Last updated on Jun 11th, 2021 at 01:29 pm

Of course you already know that mealtimes aren’t just about filling little tummies. They’re also about choosing foods that help your little one function at her best. One of the surest ways to boost overall wellbeing and help kids establish food habits that will last long into adulthood is by sitting down for family mealtimes, says dietician Idonette van Zyl. It also helps to use a variety of foods to create balanced meals, and to let little ones get involved in food prep so that they get used to a range of tastes and textures.

ALSO SEE: Nutritional tips for children with type 1 diabetes

Beyond that, you can also try using certain ingredients to target specific conditions – like these…

A little bit about allergies

The thing with food allergies, says Idonette, is that they manifest in so many different ways, from eczema to post nasal drip, sore tummies and more.

Can you eliminate food to manage these nasties?

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To an extent. “Usually, symptoms are linked to specific foods. So once you find the culprit, you can eliminate it to improve the allergic symptoms, as well as the child’s quality of life,” she says. The younger your child, the more brief the period of elimination. You might find that she outgrows the allergy within six months if the allergy is caught early.

ALSO SEE: Facts about childhood food allergies you may not know

Boost brain power

Forget the flash cards. One of the easiest ways to fast track your little genius is by snacking on foods rich in omega 3, as early as pregnancy. Adding oily fish like salmon, pilchards, anchovies and sardines to his diet will also power brain development, or try sprinkling flaxseed over cereal or mixing it into smoothies. Alternatively, Idonette recommends mixing in two teaspoons of canola oil in your little one’s milk.

ALSO SEE: 10 superfoods for babies 

Keep that energy going

Let’s get one thing straight: there’s the manic energy that follows a sugar rush, and there’s the slow-burn energy that gets your toddler through a busy day of nursery school. Obviously, we want more of the latter and less of the former. So, skip the sugar-laden drinks and baked goods when you’re packing lunch (even flavoured yoghurts might be a culprit here) and go for foods with a high protein and fibre content which keeps a little tummy full. For example, a wholewheat sandwich with cheese and a fruit on the side.

ALSO SEE: Healthy lunchbox ideas to build strong bodies and minds

More about the expert:

Idonette van Zyl is a registered dietician with a special interest in paediatric food allergies, ADHD, pregnancy and infant nutrition, general paediatric nutrition, and integrative/functional medicine. Read more about Idonette van Zyl here.