Lisa Guy is an experienced Sydney based Naturopath who runs a successful naturopathic practice called Art of Healing. Lisa specialises in children’s health and is the author of “My Goodness: all you need to know about children’s health and nutrition.”
Interview with Lisa Guy
Lisa is also the co-founder of The Happy Baby Clinic, a natural holistic healthcare centre for mothers and their babies.
Lisa is a great believer that good wholesome food is one of the greatest pleasures in life and the foundation of good health.
Q. The price difference between organic and non-organic food can be significant. What benefits are you getting by going for the higher priced organic produce?
A. By choosing organic produce you will have piece of mind that you’re not feeding your family any pesticide or herbicide residues, or GM ingredients. Organic produce commonly contains higher levels of nutrients, as organic farmers take care of their soil making sure they are replete in minerals.
Q. Organic food is becoming more and more common in supermarkets where it is clearly labelled and certified. When you venture outside the supermarket to say a Farmers Market, what should we be asking the stall holders about the produce they are selling to make sure we are making an informed purchase?
A. Local farmers markets are fantastic, you know that the produce is going to be fresh and in season. Ask stallholders if they are certified organic, or if they use chemical herbicides or pesticides on their crops.
Q. High sugar within our everyday food is a real problem and one that many people are not aware of. What should we be looking for on food packaging and what is an acceptable intake of sugar for both a child and adult?
A. If sugar is in the top 3 ingredients you can be pretty sure it contains high levels of sugar. When you’re reading food labels remember that 4g of sugar equals 1 teaspoon. Most processed foods contain high levels of added sugar, it’s even hidden in savoury foods like tomato sauce and crackers. You should look for foods containing less than 10g of sugar per 100g, or even better choose unprocessed natural foods that don’t have any added sugars.
Q. High salt content is another element to look out for on food packaging. Again what is an acceptable daily intake of salt for both children and adults? (It is interesting to note that some organic packaged food (indicating a healthy product) can have high salt contents).
A. Again most processed foods have high levels of salt added. A low-sodium product contains less than 120mg of sodium per 100g. Foods that are typically high in sodium include baked beans, pasta sauces, breakfast cereal, convenience snack foods and crackers. Always go for low-sodium products.
Children aged 4–8 years should aim to consume below 300–600 mg/day of sodium.
Children aged 9–13 years should aim to consume below 400–800 mg/day of sodium.
Adults should aim to consume below 2,300 mg/day of sodium.
Q. When packing up kids (or even adult) lunch boxes – they can contain healthy food /drink options but how important is the packaging we use around the food /drink to make sure we are not undoing this good work?
A. Pack your kids lunches in PBA-free lunchboxes, and drinks in stainless steal bottles. PBA’s are toxic to our health and can leach into foods and drinks we consume.
Q. Are kids Multi Vitamin tablets really a necessity if a healthy and varied diet is being provided?
A. We are constantly being bombarded with toxins from our environment, the water we drink, and in the food we eat, which all places a burden on our bodies. This together with our mineral depleted soil in Australia, I think taking a multi-vitamin is a great way to ensure that your child is getting all the important nutrients they need for optimal growth and development. Multi-vitamins are especially important if your child is a fussy eater.
Q. You are a nutritionist and naturopath by profession but was there a particular trigger that prompted you to research and write your book My Goodness ‘All You Need to Know About Children’s Health And Nutrition’?
A. I have always been passionate about children and helping improve their health through better nutrition. However I was becoming more and more concerned about the future of our kids health, hearing alarming statistics in the media – with 1 in 4 Australian school kids being overweight and obese, and an increase in kids developing type-2 diabetes and even high blood pressure. We live in such a wonderful country were we have such fabulous fresh, healthy food available to us, and the opportunity to get outside and exercise or be involved in sport. It surprises me that our kid’s diets are so reliant of high calorie junk foods and watching too much TV. I felt a great need to do my part to try and help improve our kids health and future. My aim was to reach as many households as I could with my book – to educate parents on healthy eating and the importance of good nutrition during childhood, so they can instil good healthy eating habits in their kids, so they can grow into healthy, happy adults.
Q. If children won’t take water are there any other tricks to make it more attractive or other fluids that can be drunk instead?
A. If your child won’t drink plain water try adding a little 100% fruit juice for flavour, pineapple, apple or berry flavours usually work well.
Q. Making a change from an unhealthy to a healthy diet can be difficult all in one go.
Can you outline some baby steps to initially making that transition?
A. A good place to start is by swapping ‘white’ refined carbs to wholegrain eg. Grainy breads, wholemeal pasta, brown rice, and whole oats. Throw out your vegetable oil and start using olive or coconut oil to cook with; these oils won’t turn to harmful trans-fats. Try eating a couple of pieces of fruit each day, over breakfast cereal or in smoothies is an easy way to increase your fruit intake. Start by having a good serving of vegies each day, of different colours. If you eat out a lot, start having more nights cooking at home.
Q. There has been a rise in food allergies and intolerances, as referenced in your book.
Is there anything we can do to try to minimise the potential for development of allergies and intolerances in children or is this just genetically programmed?
A. Gut health is extremely important. Having good digestion and a healthy balance of bowel flora is a good way to help protect your child against allergies and intolerances. Taking a probiotic supplement for kids can be extremely beneficial, especially for kids who have taken a lot of antibiotics over the years. Breastfeeding your infant and waiting until they are around 5 ½ – 6 months old until you start introducing solids are other ways you can reduce the risk of allergies and intolerances in your child.
Q. Super foods are constantly referenced in the media. What are they and how do you get a child to eat them?
A. Super foods are extremely nutrient dense foods that have special health promoting qualities and specific vitamin, mineral and phytochemicals. Regularly including super foods in your kid’s diet will help them to reach optimal health and help prevent chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease. Super foods include foods such as berries that are rich in antioxidants, fish that contains healthy omega-3 fats, yoghurt rich in probiotics, immune boosting garlic, ginger and seaweed, just to name a few.
Q. Bread is a traditional accompaniment to many meals and forms the basis for most packed lunches. Should bread consumption be cut down for children with other alternatives or are there healthy breads out there that are readily available?
A. Bread is a healthy addition to a kids diet, it provide carbohydrates for energy and fibre for bowl health, however it has to be the right type of bread. Ideally you want to be giving your kids a nice grainy bread that is going to be rich in fibre and other nutrients like vitamin B and E and magnesium. White breads have been stripped of all their natural goodness and fibre. If your child won’t eat wholegrains breads at least try to get them to eat a soft wholemeal bread.
Q. When preparing food, the fat content and type of fat are really important. What should you look out for and how can you substitute bad for good type fats?
A. You want to look out for trans-fats, these types of fats are one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease and should be avoided in the diet. When vegetable oil is heated it turns into these harmful trans-fats. Trans-fats are found in processed foods containing hydrogenated vegetable oils, especially commercially baked goods and pastries, greasy take away foods, and some margarine. The best thing you can do for your health is to swap to a healthy cooking oil like olive oil. Try making your own healthy versions of fish and chips and hamburgers at home. Bake your own healthy muffins, cookies and cakes. All my muffins and cakes use olive oil instead of butter and a little raw honey and fruit instead of sugar. Make sure you read food labels carefully for trans-fats. Instead of margarine try using flaxseed oil, avocado or a little organic butter.
Q. You have devised a number of reference recipes for healthy snacks and meals. What’s your personal favourite and what is the biggest hit with your family?
A. My family loves to snack on my hummus with either vegie sticks or rice crackers. They are also very fond of my banana and walnut muffins and the carob chip oat cookies and earth cookies. Their favourite dinners would have to be the corn and spinach rice timbals with a salad, crispy almond and sesame seed chicken nuggets with vegies, lentil and pea dahl and my veggie lasagna.