Reduce Meal time tensions and food allergies

Reduce Meal time tensions and food allergies

Many Australian mothers, particularly those who work outside the home, are giving into their children's junk food demands to reduce meal time tensions rather than lose quality time with their kids.

According to nutritionist and mother Dr Joanna McMillan Price, 70 per cent of women who work full time and have children between the ages of 0 and 14 always or often feel rushed1, with meal times contributing to their stress.

"Instilling good eating habits in your child from infancy will reduce these meal time tensions," said Price. "This will give you more quality time to spend with your family and means that there will be no need to make 'food trades' later in their childhood."

"The best place to start fostering good eating habits is when introducing solids as babies are generally receptive to trying new healthy foods," she said. "As the child gets older they are already accustomed to a broad range of foods and tastes."

With Australia recording one of the highest rates of child food allergies2 in the world, introducing babies to low allergenic and nutritious foods will establish healthy eating habits and reduce potential symptoms of food allergies. Forty per cent of Australian children suffer from an allergy3.

According to Price it is important that parents equip themselves with as much information as possible when laying the foundation of good eating habits and introducing solid foods to their children.

"Be aware of what you are introducing to your child, but not overly cautious. Start with low allergenic fruits and vegetables, such as pears, and expand from there," she said.

"It is equally as important to allow your child to develop a taste for a wide variety of foods and to enjoy food. If a child enjoys a variety of foods there will be no need to trade off later in their childhood," she added.

Price says parents with a family history of allergies, asthma and/or eczema should be more alert for symptoms of a food allergy.

"When introducing solid foods, it is a good idea to introduce only one food at a time to ensure that your child isn't allergic. Get them started on fresh wholesome foods right from the start.

"Pears are one of the best foods to give to children as they have a very low allergenic potential and the simple but sweet flavour is usually accepted and enjoyed by infants," she added. "They are also soft enough when ripe to be a great consistency for babies - simply mash them with a fork. Alternatively stew in a tiny amount of water and blend. The puree is also fantastic then mixed with whole milk natural yoghurt."

The most common food allergens are egg, peanut, other nuts, sesame and seafood. However reactions to seemingly innocuous foods such as strawberries and kiwi fruit can occur.

"It is also important to remember that children can be intolerant to a food but not allergic. Skin prick testing won't pick this up." Price said.

"It is important not to self-diagnose allergies or intolerances. Often sufferers who don't get proper testing eliminate a whole bunch of foods from their diets unnecessarily. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies, particularly for children who may be fussy eaters at any rate. Parents should seek help from their GP or dietician for help in identifying problem foods," she said.

Pear and Mango Yoghurt Ice Pops

Preparation Time: 5 minutes, plus freezing time
Makes 8

2 ripe pears, peeled and cored (variety dependent on seasonality)
1 lemon, juiced
2 tbs sugar
2 x 200g cartons mango children's yoghurt (other flavoured yoghurt may be used)
8 ice pop moulds or 8 moulds with wooden sticks


1. Puree the pears in a food processor or blender along with the lemon juice and sugar until smooth. There should be 400 ml of puree. Puree extra pear if necessary. Combine the puree with the mango yoghurt.

2. Pour mixture into the ice pop moulds, cover with the tops and freeze for 3 - 4 hours or until frozen. If using moulds with wooden sticks, freeze the mixture without the sticks until the mixture is frozen enough to support the wooden sticks (about 40 minutes). Place wooden sticks in the centre of the ice pops.

3. Put back in the freezer until frozen. Remove ice pops from moulds to serve.

Recipe supplied by Apple and Pear Australia Limited.

1. Quality Time? Women's lives and the new currency 2005, Stancombe Research and Planning.
2. Pike, B 2007, New allergy clinic at Royal Children's Hospital, media release, Minister for Health, Melbourne, 1 June.
3. Oakeshott, G 2007, 'Every second counts', About the House, March, p. 19.