Sugar and your child’s gut microbiome

Gut Microbiome: Diverse Microbial Community vital for health & wellbeing.

Sugar negatively affects your child’s microbiome and
therefore your child’s overall health & wellbeing.

The human gut microbiome is only really just started to be understood by the medical profession, but it is still not being shown the respect (and awe) that it should be. The science is certainly far ahead of your doctor.

The human gut microbiota is made up of trillions of foreign microbes that include bacteria, fungi and yeast. There can also be parasites, these and the ‘bad’ or undesirable bacteria are kept under control by the ‘Good’ or beneficial bacteria when everything is in balance.

The human gut microbiota fulfil many critical roles in human well-being:

  • Digestion, breakdown of indigestible fibre into important nutrients
  • Protection against harmful microbes
  • Immune system modulation (reducing inflammation and chronic health conditions) by communication with T-reg immune cells like a check point for invaders or food particles
  • Biotransformation of xenobiotics (neutralises toxins in our diet and environment)
  • Biofeedback to the brain – for example signalling when to produce more mucus to protect the gut wall or to absorb more nutrients or when to speed up metabolism and lose weight
  • Produce nutrients like Vitamin K and B Vitamins
  • Bifidobacterium produce GABA this is now known to have a direct influence over
    digestive pain and discomfort by reducing vascular sensitivity
  • Good bacteria produce Short Chain Fatty Acids like N-Butyrate’ the fuel that
    feeds and repairs the gut lining  neutralising damaged cells (cancer protective)

From birth and maybe even before birth, studies are proving that the bacterial species and diversity are vitally important for infant health and how that child develops his or her’s immune function and ability to digest properly and protect themselves against food sensitivities. We are now much more aware of the importance of the microbiome and the profound effects an imbalance can have on health.

A child’s gut microbiome is ‘Seeded’ from birth. The right species are extremely important and they get this from the mother through the birth canal and from breastfeeding.

Early antibiotics can have a devastating effect on the balance of good and ‘bad’ bacteria. This can cause digestive issues and what appears to be food and other sensitivities. It can exacerbate and even cause asthma and eczema especially in conjunction of certain nutrients like Vitamin D and Omega3 fats being deficient.

In very simplistic terms the ‘good’ bacteria feed and thrive on fibre from healthy foods like vegetables, whole grains and fruit and the ‘bad’ bacteria thrive on refined sugars, including refined fruit sugars and carbohydrates.

The modulating effect that sugar has on gut microbes is now being studied in connection with childhood obesity as tests have shown that there are links between certain species of bacteria being missing or present.

If a child’s diet is full of fibre rich foods and probiotic foods like natural yoghurt and only a very moderate amount of unrefined sugar, their microbiome will develop to be health promoting. A good nutritional therapist can advise how to rebalance a child’s microbiome post anti-biotics as this is a crucial time when sugar MUST be avoided to lesson the risk of undesirable bacteria crowding out the beneficial ones.

So when you are next tempted to give your child that sugary snack think about their microbiome.
Make sure they consume fibre everyday, and avoid processed foods where possible.

I will be developing some educational material to help you teach your child about how to look after their good bacteria through their food choices. Go to to find out more.


Turkey Meat Balls with Oat Bran

Makes 15-30 balls depending on the size you roll.

400g Turkey thigh mince
100g Oats or oat bran 3/4 finely chopped spring onions
Large handful of fresh chopped tarragon 1 x tsp freshly ground black pepper
Handful of finely chopped spinach leaves
Large pinch of pink Himalayan salt
Olive oil
Option: Large handful copped cooked shiitake mushrooms

Prepare an oven tray and heat oven to 165 degrees Celsius.
Place all ingredients in a bowl with a splash of olive oil,
and use hands (food gloves are advised) to mix ingredients into a dough.
Take a small handful of mixture and roll into a ball, create as many balls as you can all of a similar size. Drizzle a little olive oil over each one.
Place them all on a grease proof paper on oven tray and cook for 20 minutes
or until cooked through. You can alternatively shallow fry, but this will add
more fat and calories.

For burgers
Place a cutter on the oven tray on greaseproof paper and fill with mixture around 2 thirds the way up, pat in down into a firm patty and pull away cutter.
Repeat until all mixture is used.
Cook for 20 minutes or until cooked through.


Cook in tomato and garlic sauce for tasty meatballs.
Use in wraps with lettuce and avocado

Health benefits: High in protein, iron, minerals and fibre.



Connie’s Curly Carrots

Children love being adventurous with their food and something as fun as spiralising will encourage them to eat more vegetables.

Try this recipe for a new and surprising taste.


1 large raw carrot
1 courgette
1 cup of natural live yoghurt or coconut yoghurt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp ground turmeric
Olive oil
Pinch pink Himalayan salt
Options: Sprinkle of pumpkin seeds

Use a spiraliser to process the carrot and courgette into spaghetti ribbons.
Place yoghurt into bowel and add the lemon juice, big splash of olive oil, turmeric and pink salt. Mix it together into a dressing. Add to the vegetable ribbons, and mix in.

A fresh summer salad that goes with anything.

Spiralisers come in all shapes and sizes and are very easy to use.



Shortlisted – Best 5+ Book

Delighted to announce that my children’s healthy eating books have been shortlisted for the Junior Magazine Best Book 5+ Design Awards.

My NutriKids books have been lovingly crafted to really appeal to children with characters that could be their friends. The situations are designed especially to allow the children to put themselves into the character’s shoes, which helps them to understand and learn about the health benefits of each food and how it could support their own health. If it’s good for Connie Carrot, it must be good for them.

I based the series on my own personal experiences as a parent, combining my nutritional expertise with simple stories that I knew my own two children could relate to. Each book focuses on one food and it’s healthy benefits, including an engaging story, nutrition facts, deliciously simple recipes, and a “Grow Your Own” page that encourages families to grow their own fruit and vegetables together.

Teaching children how to eat healthily is a gift for life. I created NutriKids books to help parents, teachers and guardians to not only get children to eat and enjoy vegetables and fruit, but also to help children understand why these foods are so important.

The NutriKids series currently consists of six books and includes the following characters; Ava Avacado, Benjamin Broccoli, Billy Blueberry, Connie Carrot, Penelope Pea, Sammy Spinach. Please have a look at my website for more info:

The average 5 year old eats it’s weight in sugar per year!

According to an article in the Times today, health officials are warning that the amount of sugar consumed by children is much more than parents think. It’s shocking when you think of it in terms of eating their own weight in sugar – but is it? Sugar is available everywhere. There are so many foods that entice kids to eat sugar both openly and in a sinister and underhand way, that encourages an almost addiction like desire for that food.
Why does society still accept this for our children? High sugar foods are not real foods that keep a child healthy, and many of them are not cheap.

High sugar foods are deleterious foods, meaning they take from health, rather than give to health. Sugar is used for instant energy by the body – but the body can get that energy from healthier carbohydrates, fats and protein, without the harmful effect of instant blood sugar rush. When a child consumes sugar, it should really only be to give them energy before a race or a very active past time so it can be used up quickly. Even then there are better choices like fruit, nuts and seeds.

The truth is sweet sells. Many children that have been given sweet foods from birth prefer sweet foods, refined carbohydrates, sugary drinks, fruit juice, fruit purees and smoothies. Parents that consume a lot of sweet foods make it acceptable for their children to do the same thing, so the cycle goes on. Once a child becomes independent, even if they haven’t been given sugary foods and drinks at home, they will be influenced by friends to buy bags of sweets that are ubiquitously available everywhere a child turns. Schools unbelievably, still sell sweet foods.  Governments know we should not allow kids to consume sugar, parents know, manufacturers know, doctors, nutritionists and everybody has a good idea as to why we shouldn’t let kids eat so much sugar – but here we are in 2017 – 11 years after the headline “Children grow fatter as the experts dither” in the Times newspaper in February 2006!

Sugar is in the news today due to the worrying statistics of how many very young children are having their teeth out due to the effects of sugar in their diet. What is not always understood or fully explained is why the sugar affects the teeth. This is important because it’s not just the teeth that are being affected. Sugar feeds bacteria, it is generally the bad bacteria that is not health supportive, that feeds on sugar. This not only makes more grow, but they produce acid as a by product which damages the enamel on teeth, especially young soft teeth. The affect of sugar is not just felt on the teeth, but in the gut. The microbes that are so important to a child’s health can be thrown out of balance because of sugar feeding undesirable bacteria. Now mix that with a dose of antibiotics that was given because of a sore throat or chest infection and you could have a microbial imbalance in the gut, mouth and other areas which will affect your child’s health longer term. It is vital to not give your child any sugar or refined carbs with or post antibiotics.  Antibiotics kill the good bacteria as well as the infection that the medications are there to fight. A poor diet then makes the situation worse, this can all cause the immune system to start becoming sensitive and worsen conditions like asthma, eczema and sensitivities.
Fresh vegetables are the antidote to sugar as they contain the cellulose that feeds the good bacteria.
The only way to avoid the health conditions created by sugar is to avoid consumption.

Choose healthier sugars to bake with like Rapa Dura or molasses. You can also use dates alone to sweeten foods like muffins and cup cakes.

Carrots are not just for eyes!

Carrots are amazing! They are packed full of Beta-Carotene that converts to Vitamin A which is vital for your eyes, but also for your skin and your immune system. They contain antioxidants that are hugely protective of your heart and blood vessels – studies have shown that eating cooked carrots or a raw carrot once a day can reduce your risks of heart attacks when you are older by 60%! Other foods containing carotenes have a similar effect. Carrots protect your lungs, bladder, and your digestive tract and provide fibre to keep your friendly bacteria in the gut happy. Carrots are so versitile, they come in different colours and can be fun and easy to prepare. They really are a special food.

Sample recipes from
“Connie Carrot” NutriKids Book:

Bright Carrot Rice

Finely dice carrots and lightly cook in
a pan with some olive oil, spring onions and ground cumin.
Add cooked brown basmati rice and a pinch of turmeric
to give a rich colour. Serve with chicken, fish or even
sausages. For vegetarian add garlic-sautéed
chickpeas and raw pumpkin seeds.

Carrot and Potato Mash

Chop carrots and potatoes and steam until soft, mash with a  little goat’s butter. To make smoother , add olive oil, milk or water.  Add cooked
peas to make tasty, colourful mash.

To purchase “Connie Carrot” click here

Happy Halloween – Pumpkin Soup



You will need a blender


I whole medium/large pumpkin – designed, cut and scooped out.

1 pint filtered water

I large red onion – chopped

2 organic low sodium vegetable or chicken stock cubes

Seasoning – pink Himalayan salt

Optional: Small pinch of cayenne pepper

Pumpkin Seeds to garnish


pumpkin-fleshSeparate out the pumpkin flesh from the seeds – you can spread the wet seeds out over a tray and dry them out in a very low heat in the oven. The eat the seeds – crack open the shells when they are very dry and remove the seed inside. Delicious!

Place all the pumpkin flesh and chopped red onion in a pan of filtered water. Bring to boil for 5 minutes, add the stock cubes, then simmer for 15 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

When everything is completely soft, use a hand blender to make the soup smooth and creamy. Add a pinch of salt or cayenne pepper to add some warmth and a little spicy kick.

As an option to increase protein content crumble a little goat’s cheese or feta cheese.

Introducing Parker Pumpkin


Parker loves pumpkin, not just because they are fun at Halloween, but he learned about the special things in pumpkins that protect his health and help him to grow healthy and strong.

Health Benefits of Pumpkin

The strong orange colour of pumpkin show’s the exceptional amounts of carotenes and antioxidants. Beta-carotene, Poly-phenic anti-oxidants and xanthin are all health protective – especially for eyes and skin. Beta-carotene converts to Vitamin A in the body which is vital for immunity and immune function.

Pumpkin is good source of B Vitamins needed for energy, growth, nervous system, well-being, digestion and so many functions.

The flesh contains fibre that helps keep blood sugar steady and removes toxins from the body. This is protective for the future health as it helps control cholesterol and diabetes.

pumpkin-seeds-smallestPumpkin seeds are packed with goodness: fibre, mono-unsaturated fats both supporting heart and digestive health.

They are high in protein and minerals like iron, selenium and zinc. Zinc is particularly important for immune function, digestion and many other functions in the body.

Pumpkin is disease protective in many ways and should be included in the diet regularly when in season.



Food Neo phobia – fear of trying new or unfamiliar foods



Trying to encourage healthy eating in a child who doesn’t want to eat healthy foods, can be one of the most frustrating aspects of parenthood. After spending time buying and lovingly preparing a meal that your child looks at with distaste and then gives you a look that says  “what are you doing to me?” can be disheartening and may make you feel like giving up.
What you are up against is not just your child’s preference and attitude but nature itself. A child refusing to eat something is not always fussy eating it can be about self-preservation.

Food Neo phobia is not an eating disorder, it’s not even ‘fussy eating’ it is a natural inclination to avoid a food that you are unfamiliar with and some children are more neo phobic than others. It is thought to be an inherited trait, or it can be a trait influenced by parents and those around them.

Millions of years ago humans used food neo phobia as self-preservation, to avoid eating poisonous foods especially the children. As a food became familiar then they would feel more comfortable to eat it. Some healthy foods like greens can have a bitter taste and and might need to be prepared and presented in a way that makes it more agreeable to a child’s taste buds. Like using butter, spices and adding the vegetables to other foods rather than giving it to them plain.  Teaching them why they should eat the foods is so important because otherwise it is hard to convince them to make the effort to eat something that they don’t think tastes as nice as carbohydrates.

Young children are heavily influenced by parental choices, if they can see their parents and those around them eating the food it is much more likely they will eat it. Children are also affected by feeling unwell and can associate a food if they had eaten it with making them unwell.

In the same way that they can be influenced to eat junk foods or foods that are not good form them. In some studies, where children with a more food neo phobic approach have been given a variety of food choices, there was a strong result for then choosing to eat carbohydrate foods. It is these children that tend to miss out on the highly nutritious choice of vegetables and protein, and why it is important to find ways to encourage them to eat healthy foods. By rewarding the children for trying the foods with praise or a sticker, and repeating this until that food becomes familiar this should overcome the fear of trying that food and even go on to encourage them to try more foods.

Rather than forcing a child to eat certain foods, or nagging them it is far better to do the following:

  1. Eat healthy foods yourself
  2. Introduce new foods regularly and at an early age
  3. Reward with stickers/certificates – not with treats

As well as the above if you can educate your child by taking them shopping to super markets and farmers markets, even farms where the foods are grown and reading books on the subject. Teach them to cook, or at least show them what you are doing – getting them to participate in the cooking process makes it more likely they will eat the foods you want them to. Get them planting and watching a food grow– even if it’s just in pots, anything from herbs to carrots.

 1). Predictors and consequences of food neophobia and pickiness in young girls. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 68, 131-136 (January 2014) | doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.239
 2). Food neophobia and mealtime food consumption in 4–5 year old children. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2006, 3:14  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-3-14

Vegetable Medley – like sunshine on a plate!


So easy yet so tasty and different.

Ingredients – this is a rough guide but you can increase or decrease according to how many servings are required.

1 chopped carrot
2 cups of frozen sweetcorn
1 cup frozen or fresh shelled peas
A large handful of chopped akle
I finely chopped white onion
Olive oil
2 tsp sweet paprika
1 heaped tsp turmeric powder
Big pinch of chilli flakes (or fresh chilli)


Place olive oil in the pan on a medium heat, add all the ingredients except kale, keep stirring so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. After a few minutes of cooking add the kale. Altogether cook for no more than 10 minutes to keep ingredients fresh.

Serve as a side dish, or you can add chopped chicken, flaked salmon, tofu or halumi with a small amount of cooked brown rice or quinoa to create a complete meal.



The Good Fats – Why are they so important to get into your child’s diet?

Flax oilYour child’s brain and nervous system
developement depends on the nutrients in their diet. Breast milk is full of vital lipids (special fats). The fats your child eats can have a profound effect on their development.Which is why choosing the right fats to eat is so important – it can affect mental health, learning ability, well-being and immune function. Damaged fats in processed foods and too much saturated animal fat can be detrimental to all areas of health. But getting good fats into your child’s diet will help with blood sugar too as it helps to slow down the energy release into the blood so relieves the insulin response, making a child feel more full.

Omega3 fats

The fats in oily fish contain two forms of Omega3 EPA and DHA.Pregnancy – The developing foetus CNS (Central Nervous System) and retina rely heavily on DHA Omega3 – which can be found in oily fish and fish oil supplements as well as plant Omega3 like flax oil, walnuts and organic eggs. So this is vital to include these fats in the diet during pregnancy. DHA is really Salmonimportant in the early development of the brain as it grows. After the age of 5 EPA Omega3 becomes more important for the functioning of the brain, and as teenagers, adults and the aging brain. EPA can also help with asthma, eczema and immune support.

Butter (real) – in moderation (Goats butter has much less cholesterol)
Good for brain function, gut health and energy (avoid vegetable spreads)

Olive oil – Good for all aspects of health.

Avocado and avocado oil – great for brain health, skin and energy.

Nut oils, Seed Oils, nuts and seeds – good for energy, mineral intake, and all round healthy is they are fresh.
Keep in fridge.

Coconut oil/butter – Make sure cold pressed and not heated (the fat in coconut milk should be eaten only in moderation) good for skin, brain health, energy and gut health.

Eggs – contrary to popular belief eggs are good for you- the organic version will have higher content of good fats as the chicken’s feed and life is higher quality. Great for growth and repair as well as energy.

Oliy fish – good for barin health, skinand tissues. The larger fish like tuna are high in heavy metals so should be eaten in moderation, and alsway cooked on a low heat.

Note on oils:

Recently the medical and science profession have announed that eating fat is good for you. This is because we know that a high carb, high sugar diet is so detrimental for health and is increasing obesity, cancer and heart disease in the populations who eat a “Western diet”.  However – not all fats are equal – there are many that should not be eaten regularly and even avoided if possible. Those are the processed fats found in junk foods, shop bought cakes and deserts and even vegetable spreads.   Nuts, seeds and good plant oils tend to contain Vitamin E and fresh fruit and vegetables are the best source of antioxidants whic will stop fats from becoming a danger in the body. Oils should not be kept over a long period of time, once opened all oils should be used within a month, and if possible kept in the fridge. Even butter oxidises – you may have noticed when a darker outside layer forms on an old block of butter, this is oxidation and is toxic to the body.
All oils have a “Smoke Point” – which is where they start to become damaged and no longer good for us. Light olive oil and clarified butter tend to be the best to cook with. Some oils should never be heated, especially flax oil. Always use a low to medium temperature for cooking with fats – and ignore most chefs advice on temperatures, as they always tend to cook on a high heat as they believe browned food looks better. Unfortunately browned food is NOT good, even though we do all love it! – eat in moderation, the odd BBQ never hurt anyone, but everyday will cause health issues.