Children tend to show food intolerances in more specific ways than adults. Digestive issues are not usually the main symptom with children but, more often, it is skin issues such as eczema that can be the reason a child is tested for food intolerance. Children may also complain of a sore tummy or be fussy eaters rather than complaining about bloating and bowel problems like adults.
When the intolerant food is removed from a child’s diet the fussy child can develop a healthy appetite because he or she is not frightened about eating foods that result in tummy ache. If the child was underweight the weight can normalise – giving relief to parents and child alike. Also skin problems can clear up or improve.
Parents can become very concerned when a child shows up to intolerance to cow’s milk because this can be such staple in the diet. In terms of milk there are many alternatives out there – hazelnut milk, almond milk, coconut milk and rice milk. I’m not keen on recommending soya milk for children as it is a highly processed product in this country. If parents are concerned about the child not getting their full quantity of calcium and magnesium without the dairy foods, green leafy vegetables contain high quantities of these minerals. The Japanese have the highest bone density in the world and they don’t consume dairy but eat on average 17 vegetables a day. So ensure your child is eating two portions of green leafy veg daily such as spinach, rocket, cabbage, spring greens, watercress, sprouts and kale.
If the child is fussy about vegetables you can hide them in tomato sauces, casseroles and soups. Advice on fussy eaters has changed. When I was a child we weren’t allowed to leave the table until our plates were clean but the thinking now is don’t make an issue of it. Introduce foods slowly and keep introducing new foods. If a child leaves the vegetables persist and keep adding a small amount to the plate each day. Also it is a good idea for parents to eat with children when possible and the child to see the parent eating the foods in question without any fuss.
In terms of fruit, pears are a good fruit to start with. They are the easiest digested and tolerated food. A good option for apples and fruits such as rhubarb and plums is to stew the fruit in a little water and add some cinnamon. Add this to cereal, yoghurt or porridge at breakfast which ensures your child is getting some crucial vitamins at the start of the day. Another idea is cutting up fruit and putting it on skewers and making fruit kebabs for a healthy, fun dessert. Making meals fun is always a good idea to get children to eat more. Be careful with grapes, children love them because they are so high in sugar so always limit to a few.
Research known as dietary tracking has looked at children’s diets aged 6 and then re-looking at their diets in adulthood. Results show that if children eat fruit and veg as children their taste buds are shaped and will continue to eat these foods into adulthood. Likewise, if children eat large amounts of sweets and junk food and very little fruit and veg as children it will be much harder to change the taste buds towards eating healthily as adults.
We are living in a world where parents are now being arrested due to their children being morbidly obese. Whatever your opinions on this it is crucial to start your children eating well. If you feel your child is not thriving or has digestive or skin issues, and they are over two years of age, it is well worth taking our Junior Food Intolerance Test to get them on track to feeling well and eating what is right for their body