from my fingers. I think about the other jobs I have to do today: pay the dietitian membership fees, listen to an update on Iron Metabolism and a review of Fats in the Modern Diet, sort out a tax problem, send off my novel manuscript to another publisher, mop the floors, see a friend, prepare two school scripture lessons, plan the year’s program for the weekly kids writing group I run, find a painter for one of our rental houses.

By mid-morning I am hungry and remember that I only grabbed a spoonful of Swiss Muesli this morning. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I chide myself. I am the greatest advocate of breakfast but it’s almost impossible to eat with a body awash with adrenaline. Oh well, I will make up for it at lunch time: a can of tuna and home made bean salad complete with celery, red onion and cauliflower. The perfect combination of protein, omega 3′s, fibre and cancer preventing cruciferous vegetables (at least the cauliflower pieces.) Meanwhile, a low fat milky coffee should keep me going.

By afternoon it’s boiling outside. I mop the floors then walk up the hill to buy fillet steak to go with a grated carrot, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice salad, and post off my manuscript. I get home, scull some water and look at the clock. There’s enough time to go up to my room and pray, or sleep… or should I keep writing? I go to my room and sink to my knees.

“Be still and know that I am God.” The words are like honey spreading through my mind, dripping through my body. I bask in the feeling, allowing it to refresh me and strengthen me. I praise and thank God for who he is. I force my thoughts upward to God, away from my own life, my concerns, the things I have to do. It’s such a relief – like a mini holiday.

I open the door to a hot, tired boy. He dumps his leaden pack and slumps his grimy body on the cream couch. I make a banana berry smoothie and peanut butter sandwich. I supervise home-work, then send him off to tennis while I start making dinner. I think about tomorrow – the spin class and 2km swim, the writing group and catching up on the things I haven’t managed to do today. My life is great and I am fortunate enough to not have to work full time.

Occasionally I meet someone who knew me when I had a full time nutrition consultancy.

“Are you working now?” they politely inquire.

“No, I just do a bit of writing.”

Quinoa Roast Vege Salad – Middle Eastern style

Posted on : 22-12-2013 | By : Cindy | In : My idiot-proof recipes, Super-healthy...er...stuff



“How can I use up this quinoa?” I asked my good friend. A bag of the stuff sat in my pantry, a brown paper reminder of a moment of inspired healthiness while browsing the health food shop. Weeks later, my good intentions still sat there, waiting for me to be re-inspired. And inspired I finally was, not by my friend’s suggestions but by the recipe book she bought me as a present.

I flicked through the recipes, salivating at the gorgeous food photography and mentally noting which ones I would try first. Then one caught my eye: Spiced Vegetable Couscous.  I love roast vege salad and usually toss it with red wine vinegar. This recipe has the added fibre and flavour of chick peas, mint, coriander, tzatziki and a Moroccan spice mix called ras el hanout (paprika, cumin, ginger, coriander, turmeric, fennel, allspice, cardamom, dill, galangal, nutmeg, caraway, black pepper, cloves, rose petals and much more) which I bought at Herbies, a dedicated spice shop, just up the road in Rozelle, Sydney.

Breakfast reduces heart disease risk

Posted on : 29-10-2013 | By : Cindy | In : Breakfast, Super-healthy...er...stuff



“I can’t wait for breakfast!” If you want to join the minority who hang out for breakfast each morning, try eating less the night before. It’s a great habit that my family mostly does when on holiday. On our recent trip to London we couldn’t wait to get to Tinto Cafe in Fulham Palace Road each morning for a generous cup of their smooth Colombian coffee and amazing home-made granola, yoghurt and berry cups. This healthy combo gave us enough energy for at least four or five hours of exploring the wonderful sights of London. Upon our return to Australia I tried to emulate the granola, yoghurt, berry breakfast. It’s not half so good but we still love the contrast of crunchy granola with smooth creamy yoghurt and tart berries. It’s a fantastic start to the day – and it’s good for you.

Only a quarter of Australians eat breakfast each day despite it being a great way to control weight and reduce risk of heart disease. Part of the evidence backing up the new Australian Dietary Guidelines reports that eating cereals is