This article originally appeared on becausehelp.org.
By Karen Wang, PHD
Did you see that thing about there being lead and arsenic in baby food pouches and packaged snacks? What about the one where there’s RoundUp (or glyphosate) on cereals and oatmeal? It takes long enough to get your kids strapped in their highchair, so you probably don’t have time to do tons of research on which brands and products are safe. Not sure about you, but that’s definitely not happening in my house. Don’t worry! That’s why we sat down with Dr. Julia Getzelman, MD, integrative pediatrician and founder of GetzWell Personalized Pediatrics in San Francisco, to get her advice on what to feed your kids. She gave us some of her best tips and even a couple of recipes, and we are going to share them with you.
How worried should I be about heavy metals and pesticide residues in the foods I’m feeding my kids? Why?
Babies and children eat, breathe and drink more, pound for pound, than we adults do. To add to that burden, they have immature detoxification systems so they are less effective at getting rid of toxins they are exposed to. We know that toxins can cause behavior problems, ADHD, and allergies to name just a few. So, I think it’s a priority to feed them things that are as whole food based and toxin and sugar free as possible. Because Health has a great mnemonic to help guide your shopping – leafy berry skins. They explain the whole thought process so when you shop you’ll be able to prioritize when to spend your money on organics. That way, you don’t have to buy organic everything, which can be expensive. However, even bargain grocery stores have a pretty wide selection of discounted USDA organic labeled products.
What are some simple guidelines for figuring out what I should feed my kids?
If you stick with a whole foods based diet (meaning few or no processed foods) and stay away from products (even organic!) that have more than 5 ingredients, you’ll be in good shape. Like Michael Pollan has said: Don’t eat (or feed your kids) anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
What’s one thing you tell all parents about starting their babies on solids?
I get really excited when I educate families about solid food introduction. I like to emphasize that parents have a real opportunity to influence a child’s taste preferences. They have the chance to create and nurture a food culture in their home and they begin with the first bite to give information about what food is. If food comes in a package and tastes bland or salty and that’s what baby is exposed to, then that’s what that child will prefer. If food is colorful and full of flavor and natural texture from the get-go, then that kid is much more likely to be a healthy eater, for a lifetime! “Baby food” is an invention of the 1950s when anything you could buy in a package was considered better than what could be made at home. Ditch the constipating, highly processed rice cereal and offer your baby a pureed version of stew (that you would eat and is delicious – see below for the recipe!).
Help! My kid is a first-class picky eater. Any tips for what I can do?
It’s important to set clear rules and boundaries and not become a short-order cook when your child doesn’t want to eat what’s prepared. The mantra I teach parents is, “It’s my job to decide what-when-where and it’s their job to decide how much or none at all.” This is obviously easier said than done at times, but for most healthy kids this works because they won’t starve themselves and eventually will eat a little. Also, involving children in cooking prep and having a one bite rule can be helpful so that they try things which eventually they may decide they like.
I’m super busy. What’s a grab and go or no prep alternative to stuff I buy at the store?
Making “baby food” may seem daunting, but what if you just fed your baby what you eat (assuming we’re not talking pizza and cheeseburgers)? Some parents choose to make large batches of soups/stews or “one-pot” type meals and the adults eat half of it and they freeze the other half, pureed and portioned into glass or silicone containers for future use. Then, on any given day, you thaw one serving for baby. You might even consider “tweaking” it a bit by adding cinnamon one day, a pat of butter the next, perhaps a little curry powder the day after that and so on. That way you have a healthy base to which you combine additional flavor profiles so that your baby is exposed to and shaped by a wide variety of taste experiences. Fun!
Basic One Pot Soup Recipe*
- 8 oz (1 cup) pumpkin (or other squash), diced, with skin and seeds removed
- 5 oz (2/3 cup) cauliflower
- 5 oz (2/3 cup) carrots sliced
- 5 oz (2/3 cup) celery sliced
- 2 oz (1/4 cup) fresh cabbage/kale/chard
- 4 oz (1/2 cup) fresh broccoli
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2‐3 cloves of garlic
- 4 fl oz (1/2 cup) homemade chicken stock (Avedano’s has homemade stocks!)
- 4 fl oz (1/2 cup) water
- 1 tbsp chopped, fresh parsley
- sea salt and pepper to taste
(Crushed Eden brand tomatoes can be added to thicken the broth and give it some extra/different flavor.)
Sauté the onion and garlic in generous butter or olive oil in a saucepan.
Place all the vegetables into the same saucepan and stir to cover in oil/butter and heat a bit. Pour in the stock and water, cover and cook until vegetables are tender.
Finally, add the parsley and mash well or puree.
*The above recipe can be varied, added to (meat and additional/different vegetables can be easily used), amplified. We encourage you to use all organic veggies and meats. Additional spices are great to add (paprika, curry or turmeric, a bay leaf, etc.) at the point that the stock and water are put into the pot.
Cinnamon Sweet Potato Chunks
A simple alternative to puffs
- 1 sweet potato
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
Peel and dice the sweet potato into half inch chunks. Toss with olive oil, a pinch of cinnamon, and a pinch of salt and roast at 400 degrees for 15- 20 minutes. Stir once halfway through cooking time.
An easy alternative to oatmeal and cereal
- ½ cup cooked quinoa
- ½ cup milk (can substitute coconut, almond, or other milk of choice)
- Optional sweeteners: coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar
- Optional toppings: raisins, sliced almonds, diced apples or bananas, chocolate chips, almond butter, shredded coconut
- Savory option: Substitute milk with chicken or veggie broth and add cheese and a scrambled or fried egg
Combine the quinoa and milk in a saucepan over medium heat or in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 2-3 minutes until the porridge has thickened. Mix in sweeteners and toppings and serve.