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Keeping toddlers and preschoolers healthy

Using food to heal: Dr Sabrina Famous, a nutrition coach, who embarked on a plant-based diet of nutrient-dense food, which reversed a medical condition

Sabrina Famous followed the doctor’s orders when she was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome.

When she became worried that the medicine wasn’t dealing with what caused her oestrogen and progesterone to fall out of balance, she started looking at nutrition. The medical student embarked on a “strict” plant-based diet of “nutrient-dense, high-antioxidant food”.

Thirteen years later, Dr Famous remains convinced that’s what reversed her condition and that the sooner it starts, the better.

Below, the mum of a three-year-old shares her tips for keeping toddlers and preschoolers healthy.

Q: What drove you to study and then pursue a career in nutrition?

A: I had a personal health crisis. When I was in medical school, I woke up one morning with pain and the inability to stand. I first attempted the traditional route. The physician told me I had enlarged ovaries and prescribed medications. My intuition told me to find another way, and I found nutrition. I cleaned up my diet, detoxed and it was all reversed. Now I turn to nutrition first.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes people make in feeding their children — particularly when they believe they are being “healthy”?

A: Parents can easily fall for the latest health fads by tricky marketing. For example, if you walk the aisles you can see gluten-free cookies and gluten-free pop tarts. Yes, they are gluten-free, but they aren’t whole foods. These are still processed, sugary junk foods. Another big mistake is falling for the low-fat foods. In most products, when the fat is removed, the sugar content rises to make it taste good. The war on fat is over; it is known that your body requires healthy fats, so leave the fat-free items on the shelf. To really be healthy you need to feed your children a variety of wholesome foods. These are foods your grandmother would recognise; unprocessed without a package, like fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and healthy meats.

Q: Have you always been a nutritious eater or did your eating habits change once you were more informed?

A: When I was sick I had to be 100 per cent dedicated to eating clean — no processed junk. But, just like anything in life, we have to find a balance. I find balance through my 80:20 rule. Eighty per cent of the time I make healthy choices and 20 per cent of the time I cut myself some slack, enjoy a not-so-healthy snack and move on. To be honest, once you eliminate the junk, after a while you don’t crave it or even want it at all.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about the work you do around the island?

A: I am a nutrition coach at Ocean Rock Wellness Ltd. I use food to heal. I see clients of all ages and help them navigate nutrition according to their specific needs. For example, I work with clients with food intolerances or allergies, athletes needing to improve performance, and many who are managing a chronic illness. I help them transition to a clean-eating plan so they can live life to the fullest. I don’t believe in using a strict diet, just learning how to make meal choices that best suit your lifestyle. I also have a passion in educating the community, especially the children. One of my favourites was at Dellwood Middle School, where we even served a healthy lunch. I also reach out to PTAs, sports clubs and preschools to help the parents give their children a great beginning.

Q: What are your top three nutrition tips for parents?

1. Cut out the sugar. Especially in the form of sugary drinks and processed snacks.

2. Increase water intake.

3. Serve whole foods to teach children where their food comes from. Food doesn’t just come from the grocery store.

Q: What’s the negative impact of poor nutrition?

A: Unhealthy children make very unhealthy adults. We need to teach children from a young age how our nutrition impacts our health. I tell children that poor nutrition is like trying to build a sentence without vowels. You need all the building blocks to create strong, healthy minds and bodies. The major negative impacts I see as a healthcare provider include obesity, behavioural issues and chronic diseases.

Q: How do you ensure your children are getting adequate nutrients?

A: Think of serving a rainbow every day. If your children eat all of the colours of the rainbow, they are likely receiving a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Variety also helps to train their taste buds towards preferring healthy foods.

Q: What if my child is a picky eater?

A: Did you know it takes up to 15 tries before a child may accept a new food? We are hard-wired that way; it is a protective instinct that we all have. Therefore, keep trying. Be calm, creative and consistent. I have a three-year-old who is the epitome of picky. I have to make it really fun — like smoothies, fruit Popsicles and kebabs — and sometimes I sneak it in, like my cauliflower crusted pizza.

Reach Dr Famous on: www.oceanrockwellness.com, drfamous@oceanrockwellness.com, 295-5100