Nicole Bando | Dietitian & Lactation Consultant

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Include enough calcium for bone health:

Calcium is integral for strong bones and women between the ages of 19 and 50 need 2.5 serves of calcium-rich foods per day, to reduce risk of osteoporosis or weakened bones. Women over 50 need an additional serve, due to the drop in oestrogen reduces the amount of calcium in the bones.

One serve of calcium is equal to 250mls of dairy or a plant-based milk with at least 100mg/100mls of added calcium, 2 pieces of cheese or 200g of yoghurt. Other sources of calcium include almonds, sesame seeds, tofu, green leafy vegetables, and fish such as sardines or salmon, though large quantities of these foods are needed to meet calcium needs. For example, 100g or 5 tablespoons of almonds is equivalent to the amount of calcium in a glass of milk. Some women may benefit from a calcium supplement, but it is best to seek medical advice.

Top tips:

  • Include calcium-rich foods 3 times per day to meet your needs
  • check your plant-based milk to ensure it is fortified with calcium
  • Consider adding unsweetened Greek yoghurt with berries as a mid-afternoon snack
  • Try sardines on toast for lunch.

Iron-rich foods & protein:

Iron carries oxygen around the body, so deficiency can lead to symptoms such as tiredness, headaches, and dizziness. A serve is equal to a palm-sized amount of an animal-based iron-rich source, like red meat, fish, chicken, pork, and eggs, or 2 palms of a plant-based iron sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, green leafy vegetables & wholegrains, such as oats and brown rice. Include these foods a few times a day will deliver your needs. Pair plant-based iron with Vitamin C, such as nuts and berries or tofu with broccoli and capsicum, to assist absorption. Women who are pregnant, vegan, vegetarian or experiencing heavy periods are at greater risk of deficiency and should seek the advice of their GP.

An example is: rolled oats with low fat milk, chia seeds & berries for breakfast, a wholegrain sandwich with lean chicken, cheese and salad for lunch & a lentil curry with brown rice for dinner.

These same foods are rich in protein, which helps to build and sustain muscle mass as we age. It also helps with feelings of fullness and appetite regulation.

Add colour:

As we age, our energy budget reduces, this is dependent on many factors such as activity levels and the amount of muscle. It’s important to eat nutritively, which means make your food count and work for you.

Aim to include half a plate of vegetables at lunch and dinner.

Simple tips to boost vegetable intake are:

  • Add a couple of handfuls of spinach and some cherry tomatoes to morning eggs on toast
  • Include a snack of chopped vegetable sticks with hummus
  • Make a big tray of colourful roast veg, such as beetroot, pumpkin, sweet potato, zucchini and brussels sprouts to use in your lunches over the week, by adding protein.

There is a lot of confusing information about nutrition. Coming back to basics can help you to make healthful decisions. See how you go with these practical tips, 1-2 small changes make a big difference, and be in touch if I can help further.

Summary of top nutrition tips:


  • Include calcium-rich foods 3 times per day
  • check your plant-based milk to ensure it is fortified with calcium (at least 100mg/100mls)
  • Try unsweetened Greek yoghurt with berries as a mid-afternoon snack
  • Sardines on toast with spinach and dill.

Iron & protein:

  • Include a palm-sized amount of red meat, fish, chicken, pork, and eggs, or 2 palms of legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, green leafy vegetables & wholegrains, such as oats and brown rice 3 times per day.
  • Pair plant-based iron with Vitamin C, such as nuts and berries or tofu with broccoli and capsicum, to assist absorption.
  • An example is: rolled oats with low fat milk, chia seeds & berries for breakfast, a wholegrain sandwich with lean chicken, cheese and salad for lunch & a lentil curry with brown rice for dinner.

Add colour:

  • Add handfuls of spinach and some cherry tomatoes to morning eggs on toast
  • Include a snack of chopped vegetable sticks with hummus
  • Make a big tray of colourful roast veg, such as beetroot, pumpkin, sweet potato, zucchini and brussels sprouts to use in your lunches over the week, simply add some protein.

build a school lunch box: 4 new ideas

It can be challenging encouraging children to eat different foods, but with persistence and consistency, children will try new things, allowing them to reach their growth and learning potential.
Hover over each lunch box photo for details of what is inside. Remember that even small changes are positive, so try simple swaps such as:
– Swap a processed snack for a piece of fruit
– If vegetables are no longer sent, start by sending a single vegetable stick or slice each day, knowing that acceptance takes time and one day it may be tasted or eaten.
– Swap a less nutritious snack for something better e.g chips for popcorn, or a muesli bar for Vita Weats and cheese.
– or banana bread for a regular sized piece of raisin bread with cream cheese.

Breakfast cereals – how do you choose?

Data collection by Victoria Hobbs, Deakin University

Disclaimer – I receive no remuneration from reviewing these brands; this is an unbiased, professional opinion based on a selection, and is not a definitive list.

How many times have you stood in the breakfast cereal aisle overwhelmed by the sheer number of options? So many people say they are confused about what to eat. I am often seen juggling multiple boxes of cereal, analysing the nutrition information in order to give the best advice to my clients, and make sense of it myself. Cereals can provide valuable nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and carbohydrates; though many contain little nutrition and an undesirable amount of sugar and salt. The complex interplay of the ingredients in your cereal could either fuel your performance, or leave you feeling hungry and fatigued early in the day.

Today, I have ranked a range of popular fruit and nut cereals according to their nutritional profiles (fibre, sugar, whole grain content and sodium), to remove the guess work and make healthier = easier. Where does your daily cereal fit into the list and is it time to make a switch?

Best choices

As a general guide, choose cereals that are:

  • Greater than 50% wholegrains – specified on the ingredients list
  • Greater than 10g fibre/100g
  • Less than 400mg sodium/100g
  • 15g sugar/100g – slightly higher is OK if dried fruit included. Note that dried fruit and fruit may contribute to overall sugar content, this is different to refined sugar.
  • Choose untoasted over toasted muesli varieties

Avoid cereals that list sugar, or a variant within the first 3 ingredients (e.g. glucose, dextrose, honey, golden syrup, coconut sugar, barley malt, rice syrup, etc.). Beware health claims – if it sounds too good to be true, it generally is.

So with all of this in mind, the best choices include:

  1. Be Natural Cashew, Almond, Hazelnut & Coconut: the winner with high fibre, 17.1g, low sugar: 12g, and low sodium: 195mg. Top 3 ingredients: wholegrain cereals, nuts, rice – all valuable sources of nutrition.
  2. Be Natural Pink Lady Apple & Flame Raisin: Dried fruit raise the sugar content, but still a good choice – low salt 210mg, high fibre 14.1g, high whole grains, sugars moderate 17.1g –(wholegrain cereals, rice, fruit).
  3. Morning Sun Natural Style Peach & Pecan Muesli: Great muesli choice, high fibre 11.1g, low salt 18mg and sugar 14.4g from dried fruit is considered low-moderate (Wholegrain oats, dried fruit, wheat bran)
  4. Morning Sun Natural Style Apricot & Almond Muesli: Similar to above. Fibre 10.3g, sugars 15.1g, sodium 19mg (wholegrain rolled oats, dried fruits, wheat bran)
  5. Lowan Fruit & Nut Natural Muesli: competes with Morning Sun, a great choice. High fibre 9.7g, moderate sugars 15.5g (from dried fruit), sodium 36mg (Wholegrain oats, dried fruits, wheat bran straws)
  6. Uncle Toby’s Natural Style Swiss Blend Muesli: untoasted, high fibre 10.2g, low salt 14mg, sugar 16.3g – from dried fruit and fruit pieces as 2nd, 3rd ingredients (Rolled Oats (72%), Dried Fruits (16%) [Sultanas (8%))

The next list shows moderate choices – less fibre and/or more sugar. Choose sometimes

  1. Uncle Toby’s O&G Bircher Muesli Cranberry, Almond & Quinoa:moderate fibre 8.1g, low sugar 11.4g, low sodium 11mg, untoasted (Rolled oats, dried fruit, almonds). Add some bran to boost fibre content
  2. Carman’s Natural Bircher Museli: Lower fibre 7.9g, moderate sugar 16g, though than other options. Low sodium 7mg. Top 3 ingredients look good (Wholegrain oats, fruit, nuts). Add bran, LSA, fruit to boost fibre content.
  3. Kellogg’s Special K Fruit & Nut: Moderate fibre 8.1g, high sugar 19.6g, moderate sodium 310mg (Rice, wholegrains, fruit). Better choices above
  4. Uncle Toby’s Plus Fibre Apple and Sultanas: It’s a trade-off, with high fibre 17.9g, but higher sugar content 23.3g, (wholegrain cereals, dried fruit – contributing to high sugar content, wheat bran), low sodium. Either mix this with wholegrain/bran flakes, or choose a different option and add a small amount of your own dried fruit to keep sugars down.
  5. Table of Plenty Macadamia, Cranberry & Coconut Muesli:despite high fibre 10.4g, low sodium 15mg, moderate sugar 17.3g, derived from dried fruit and golden syrup as 2nd, 3rdingredients – not a satisfying choice.
  6. Carman’s Classic Fruit & Nut Muesli: toasted muesli, moderate fibre 8.7g, moderate sugars 15g (despite first ingredient wholegrain oats, with golden syrup in the top 3, this is higher in refined sugars. Choose an untoasted muesli with more nuts and less added sugar.

Lastly, many of these may sound healthy, but are not the best choices for breakfast…high sugar, low fibre, low nutrient contribution and not the best way to start the day.

  1. All Bran Honey Almond: Sounds healthier than it is with All Bran in the title. High fibre 16.1g, but also very high sugar content 23.9g (Wholegrain wheat, wheat bran, sugar), moderate salt 315mg.
  2. Uncle Toby’s Oat Crisp Honey & Macadamia Cereal: Toasted, high sugar 22g – 2nd ingredient Wholegrain cereals, sugar, macadamias), fibre moderate 8g.
  3. Kellogg’s Just Right Cereal: Not really just right, with high sugar 28.7g, note ingredients (Wholegrain cereals, sultanas, sugar), low salt 30mg, high fibre 10.2g. Better choices above
  4. Arnold’s Farm Toasted muesli clusters: Sugar high 19.5g – added as second ingredient (Wholegrain Rolled Oats, Glucose, Oat Bran), steer clear, fibre 8.2g, low sodium 30mg.

For individual advice to optimise your nutrition to fuel your day, come and see Nicole at:
NEST Family Clinic, 289 Kooyong Road, Elsternwick VIC 3185,

how to socialise your way to health

Nicole Bando, APD, IBCLC

It’s a privilege to be allowed to glimpse into a person’s life, family, thoughts and vulnerabilities. When discussing weight, health and body image, these aspects are so closely intertwined, that to really understand someone’s dietary choices, you must first understand them. Celebrations, eating out and socialising are a part of our lives and learning how to manage these occasions makes a big difference to your everyday health. Though it can be tricky to make informed choices at times of temptation and plenty, we can learn how to integrate these parts of our lives to create a balanced approach.

I read an article by The Age columnist, Jessica Irvine on the weekend, which really spoke to me of this concept. It highlighted how in every possible way, we live in a modern society of excess; of consumerism, objects, stuff, and of course, food. There is so much choice and availability all the time, that it can start to feel like our only choice is to consume.

So there’s the clincher; choice. I don’t want to be reductionist about health and weight management. I understand the complexities; the psychological, medical, genetic, environmental and physical factors associated with health decisions. However, if we focus on our choices in a given situation and how we can learn to make better ones, we start seeing longer term shifts in health outcomes such as weight, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and importantly, how we feel about ourselves. It’s a good time to consider how to live and derive pleasure from special occasions, without jeopardising what is of utmost importance; our own precious health. This is possible, even when three course meals are on offer for days in a row.

1. Forward plan: List every occasion over the next week and be strategic with meals and snacks on those days. Is it a big lunch you are feeling concerned about? Have a good breakfast – oats with berries and yoghurt, or eggs on multigrain with tomato and do something active (go for a walk or gym class). In other words, set yourself up to make healthy, informed and sound decisions.

2. Consider what will be on offer: if going out, check the menu in advance and make the best decision you can. If at someone’s home, you may have an idea of the fare. When you arrive, scope out what is available decide what you would really love to eat. Please, enjoy it. By allowing yourself to do so and letting go of dieting ‘rules’, such as ‘no bread or pasta or dessert,’ you will immediately make better choices. This doesn’t mean lose all barometer of fullness and go crazy; it means – give yourself the permission to taste, nourish and celebrate, whilst listening and ultimately respecting your body. Take a plate and load up on salads or vegetables, choose a small amount of the available protein (chicken, meat, fish) and similar size of carbohydrate (pasta, potato, rice). Try to avoid mindless snacking on dip & cheese platters and save room for the main event. If there is a cheese you love, take a small piece with crackers, taste and enjoy it.

3. Save room for your favourite dessert (mine is my mum’s chocolate cake). Avoid going back for seconds by eating slowly, check in on how you are feeling. Enjoy a glass of wine if it makes you happy. Move away from the table when done; a family board game or walk around the block might be a welcome distraction.

4. If you feel uncomfortably full, or have over indulged, avoid the guilt and negative self talk and instead reset at the next meal. Choose to eat lighter – a salad, or some toast and please do not punish yourself. Food is not tied into moral worth, eating too much does not make a person ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it makes them human. Learning from these times can help us approach the next occasion differently. The ability to reset helps us shift towards a healthy lifestyle approach; it gets easier as time goes on.

5. Perspective: One meal in isolation is not going to have a long-term impact, it is when the splurge meals carry on for days or weeks that the impact is greater.

6. Realistic expectations: Make healthy choices most of the time, plan regular exercise opportunities and be organised with fresh, seasonal meal ideas and snacks. These are the best steps towards health.

I would love the privilege to help you glow, grow or nurture and develop a healthier relationship with food. My approach is tailored to each individual’s situation. I am available for consults at NEST Family Clinic and booking details can be found at

children & fluids: how much?

By Nicole Bando, APD & IBCLC, 17th September 2019

Water is vital for all of our body’s basic functions, such as carrying nutrients to cells, regulating body temperature and ensuring healthy bowel motions. I am often asked, how much fluid do children need?
The answer depends on their age, body weight and other factors, such as illness, environment & physical activity levels. My advice is based on a healthy population.

0-6 month old babies need 150mls of fluid per kg per day. Many parents of breastfed babies worry that they can’t quantify how much milk their baby is receiving. There are many ways to tell if a baby is well hydrated, remember that what goes in must come out.

At least 5 heavy wet nappies and multiple soft stools per day are a good indicator that baby is well hydrated. Please note that after about 6 weeks, a breastfed baby poo only once per day. it is also normal for a breastfed baby to last 7-10 days without a bowel motion, this is quite normal if baby is otherwise gaining weight and well. Bottle fed babies may only poo once every 2 or 3 days.

Baby’s skin tone, colouring and alertness is also a good indicator of hydration. Diarrhoea or vomiting increase fluid requirements and increase risk of dehydration at any age, which can be life threatening in children. If your child ever becomes listless, has a depressed fontanelle (soft area on baby’s forehead prior to the bones closing), won’t drink breast milk or formula or becomes unresponsive, seek emergency medical attention.

Both breastfed and formula fed babies are likely to need extra feeds offered in hot weather. A formula fed baby may need additional sterile water, it is best to discuss this with your GP. Breastfed babies do not require additional water, and instead may be offered extra breastfeeds.

Children 6-12 months require 120mls fluid per kilogram per day (e.g. a 9kg baby requires just over 1000mls per day). This includes water consumed from sippy cups, breastmilk, formula, as well as water found in foods.

Basic fluid requirements per day beyond 12 months (+fluid from diet) are listed below:
1-3 years: 1000mls
4-8 years:1200mls
9-13 years: Boys 1600mls, Girls 1400mls
4-18 years: Boys 1900mls, Girls 1600mls

Fluid is defined as anything liquid at room temperature (milk, jelly, yoghurt, custard), it also comes from high water content foods, such as fruit and vegetables. These are difficult to quantify, but they do count towards total fluid intake (in adults up to 20% of total intake). Beyond 12 months, cow’s milk (or alternative) and water are the best drinks for children. Specialised toddler formulae are not required in healthy children. Juices, diet and sugary soft drinks are not recommended to be part of a child’s diet. Many schools now only allow water in the classroom and children are encouraged to drink throughout the day.

If your child is straining, passing hard pellet like stools, or passing urine that is dark and offensive, this can be a sign of inadequate hydration, which can contribute to constipation and other medical concerns. See your GP if you have any concerns and seek help from a Paediatric Dietitian for specialised dietary help if you feel constipation or diet may be an issue.


By Nicole Bando, Family & Paediatric Dietitian & Lactation Consultant

With school on the horizon, it’s time to start thinking about your child’s lunch box. The lunch box provides up to 40% of a child’s daily intake and presents a vital opportunity to fuel rapid growth, development & learning. A well-packed lunch can maximise a child’s concentration and learning ability by sustaining energy levels, promoting gut health, stabilising mood, encouraging healthy growth and building healthy habits to take into their adult years.

How to pack a balanced lunch box:

  • Cover the 5 food groups to ensure that your child is receiving all the nutrients they need.
  • For example: fruit, chopped vegetables, small tub of yoghurt, wholegrain sandwich with cheese and salad.
  • Include protein (egg, tofu, tuna, lean meat, baked beans seeds, nuts (if permitted), dairy) & slow release carbohydrates (wholegrain breads, crackers, dairy foods, fruit, popcorn, pasta spirals, other grains). This will ensure they do not come home starving and over consume during the afternoon and evening.
  • Present the same foods in different ways: e.g. cucumber slices, sticks, whole baby cucumbers
  • Treat foods should only appear sometimes, once every week or two. Consider where your child may be receiving other treats, do they need them in their lunches too? (This includes home baked goods, muesli bars, fruit straps, pretzels, juice, chips, etc.)
  • Involve the children in lunch prep – ask what they would like within reason e.g. carrot or cucumber
  • Continue to send new foods, even if they come home at first. If they are not offered, your child will never try them. Presenting foods frequently helps to normalise them as part of their daily diets.
  • If lunch comes home uneaten, offer as an after school snack, before offering an alternative.
  • If your child only likes Vegemite sandwiches, switch to wholegrain bread, add some fruit, veg & dairy to their lunch boxes for balance.

Remember that even small changes are positive, so try simple swaps such as:

  • Swap a processed snack for a piece of fruit
  • If vegetables are no longer sent, start by sending one or two pieces each day. Acceptance takes time and with persistence the food will be tasted & even eaten.
  • Swap a less nutritious snack for something better e.g chips for popcorn, or banana bread for a regular sized piece of raisin bread with cream cheese.
  • This can be a tricky area to navigate for families, please come and see me for advice to help your kids achieve their best growth and learning potential through nutrition.

For more information, see these links: Nutrition Australia:
Follow Nicole on Facebook @NicoleBandoAPD or Instagram @nicolebandoapd for more nutritious family ideas
Image courtesy of

meal prep for beginners

By Nicole Bando, Family & Paediatric Dietitian & Lactation Consultant
January 25, 2020

If you’d like a more organised start to the work and school year, learn to meal prep like a boss. This really is one of the best ways to keep healthy and gets easier with practice. Mix and match combinations and change it up next week. This may seem daunting at first, but trust me, a couple of hours cooking on a Sunday wins many more hours during the week and takes the stress out of last minute cooking & supermarket dashes, amongst work, school and extra-curricular activity runs.
Recipes and shopping list included below.


  • Avoid following multiple recipes, this is time consuming and daunting.
  • Choose something easy that you know well, e.g. spaghetti bolognaise.
  • Mix and match by choosing 1 option from each group:

1. Carbohydrate: 500g pasta, boiled, 1-2 cups quinoa, cooked, 1 loaf wholegrain bread and 1 packet mountain bread wraps
2. Protein: 500g grilled chicken, Plant boosted bolognaise, 6-8 boiled eggs, small cans tuna in olive oil, tinned four bean mix
3. Vegetable: 1 tray roasted vegetables (recipe here), 1 large bag spinach leaves, 1 bag pre-packaged salad mix, chopped fresh vegetables (carrot, cucumber, capsicum, etc.), medium potatoes and broccoli
4. Small amount of good fats: olive oil, yoghurt dressing, avocado, nuts & seeds

Sample meal ideas


  • Mountain bread wraps + boiled eggs, avocado and salad mix
  • Quinoa + roast vegetables + grilled chicken + olive oil, seeds
  • Spaghetti bolognaise
  • Wholegrain bread + tuna + avocado + handful spinach mix + chopped fresh vegetables


  • Spaghetti bolognaise
  • Bolognaise + jacket potato + green salad
  • Jacket potato + canned bean mix + grated cheese + salad mix
  • Mountain bread bolognaise burritos
  • Chicken + leftover pasta + bag spinach + 400g can chickpeas, drained

These meals are designed to last in the fridge roughly 3 days. Divide meals into containers and freeze chicken or bolognaise that will not be used within 3 days to ensure food safety. Simply defrost for use later in the week.

Which milk? a review of plant vs dairy milks

By Nicole Bando, Dietitian & Lactation Consultant

Cow’s milk: an excellent source of protein, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, Vitamin A & 12, lactose, zinc. Choose full cream, 3.8% fat (unless you have diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease or would like to lose weight, then opt for low-fat or skim (0.15-1.5% fat)

Lactose free cow’s milk: A good option for those who lack the enzyme needed to digest the natural sugar in milk, lactose.

A2 milk: Cow’s milk contains A1 & A2 proteins and a couple of studies suggested that the A1 protein increased gut inflammation, some cows have been bred to produce only A2 protein milk. Larger studies did not support this earlier finding and there is no proven benefit to drinking A2 milk. For some who experience digestive discomfort, it may be worth a try. For the rest of us, at double the price, there is no benefit.

Soy: The most similar nutritionally to cow’s milk and the best choice if opting for plant-based unless you have a soy allergy. A good source of protein, look for a soy milk with added calcium, Vitamins A, B1, B2, B12. Lactose, gluten free.

Almond: Low in protein, carbohydrates and calories. If allergic to dairy or soy, choose an unsweetened brand with added calcium. Lactose, gluten free. Rice: high in quick release carbohydrates, low in protein, vitamins and minerals. Lactose, gluten free.

Oat: Contains some protein, fibre, look for unsweetened varieties with added calcium & Vitamin B12. Not gluten free. Next best option after cow’s and soy milks.

Coconut: High in saturated fat, low in all nutrients, including protein, vitamins and minerals and carbohydrates. Drink occasionally for the flavour in smoothies (choose unsweetened with added calcium) or curries. *If going plant-based, look for milks with added calcium (100mg per 100mls). *If your child has an allergy to dairy or soy, seek advice from a paediatric dietitian to ensure adequate nutrition for growth. ere to edit.

one more serve of veg

By Nicole Bando, APD, IBCLC

  • Make a breakfast omelette – throw in a handful of veg such as spinach, capsicum, mushrooms. Add lean ham, cottage cheese or feta.
  • Snack on a small can of corn or 4 bean mix
  • Snack on a cob of corn
  • Grate loads of leftover veg to make vegetable fritters, recipe
  • Snack on vegetables sticks & dip
  • Try roasted chickpeas/ fava beans or edamame as a snack
  • Munch on celery & cream cheese
  • Roast a big tray of vegetables and use in lunches
  • Grate some carrot into your sandwich
  • Load some raw chopped mushrooms into a wrap with tuna and avocado
  • Mix washed baby spinach leaves through pasta or rice
  • Make a loaded veg soup and eat throughout the week
  • Stock up on frozen veg and add a couple of handfuls to your meals
  • Add some sliced tomato and basil to your morning toast with cottage cheese or avocado instead of vegemite
  • Add a tomato and handful of greens to your morning eggs