Prioritising Children’s Nutrition with Stephanie Meades


Leonardo Rocker

Prioritising Children’s Nutrition with Stephanie Meades

Welcome to the seventh episode of the Impressive. Today's podcast is about the person behind the Life Wellness Co, Stephanie Meades. She is a nutritionist and a holistic health coach. Here, she reveals how she balances motherhood and career topped with her passion to help us transition from eating processed foods to indulging in real ones.

Listen up as we explore:

  • The most toxic preservatives for toddlers.
  • How to recognize common reactions to processed food.
  • Where parents can find support to change family eating habits.

Listeners also receive a discount for Steph’s “Real Food Reboot” online program. Use the discount code: ‘quirkykid’ at Life Wellness Co

Enjoy the Episode


Recommended Resources

  • Real Food Reboot
  • Kindness Crew
  • Eating the Rainbow
  • Real Food for Real Families by Estella Padgett

About Impressive

Impressive is a weekly podcast that sheds a new light on the world of parenting. Join host, Dr Kimberley O’Brien PhD, as she delves into real-life parenting issues with CEOs, global ex-pats, entrepreneurs, celebrities, travellers and other hand-picked parents.

Further Reading


Parent Tips for Fussy Eaters and Toddlers

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Quirky Kid continues to grow, develop and evolve. As a result, we have new positions for child psychologists and a mental health clinician (Social Worker, Occupational Therapist, Mental Health Nursing or Psychologist) who shares Quirky Kid’s passion for working with children – Together, amazing things happen.

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Read the full transcript below under references.

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Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 00:08

Hello, I'm Dr. Kimberley O'Brien, a child psychologist, entrepreneur, and mum with a passion for problem solving and family adventures. Join me each week for practical tips and on air consultations with the smartest, kindest parents and their incredible kids. Find answers faster, do things differently, and take your family further. This is impressive. This episode is sponsored by Now let's get started.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 00:34

This is episode seven of Impressive, and I'm your host, Dr. Kim O'Brien. Thank you for joining us. So this week we are talking to Steph Meades, who is a nutritionist and a holistic health coach. She helps families to transition from processed foods, even if it's just a few processed foods onto a complete real food diet. And she talks to us about the impact of preservatives on particularly toddlers and their behaviour. But before we get started with Steph and you start to consider Christmas parties and the lollipops that kids are coming home with these days when they have a sweet sticky taped to the front of their Christmas card envelope from a friend. I wanted to also ask you to check out  where you can have access to a child development expert anywhere, anytime. So while you're listening, you can go to and take a look at Quirky Kids' new initiative for parents making child psychology services more affordable and more accessible for parents worldwide. If you'd also like to subscribe to the impressive podcast, you can do that on your podcast app and perhaps even leave us a review. I would love that. So let's listen up now to Steph Meades as we learn about the impact of food on children's behaviour. Thanks, Steph.

Stephanie Meades: 01:56

We've been on quite a journey, my family, and I  don't even really know where to start. It's such a long story, but I'll try and keep it short. Basically, my first born son, James, who is now seven right from the get go, he was a very difficult child. But being our first child, my husband and I didn't understand that the way that James was presenting was anything outside of the norm. We just thought that nobody had really told us how difficult parenting was and that we were not gonna get any sleep and that we were gonna have a screaming child. It turns out, now that we've had a second child, we know very different. We know that that is not normal, but at the time we didn't understand that. So from the start I went through 18 months of fertility treatment and that fertility treatment  saw me very, heavily medicated.

Stephanie Meades: 02:55
So within the first three months of me being pregnant with James, I was actually withdrawing from a lot of that medication, which was then obviously affecting his development in the womb. And then when he was born, I still remember the very first day in the hospital that the nurses kept taking him off me because he was so unsettled. He just wouldn't stop crying and he wouldn't feed properly. And they told me that he had reflux and so they put his little crib up,  all of which I didn't really understand at the time. Then moving on, we had this little bundle that we thought was supposed to be a bundle of joy that was just in absolute misery all of the time. So he would cry constantly. He would be forever drawing his legs up. He would sleep for 15 minutes tops, 24/7.  So we were getting just no reprieve and we just had this little child that was in pain. So we sought a lot of help at that stage from pediatricians, from Tresillian. We had four residential stays with Tresillian over the first 10 months of James' life,  and from the last Tresillian stay, I still remember that they took James off us after the second day and actually put him in the office because that was the only soundproofed room so that we could have reprieve and so that the rest of the families there could have reprieve. That's how  much he screamed.  

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 04:24

I feel so sorry for James. He must have been in such pain and so tired.  

Stephanie Meades: 04:30

And looking back, it's really sad because we look at all of his baby photos right up until the age of about two. There is no photos of him smiling in how you get those really cute baby photos where you get those big toothless grin, we didn't get those with James. Cause he was just in constant pain. And then as a result of that, he wasn't sleeping. So he was then getting irritable because of that. Anyway, long story short, he was basically diagnosed a whole range of things.  He was diagnosed with chronic sleep apnea. He was waking up 17 times an hour, stop and breathing, which is why he just couldn't sleep any longer than 15 minutes.  15 minutes was a good stretch for James.  So he would wake up because he would stop breathing and then he would  obviously get so scared that he needed us to comfort him to then settle him back down.

Stephanie Meades: 05:27
So he was diagnosed with that. He was diagnosed with silent reflux, like I said, right from an early age, and the treatment for that was medication. So he was put on a whole heap of medication and  quite high doses,  dosages from a young age. And then he went on to develop all sorts of other issues during his first couple of years of life. So he had a lot of food aversions when we started to transition him over to solids, which I was advised to do earlier than the six month  to try and settle his belly. So he wouldn't take anything other than white sweet options like Pear or Apple or bread. And the terrible cereal, what's that? Cereal Farex.  He would only take the sorts of things. He wouldn't take any of the normal vegetables that kids usually wean onto,  and he was  just consistently in pain even when we did transition him over to the solids.

Stephanie Meades: 06:24
So basically, long story short, we started to picture it. We put together a picture that it was something going on with his gut causing a lot of these other issues. And once we started to then play with the foods that he was eating and address and respond, I guess with different nutritional options based on the signals his body was presenting us with, that's when the pieces really started to fall into place. So we thought assistance from the RPA in terms of their elimination diet to start and work on removing certain foods from his diet. And we realised as the part of that program that he was responding to Benzyl Benzoate, which is a common preservative that's used in a lot of baby foods and kids food. The satchels of flavoured yogurt and the satchels of fruit usually have those Benzyl Benzoate, but also medications have the flavouring.  

Stephanie Meades: 07:26
So once we started to extract those things out of his diet, we noticed  considerable improvements in terms of his symptoms of anxiety and depression that were kind of coming along. When I say anxiety and depression, when he started to verbalise, he started to talk about a black cloud that used to come and visit him and not being able to see through the black cloud and just feeling like that black cloud was suffocating him. So  when we saw a psychologist about it, they're like, Oh yeah, he's got anxiety, he's got depression. So we just added that to the diagnosis as well.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 07:59

Steph, sorry to interrupt, but how old was he at that stage when he went and saw a psychologist and had that?

Stephanie Meades: 08:07

I can't even remember. It was probably around  around three  four I'd say. So it was when he was at, So I actually put him into daycare quite early just to give me some reprieve. And I remember that it was one of the early childhood teachers there that mentioned to me  that he kept talking about this black cloud. And then I started to notice him talking about it more and more. So then we saw a psychologist  around that three or four, and I remember sitting down and thinking, this is just ridiculous.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 08:37

I'm with you. Doesn't sound right.

Stephanie Meades: 08:40

No. So we were seeing a psychologist, we were seeing the hospital regularly for his diet. We were seeing a physiotherapist cause he failed to  roll over, he failed to crawl.  So we had to assist him to learn all of  those or to reach all of those  physical development milestones that he was not reaching. So  once we extracted the Benzoates, we realised that his behaviour improved, but we still were seeing a lot of other symptoms that were presenting  that we just couldn't   get settled through the diet that we were working with the elimination diet. And that's when I started to look more and more into gaps. So I don't know whether you've heard of GAPS, but GAPS is basically it's gut and psychological syndrome or gut and physiological syndrome. So it's basically linking the state of people's gut health with a whole myriad of physiological and psychological symptoms.  

Stephanie Meades: 09:40
And when I started to look into this, the GAPS  logo is actually a sign post. I dunno whether you've seen it, but it's a sign post. It's got all these different diagnoses on it. The first one was dyspraxia, the second one was ADD, the third one was anxiety and the fourth one was depression. Now my son had been diagnosed with all of them, and I was like, Hmm, there might be something else going on here. So I went back and completed my postgrad  studies in nutrition and then went on to become a certified GAPS practitioner. And then James was basically my first client. So I put him through the gaps nutritional protocol, which is all about using Whole Foods. So getting away from processed foods, using Whole Foods for healing the gut.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 10:31

Love it when you talk about Whole Foods, and  I remember you took us through at the  local co-op shop, all the different Whole Food Options and taught us about different recipes that are just all about Whole Foods. So can you just emphasise the point about the difference between Whole Foods and say foods you would get at the shopping centre and why it's so important to have Whole Foods in your diet? Like you're saying all Whole Foods, not a little bit of Whole Foods, but basically everything you eat needs to be a real food.  

Stephanie Meades: 11:00

Absolutely. If you wanna achieve optimal wellbeing and if you wanna support your children's reaching their full potential, Whole Foods just have to be a way of life  because processed foods, which is anything that comes in a packet basically these days have so many additives and preservatives in them. So many additional fillers, emulsifier stabilisers, refined sugars that are all behavioural shifters in our kids and in us. So when you stop relying on those processed foods and you go back to using foods in their whole state without any of these things that have been added, you start to see huge shifts in the way that you as adults, but also your kids present.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 11:46

Hey, I'm just popping in to see if you've heard about the Best of Friends program. If you haven't, we offer it the school holidays and term long programs. That's one hour per week over 10 weeks or a two hour school holiday program if you'd like a taster. The Best of Friends program is for children age seven to eleven years, and we have between three and six kids per group in the clinic setting, but it's also adaptable for the classroom setting. It's based around an interactive craft book and five stories about making and keeping friends. If you'd like to find out more, go to au and look into programs. That's quirky 

Stephanie Meades: 12:35

So I think a lot of parents out there just consider hyperactivity to be part of being a kid or restless nights as being part of being a kid. If we're fuelling them with good nutritional food that's not causing to toxicity in their system or causing their hormones to go a skew with and then neurotransmitters to go skew with, then we do have calm, focus settled kids. Yeah,

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 13:03

I love it. I love it. Tell us about the transition, Steph, for your boys  moving across into that Whole Foods diet and then how it was, I remember you mentioned Vegemite Scrolls or something.   Was it James was looking at the other kids' lunch boxes and saying, I wouldn't mind trying one of those. So he managed to make one out of Whole Foods? Is that how the story went?

Stephanie Meades: 13:22

Yeah, yeah. So our transition across into Whole Foods has been, it was fairly easy to start with when the kids were really young because they weren't exposed to any different, Basically as  parents, when our kids are young, we have full control over what they eat. If there's no processed foods available in our pantry or in their lunchbox, then they, they're not exposed to it. So initially that transition was really quite easy for me. I basically just stopped buying packaged foods and I started to play with Whole Foods and developed my own recipes from there. But when James started to go to school or  at  daycare for example, when he started to see that kids ate differently to him, that's when it became more of an issue for us in terms of it was no longer about me just giving him the food. It was about educating him as well as to why he ate differently to other kids.

Stephanie Meades: 14:14
So a lot of the time it was a matter of he would come home like the veggie scroll situation, he'd come home and say, mum, I saw this veggie  scroll. It looked delicious, smelled delicious. I really wanted to try it. And I would say, Okay, cool. What we can do is try and make our own version of that. What do you think might go into that? What do you think the taste might be?   We came up with Salty and then we  came up with what we could use instead of flour and we talked about Almond meal or some seeds. So it was about me talking him through a lot of the times what we can substitute in terms of processed foods for Whole Foods. And then he started to also be able to then educate his peers as well at such a young age in the importance of Whole Foods and how he felt so different having the Whole Foods.

Stephanie Meades: 15:00
So  along the way I've allowed him to experience things that aren't necessarily a Whole Foods. So for example, if he's gone to a party, I'm not one of those parents that will say, you are not allowed to have anything on that table. I will allow him to experiment if he wants to. And then I will talk him through what's going on with his body afterwards. So when he does start to become erratic or emotional or when he has a really bad night's sleep, as a result, I'll then help him connect the dots between  what you ate has now affected how you feel and by doing it that way, he's now able to make much more empowered choices rather than it being me telling him what to do. He's actually figuring it out now for himself as well, which is really an important part of transitioning your family over into Whole Foods. It has to be coming from a place where the kids are being educated as to why we're doing it.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 15:56

I love it too. I love it. It's just all making perfect sense. Can you tell us now about how you are bringing it into schools and educating teachers and parents as well as the kids in the local community?

Stephanie Meades: 16:07

Yeah, so about 12 months ago, I created a series of workshops that were community based workshops that were focused on to start with, it was just school snacks, so how you could start to provide healthier lunchbox for kids by making Whole Foods snacks. So instead of giving them a packet of chips, we could look at kale chips or instead of looking at the commercial cookies, I then provided recipes that  were still chocolate cookies, but they were made from whole  food ingredients. So that was run as a community type setting. And we just found that there was more and more parents wanting to learn about this, and we were getting the kids to come along and taste the difference well, between the Whole Foods and the more commercially bought foods and they were saying so much nicer.  So from there, we then went on to create another workshop that's called Does Food Affect Your Children's Behaviour?

Stephanie Meades: 17:04
Where we actually delve into the science that's being put out there at the moment about just how much what we are feeding our kids is affecting how they're presenting in life. And again, it was given at a  community level, parents that were interested could come along and hear about it, kids as well could join.  And we presented all of that information. And the more that we did that, the more parents were coming up to me afterwards saying, You need to do this at the schools. You know,  need to get in and talk to more parents and more kids at the schools. So now our  vision over the next 6 to 12 months is to make that workshop how food affects children's behaviour available to schools to present as a fundraiser basically. So what we  are looking at doing is offering my services to deliver this workshop to a school, which can then market it out to surrounding schools as a fundraising event.

Stephanie Meades: 18:00
Say, come along, purchase a ticket for $20, whatever it may be. All of those funds go into the P&C. So it makes it worthwhile for the school, but it also allows us to get this information out to a broad range of parents. So touching the parents is one thing, but then getting kids excited about it is another. So what we're looking to do is also have a program that's delivered within the classroom where we get kids inspired and excited about eating Whole Foods. So we do a program that's called Eating the Rainbow, where we start to play with all of the different colourful whole foods, creating a rainbow, trying them, cause a lot of these kids have food diversions to colourful whole food,  right? About giving them the exposure and the excitement about tasting all of these different things and  saying how good they feel as a result of having those treats as well in  the classroom. So we're actually getting both levels. We're getting the kids interested, but then also getting the parents on board because ultimately it's us as parents that can influence mostly what's going on with the kids in terms of their food choices and educating them on how that makes them feel.  

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 19:10

Sounds amazing. Tell me more about how other parents can learn about, so parents that aren't in the local community, how can they access courses that you offer? And is it possible for the kids to join in when it comes to online courses?

Stephanie Meades: 19:22

Absolutely. So there's a program, an online program that we've put to together called Real Food Reboot. And basically this program is for that exact reason so that more people around the nation and international can actually get access to how they can transition their family from process package foods into a real food way of life. And it's an information dense  program in the first week where we go through and explain why   the importance of doing this and how additives and preservatives can affect our kids and how gut health affects our kids. Because when we have that awareness as a parent, we can't not do anything with that   because we all want the best for our kids. So the first part of the program is just learning about why it's so important to make this transition. And then the next four weeks of the program is basically walking you through step by step how you do that.

Stephanie Meades: 20:16
So we talk about how you read food labels, we talk about where you can find whole foods, we talk about what you can do with Whole Foods, because a lot of us are just like, well, I don't know how to cook quinoa or I don't know what to do with seasonal produce. So we talk you through what you can do and what sort of recipes you can use. We've also got program sample meal plans. So it's examples of what I feed my family. So from a nutritionist point of view, what I feed my family to make sure they're getting all of the nutrient dense foods that we want  in a week. So it's breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it's school snacks that I pack them off to and you get access to all of those recipes. So in the program,  I think there's over 250 recipes now, Whole food recipe that families can start to integrate into their diet.

Stephanie Meades: 21:04
And  in terms of getting the kids interested and excited, what I love to do is get the family to, well, I suggest the program that the family actually writes down seven different breakfast options, seven different lunches and seven different dinners from the portal. And then the kids pick one each, The parents pick one each so that they can actually feel like they're having a choice and they can get excited about trying that new recipe as well. Yes. So yeah, that online program's been really successful in transitioning a lot of families from process packaged foods over to a real food diet. And there's been so many testimonials from families just saying, Oh my gosh, our dinner table is just completely different. We are all focused, we're all calm, we're all present, we're all excited about the food that we're having. We're all eating the same thing, and there's no meltdowns afterwards   as a result of just providing that whole nutrient dense food that keeps us all stable.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 22:04

Yes, I'm one of the people that have done, I've done that online course. So just repeat the name, Real Food Reboot, isn't it

Stephanie Meades: 22:11

Real Food Reboot Yeah. Yeah. What I'd like to do actually is offer your listeners, we can offer them a special discount code if there are families that are interested in taking that next step and they can't make it to one of our workshops, I'll give you a little discount code that you can give out to your listeners so that they can access that straight away.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 22:29

So Steph, any closing remarks? I  also wondered if you could talk a bit about the kindness. Was it the kindness project that you and a colleague working on? I just thought that was another beautiful thing that's worth mentioning  and anything else in terms of people working with you and how they can find you.

Stephanie Meades: 22:44

Okay. So just to touch a little bit on the kindness crew. So Jody Cooper, who's a positive psychologist and  a couple of years ago, started an initiative at Christmas time, whereas rather than having an advent calendar that was full of sweet treats that the kids got to open each day, we had an advent calendar that was based on every day the children  being prompted to do a random act, kindness. And they were all things that were free things that the child could do, pick a flower and take it to your next door neighbour or write a thank you note to your teacher. So the whole purpose of that was to remove that all about me and what I can get at Christmas time to what can I give, and having that attitude of gratitude because with that attitude of gratitude reduces a lot of stress. And stress is a major component that can also affect our food choices and our gut health as well. So it  was another little side project that I did that would, it just went wild as well. It took over the nation. We were on sunrise at one point, which was just ridiculous.

Stephanie Meades: 23:47

So many parents out there that were messaging us, just saying, Oh my gosh, my child is a different child. Every morning they wake up thinking about what they can do for others. So that was beautiful. And if anybody is interested in the Kindness calendar for Christmas this year, let Jodie or myself know you can contact me through the website and we can offer you the electronic version of the kindness calendar at which you can print off and use within your schools, or even just use it at home.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 24:14

Thanks for being so generous with all those resources. So where can people find you, Steph? Which is the best website and what platform are you most active on?

Stephanie Meades: 24:23

Okay, so the best website to  jump onto is So that's L I F E W E L L N E S S S C O .com. On that website you can contact me directly, but it also has a trillion recipes. So if you just wanna start your journey into Whole Foods there, start trolling the recipe catalog there and downloading your recipes for free there. Also on that website, there's a really good ebook called Real Food for Real Families. It's a hundred page ebook,  I think it's about $7. And it goes through a lot about the information  that I usually talk about in my workshops with additives and preservatives and sugars, how to read food labels, and then a stack of recipes that you can start to implement into your diet. So that's another good place to start. That's  kind of entry level. And then once you've done that, I'd suggest having a look at the Real Food Reboot program, which you can access through that website as well.

Stephanie Meades: 25:28
And use the discount code that will pop in the show notes. Then if you really feel like you need to be having that one on one support, then you can contact me and we can work one on one together. So well one on the family, I should say. Cause it's never about me working with one particular family member, It's about working with the whole family together. So I do that, I do a lot of international clients, so we do it through Skype or if you are local and in the Illawarra area, then I love doing it face to face in my clinic as well. So if you're interested in that one on one coaching, again on the website there's a little section that talks about working with me and you can contact me through there. You can have a free 30 minute session to work out if we are going to work well together. And then we can go onto organising individual coaching on top of that. But  also on that website, I'd suggest just keeping an eye out for any upcoming workshops because a lot of the workshops that we are doing now in our local area, we're also transitioning over to being available online, so as a webinar  so that people that aren't in the Illawarra can also still be accessing that information. So that website pretty much covers off all bases.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 26:36

And thanks again for taking time out of your family holiday Steph, I can see in the background there was that beautiful snow scene. What are you gonna do this afternoon? And what's the plan for dinner?

Stephanie Meades: 26:47

I am going to head over, I've got another hour or so of work to do that I'm gonna head over to pick my boys up and I've got them some beautiful almond and vanilla spiced chai cookies for afternoon tea. So I'll take that over. And then this afternoon we're basically just gonna go on a little hike up to Mount Perisher and then the chef here at the lodge will be making a beautiful, what was it, a crusted Barramundi, which is basically being made for our version almonds and fresh herbs on top of the for dinner.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 27:21

My mouth is watering. Sounds so delicious,

Stephanie Meades: 27:24

But I wanna thank you Kimberley. I really  appreciate you asking me to be on and allowing me the time to  talk through just how important it is for us to transition our kids from this process package way of life into real foods. So I really thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to be on and talking about this

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 27:43

My pleasure. I'm a big fan and it really just rings true when I've done observations in the school setting and then I  watch the kids unpack their lunch boxes and the wrappers are flying around the playground. I think, how can we change this? And I feel like you're taking steps to  make a real difference and  help kids find healthy choices. So yeah, thanks again for your time, Steph, and  I hope our listeners will be in touch and we'll also be able to access those amazing recipes.

Stephanie Meades: 28:10

Yeah. Perfect. Thanks Kim.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 28:12

Okay. Take care.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 28:14
Now, if you liked this week's episode of Impressive, don't forget to subscribe so that you can find out about our next episode featuring Janna Lundquist, who is a US based consultant to CEOs and leaders in corporations talking about how to make leadership decisions. And she's also sharing with her one of her parenting challenges, which is helping her three year old and five year old sit at the table when her husband comes home with the kids after a long day at school and childcare. You may be able to relate and I would love to have you listen up to that episode. So join us next week for impressive. Until then, have a great week.

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