Interview with Nutritionist Sonal Shah

As an important part of the company’s focus on raising healthy, accomplished children, a series of free, informative videos on “How to Raise a Healthy Child”, was produced. The series examines a number of different aspects of health in cooperation and narrated by Sonal Shah, a British Certified Nutritional Therapist.

Ms. Shah was recently interviewed by Katja Kaja Mejač, Editor in Chief at, a popular Slovenian magazine on questions many parents ask about healthier choices for their children.

  1. How can we easily follow healthy eating habits? As adults, children, teens …?

The key to maintaining healthy eating is also in planning and having healthy foods in the house or places of work or study. Then accessibility plays a role in food choices. So keeping food list and ensuring you can get hold of fresh, wholesome foods is important. Most individuals can follow a healthy eating plan, but how long does this last? Most fall off track and go back to old patterns of eating. Motivation and dedication are important, and understanding why to maintain a healthy diet is essential. It’s not best practice to wait until you are sick to change what you eat, as following a healthy diet prevents disease in the first place. For children and teens, their older siblings, parents and family are role models. This is why education on health is important, leading to understanding the benefits of having a healthy mind and body.

  1. What foods can affect a child’s learning ability?

 Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that help nourish the brain and provide antioxidants that can help memory, focus and cognition. The darker the pigments, the higher the antioxidants in the food. Good examples are blue, purple and red berries, spinach, kale, watercress and beetroot. Consuming good fats also support brain function. Some examples of good fats are avocados, coconuts, seeds, seed and nut oils. Iodine has shown to help nourish the thyroid gland, which helps boost IQ in children. Iodine is found in sea vegetables and dried seaweed such as nori, wakame, kelp and dulse. Watercress, navy beans and dried prunes also contain some iodine. Water is also essential. Mild dehydration in children can lead to a drop in their concentration and learning ability.

  1. Which snacks do you recommend for children while learning? Do you have any examples?
  • Fresh fruit and plain yogurt or dairy-free yogurt
  • Dried fruit and nuts and seeds
  • Dried seaweed crisps
  • Crackers with nut butter
  • Smoothies made with fruit and some vegetables
  1. Can the adequate or inadequate nutritional value of children’s meals influence their intelligence?

It’s hard to measure a direct correlation with diet to intelligence, as other variables affect intelligence. Nonetheless, we know that the brain relies on energy as fuel so providing the right balance of nutrients, i.e. from a nutrient-rich diet that is not overly processed and high in refined sugars and salts can help boost brainpower.

Children are exposed to many distractions, so keeping them focused on one task can be helped with ensuring they do not consume too many fizzy drinks and sugary snacks which cause energy highs and lows. If they eat healthy balanced meals, then they are more likely to feel full, satisfied and better able to concentrate.

  1. How can we easily raise the value of fibre in a meal and why is fibre so important, and with which foods can it can be combined?

Fibre is like a broomstick for the gut and helps waste matter to be eliminated by the colon, therefore preventing constipation. Fibre also helps one to stay fuller for longer. Most meals can be boosted with fibre by making sure the following foods are included:

  • Complex carbs made from whole grains, including whole-grain bread, pasta, oats and rice.
  • Fruits and vegetables, especially the skins.
  1. What is worse, sugar or fat?

Sugar is worse than fat, and also sugar and fat combined together are an unhealthy combination. Foods like doughnuts and ice cream contain both sugar and processed fat, which doesn’t keep one full for long. A larger quantity is consumed, which can lead to weight being stored around the middle, energy high and lows and type 2 diabetes. The body better digests natural sources of fat. Sugar on its own can be digested but provides no nutritional value, just empty calories.

  1. How to encourage children to eat healthy, green, food?

Adults are the best role models for children, so they should follow healthy eating guidelines and ensure their fridges and cupboards contain wholesome foods to prepare healthy meals. Get children involved in the food preparation and shopping and get them to find tasty recipes online. Green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, and asparagus can be prepared and cooked in a variety of ways and seasoned to taste delicious. Find the textures your children prefer and show them healthy eating videos to teach them why healthy food is important. 

  1. How do we know if our children are not hydrated enough?

These are some of the dehydration signs to look for:

  • Urine that is darker than clear yellow throughout the day
  • Constipation and dry hard stools, as stools should be soft and easy to pass.
  • Tired and lacking focus
  • Dry lips, mouth and skin
  • If your child complains of headaches and is irritable
  1. What is the recommended amount of water for children and teenagers?

Children should aim to have at least 6 glasses of water a day (1.5 litres) on top of the fluid they get from food. Younger children should have 6 x 150ml a day. Children over 9 years old and teens should drink at least 6-8 glasses a day, and more when the weather is hotter.

  1. Is it true that we are more efficient when we exercise and eat healthy food?

I believe so, as our bodies are not designed to sit still, any movement and structured exercise is important for strong bones, muscles and circulation. Healthy food provides fuel for the body to repair and grow. We see that children who are malnourished do not grow properly and have nutritional deficiencies. Therefore a healthy diet supports growth, healthy teeth, eyesight, nails, hair, brain health and proper digestion. Also, a healthy diet prevents sickness. The immune system lies in the gut too, where you want to avoid viruses like the cold and flu by ensuring the diet contains healthy foods to build strong immunity against pathogens in the environment.

Eating an unhealthy diet that is high in sugars, and processed foods and drinks leads to a sluggish body that cannot be fully energised. This leads to poor quality sleep and poor digestion, which impacts overall productivity.

Visit here to ask your own questions and to view Sonal’s informative videos on Raising Healthy Children