Food facts

How much water should your child drink? What foods keep you healthy? What nutrients are in eggs? Read on to learn all about food…

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Do fizzy drinks affect when you give birth?

What you eat during pregnancy can affect you baby

Mum-to-be? Munching on (hard) cheese and (well-cooked) steak? Eating these vitamin B12-rich foods gives you a better chance of welcoming a calmer, less colicky and more contented baby*. Scientists looked at the levels of vitamin B12 in the blood of 4,000 pregnant mums in their 12th week of pregnancy, and then compared the levels to their answers in a questionnaire three months after their babies were born. Mums with the lowest levels of vitamin B12 had the loudest, most distressed babies.

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Recipe rut

Feel like you’re in a recipe rut? You’re not alone. A survey revealed that 99 per cent of UK mums say they rely on the same meals for their tots that they were fed as children. Rather than trying something new, 79 per cent of you have around six recipes that you like to roll out for dinner, and it seems only 16 per cent of mums look to celeb chefs for inspiration. But more alarmingly, less than half of mums rate nutrition as the most important part of feeding your child. Come on, mums, get experimenting tonight!

Water confusion

Feeling unsure about how much water you really need to drink to stay healthy?

New guidelines say we should be drinking about 1.2 litres (6-8 glasses) per day, on top of the water we’re getting from our food. The good news is this total includes tea, coffee, fruit juice and milk, but not strong alcoholic drinks. If you and your little ones are getting enough water, your urine should be the colour of pale straw. Too dark and you need to drink more.

Eat more eggs

New research shows that eating eggs doesn’t put you at risk of strokes or coronary heart disease, as previously thought. In fact, eggs are a fantastic source of essential vitamins and nutrients. They’re high in protein (so make you feel fuller longer), only 78 calories per egg, a great source of vitamin D, and (most importantly for pregnant women) an excellent source of folate, essential for developing babies.

Nuts keep your heart healthy

Eating a handful of nuts a day could have huge benefits for your heart, researchers in California have discovered. Nuts are rich in lots of good things including unsaturated fatty acids, fibre and minerals. Apparently, just a couple of ounces can cut cholesterol levels by five per cent. A high level of cholesterol is one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease and strokes. But take note: the health benefits don’t extend to those nuts slathered in salt!

Did you know…

  • A serving of peas contains double the amount of fibre as a serving of carrots. Add them to family meals to keep you all regular.
  • Peeling the skin off a chicken drumstick before eating it cuts the fat by 4g. That’s one third of the total fat content of the drumstick.
  • 21% of parents admit they give their children more packets of crisps a week than pieces of fruit

Warning: no honey for baby

If you’re mum to a tot under 12 months, the Food Standards Agency has reissued advice to avoid dipping into the honey jar for their dinner.

Babies who eat honey have a small risk of contracting infant botulism, an illness that causes muscle weakness and breathing problems. The botulism is a germ that normally lives in soil and dust and occasionally gets into honey.

Honey is safe for children over the age of 1, but a younger baby’s gut is not sufficiently developed to be able to fight off the bacteria.

Be wary of ice cream

If you’re after a tasty summer treat, do your homework before you reach for that tub of ice cream. Commercially produced varieties don’t actually have to contain cream, or even very much milk. Many cheaper varieties are bulked up with vegetable fat and air. You really do get what you pay for with ice cream, so check the ingredients for signs of cream and eggs near the top of the list to make sure your little ones are getting essential calcium.

Docs want trans fats ban

Doctors have called for a ban on trans fats in foods, claiming this may prevent thousands of heart attacks every year. Trans fats are chemically altered vegetable oils, which increase a food’s shelf life but have no nutritional value.

Found in many cakes, pastries, and fast foods, it’s hard to know when a trans fat is in your food as UK manufacturers don’t have to list it. It’s best to avoid foods that list hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. Use vegetable oil and trans-fat free spreads to cook.

Watch the carbs, ladies!

Women who eat high levels of refined carbohydrates are more likely to develop heart disease, a new study has found. Researchers in Milan discovered the danger arises when women consume large quantities of carbs with a high glycaemic index (GI), such as white bread, pizza and pasta, sugar and jam. Low GI carbohydrates, such as brown pasta, porridge and lentils weren’t found to pose the same risk.

Diet fizzy drinks link to prem birth

Mums-to-be who opt for fizzy drinks with artificial sweeteners during their pregnancies are more likely to give birth prematurely, a new study has found.

The EU-funded research studied 60,000 women and found that those who drank an average of one can of diet fizzy drink a day were 38% more likely to give birth early. The risk went up to 78% if four or more drinks were consumed daily. No link was discovered between sugar-sweetened fizzy drinks and premature birth. Commenting on the study, public health expert Professor Erik Millstone said, “I would think it is prudent for pregnant women to diminish consumption of these drinks and possibly those foods containing artificial sweeteners.” The British Soft Drinks Association said, “This study merits cautious reaction. Its findings should not be over-stated.”

Parents wrongly diagnosing allergies

A rise in reported food allergy cases in Britain has led to concerns that parents are misdiagnosing their children. Hospital admissions for food allergies among children has risen by 500 per cent in the last 20 years in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, says the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. But the health watchdog cited research showing a fifth of self-diagnosed cases were inaccurate. “Some people cut out foods unnecessarily because they’ve had a reaction and presume it’s an allergy,” says Lindsey McManus from the charity Allergy UK. “In children this can be very dangerous. It’s often the major food groups that people cut out and dairy, for example, is very important for growing children.” If you think your child may have an allergy, seek advice from your doctor or a nutritionist before cutting anything from their diet.

Turkey safety tips

  • Make sure the turkey is fully defrosted before cooking.
  • Never wash your turkey. Washing can splash harmful bacteria onto worktops, dishes and other foods. Proper cooking will kill any bacteria.
  • Check that the meat is properly cooked and piping hot all the way through. Cut into the thickest part and check there’s no pink meat and the juices run clear.

Vitamin D in the spotlight

Children deficient in vitamin D are more likely to be overweight than those with a higher intake, according to scientists at a US university. Vitamin D is mainly produced by skin reacting to sunlight, but you can up your levels with oily fish, eggs and fortified foods like cereals. Try to get out when you can, even in winter, to up your natural intake too.

Parents failing to influence fussy eaters

If your chats about finishing a meal, eating healthy snacks, and pudding portion control fall on deaf ears, you’re not alone. Experts reckon schools, peers and advertising are much more influential to tots than chatting to, and watching, mum and dad eat. How have you managed to talk your fussy eater around to eating more healthily?

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Forget five a day…

… we need eight portions of fruit and veg, according to a new study by Oxford University. The experts reckon we should up our daily levels of greens to improve health and protect against heart disease. The study found that people who ate eight portions of fruit and veg a day, with a portion defined as a small banana, medium apple or small carrot, had a 22% lower chance of dying from heart disease than those who have three portions, the national average, each day. Try adding extra veggies to soups, or scatter fruit over puddings and cereal. 

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