At work, the last thing any parent wants is a battle with their child about what they are going to eat.

When it comes to a choice between spaghetti hoops greens, it is not difficult guess which one most children will go for.

Trying to balance what child likes with what is good for them is a difficult job but nutritionist Lucy Pook believes there are ways making the healthy stuff palatable.

She admits it may take more effort to prepare fresh food but says it is worth it the long run.

Lucy, from Brighton, has set up a series of drop-

clinics offering advice and information to parents unsure about what to give their children.

She said: "People are often confronted with long, confusing lists of what children should and should not eat. It can be very complicated and advice can sometimes be conflicting.

"My aim is to offer people basic, down-to-earth advice that will help children enjoy a healthy diet.

"I am hoping to steer parents away from giving children so much processed food.

"I know it can be difficult for the many parents who dont have time to make fresh meals but even a small step in the right direction will be a good one."

Issues to be discussed include the importance giving your child plenty water to drink and the importance of fresh vegetables and fruit.

Lucy said: "Information will be available for children of all ages although I expect the emphasis to be on toddlers as they are usually the most picky.

"I am not going to recommend a diet of beansprouts because no child would eat such a diet but there are alternatives out there which can be very tasty and nutritious.

"It will be a matter of finding the right one to suit individual children."

One of the specific areas Lucy will be focusing on is the importance of essential fatty acids and oils such as deep-sea fish oil.

She said: "These are vital towards the development of the brain yet many children are not getting anywhere near enough."

Allergies and childrens reactions to certain types of foods will also be discussed.

Some children are intolerent to wheat or dairy products while others can become hyperactive if they have food with too much artificial colouring.

Whether to choose butter or margarine and the benefits of a wheat-free diet are other topics that many parents are keen to learn more about.

Lucy said: "There are so many confusing messages when a basic, commonsense approach is all that is needed.

"The more a parent learns about diet and nutrition for their child, the more they will consider their own diet."

The British Nutrition Foundation says the energy requirements of toddlers increases rapidly because they are growing quickly and becoming more active.

They have a high-energy requirement for their size and, to get the energy they need, children should have foods which are high in energy and rich in nutrients and eaten as part of small and frequent meals.

Young children should never be put on weight reduction diets but the development of a healthy family lifestyle is important in the weight management of children. A good supply of protein, calcium, iron and vitamins A and D is also necessary.

Calcium is needed for the development of healthy teeth and full-fat milk is recommended for children over the age of 12 months as a main drink as it is a rich source of a number of nutrients.

Semi-skimmed milk can be introduced after the child is two, as long as the diet provides enough energy.

Children with iron deficiency anaemia tend to suffer from frequent infections, poor weight gain and delay in development.

Iron-rich foods, such as liver and red meat are not generally popular with children but there are other ways of providing it such as through home-made hamburgers.

Children who are vegetarian should be given green vegetables and pulses to get their iron intake.

The new drop in-clincs run by Lucy will be held on the first Saturday of every month at the Holistic Health Centre in Beaconsfield Road, Brighton from 11pm to 12.30pm. The cost is £5 per session. For more details call 01273 696295.