What all parents need to know about children’s health and nutrition
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We all know good nutrition is important for health but how many of us realise just what can happen if our children don't get the vitamins and minerals their bodies need? Sheena Grant learns more from Lucinda Miller, who will be sharing her expertise with parents at an event in Ipswich on September 18.
Allergies, anxiety, depression and behavioural issues such as ADHD are all problems that seem to be affecting more children than ever before.
Could nutritional deficiencies in our fast-paced society, increasingly fuelled by processed and fast food, be partly to blame?
Lucinda Miller, a child nutrition expert and founder of NatureDoc Clinic, believes so and says scientific research points to the same conclusion.
Lucinda, a naturopath, iridologist, herbalist and functional medicine practitioner, is one of the speakers at an event on September 18, organised by East Anglian parenting support social business Huddl.
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She and fellow speaker, clinical psychologist Dr Hazel Harrison, will be talking about the latest neuroscience findings and why these matter to parents as well as giving a deeper understanding of how nutrition impacts children's minds and bodies along with tips to nourish young brains.
The talk is the first in a series of three this autumn organised by Huddl, which is run by Suffolk mother-of-three Katie Lawson.
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Lucinda, a former investment bank analyst who switched careers after her own poor health was transformed by a change in eating habits prompted by a consultation with a naturopathic iridologist, is quick to point out that she is not a doctor and does not give medical advice. Rather, she says, clients often consult her when a complaint is not recognised by their GP as being a problem worth treating or no diagnosis is possible.
'We are concerned with identifying nutritional and metabolic imbalances. We do this primarily by using laboratory testing for nutrient levels, gut health and toxin exposure. We use diet, food supplements and other safe, gentle solutions but a large part of what we do is also coaching people to look after their health or that of their children.
'When talking to patients, I often discover things that should have been obvious before but no-one had ever taken the time to unearth them. There are huge links between what people eat and their health and behaviour. Research shows links between omega-3 and behaviour and learning, and consuming too many processed foods, insufficient fruit and veg and depression.'
And establishing the kind of eating patterns and diet that will help children function at their best is actually simpler than many people think, says the mother-of-three, whose team of practitioners includes Norfolk-based Arabella Hambro.
'It boils down to the simple strategy of cooking from scratch with lots of different fruits and vegetables and limiting processed foods,' she says. 'People often say they do that for the main meal but forget all the other things they may put in their children's packed lunches or as snacks during the day. Fifty percent of our shopping trollies are full of processed food.'
She accepts that many children are fussy feeders and says this is when parents need tricks to disguise good things such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and oily fish. For instance, she says, you can make courgette brownies, waffles with grated carrot and poppy seeds or pesto using walnuts.
'Sadly, it has become the norm to pick up a packet. We have been duped into thinking that we have such busy lives that we don't have the time to do anything else but actually, you can make nutritious meals from scratch quickly.
'A lot of it comes down to confidence,' says Lucinda, also the author of a newly-published book called The Good Stuff. 'It's about planning and having the right ingredients to hand.'
The family wellbeing and nutrition talk on Tuesday, September 18, is at Trinity Park, Ipswich. To find out more and book tickets, which cost £17.50 for one parent talk or £42.50 for all three, go to www.huddl.uk. 10% of profits go to Huddl's charity partners, Suffolk Mind and CPSL Mind. The nutrition talk will also take place at Peter Hall Performing Arts Centre, Cambridge, on September 25.
Huddl's other parent talks this autumn, in Ipswich on October 9 and November 13 and Cambridge on October 30 and November 12, focus on friendship groups and bullying and social media and the internet. Each will feature two speakers as well as additional resources to support parents and carers.
Huddl founder Katie Lawson said: 'With so many scary statistics around children's mental health I think parents increasingly want to learn the facts from professionals in order to feel they are best equipped to deal with problems should they arise – Huddl gives them a platform to do this.
'Bad mental health is just as life threatening as bad physical health but parents don't always know what signs to look out for or how to best help their children with the pressures of growing up in this new digital age. We are the first generation of parents dealing with some of these problems so why wouldn't we all take a few hours out to learn a bit more in order to be better equipped to help our children flourish?'
Three common deficiencies
Zinc: important for the brain and growth and helps with sense of smell and taste. Deficiencies can compromise the immune system and cause growth, appetite, skin, hair and digestive problems. Good sources include red meat, chicken, beans, nuts, whole grains and shellfish.
Iron: childhood anaemia is common, says Lucinda. It causes tiredness, a drop in learning and slowing of development. Good sources include red meat, green vegetables, lentils and darker beans, such as kidney and black beans, dried fruit, nuts and seeds.
Magnesium: an important mineral needed by the muscles and for good sleep. Deficiency symptoms include muscle twitches and cramps, skin and sleep problems, fatigue and constipation. Good sources are green, leafy veg, avocado, nuts, seeds, oily fish and beans.
Lucinda's top tips for foods with a nutritional punch
Eggs: a 'complete protein' and a good source of omega-3 and vitamin B.
Oily fish, such as salmon or mackerel.
Blackberries: in season now - get out and pick these hedgerow fruits, high in cell-renewing micronutrients and fibre. Lucinda says: 'Ninety percent of the serotonin (a chemical and neurotransmitter linked to depression) in our body is made in the gut and sent up to the brain. Gut health is really important.'