Laura Clark Dietitian Mum

Knowing what to feed your kids can be a minefield for parents.

Naturally as parents we want to feed our children healthy meals packed full of vitamins, calcium and other vital nutrients while still offering them the odd sweet treat and even occasional *whispers Maccy D’s!

This is where the conundrum comes in – how often should we give our children treats?

Well, worry no more as Dietician Laura Clarke of LEC Nutrition shares what she actually feeds her kids.

Over to Laura

When I am witness to my children enjoying and finishing a meal I have lovingly prepared, it makes me happy. Almost as happy as I am when I catch an episode of Peppa Pig that I haven’t actually seen before!

Most of us I’m sure, put some consideration, time and a little of our heart and soul into what we feed our children. And so we should – getting it right from an early age is proven to foster a healthy relationship with food for life and ensure they are growing and developing with the right pool of nutrients to draw on as needed.

There are those times when it feels like my children must have trekked through the Amazon to travel to the table – does it really take that long to come from the play area to eat and do I need to get their hearing checked? And then there are those times when I’m feeding my third child (aka the food recycling bin) a better balanced meal than my actual offspring. Oh the joys!

For those that know me, or for those who have attended my weaning workshops, they will know of my anecdotes of hiding behind the fridge door to spy on my daughter as I prayed she was putting something in her mouth! Things didn’t start well for us (probably because, as I realise now I was an uptight dietitian mum wanting my daughter to achieve nutritional perfection – a tough call for her poor thing). We’re now 5 years on and I’ve had more practice with the second child so I thought I’d reflect on how far we’ve come!

My achievements

They eat salmon! I’m a massive fan of oily fish  – so many benefits for brain function and heart health to name but a few and the research keeps on coming. Children that don’t eat it, should really be considered for an omega 3 supplement.

If they get white bread, they think it’s Christmas! I recommend starting on wholemeal bread otherwise there’s no going back. It’s an easy win for a portion of wholegrains, fibre to support their bowels and B vitamins to support their energy release and concentration levels.

Breakfast happens! In some ways the easiest meal of the day – must be that 12 hour fast that helps!

I’ve experimented with a few cereals and scrupulously investigated them as I too get swayed by fears on sugar and salt content (almost – that 4 year degree has got to be worth something, if only to make me feel in charge in the breakfast aisle!). I’ve gone for a combo of Crunchy Bran and Shreddies – to meet their fibre needs and fill them up, with a little sweetness to help them feel they’re not eating cardboard –that way, everyone’s happy!

We drive corn on the cob trains. Corn is a colourful wholegrain and also an example of a vegetable containing the amino acid glutamate which gives rise to the fifth taste we can recognise known as ‘Umani’.

What a great opportunity for the developing taste buds of our little ones. It also doubles up as a bus or train to drive around the table between mouthfuls and you can’t ask for more than that.

The lessons I’ve learnt

Come on – 2 more mouthfuls. If the plate doesn’t get finished I stop after only a small amount of coaxing! ‘Keep it in perspective’ has become my moral – the next meal will come around soon enough.

This does mean I have to stand strong when they sometimes plead for one snack after another but this provides a fantastic opportunity to practice some deep breathing exercises!

…Don’t turn up to school with the wrong snack. The look said, ‘Mum seriously I have a reputation to uphold – all my friends are having yummy things at pick-up and you’ve brought me a…. PEAR!!!’

After school they may well desire something a little more filling – with a touch of yumminess to keep everyone happy on the journey home – but it’s still a great opportunity to top up the nutrients.

Homemade flapjacks made with fruit or oatcakes and peanut butter perhaps?

Finally, nothing gives you that Friday feeling more than a little chocolate – and boy do they savour it because it’s not an everyday thing.


My crusades

Kid’s lunch boxes: some excel themselves but with many, I often find there is a certain predictability to their contents. If it was anything other than a cheese or ham sandwich on white bread I would seriously fall off my chair. Often then accompanied with a carton of juice, a sugary tube of so called yoghurt, a gingerbread biscuit the size of their head and a grotty looking apple. I know there is that constant tussle between, ‘well, I know they’ll definitely eat that’ versus, ‘well, that was a waste of money’ but surely our children deserve the right to greater choice and variety.

Work on the art of negotiation: ‘Mummy I want a snack!’ leads to a banana being presented. ‘That’s not a snack’ wails my youngest. ‘Yes it is’, assures Mummy.

Another moto: get it in, get it done – not the most convenient of snacks sometimes (handing me mushed up discarded bits when I’m driving mmmm nice) but at least one fruit portion a day is oh so important. Other snacks have their uses and place (as above) but you can’t beat fresh fruit mid- morning.

And so that’s it… for now. More confessions to follow I’m sure. With all that oily fish I’m sure my daughter will be able to read this herself soon – so for when she does, Happy 5th birthday and thanks for putting up with your dietitian mum!

Check out Laura’s workshops HERE.

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17 Responses

  1. Suzi

    Thanks for the great post. My 2 year old eats wholemeal bread but i have real trouble with fruit and veg. He gets fruit when i mix puree in with his weetabix or mash a banana into custard but he seems to have real issues with the texture. He tries to pick up fruit and veg that I give him but if its slippery or a bit mushy he seems to hate the feel of it. Do you have any tips?! Really want to get him eating more fruit and veg.

    • Laura Clark

      Hi Suzi – I also have a 2 year old – full of fun but the dinner table is always more of a challenge I agree. My favourite thing is a homemade veg tomato sauce which I throw loads of veg in and then whizz down with a blender so you’d never know they were there – there lots of recipes for that kind of thing online but if you email me via my website I can send you mine. Another hit is veg chips – roasted chunky chip shaped veg – carrot, butternut squash, sweet potato – easy to hold. Also pulses – kidney beans he’ll pick out of a chilli or in wagamamas the edamane beans he loves popping out of their shells and eating those. Broccoli is also good – we call them magic trees and they have quite a good handle on them so easy to hold. I think if you do a mix of hidden veg in things like the pasta sauce and then visible veg he’ll get there in the end. Children love colour too so keep rotating colourful options. Lastly, the whole texture thing is very normal – keep going, smile through gritted teeth so he doesn’t detect you’re the least bit bothered. As for fruit – you could sckewer them on a kebab style stick so it becomes more of a lolly pop – banana, kiwi strawberry, melon for example – one piece at a time – makes it more ‘fun’ to! Hope that helps. Laura

  2. Toni @ Gym Bunny Mummy

    We have such a nightmare with food & mealtimes in house, with major mummy guilt over food. My little man has Autism and has severe sensory issues around texture, smell & taste. Currently he only eats bananas, apples, mashed potato & fromage frais. He does have vitamin drops in his drinks but I just feel so bad that he doesn’t have a great diet

  3. Mel

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this guest post! It’s nice to feel human, and to read, from a dietician’s perspective, that treats are not evil! I tend to get it wrong with the after school snack 80% of the time with my girl. She’s always really hungry when I come out of school and the day I brought in satsumas… well, I remember it well (not happening again!).

  4. The DADventurer (Dave)

    Interesting read. I like to think that Hay and I eat pretty well, so we obviously want L to as well. Ever since she started weaning, we’ve given her a small portion of our meals – this has worked great as it means less faff for us in cooking multiple meals and means she eats ‘normal’ food rather than pouches and baby/toddler food.

    • Laura Clark

      Good plan – less time in the kitchen too! Just got to watch salt content depending on the dish but its good for all of us to be cutting down anyway.

  5. Mirka Moore

    It’s great to hear that even dietitians don’t feed their kids “only” the healthy food, and agree we need to take one step at a time. I have been quite lucky with both girls, they actually absolutely love salmon and any type of fish, but we do battle with some veggies…..

    • Honest Mum

      Absolutely the same here Mirka, youngest eats everything pretty much but veggies are a battle with my eldest, he only likes sweetcorn and cucumber x

    • Laura Clark

      More than anything it’s so important to me that my children have a balanced attitude to food – hopefully that’ll set them up for life. Veggie’s can be tough but smile and carry on as they say!

  6. Charlotte Oates

    I’m feeling a lot better after reading this knowing that it’s not easy for a dietitian either. I’m sure my children’s diets could be better but they always eat brown bread (we only recently switched from white and they didn’t notice) and I can get them to eat oily fish 🙂

    • Laura Clark

      One day they’ll be old enough to understand what I do for a living and then they’ll go – oh right it all makes sense now Mum! I reflect on a week rather than a day’s intake as it’s a better reflection of how you’re doing!

  7. John Adams

    Oh what I would give to get my kids to east salmon! Afraid we haven’t got any further than fish fingers on the fish front but I consider that the healthiest convenience food out there. As for treats, I try to keep them to a minimum but I do worry mine have too many. Great read!

    • Laura

      Hi John. Thanks! Yeah salmon took a while! Main thing with fish fingers is to choose highest fish content you can find…60% or more if poss. Personally I’ve started buying the fresh ones and then freezing those cause they taste much nicer!


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