WELCOME TO MY BLOG

My name is Emily Parks. I am a degree qualified nutritionist and mother. This is where I jot down my thoughts in the hope of inspiring healthier lives. 

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Toddler Nutrition: Feeding your growing kids

This is the second article in a two-part series on common tips and myths around child feeding. Read the first article here. This article was co-written by Chantal Cuthers.

Toddler Nutrition: Common questions and hurdles around feeding your growing kids

Feeding your toddler can be both a fun and a stressful event as they gain more independence, are able to eat meals resembling more what you put your own plate, but as they also start to challenge you as a parent. We tackle a few common themes we see in clinic, and how to navigate some of the more challenging behaviours so they don’t last long, and you can ensure a safe and healthy food relationship in your children.

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You ask, we answer: Common tips and myths about first foods

Thanks to fellow Associate Registered Nutritionist, Chantal Cuthers, for working with me on this two-part series on infant feeding – next up will be our guide on toddler nutrition. 

Please remember that every baby and child is different, however these are great guidelines to start with to check in and see if your child and their development with food is on track.

When and why do I start solids?

Up until now, your baby has been able to thrive on either breast milk, formula or both but, at around 6 months of age their growth requirements are simply too large and require more than just milk to safely meet their protein, zinc and iron goals. You should always watch your baby’s cues and only start when they show signs of being ready. No earlier than 4 months and no later than 7 months are the standard guidelines. They should be able to hold their head up, show signs of being interested in or wanting food, and not poke their tongue out to stop food entering their mouth.

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What motherhood has taught me

We’ve started to think about planning a first birthday which means we’ve been at this parenting gig for a while now, and looks like there’s no turning back!

This is what the past year of motherhood has taught me:

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Ditching diets and perfectionism

I’ve been making an effort to follow more non-diet nutritionists on social media this year. The non-diet approach (in a nutshell) is all about ditching food rules and structured meal plans in favour of accepting all food and eating in response to your individual physical cues, and your own wants and needs.

I’ve always had a no-fuss attitude towards nutrition. Yes, zoodles are a great pasta alternative but seriously, just eat the pasta if you want to! This probably doesn’t sit well if you’re used to the diet mentality which tells you food is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Thinking like that means when we eat a bowl of spaghetti bolognese we feel as though we’re cheating, being indulgent or need to make up for it by eating less or exercising afterwards.

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No Food, Only Ingredients

Do you remember as a kid making your way into the kitchen only to find ingredients but no actual food to eat? Ugh, how inconsiderate of Mum not to have any snacks for us to eat! Where is the easy grab-and-go food; why are there only fruit and veges and pantry staples?!

I noticed recently that too many carrots, bags of mesclun salad and other odds and ends were going to waste because I wasn’t taking the time to use them. Having healthy ingredients on hand certainly encourages us to eat more healthy foods but often the preparation is enough to put you off and reach for convenient foods instead.

An easy fix is to come home after grocery shopping and prepare a quick salad that is kept in the fridge for snacking and an easy addition to main meals – instead of letting your vegetables roll around aimlessly in the drawer!

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In My Pantry

I’ve been finding myself a little bogged down by sleep deprivation – and everything else that comes with mothering a delightful baby – and I’d be lying if I said I’m happy with how I’ve been taking care of myself. There has been far too much caffeine and sugar consumption in my day-to-day and not nearly enough plant foods or deep breathing! All that aside, the following are a few of the staples I’ve been relying on as we make our way into the busy summer months.

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A How-To Guide To Starting Solids

The newborn stage has been forgotten and it seems my little baby is growing up. Starting solids is an exciting new stage in a baby’s life – and his parents – but I’ve also found myself mourning my tiny baby and wondering who this kid is who grabs the spoon off me and shoves it in his mouth!

I thought I’d write about our early experiences with solids to give you an idea of how to start with your own baby. Before Olly was born I used to give a ‘Moving & Munching’ presentation at the local community centre to teach new parents about how to introduce solids. Since becoming a parent myself I’ve come to realise that you do your best to ‘follow the book’ but you also have to trust yourself and do what works best for your family (I gave Olly banana first despite my best intentions of only offering vegetables).

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Thai Chicken Salad

This salad is delicious on its own but also tastes great with a side of quinoa. Cook quinoa to packet instructions and once cooked, add crushed garlic, olive oil and spinach. You’ll find yourself mixing the Thai Chicken Salad with the garlicky quinoa for a filling meal.

Ingredients
500g chicken breast, skinless
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp crushed ginger
3 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp ground cumin
olive oil for frying

2 handfuls mesclun salad
1 small broccoli
2 small carrots, cut into sticks

spring onion, sliced
1 packet flat egg noodles
juice of half a lemon

Method

Cut the chicken into even sized cubes and place in a bowl with the soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil and cumin. Mix to combine and leave aside to marinate while you prep the other ingredients.

When ready, heat a frying pan over a high heat and add the olive oil. Add the chicken when then pan is nice and hot, and cook until done, turning a few times. Set aside.

Reduce the pan heat to medium and add a little more oil and the cut broccoli and carrot. Cook until slightly charred, turning often.

Meanwhile, add the mesclun salad to a large serving plate/bowl.

Soak the noodles in a bowl of boiled water for 5-10 minutes until soft. Drain and add to a medium sized bowl with the cooked chicken and vegetables.

Arrange the noodle mixture on top of the mesclun salad and cover with the spring onion. Squeeze lemon juice over the top.

 

 

 

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Gearing up to start solids

In New Zealand, the recommendation is to start your baby on solids at around 6 months but did you know you can introduce your baby to foods much earlier? I’m not advocating for your 3 month old to be given pumpkin puree but I do want to talk about the impact of the environment you create around food in your home, and also the benefit of a varied diet for the breastfeeding mum.

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Breastfeeding Essentials

Many factors influence breastmilk production, including maternal pain, illness, balance of time when returning to work and anxiety or emotional stress, and having enough milk for your baby can be one of the top concerns of a new mother. Eating plenty of nutrient dense foods, drinking lots of water and getting enough rest are all essential to keeping yourself healthy and to promote a healthy milk supply – easier said than done when caring for a baby! Remember, above all else, a mother’s milk production is likely to be a reflection of her infant’s appetite, rather than her ability to produce milk.

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A Birth Story

Oliver (Olly) Nathaniel Green was born at home on Saturday 24 June at 10.43pm. He measured 49cm and weighed 3.3kg.

Back story

I know that the majority of babies don’t come on their due date so I always said Olly would be born on Sunday June 11 – the day after his due date. This was never something I felt intuitively; I just thought I could handle waiting one extra night for our baby to arrive! June 10 came and went, then June 11 and suddenly we were one week, then nearly two weeks overdue.

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Iron in pregnancy – what you need to know

Iron deficiency leads to a very particular type of fatigue. If you’ve ever suffered from iron deficiency you’ll understand exactly what this means. You don’t just feel tired or lack energy, though you experience both of these things, but you literally struggle to achieve anything in a day as it can affect your work performance, motivation and concentration.

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My Third Trimester, Day 272/280

I’ve been on maternity leave for two weeks now – waiting (im)patiently for a baby. I initially thought I’d work right up until two weeks before bubs due date but made the decision a few months ago to give myself three weeks. This was under the assumption I’d be so tired and uncomfortable by this point that I wouldn’t be able to work any longer. Boy, was I wrong!

I have to admit I’ve had what can only be described as a dream pregnancy. Apart from dreaded morning sickness, the most I’ve ‘suffered’ was a bit of backache and insomnia in my second trimester. Isn’t it funny that we have come to expect complications in pregnancy?

Nesting

I’ve managed to fill my days with all the usual nesting activities you find yourself compelled to do in the final weeks of pregnancy: freezing meals, vacuuming daily, washing the walls…

A few recipes I’ve found to be helpful have been:

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Are you a gluten-free drama queen?

Following a gluten-free diet is pretty trendy these days. From what I’ve noticed, it’s likely met with a mixture of annoyance, confusion or dismissal from friends and family. Up until recently if you told me you avoided gluten because a naturopath had diagnosed “gluten sensitivity”, or worse, you’d self-diagnosed, I would ask if you had actually been tested for coeliac disease or wheat allergy. If not, I would make it clear I thought you were being ridiculous. This was based on conventional thought that a gluten-free diet is unnecessary at best, dangerous at worst.  ​

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Cheats Pesto Pasta

I call this my ‘cheats’ pesto pasta because any chef or well-versed foodie would probably turn up their nose at my version of a basil pesto. But hey, once you’ve made a good pesto a few times you’re allowed to get a little creative with the ingredients – why follow the rules all the time?!

The great thing about this dish is that it’s so versatile. If you grow your own basil, something very easy to do and I highly recommend it, it’s much cheaper than store bought varieties.

I’ve given you a very basic rundown but feel free to mix it up as you please. Swap out the penne pasta for zoodles (zucchini noodles), add plenty of parsley to garnish or leave out the cheese and/or pine nuts for anyone with allergies.

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The Humble Chook

My Grandmother is a wonderful cook. I have fond memories of feasting at her dinner table on many occasions during my childhood. And that’s the way it always was, a feast. It didn’t matter if it was Christmas Day or any other Sunday after church; there were always a number of different dishes and platters overflowing with simple, nourishing food. She worked for many years as a caterer and guests dined in the formal dining room that could seat maybe, 100 people? So, I guess it was second nature to her but I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to assume many of us had similar experiences at our grandparent’s dinner table.

I often wonder about the basic skills we’ve lost that our grandparents would have used almost daily. There’s no need to knit your own jumper when you can buy one on sale for less than $50. Or make your own soup when the chilled section has microwave varieties you can heat up in 90 seconds. And when was the last time you ate roast chicken… the kind you stuff and put in the oven yourself?

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Waste Not, Want Not

If you use a commodity or resource carefully and without extravagance you will never be in need.

I read something interesting recently that we – the only species to actively cook – don’t cook anymore. It’s ironic that in a world of self-described foodies we have a generation who can’t cook. And our current food environment is not doing our health any favours. We are surrounded by cheapish, packaged foods and have lost touch with what we’re really putting into our bodies.

Cooking has been proven to activate our brain’s reward centres and release dopamine. This doesn’t necessarily apply to the eggs on toast whipped up after another long shift at work, but it seems the rhythmic dicing and slicing of vegetables could elicit a meditative-like quality.

I recently bought a whole free-range chicken and set aside a Sunday afternoon to get as much from this humble chook as I could. I had a few intentions: to be incredibly thrifty; to develop a new skill; and to reduce my impact on the environment, one meal at a time.

Here’s a breakdown of how I chose to stretch one chicken to multiple meals.

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