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Interview With Our In-House Nutritionist, Naomi Szacaks On Building Stronger Bodies And Minds With Early Nutrition

Updated: Jun 5

Naomi, to start could you share with us what drives your passion for nutrition, especially in the early years? 

As a naturopathic nutritionist, I am passionate about early years nutrition. I am very happy to assist the nursery in providing a more well-rounded menu that introduces the children to different tastes and textures. A menu that provides the nutrient density for strong physical, mental, and emotional development. I decided to go into nutrition, originally, because so many children were developing issues from eating certain foods. 

Why do you believe a balanced and varied diet is crucial for your children?

I believe that a balanced and varied early years diet is crucial because of the current trend of children developing allergies and intolerances. It is not just bones and muscles that need healthy foods, it also their nervous system and immune systems that need nurturing. 

How did your upbringing influence your approach to nutrition?

I value the experiences I had as a child to discover the world of food, different tastes, learning where my food came from and helping create it myself. I was fortunate enough to have a European-style upbringing in Melbourne, Australia. My mother, while born in Australia, would cook the European-style food my grandmother did. We always helped in the kitchen as children and quickly learnt that food preparation with the family was as important as eating together as a family. The value I place in good food comes from my mother and Romanian grandmother who made a lot of things from scratch. I learnt about food from garden to table and I still see this as an essential part of a child’s development in their understanding of what they eat. 

What are the key areas of development that the new summer menu targets?

There are three different areas of development for children that need to be considered when it comes to creating a healthy relationship with food: physical, mental, and social development. Creating a more nutrient-dense menu means even children with allergies or intolerances, are receiving the widest range of nutrients in their diet, even if they must avoid certain foods. In approaching this menu, my thought process was to create firstly a nutritionally balanced menu with variety. Also, I believe children first eat with their eyes just like adults, they need to be interested by a dish. It needs to offer both visual interest and taste, while providing a solid nutritional base for growth. 

Could you explain more about these stages? How does this affect the physical development of children? 

Three stages of early years nutritional developments are: Physical development: Taste buds and building stronger bodies. Introducing different textures and tastes is important, like programming a computer, the taste buds need to be exposed to different flavours to develop and complete their programming. Children have double the taste buds of an adult, so they experience a more intense flavour to the same foods. Regardless of the stage of development a child is going through, they will always opt for the ‘sugar’ taste, even in carbohydrate form. But with protein, the body will eat as much as it requires, there is an automatic switch off when the body knows it has had enough to continue building the cells in our body. The hard part is getting more varied sources of protein along with some fibre and other nutrients needed from vegetables. As their taste buds develop one day they will love carrots the following week they will reject them, their body is going through the process of developing different tastebuds as old ones die off and new ones are grown and understanding organically what the body requires without the child ever being conscious of that fact. Their bodies are leading them to what it needs. This is often the science behind child-led weaning. Variety is crucial here again to help them develop their taste and provide their bodies with a wide range of nutrients. This is the philosophy that has been part of the new menu development.

What about their mental and cognitive development? 

Mental development: Developing good habits with a healthy nervous and immune system. Connecting with their food and understanding that it doesn’t l come from a packet. Seeing the fresh food prepared for them and the taste associated with it is essential for the future development of having a natural disposition to a healthy diet. Many children associate the sugar taste, whether from biscuits or carbohydrates from seeing a packet. When they see a vegetable, chop it themselves (age permitting) and see it in their lunch, they form a full picture of what they are eating. It develops an interest in food and may possibly make them more adventurous in their eating further down the line. Much like when a child picks up something of the floor to eat it. While we as adults shun this, it is their brain saying that’s new, I wonder how that tastes. But as mentioned with fussy eaters, there is a connect between the brain and physical here. Sometimes they will try something and sometimes their tastebuds are not enjoying the flavour they have just experienced. So repetitive use of a range of food sources will over time create a new path for tastes. They may push something aside one week but eat it the next. This where their physical and mental development connect. 

Is there a social aspect to their relationship with food?

Social development: Being part of a whole. Being a fussy eater relates to both their physical, social and mental development. Some children refuse food with colour, some prefer only carbs, some will go crazy for only cheese! The social environment is important and eating among their peers and seeing everyone is eating the same thing is part of the development of learning to eat outside of their automatic preferences. Social development is very underrated when it comes to developing good eating habits. We all feel included when we feel part of a whole. It is why peer pressure as children grow becomes more intense. So, building a ‘good food’ environment will help them make better choices as older children, teenagers, and adults. With the new menu, while some dishes may be more popular than others initially, over time new tastes will be developed while the children get a full range of nutrients in their diet to grow strong and healthy.

Thank you for sharing these insights with us. It sounds like the new menu is set to make a significant impact on our children’s health and development. 


Naomi Szakacs DipNTgraduated from the College of Naturopathic Medicine in 2016. Since then, she has continued to work in areas such as allergies, intolerances, digestive, autoimmune, and hormonal-related conditions. Through the Digestive Workshop brand, she focuses on lifestyle, diet and incorporating health coaching towards positive outcomes for all her clients. Working with both adults and children, she looks at the many aspects of modern lifestyles when considering a client’s progress. Her holistic approach looks at the development of better eating and lifestyle habits for young children and adults, that fit well with the pressures and demands of modern living. Naomi works on nutrition for early years childcare as well as designing cooking activities for children to develop a healthy relationship with food. For children, this is essential to help their minds and bodies to grow strong. For adults, it often means addressing energy levels, getting quality sleep, and developing a greater sense of well-being.


  1. Mennella, PhD, Julia A. et al. 2015. The sweetness and bitterness of childhood: Insights from basic research on taste preferences. Vol 152, pg. 502 

  2. Cleveland clinic; Taste buds; Cleveland clinic; last reviewed 2/07/2023; [accessed 10/04/2024]

  3. Operation Ouch; Confuse your tastebuds; Channel 4; July 13 2019, [accessed 10/04/2024]

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