Teenagers and children with special diets: A Q&A with Frankie Phillips

Experiencing the terrible teens? Child nutritionist Frankie Phillips answers all of your parenting questions…

Frankie Phillips is a registered dietitian and leading child nutritionist. Frankie has experience of advising patients about their diets and has appeared on a range of TV and radio programs, she is currently working as part of the Organix No Junk Challenge.

We opened up the floor to our social audience, and you had questions on everything from food phobias to meal plans… see all your questions and answers below.

Fussy eating

Question: I've struggled with my daughter's terrible fussy eating habits with the belief she will grow out of it. She's 14 now and as bad as ever!  She is really spotty now (since she was 10) and just doesn't look particularly healthy. Her food choices are ridiculously limited. Should I be worried?  

Frankie says: Even at 14, there’s still plenty of time to change eating habits. Try and offer the opportunity for her to plan a few meals – do a family ‘Come Dine With Me’ and just let her do it her own way. Invite a couple of friends and make it a fun occasion. As for the spots, there’s a great fact sheet on skin and food from the British Dietetic Association – you could download that for her to read, but spots are more likely to be hormonal that diet-related.

Food phobias

Fish pieQuestion: I’m struggling with a 15 year old who has food phobias and is very fussy, I haven’t been able to get any help or support from professionals. My three year old used to eat really well being a baby-led weaned child, but I broke my wrist when he was one and was unable to prepare meals when I was in cast, so relied on meals that I could just put in the oven and he has become quite fussy himself. He also sees what his big brother eats and wants what he has. I don’t know how to get my three year old back on track, or how to help MY 15 year old with his phobias and getting no help... I am accused of being a lazy mother but am cooking three different meals.

Frankie says: No mum should have to run a café style menu with three meals at once, so I think you could start by listing all of the things that everyone likes and try to plan some meals around that, at least some of the time. Have you tried talking to your health visitor? They might be able to put you in touch with a child psychologist to deal with the problem with food phobias. Does your 15 year old eat out with friends? Maybe invite them to eat with him at home and get him to help you plan the meal.

As for your three year old, you need to take a bit of control back, and only offer meals that you are prepared to make for all of you. If he chooses not to eat it, then you have to go with that sometimes, but he won’t let himself go hungry, be firm and calm, and try to make mealtimes an enjoyable family occasion again.

Dairy intolerance

SpinachQuestion: Should I be concerned about my daughters iron intake she eats little green veg & doesn't eat red meat at all. She does have quite bad eczema which I've heard can be linked to a dairy intolerance. Any help would be much appreciated.

Iron is found in lots of different foods, although the best source is often regarded to be red meat. Dark green veg also provide us with iron, but other sources are eggs, beans, wholemeal breads, and chicken (especially the brown meat on the legs) and oily fish. The kind of iron found in vegetables and eggs is not as easily absorbed by the body, but by having a source of vitamin C alongside it, the iron is more available to the body. So if you have a meal of beans on toast, have a glass of fruit juice, or if you’re making an omelette, serve a couple of tomatoes along with it.

As for eczema, yes, it sometimes is linked to dairy, but can also be linked to other foods. I’d suggest keeping a food and symptom diary for a couple of weeks and then checking back before discussing this with your GP. Cutting out dairy foods can put your daughter at risk of not having enough of the nutrients essential for bone growth – if you do end up removing dairy from the diet, be sure to replace it with calcium fortified alternatives.

Meal plans

Question: Teenage boys - need a menu to follow. Ours are always complaining that I cook chicken every night. #finicky

Frankie says: Why not try sitting down with your boys and getting them to start taking responsibility for planning a meal, maybe once a week. It could be a really useful way for them to learn some valuable life skills, and they might find that they even enjoy it! You might also find that doing this means you can plan meals in advance and save money on shopping bills too.  

Dairy-free cakes

Question: Dairy free cakes, can you recommend an oil that works well, I am still experimenting, but my results are dry. Also is there a calculation for replacement of dairy ingredients to non-dairy alternatives such as soy spread, or oil? Thank you.

Frankie says: Most recipes work well if the same weight of non-dairy is used, but it can be a matter of trying some different products and recipes to see which work best for you. You might want to try some of these dairy-free cake recipes.  
 

Got more than one child on your hands? You might also be interested in reading Frankie Phillips Q&A for school children and babies and toddlers

Had experience of feeding a tricky teenager? We'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions... 

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