Your Nutrition Questions Answered with Meghan Lyons, MS, Nutritionist
We are all in the same boat when it comes to wanting to eat healthy, feed our families healthy meals, and having limited time. We have endless questions when it comes to nutrition and we're so grateful to have an expert to talk to! Thank you to nutritionist, Meghan Lyons, and all of our readers who wrote in with their questions.
lovelylittlepatch What tips do you have for adding extra protein and iron into veggie baby diets? Our baby is a super big kid and will grow into a tall guy, so this is definitely on our minds. Thanks ladies, Lauren and Amy
ML: Hi Lauren and Amy,
Great question. For protein, you can consider cooked lentils, cooked chickpeas, beans, hard-boiled eggs, brown rice, tofu, veggie burgers, vegetarian sausage, wheat bread and homemade soups. I love seizing the opportunity to make a nutrient dense soup full of veggies, beans, rice and pretty much anything else that I can squeeze in the pot. Homemade hummus can be spread on toast or a brown rice cake or used as a dip. Egg scrambles are great - again another chance to make a nutrient-dense meal that is protein-rich. You can add spinach, tomato, squash, avocado, vegetarian sausage and beans to your scramble. Beans and green leafy vegetables will be your go-to foods for adding extra iron. You can make a green smoothie and blend spinach or kale with berries, ice, banana, yogurt and water. I love making lasagna with my girls and adding a layer of leafy greens between the noodles, sauce and cheese. Hope these tips help. Enjoy your little one!
graceallitt What tips do you have to get a toddler to eat veggies, please. Unless we sneak it in, he won't have a bar of it - lots of food wastage and guilt over diet. Thank you!
ML: Hi there!
Ah! The task of getting kids to eat veggies! I feel like we all go through this stage with our children. Fortunately there are some helpful tips to make it less stressful. One tip is to make the process fun and engage your toddler. Take him to the grocery store and let him pick out the vegetables. If you have a local farm nearby or a farmer’s market, plan a little field trip with your son and teach him about where veggies come from and all the different types. If you have friends with children who eat veggies, use peer pressure to your advantage. Show your son how his friend enjoys celery, cucumber, tomato, bell peppers, etc. Make vegetable kabobs together using child-safe skewers and have a few dips for him to try such as ranch dressing, tzatziki or hummus. Be a positive role model and talk about how you like veggies. And lastly, keep trying and introducing veggies—whether in a new form each time or the same. It may get frustrating, but prepare just a bit at each meal and be persistent. If he refuses, keep them to use in a salad or dish the following day so they don’t go to waste. And I always try to remind parents, we aim for our children to eat a healthy, balanced diet but the fact is that it’s hard to do at times. Remember to be kind to yourself and know you are doing a great job!
barefootandthankful I know 6 months is the recommendation to start solids and while my almost 6 months is showing interest, I’m not ready. I’d love for her to be purely breastfed for as long as possible. What are your thoughts on this? And also when I do start introducing foods,? I wasn’t planning on the recommended oat type cereals or even mashing veggies/fruits and giving whole pieces of banana, avo, etc? Would love your opinion/advice. Thank you so much
ML: Hi There!
I am definitely in favor of introducing solid foods while breastfeeding at 6 months and do encourage the transition unless there is a developmental or medical reason why that is not advised. In addition to the nutritional benefits that come along with solids, this transition helps establish healthy eating habits early on. When it comes to what you offer, I would focus on soft foods first as your baby gets used to solids. Once she can sit up and hold her head up and bring food to her mouth, offering more whole bites of avocado or banana or scrambled eggs would be fine. It is always best to double check with your pediatrician so he or she can give the best advice specific to your child.
krissy5331 My question is more for me than about my 16yr old son lol... what good tips do you have for losing weight through diet? I’ve tried everything (seriously EVERYTHING) and nothing seems to work! I’m thinking maybe it’s something I’m eating that’s blocking me from losing the weight or something! I’m about to just give up on it all together... I’ve tried no carbs, keto, shakes etc...The list goes on and on and nothing works! The main thing I eat is yogurt and granola for breakfast and Special K cereal for lunch and then dinner! Those are my daily meals, and I’m 36yrs old...could it just be my metabolism has slowed down or something I’m eating?
There can be a number of factors explaining why you aren’t reaching your weight goals. Without more specific details, it is hard for me to answer with certainty but here are a few things to consider. Try to make a list of foods you like and foods that make you feel good and energized. This can help you be intentional with grocery shopping and meal planning. Think about creating nutrient-dense meals and snacks that deliver the calories you need and that are well portioned. I love brown rice bowls and salads because you can get very creative in preparing them with a variety of protein sources and veggies. For example, I may make an arugula salad and add a half a cup of cooked quinoa, roasted sweet potato, avocado and tomato and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic and call that lunch or dinner. I choose a bowl to help manage the portion and then I feel full and satisfied because it’s a meal that provides clean, healthy calories full of nutrients. I am very much in favor of finding a system of meals and snacks that is sustainable for you. Trendy diets may work for some people for a specific period of time, but it is rare that they stick and become a routine. When working with clients, I try to help them create a lifestyle plan…something that they can own and sustain. You can also always talk to your doctor or a nutrition professional who can help address your specific needs.
em_stagg My toddler has low iron and has been taking supplemental iron. Can you suggest some foods high in iron and vitamin C for absorption? He is also super fussy and I’m looking for tips to get him eating food out of bowls like currys and pastas. He only wants to eat with his hands.
There are a number of foods you can add to your son’s diet that will help increase his iron intake. Ground turkey, chicken, salmon, beans, lentils and spinach are all good sources. Plant-based sources of iron are not absorbed as efficiently as animal sources so if your son follows a more plant-based diet make sure to serve lentils or spinach with foods high in vitamin C such as citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, bell peppers and strawberries. When it comes to his eating habits, let him know that you will be feeding him food on a plate or in a bowl and that you will hand him a fork or a spoon. It may get messy, but keep introducing food that way and eventually he may take ownership in the process and enjoy it. Let him pick out his bowl or plate at mealtime, and try to make it exciting. Hope that helps!
ginaazer What do you think of doing a long term ketogenic diet?
Generally speaking, I wouldn’t recommend doing the ketogenic diet for longer than three months due to the lack of research on the long-term effects and because it’s highly restrictive. The extremely limited carbohydrate intake when following the keto diet may put you at risk of certain nutrient deficiencies and it’s unknown what such restricted intake will do to the body over time.
katelyncamic I want to eat healthy, but I have a 3 year old, 2 year old, and newborn that I am breastfeeding. It’s hard to find time to prepare healthy meals! It’s so much easier to just microwave a processed meal even though I really don’t want to do that! Also, I feel as though every healthy item I go to buy costs more than I want to spend. Help!
First off, congratulations on your new baby and cheers to being a rock star mama to three young children. No wonder you are finding it hard to meal plan! Even though you have a full plate, I definitely think you can do a few things that can boost the nutritional quality of your meals without breaking the bank. One tip that I always try to pass along is for people to find a day where they dedicate to prepping for the week. You don’t need a whole day, but a decent chunk of time where you can run to the grocery store and prep food. Grilling a handful of chicken breasts or cooking up ground turkey is a great way to create go-to protein sources for your meals thought the week. Whether you want to toss diced chicken in a salad or mix ground turkey with scrambled eggs, those proteins are at your disposal if you prepare them in advance. Same goes for fruit and veggies. If you can have them cleaned and chopped up for the week, then you’ll be set to grab healthy options when you go to open the fridge. When it comes to snacking, do your best to have healthy snacks available. Think hummus and veggies (you can make the hummus easily at home) or celery and nut butter. I love sliced avocado on a rice cake or even an apple with some almonds. And remember to be kind to yourself and just do your best!
natural_pat_w I am also interested in learning your perspective on iron in veggie diets as well as your thoughts on introducing puree vs baby led weaning. Cheers and thanks :) *note to readers who don’t know what BLW means: Baby Led Weaning means forgetting purees and weaning spoons, and simply letting your baby feed himself. Like traditional weaning, it's suitable from six months . Many parents follow BLW without even thinking about it.
There is a higher incidence of iron deficiency among vegetarian populations compared to meat eaters, however I am a big supporter of plant-based meals and snacks and believe this is where iron supplementation and fortification can be very beneficial. Iron is found in certain plant-based foods such as spinach and lentils, and if consumed with sources of vitamin C, maybe be well-absorbed and adequate to support healthy iron status. When it comes to purees versus baby led weaning I feel it is really a personal choice. There is no scientific basis that would lead me to recommend one over the other. Both can have benefits for different people and for different reasons and I also think it depends on the child.
Meghan earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Nutrition Science from California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo and California State University Northridge, respectively. Following her undergraduate studies, she spent seven years in the dietary supplement industry as an in-house nutrition specialist for a large national supplement brand, essentially serving as the educational bridge between the marketing and scientific affairs departments. She was responsible for a majority of the content communicated to the company’s consumers and clients, and helped manage the development and dissemination of dietary supplement trainings to health care professionals in private practice and retail settings. She has received specific training on childhood nutrition and parental feeding habits, and is extremely passionate about creating healthy lifestyles in the early years.
In 2012 after her older daughter Leah was born, she remained at home and began her nutrition consulting journey. She loves helping her clients learn how to make healthier choices and lead healthier lives. Today, she sees clients privately and also works in the corporate setting with her business partner, Abby. Together they bring health and wellness education to the busy dynamic of the corporate world by way of their business, The Insighters Nutrition.
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