Iron-Rich Foods

iron-rich-foods

I have good news. People are hearing that babies should have iron-rich foods as first foods. I’ve been talking this up for almost 10 years now and I’m super happy that the message is starting to be commonplace.

Yes, we recommend offering your baby iron-rich foods twice a day. From the very start. Then introduce a wide range of other healthy foods.

Why? Because iron is needed for growth and development. Iron is also needed during this critical time for brain development. This critical period extends from infancy through to about 5 years old.

That bad news is that people have misunderstandings of what foods are good sources of iron. So, they think that they are feeding their babies iron-rich foods. But they aren’t.

Avocado, broccoli, sweet potato, and quinoa are all foods that people commonly think are good source of iron. Incorrect. Myth.


Foods that are Good Sources of Iron:

  • Meat*
  • Poultry (e.g. chicken, turkey)
  • Seafood
  • Beans and lentils. Particularly the lentils.
  • Nuts and seeds. Particularly the seeds.
  • Iron-fortified baby cereal.
  • Tofu
  • Eggs

*While liver is a very high source of iron, it also contains extremely high amounts of vitamin A. So much vitamin A that it’s not recommended that you offer liver as a first food, and only offer it on rare occasions to toddlers and preschoolers.

Not All Iron is Equal

Iron comes in two different forms in food – heme and non-heme. Heme iron is better absorbed by our bodies and is found in meat, poultry and seafood. Non-heme iron isn’t as well absorbed by our bodies. So, when looking at lists of foods with iron that just list the number of milligrams, you need to recognize that you’re comparing apples and oranges.

There’s a great hack for increasing the body’s absorption of non-heme iron. It’s to eat a food with vitamin C at the same time. May fruits and some veggies are good sources of vitamin C. So serve your lentils in a tomato sauce and stir some strawberries into that baby cereal.

Here’s a more extensive list of iron-rich foods (from a trusted source): https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/iron-foods

Low Iron Foods

You’ll notice that a number of foods that are commonly thought of as containing iron aren’t on my list above. Certainly there are a number of other foods that have a little bit iron. Some vegetables and fruit do contain a small amount. But I wouldn’t consider them good sources of iron. You’re likely surprised that spinach isn’t on the “high-iron” list. That’s because while spinach does contain a decent amount of iron, most of that iron is bound to another molecule, called oxalate, that prevents us humans from absorbing it. While most of the anti-nutrient content on the internet is making a mountain out of a mole hill, the oxalates in leafy greens are noteworthy enough to not count these foods as a source of iron.

Dairy foods aren’t a source of iron. In addition, they can prevent the absorption of iron from other foods. This is why we recommend delaying the introduction of cow’s milk until 9 – 12 months of age. And, once you have introduced cow’s milk, limiting it to 2 – 3 cups per day.

Grains aren’t a source of iron. Yes, even quinoa. That’s why iron is added to infant cereal and breakfast cereals (that’s what the word “fortified” means in “iron-fortified infant cereal).

Check out my Youtube channel for videos on how to prepare baby food versions of iron rich foods (puree and finger foods- Baby Led Weaning).

Photo credit: James Sutton

Do Babies Need Teeth for Finger Foods?

babies need teeth for finger food

At workshops I’m often asked by new parents whether babies need teeth to eat finger foods. The short answer is: no. Whether you’re choosing to start with purees or to follow Baby Led Weaning (BLW), we recommend starting to offer your baby finger foods by 7 months. Many babies won’t have any teeth at that age. And, most babies won’t have molars then. Our molars are the teeth that we use to chew food. We use our front teeth to bite and tear.

Babies’ gums are surprisingly strong. They can use them to eat finger foods. It’s the presence of things along their gums that helps them move their gag reflex from the young infant position to the mature position. And, it’s with practice that babies learn how to co-ordinate the chewing, swallowing, and breathing that are involved in eating. That’s why at this age babies put everything in their mouths – they’re practicing.

Introducing a wide range of tastes and textures before 9 – 12 months can help lessen picky eating in toddlerhood. You’ve got a developmental window of opportunity when babies are interested in tastes and textures. Use it!

What makes good finger foods?

  • Pieces of soft cooked vegetables
  • Ripe soft fruits (skins and pits removed)
  • Grated raw vegetables or hard fruits
  • Finely minced, shredded, ground or mashed cooked meat
  • Deboned fish and poultry
  • Bread crusts or toast

Some finger food examples:

  • Tortillas cut in narrow strips and thinly spread with nut butter
  • Omelet cut in to narrow strips
  • Salmon crumbled into small pieces
  • Grated carrot and grated apple
  • Extra-firm tofu steamed and cut in to skinny fingers

Looking for more finger food ideas (including iron-rich finger food ideas)? Check out my video on Youtube.

2 Favourite, Filling Salads

Full-meal salads are my absolute go-to during the summer months. And, with the growing trend of salads-in-a-jar, I can see that others are catching on. The secret to a perfectly balanced, full-meal salad (that will actually fill you up) is to include whole grains, protein, and healthy fats along with all those veggies. I also like to include a sweet note (such as fresh or dried fruit) and something crunchy for texture. Often foods will do double duty, such as chopped nuts providing protein, healthy fat, and crunch.

Baby- and Kid-Friendly Version: Serve each salad component “deconstructed”, in it’s own little pile. Serve a small dish (ramekin) of the dressing on the side. Or, do a make-your-own salad bar with the ingredients. There is no extra work for baby-friendly, finger-foods – just place pieces on your baby’s tray.

Enjoy!

Protein Food Ideas:

  • Beans and lentils, canned or cooked from dry
  • Edamame
  • Tofu cut into cubes or fingers
  • Grated or cubed cheese
  • Leftover meat and poultry, e.g. shredded chicken, sliced steak
  • Chopped or slivered nuts
  • Seeds, e.g. pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts
  • Hard boiled eggs

Whole Grain Ideas (Starch Foods):

  • Cooked and cooled pasta
  • Buckwheat (soba) noodles
  • Brown rice
  • Wild rice
  • Quinoa
  • Farro
  • Pot barley
  • Cooked and cubed sweet potatoes

For inspiration, here are two of my favourite full-meal salads. You’ll notice that there aren’t amounts listed for the salad ingredients – make as much or as little as you want.

Black Bean Salad

black bean salad_medmed

Ingredients

Brown rice

Black beans

Bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange)

Corn (cooked from frozen or cut off the cob)

Avocado

Dressing

1 TBSP            Vegetable oil (I particularly like avocado oil)

1 TBSP            White wine vinegar

2 TBSP            Lime juice

1/4 tsp           Ground cumin

1/8 tsp           Cayenne pepper (optional)

Pinch              Salt

Lentil-Farro Salad

lentil farro salad_medmed

Ingredients

Farro, cooked and cooled

Green lentils*, cooked and cooled

Grated carrot

Grated beet

Kale, cut into thin ribbons and massaged with a dash of oil, vinegar and salt

Slivered almonds

Raisins

Dressing

1 TBSP            Good, extra virgin olive oil

3 TBSP            Balsamic vinegar

Fresh cracked pepper

Pinch              Salt

* Do you have difficulty digesting beans? Give lentils a try, they’re less “musical”, and check out my tips for making beans and lentils less gassy.

1 Simple Tip to Help Your Baby Gagging Less During Feeding

baby gagging

Pretty much all babies gag sometimes when then they first start eating solid foods. But, some babies gag more than others. Baby gagging can be very frightening for moms and dads and I get a lot of questions about it when I lead my Introducing Solid Foods workshops. I know that you are busy and exhausted so you like my blog posts short and to-the-point. If you’re really nervous about introducing your baby to solid foods, and/or are looking for a more fulsome description of gagging versus choking, I recommend coming out to one of my in-person workshops or getting in touch with me to find out more!

The focus of this post is on how to help babies who gag a lot to become less gaggy so that they can be more successful at eating solid foods.

For this tip, I’m assuming that you’re starting solids in that ‘just right’ window of about 6 months old. And, that your health professional has ruled out any medical cause for your baby’s gagging.

It’s often said that some babies have a “sensitive gag reflex”. But for most babies this isn’t the case. It’s not that their reflex is too sensitive, it’s that it’s in the wrong place.

You see, babies and adults have different mouth physiology. In adults, the majority of our tastebuds are on the tip of our tongues and our gag reflex is way in the back of our mouths. A fun way to test this is to place food in different parts of your tongue and notice how differently it will taste.

In babies, the majority of their tastebuds are at the very back of the mouth and their gag reflex is at the front of their mouth. This makes sense because for the first months of life babies are nipple-fed (either breastfed or bottle). To feed, babies place nipples to the very back of their mouths. So Mother Nature has the tastebuds at the back, where baby will taste their breastmilk/formula. The gag reflex is at the front of the mouth where it’s out of the way for nipple-feeding and where it protects babies from putting items in the front of their mouths that they could choke on.

Starting at about 4 – 6 months, the gag reflex and tastebuds migrate in opposite directions to swap places into the grown-up positions.

Most gaggy babies don’t have overly sensitive gag reflexes. Instead, their gag reflexes are still too far forwards.

What stimulates the gag reflex to move backwards? Having things in your baby’ mouth. Particularly things that your baby can stick towards the back.

So, your baby sticking their hands (and feet) in their mouth is really them working to move their gag reflex backwards. So is mouthing Sophie the Giraffe and other chewable toys that babies can stick deeper into their mouths. Toys like teething rings that stay at the very front of their mouths won’t help because it’s the presence of things ever deeper into your baby’s mouth that stimulates the backwards movement of their gag reflex.

So what’s the 1 tip to help baby gagging?

Let them play with toys they can safely stick in their mouths.

Now to be clear, I’m not recommending that you allow your baby to chew on things that they can choke on. I said “safely stick in their mouths”. What I’m recommending is to allow your baby to play with chewable toys and other objects that can safely go further back in their mouths. You want to look for long things that your baby can’t get a bite off of. Examples include:

  • Their own hands (and your fingers).
  • Sophie the Giraffe.
  • Toy key rings.
  • The spoon that you feed your baby with.
  • Whole, big, raw carrots or parsnips (big enough in diameter that your baby can’t bite off a chunk).
  • Ice cubes in a mesh feeding bag (I only recommend plain water ice cubes, not frozen foods).

Given the opportunity, babies will do lots of chewing on these objects. Know that they’re not just playing. They’re playing with a purpose. Playing is their job at this age. Your baby is playing with the purpose of developing the skills to eat.

When to Ignore Messy Eating. When to Nip it in the Bud.

Messy Eating Child

I’m often asked about kids' messy eating. Parents often wonder what’s normal and at what age kids will learn to use utensils. Recently I received this question from a Mom:

My question is regarding messy eating.  My daughter (just turned 4) often eats with her hands and then has food obviously all over her hands but also on her face from ear to ear.  She also plays with her food a bit (ie:  bites a few holes in her bread and then pauses to see what shape she has made).  How much emphasis should I put on eating neatly with a fork and spoon and how do I do this or should I just be happy that she’s eating?

It's normal for preschoolers (3 - 5 year olds) to eat with a combination of their hands and utensils. Most are still working on the dexterity involved in using utensils. They're curious about the world, so yes, they'll likely explore their food too (like the example you give with the bread).

As long as her behaviour is coming from a place of eating and interest in her food, don't sweat this mess. Because we want her to continue feeling confident with eating. We don't want to make her feel self-conscious about the way that she eats.

Teach through role modelling. Have an adult join her at as many meals and snacks as possible. Her internal drive to grow up will motivate her to copy your use of utensils and other actions at the table (e.g. wiping your mouth with your napkin when you finish eating).

In the meantime, go ahead and start teaching other manners like saying please and thank you, taking turns to speak during a conversation, asking to have someone pass you the peas, and asking to be excused when finished eating.

On the other hand, pay close attention to see if her behaviour is motivated by naughtiness. That is, if she's acting out and purposely taking actions to get negative attention. You'll recognize this right away. If so, then do nip the behaviour in the bud and explain that we don't play with our food.

How do I Help My Baby Feed Himself/ Herself?

Help My Baby Feed Himself

I’m often approached by parents of babies between 9 months and 12 months old who are concerned that their children aren’t learning to self-feed as quickly as other babies. Here’s an example of what one parent asked me: “My son is 9 months and has been eating finger foods since about 7 months however he will not feed himself. Is there something I can do to help this? Or will it just come to him? How do I help my baby feed himself” Without doing a full assessment of a child, I can’t say for certain what’s causing a child to learn self-feeding slower than their peers. But I can share the common causes that I see and their solutions.

Common Causes for Baby Not Self-Feeding:

  1. Medical conditions or developmental concerns. Because you didn't mention it, I'm assuming that your son doesn't have any medical conditions or developmental concerns that would affect his dexterity/ motor control.
  2. Missing role models. Kids learn from watching others - particularly older kids and adults. If no one else is eating there isn't anyone to act as a role model for how to do it. Also, eating is a social activity for us human beings. Kids of all ages eat better when adults join them at the table.
  3. Temperament (also known as personality). Some little ones are what I call "outsourcers". They're happy to sit back and let others do things for them instead of doing the hard work of figuring it out themselves. Because learning to self-feed does take work at this stage.
  4. Over-helpful caregivers. Sometimes parents (and other caregivers) have such strong desires to help their little ones that they jump in and "help" instead of sitting back and allowing their little one figure things out for themselves. This can sometimes also be fuelled by impatience and/or anxiety about your little one getting enough to eat. The result is a learned helplessness.

Solutions to Help Baby Feed Himself:

If the cause is #1 then working with an Occupational Therapist can be a great help.

The solution to #2 is to sit and eat with your child. Ideally, eat the same foods too. This way you're sending a message loud and clear that you want him to eat what’s in front of him. And, you’re creating the social environment that’s most conducive to eating and learning.

The solution to #3 and #4 is the same. Resist the urge to jump in and "help". You're actually being more helpful by holding off and allowing him to learn the skills himself.

Take Home for How to Help My Baby Feed Himself:

Note that the most common cause that I see are # 3 and 4. In other words, a combination of a child’s natural temperament and parents who are either overly anxious or keen to help.

It’s a classic case of fantastic intentions inadvertently taking things in the wrong direction.

Thankfully, it’s super easy to fix! Babies this age are compelled to master the skills that they see others doing. Just like learning any new skill, kids learn to feed themselves with finger foods at different rates. They want to learn how to self-feed, we just need to create the environment that supports them in mastering it. When you do, they’ll learn this new skill in their own timing that’s perfect just for them.

AHH the Pressure! Is my baby ready for solids or should I wait?

is my baby ready for solids

{Guest Expert blog post for Modern Mama } Many moms contact me wondering if their baby is ready for solid foods. Usually this comes from two places:

  1. Worry that their baby isn’t getting the nutrition that they need from breast milk/ formula.
  2. Pressure from family or friends to introduce baby food.

Here’s the latest scientific-evidence based information on how to know when your baby is ready for solid foods. Use it as ammunition against your under-slept, worrying mind and any well-intentioned advice from others.

Is my baby ready for solids?

Babies are ready for solid foods at about 6 months of age. At this age, babies start running out of the iron that they stored in their bodies while they were in your womb. Breast milk is naturally low in iron so you need to provide your baby with iron from another source – solid foods. Iron is used in overall growth and development. It’s especially important for little one’s brain development – for babies to reach full their cognitive potential. While iron isn’t as much of a concern for babies fed formula, they’re still developmentally ready for you to start feeding them first foods.

Like any developmental stage, babies become ready for first foods at slightly different ages. You will see the following signs in your baby anywhere between 4 and 6 months of age. Your baby is ready for you to start feeding them solid foods when you see the following:

  • Extrusion reflex disappears. The extrusion reflex is when anything put in your baby’s mouth automatically causes them to stick out their tongue, thus forcing it back out again.
  • He can focus his eyes on food placed in front of him.
  • She can sit upright with minimal support.
  • He can hold his head up without support. This is important for safe swallowing.
  • She is very interested in watching people eat and the food on your plate. She may even be grabbing for people’s food, plates, cups etc.

Notice that the presence of teeth isn’t on the list above. You don’t need to wait until little ones have teeth before feeding them baby food.

If your baby was born prematurely or has developmental or health concerns, speak with your health professional about when your baby will be ready to start solid foods.

There is no benefit to starting solids earlier than about 6 months. In fact, there is some emerging scientific evidence that introducing solid foods before babies are 4 months old may increase the risk for food allergies.

There are several persistent myths about when to start feeding your baby solid foods that I want to bust:

  1. Big babies don’t need solid foods earlier. At this age, babies are experts at breast and bottle feeding. And, breast milk and formula are rich sources of nutrients. Feeding your big baby solid foods earlier isn’t necessary or beneficial.
  2. Small babies don’t need solid foods earlier. As I described above, at this age, babies are experts at nursing nutrient-rich breastmilk and formula. Feeding your small baby solid foods earlier isn’t necessary or beneficial.
  3. Feeding babies solid foods doesn’t make babies sleep through the night.While I understand grasping at anything that may get your baby (and you) to sleep through the night, this is a myth. The age that some babies start sleeping through the night happens to be the same age that you start feeding your baby solid foods. While they happen at the same time, it’s not that the one causes the other. Sorry.

In summary, your baby will be ready for first foods at about 6 months of age. There aren’t any nutritional benefits to starting earlier. Nor, will it help you get a decent night’s sleep.

Check out this post for information on choosing puree or Baby Led Weaning (BLW)

Why Not Both Purees and Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?

puree baby led weaning

{Guest post at Love Child Organics} I receive questions from many parents asking me whether they should use purees or finger foods (a method called Baby Led Weaning or BLW) as they start to introduce their babies to solid foods. I believe that there isn’t only one right way to start babies on solid foods. Why not use both purees and finger foods?

When introducing solid foods you’re achieving several goals:

  1. Meeting your baby’s nutrition needs.
  2. Providing the opportunity to learn eating skills.
  3. Minimizing the risk of choking.

All three of these can be achieved through offering your baby purees, finger foods, or a combination of both.

Further, I’ve been practicing long enough to have met babies with all different temperaments (personalities). Some are little independent souls who never accept being fed by a parent. Parents of these little ones need to have a ton of patience as their child learns how to pick up food and actually get it in her mouth. On the other hand there are babies whom I call “happy little outsourcers”. They figure out that their parents are much more efficient at getting food in their mouths and so they’re happy to sit back and let you spoon every bite into them. Most babies fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

I’ve also seen that babies catch onto the skills of eating finger foods at a variety of ages – typically somewhere between 6 and 10 months.  This isn’t surprising since there’s always a range of ages when babies reach any developmental milestone. Some babies roll over before others, some crawl before others, and some pick up finger foods before others.

In my opinion, what’s most important is to:

  • Provide a wide variety of healthy foods,
  • Include iron-rich foods (twice a day is a good frequency),
  • Follow your baby’s lead,
  • Match your technique to your baby,
  • Provide your baby with the opportunity to learn eating skills, and
  • Use techniques that you’re comfortable with.

The result: you’re teaching your baby to have a positive experience with food.

Click here to get more tips on nutrition for babies.

Should I Feed my Baby Organic Food?

baby w fruits & veg One of the most common questions that I’m asked is: Should I feed my baby organic food?” I know what my answer is (scroll down to check it out). But it’s such a popular question that when two University of British Columbia dietetic students were looking for a writing assignment for class, I asked them to answer your question. Here’s what students Karalee Derkson and Connie Lau found in their research into the question of organic food for babies, and their conclusions.  

What is Organic Food?

There can be confusion with the term “organic food”. From the point of view of a scientist, all foods are organic – that is all foods are all living things (versus inorganic things like rocks). However, when most people use the word “organic” they mean foods that are grown or produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones (Dietitians of Canada). Instead, farmers use crop rotation, waste recycling, and natural pesticides to grow their crops (Dietitians of Canada).

Because all foods are technically living things, the term “organic” can be used for all of them. To distinguish foods grown using the methods listed above, groups have developed certification programs, such as the USDA, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the EU. This is why you often see “certified organic” on labels – these foods have gone through and passed the certification process. Of course, to go through the certification process, it takes time, paperwork, and money.

Not every farmer who uses organic growing methods will choose to undertake certification – especially if they’re a smaller farm. There are also farms that use many organic methods but who don’t quite fit all the certification criteria.

Factors to Consider when Choosing Organic Food vs Conventional Food

Nutrient Content:

  • There may be higher levels of phytochemicals (compounds that benefit health) in organic produce because they are a natural pesticide (Dietitians of Canada).
  • In the studies that have been conducted to date, organic food does not contain more or better nutrients than conventional food (Forman; Dietitians of Canada; Dangour et al.)

Health Implications:

  • Currently, there is no significant evidence that consuming organic food leads to health benefits or that conventional food has negative health effects (Health Canada; Dangour et al.).
  • Infants and children consume more food than adults on a weight for weight basis during development, therefore their pesticide exposure may be higher (Health Canada; National Research Council).

Environmental Impact:

  • Organic farms use less energy and produce less waste (Forman).
  • In organic farms, no synthetic pesticides are used. Therefore, there is little risk of chemically damaging the surrounding ecosystems (Forman).

Pesticide Regulation:

  • In Canada, pesticides are illegal if they have the ability to cause cancer or birth defects (Health Canada).
  • In Canada, The maximum acceptable amount of pesticides is set far below the levels that could pose health risks, even for infants (Health Canada).

Price:

  • Organic food costs 10-40% more than conventional food (Forman).

Do All Conventional Foods have the Same Amount of Pesticides? The short answer is no. The amount of pesticides in a conventional food is based on how pesticides are used (both how much, were they’re applied, and when they’re applied during the plant’s growth) and the nature of how the plant grows/ what part of the plant we eat.

To empower people who wish to avoid pesticides without always purchasing organic, an American organization called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published the “Dirty Dozen” and  “Clean 15”. They look at the levels of pesticides in samples of foods in the USA and then rank them in lists. While many of the foods in the US come from the same places as those found in Canada, it’s worth mentioning that there can be differences. And, these differences may lead to differences in pesticide levels.

The EWG's Clean Fifteen™ for 2014:

  1. Avocados
  2. (Sweet) corn – i.e. the type of corn that we humans eat
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Frozen (sweet) peas
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangos
  9. Papaya
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet Potatoes

The EWG's Dirty Dozen™ for 2014:

  1. Apples
  2. Strawberries
  3. Grapes
  4. Celery
  5. Peaches
  6. Spinach
  7. Bell peppers
  8. Nectarines - imported from outside US (and assumingly Canada?)
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry Tomatoes
  11. Snap peas - imported from outside US (and assumingly Canada?)
  12. Potatoes

Leafy greens such as kale and collard greens as well as hot peppers were highlighted for containing significant pesticides, but didn’t quite fall in the top.

For more information on the EWG click here

Our Opinions

Dietetic Student Connie Lau: To take the extra step of precaution I would choose organic produce as a priority, especially during the crucial developmental years of a child. Although there are tight regulations on pesticide levels of food, evidence of long-term effects is inconclusive.

Dietetic Student Karalee Derkson: Due to the high cost of organic foods, and the lack of significant health benefits, I do not buy organic produce. I feel confident that the regulations on pesticide levels of food will keep exposure well below dangerous amounts. I would be comfortable feeding my child conventional produce.

Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD: I’m a strong believer in organic foods.

While research studies haven’t been designed to measure it, I don’t know how we can look at our health out of the context of the health of the environment. It’s clear that organic foods are better for the environment.

Yes, growing methods that are healthier for the environment are more expensive. Wanting cheap foods, available all year long goes against Mother Nature. That being said, personally I don’t have the budget to buy 100% organic. I do make choices with my money to be able to spend more on food. For example, I choose to live in a smaller home, drive a fuel-efficient car, and not have cable TV all so that I can have more money in my budget for food. Buy paying for (local) organic foods, I know that I’m using the power of my money to create a market for organic farmers. The more of us consumers who do so, the more incentive there will be for farmers (locally and around the world) to choose organic methods.

In addition to the growing practices, I also consider the distance that a food has travelled. I’ve been shopping at Farmers’ Markets and roadside stands since I was a child (far before it became trendy). What I love about this is not only do I reduce the fossil fuels used to transport the food, but I’ve learned a lot about farming methods. I use this knowledge to decide what conventional foods I’m willing to buy. For example, I don’t buy certified organic eggs from the grocery store. I buy my eggs from an older couple’s home. I can see the (small number of) chickens running around the yard. This couple hasn’t undertaken the organic certification process. Heck, they’re so old-school that they use the honour system for payment - I put my money in an unlocked box on their front porch! But I do buy other long-distance organic staples from the grocery store, such as tofu, polenta, and pasta noodles.

Here’s the order in which I choose foods:

  1. Local organic
  2. Local conventional and long-distance organic
  3. Long-distance conventional

Bottom Line(s) This article has been longer then my usual messages. But I wanted to dig into the issue a bit since it’s an important one. As you consider it all, please keep in mind these three points:

  • I encourage you to talk to your local Farmers. And, maybe even grow some foods yourself. Become more aware of where your food comes from. With knowledge comes power.
  • Regardless of the balance that you choose for your family, the research is clear that eating LOTS of vegetables and fruit is healthy. As Micheal Pollan so eloquently said: “Eat foods. Mostly plants.”
  • It’s important to introduce your baby to a wide variety of foods in the first years of life.

Click here to get more tips on nutrition for babies directly to your inbox.

Sources Alan D Dangour, Sakhi K Dodhia, Arabella Hayter, Elizabeth Allen, Karen Lock, and Ricardo Uauy. "Systematic Review of Nutritional Differences Between Organic and Conventional Foods." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2009).

Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Organic Products. 13 January 2014. Government of Canada. May 2014 <http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/organic-products/eng/1300139461200/1300140373901 >.

Dietitians of Canada. Are organic foods better for my health? 16 July 2013. May 2014 <http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Miscellaneous/Are-organic-foods-better-for-my-health.aspx>.

Environmental Working Group. Environmental Working Group. April 2014. May 2014 <http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/>.

Forman, J., Silverstein, J. "Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages." American Academy of Pediatrics (2012): 1412.

Health Canada. Consumer Product Safety: Pesticides and Food. February 2014. May 2014 <http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/pest/_fact-fiche/pesticide-food-alim/index-eng.php>.

Environmental and Workplace Health: Pesticides and Health. July 2008. May 2014 <http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/pubs/contaminants/pesticides-eng.php#a67>.

National Research Council. Pesticides in the Diet of Infants and Children. Washington, DC.: The National Academies Press, 1993.

Puree vs Baby Led Weaning (BLW): Can't We All Just Get Along?

baby led weaning{Guest post for Modern Mama} In a previous post I shared the pros and cons of the pureed and Baby Led Weaning (BLW) methods for introducing your baby to solid foods. I had a number of people call and email me with questions from that post. So I wanted to clarify and add to the points I shared in it.

In a nutshell, I believe that you shouldn’t feel the need to choose either puree or Bab Led Weaning (BLW). Combine the best from both methods and follow your baby’s lead.

Let me explain.

Having taught parents how to introduce solid foods to their babies since 2008, I welcome a number of the contributions that BLW is providing to the baby feeding conversation. However, I’m also seeing some negative effects too.

Positive Contributions of Baby Led Weaning

Feed Your Baby Family Foods

Children from about four to twelve months are fascinated by what the people around them are eating. In Baby Led Weaning you don’t make separate foods for your baby. Instead you provide your baby with the foods that you’re feeding the rest of your family. This is a great strategy! A favorite quote of mine from Child-Feeding Expert Ellyn Satter is:

The goal of feeding your baby is to have him join you at the table…not for you to join him at the high chair.

  • Uses his curiosity about what everyone’s eating to your advantage. Many babies will reject pureed foods and reach out to grab what’s on other people’s plates.
  • Teaches him that by sharing the same foods, he belongs as a member of your family. Sharing food is powerful for human beings. Every culture marks significant occasions by gathering to share food.
  • Is less work than making your baby one meal and the rest of your family something completely different. Teaching your baby that she gets something completely different than other family members can lead to picky eating because you’ve set the precedent that she gets something different. Kids who have always eaten the same meal as the rest of the family don’t know that having something different is an option.
  • Can be a wake-up call to how healthy (or not) your eating habits are. If you’re eating foods that you’re not willing to feed your baby, should you really be eating them?

Move Along to Finger Foods

Sometimes I see parents who love the idea (and control) of feeding their baby purees so much that they get stuck, keeping their baby in this phase too long. Babies are ready to try finger foods anywhere between six and nine months. Yes, it’s messy. And it can be painful to watch a child clumsily work for 10 minutes to get a single piece of food in his mouth. But, this is an important learning opportunity. Eating is a skill that must be learned through practice. It’s great that you’re an expert at using a spoon to get food into your baby’s mouth. But he needs to have the opportunity to learn how to do it himself. And finger foods are the first step. Because when we’re feeding our babies, we’re actually doing two things: 1) meeting their nutrition needs and 2) teaching eating skills. I’ve seen prolonged spoon-feeding of purees result in babies who are:

  • Undernourished because they’re reject being “babied” and reject the spoon.
  • Picky eaters because they didn’t get to experience the huge variety of tastes and textures that food comes in while they are still in the food-curious stage. A stage where kids are suspicious of new foods often starts somewhere between 12 to 24 months (although I’ve seen it start at nine months in a number of children). Some people call this stage “food neophobia”. I call it “food-wariness”.

Follow Your Baby’s Lead

Baby Led Weaning places a lot of emphasis on following your baby’s lead regarding how much food to eat.  Babies are born knowing when they’re hungry and when they’re satisfied. It’s normal for them to sometimes eat a lot and other times to eat very little. When babies are allowed to control how much food they eat, they have a normal growth pattern. When spoon-feeding your baby it’s very easy to force them to take extra bites by playing games (e.g. “here comes the airplane”), or sneaking in spoonful’s when your baby is distracted. Resisting this urge is important to allow your baby to grow normally and not be overfed (which may lead to obesity).

Negative Impacts

You Need to Choose

The negative impacts that I’m seeing when speaking with parents and reading Mom blogs and chat boards is the idea that you need to choose a method. You’re either on the puree team or you’re on the Baby Led Weaning team. We already have enough “mommy wars”, judgment, second-guessing ourselves, and guilt regarding breastfeeding and formula feeding. The last thing that we need is this baggage continuing into introducing solid foods.

Puree Traps

There’s nothing inherently wrong with pureed foods. In fact, today I’ve eaten oatmeal, yogurt, and butternut squash soup – all of which are purees! Purees are a texture that adults eat too. The warnings that many in the Baby Led Weaning camp attribute to purees actually has nothing to do with purees themselves. They’re just easier traps to fall into when spoon-feeding. But they’re also easily avoidable. For example, you can offer your baby pureed versions of family foods and follow their lead when spoon-feeding.

One Size Fits All

I’ve seen many different babies with different temperaments (personalities). Some love being spoon-fed and take more slowly to finger foods. Others never take anything off a spoon, and rely solely on finger foods. I believe that following your baby’s lead and providing a wide variety of tastes and textures is the way to go – including both purees and finger foods.

In summary, why pressure parents into feeling that they need to choose? All the positive contributions that BLW have provided can be realized with the inclusion of both puree and finger foods. Let’s celebrate that there are a multitude of “right” ways to parent!

An Update on New Feeding Recommendations

Happy child. Guest post for Love Child Organics: http://www.lovechildorganics.com/blog/

Usually I answer a question from you – a member of the Love Child community. However, something noteworthy happened last month that I thought was worth writing about.

 

Quietly on a Friday last month, a joint statement from Health Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and Breastfeeding Committee for Canada was released called Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants: Recommendations from Six to 24 Months: Principles and recommendations for the nutrition of older infants (six to 12 months) and young children (12 to 24 months)

 

I was happy to see it finally be released because previously there were recommendations for 0 – 6 months and for 2 years and up, but nothing existed for Canadian parents for little ones between the ages of 6 months to 2 years. And, this is a time when so much changes and parents have so many questions! In addition, I was happy to see it be released because I had provided feedback on a draft version quite some time ago.

 

The group who developed this document reviewed the scientific evidence to develop guidelines for feeding our little ones. I wanted to share it with you in hopes that it will help cut through the mixed (and often conflicting messages) out there and help bust some persistent myths.

 

The overarching statement is:

“Breastfeeding - exclusively for the first six months, and continued for up to two years or longer with appropriate complementary feeding - is important for the nutrition, immunologic protection, growth, and development of infants and toddlers.”

 

There are 7 main points (and my comments on each):

  1. Breastfeeding is an important source of nutrition for older infants and young children as complementary foods are introduced.
    • I was happy to see this statement because blog that I wrote previously for my own website received a lot of attention when I busted the myth that breastfeeding once you’ve introduced solid foods only provides water.
  2. Supplemental vitamin D is recommended for infants and young children who are breastfed or receiving breastmilk.
    • Yes, it’s recommended that you continue with vitamin D drops even after you’ve introduced solid foods.
  3. Complementary feeding, along with continued breastfeeding, provides the nutrients and energy to meet the needs of the older infant.
    • An important point that they make is that purees are a great texture. But do introduce lumpy textures before nine months. And, keep progressing through a wide variety of textures by 1 year.
  4. Responsive feeding promotes the development of healthy eating skills.
    • By “responsive feeding” they mean involving your baby as an active participant in eating. This means no sneaking in bites when they aren’t looking and no “here comes the airplane”. Feed your baby as much as they are interested in eating – which will sometimes be a lot and will sometimes be one bite.
    • They also mean the importance of providing your baby with the opportunity to learn eating skills. This includes learning how to self-feed with finger foods and learning how to drink from an open (lidless) cup.
  5. Iron-rich complementary foods help to prevent iron deficiency.
    • Offer iron-rich foods several times each day including meats, meat alternatives, and iron-fortified baby cereal. Choose a variety of these foods that your family eats.
  6. Foods for older infants and young children must be prepared, served, and stored safely.
    • This refers both to avoiding choking hazards and avoiding food poisoning.
    • An important point made here is to not leave kids unsupervised while eating. I’d add the point that kids shouldn’t eat while driving in the car, running around playing, etc because of the choking hazard.
  7. From one year of age, young children begin to have a regular schedule of meals and snacks, and generally follow the advice in Canada's Food Guide.
    • It’s likely not news to you that they recommend minimal sugar, salt, juice, and sugary drinks.
    • I love that they go on to mention how important parents are as healthy eating in role models!

 

While it’s written in language directed to health professionals, you can check out the recommendations for yourself at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/recom-6-24-months-6-24-mois-eng.php

 

My Mothers' Day Gift to YOU

  PTL+snack secrets sale

With Mothers' Day fast approaching, I was doing some thinking about how I could best be of service to you.

My Snacking Secrets workshop has been a popular workshop for a number of years now. That’s why I recorded it as my first online seminar. But I hadn’t given it live, in-person for about a year, until I was invited to facilitate it for parents at a preschool last month. All the Moms were really engaged participants. Several of them contacted me afterwards to let me know how much they got out of the workshop.

There was my answer right in-front of me - a fantastic way to celebrate Mothers’ Day is by offering a BONUS of complimentary access to my online seminar version of

 Snacking Secrets: How to Plan Healthy Snacks that Your 2-5 year old Will Eat (Without Ruining Their Dinner)

 that you can participate in at any time that’s convenient for you – without having to find a babysitter or leave home, when you get my guide e-book

 Provide, Trust, Love (Then Introduce New Foods):

A step-by-step system for transforming your child from picky eater to food-confident kid

~2-5 year old edition ~

 

What’s a better gift for any Mom than being confident that you’re doing things “right” to meet your child’s nutrition needs now…and instill a life-long LOVE of healthy eating (all without being forceful or sneaky)?!

 

http://products.vitaminkconsulting.com/providetrustlove

coupon code: “MomDay2014” (without the quotes)

 

In e-book Provide, Trust, Love (Then Introduce New Foods) you get:

  • Why your child is being picky (because knowing is half the battle)
  • The beneficial (and well-meaning but disastrous) ways to provide love and limits around food.
  • Successful strategies (without being rigid, forcing, pleading, or bribing) to support your child to try new foods on their own.
  • Meal planning to make sure your kids are getting the nutrition they need
  • And much more…

 

In online seminar Snacking Secrets you get:

  • How to use snacks to help your child to eat a balanced diet
  • How to use snacks to encourage your child to eat a variety of foods
  • How to use snacks to help your child build food-confidence
  • And much more…

Between now and midnight May 12th, you get both your e-book AND access to your online seminar for only $47 (normally $74)!

Get your e-book and BONUS online seminar access here:

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and use coupon code: “MomDay2014” (without the quotes)

 

But do act fast, this bonus is only available until midnight Monday May 12th!

http://products.vitaminkconsulting.com/providetrustlove

coupon code: “MomDay2014” (without the quotes)

Solid-Food Strikes: Should You Worry & What to Do

solid food strike Thank you to the VIP who asked me this question: “[My son is] 19 months. I still nurse him quite a bit, and for the last 4 days he has refused any kinds of foods…and wants to nurse every 30 mins. (He does this when he has a cold, and people tell me teething).  Besides driving me crazy, I am concerned about his nutrition...are these breastfeeding [solid food] strikes still providing him with what he needs?” 

Why Babies Do Solid Food Strikes

In general, it is quite normal for little ones to regress to just breastmilk or formula when they aren't feeling well, such as with a cold/flu or teething. It's similar to when we adults are sick with a cold or flu and all we consume for a couple of days is chicken soup.

Solid Food Strike: Should You Worry

Breastmilk or formula alone doesn't meet all of a 19 month old's nutrition needs. As long as it's just for a few days it doesn't have a significant impact on his overall nutritional health because our bodies store carbohydrate and fat for exactly these types of situations. Of course their bodies are smaller than ours so they can’t go as long without adequate nutrition as we adults can. If a breastfeeding strike, or perhaps a more accurate term is “solid-food strike”, lasts more than a couple of days I recommend having your little one seen by your health professional to determine if something else is going on and whether any supplemental intake is required. In other words, this is the point when individual assessment is needed – my generalized advice that I can provide in this form of Q & A is no longer appropriate.

Solid Food Strike: What to Do

Even if he’s refusing to eat solid foods, continue to provide the same opportunities to eat solids as you would normally. Although perhaps prepare smaller servings so that you waste less food if/when he refuses to eat. I recommend this for two reasons:

  1. Just as quickly as kids get sick, they get better. The next opportunity to eat may be the one that he’s feeling better at and decides to eat a ton because his appetite’s returned.
  2. Sticking to your routine will make it easier to transition back when he’s feeling better.

If you suspect that it’s teething that’s causing the solid-food strike, then plan snacks that are soothing for sore gums. Cold and/or smooth are characteristics that can be soothing for sore gums. Examples include:

My Son Doesn't Feed Himself. What Should I Do?

son doesn't feed himself {Guest post I contributed to the Love Child Organics blog. } Thanks to the Love Child Organics community member who asked a question regarding her 9 month old son. “My son doesn't feed himself. He is 9 months and has been eating finger foods since about 7 months. Is there something I can do to help this? Or will it just come to him?”

 

 Without doing a full assessment I can't tell you for sure why he isn't feeding himself. Here are common causes that I see and their solutions.

Why Babies Don't Feed Themselves

  1. Medical conditions or developmental concerns. Because you didn't mention it, I'm assuming that your son doesn't have any medical conditions or developmental concerns that would affect his dexterity/ motor control.
  2. Missing role models. Kids learn from watching others - particularly older kids and adults. If no one else is eating there isn't anyone to act as a role model for how to do it. Also, eating is a social activity for us human beings. Kids of all ages eat better when adults join them at the table.
  3. Temperament (also known as personality). Some little ones are what I call "outsourcers". They're happy to sit back and let others do things for them instead of doing the hard work of figuring it out themselves. Because learning to self-feed does take work at this stage.
  4. Over-helpful caregivers. Sometimes parents (and other caregivers) have such strong desires to help their little ones that they jump in and "help" instead of sitting back and allowing their little one figure things out for themselves. This can sometimes also be fuelled by impatience and/or anxiety about your little one getting enough to eat. The result is a learned helplessness.

 

If the cause is #1 then working with an Occupational Therapist can be a great help.

The solution to #2 is to sit and eat with your child. Ideally, eat the same foods too. This way you're sending a message loud and clear that you want him to eat what’s in front of him. And, you’re creating the social environment that’s most conducive to eating and learning.

The solution to #3 and #4 is the same. Resist the urge to jump in and "help". You're actually being more helpful by holding off and allowing him to learn the skills himself.  

Bottom Line: Just like learning any new skill, kids learn to feed themselves with finger foods at different rates. Join your child at the table and give them the opportunity to practice. They’ll learn this new skill in their own timing that’s perfect just for them.

 

Click this link to get tips on introducing solid foods, finger foods, and more child nutrition topics in your inbox.

Can I give finger foods if my baby doesn’t have teeth yet?

finger-foods-if-baby-doesnt-have-teeth-yet {Guest Post at Love Child Organics Both in workshops and when providing in-home child feeding sessions, I’m often asked this question: "Can I give finger foods if my baby doesn’t have teeth yet?

The short answer is: yes! You don’t need to wait until little ones have teeth before feeding them finger foods.

Babies are ready for finger foods by 7 months, if not before. Many won’t have teeth (or very many teeth) by this age.

Your baby is likely ready for finger foods when you see the following:

  • She can bring food to her mouth using her hand.
  • He can eat thicker purees (the consistency of mashed potatoes).
  • She can sit upright with minimal support.
  • He is very interested in watching people eat and the food on your plate. He May even be grabbing for people’s food, plates, cups etc.

It’s amazing to watch what little ones can handle with their gums. So go ahead and offer finger food versions of a wide variety of foods that your family eats.

Bottom Line: Enjoy watching your little one discover the amazing variety of tastes and textures that food comes in!

For more info on baby food - both purees and Baby-Led Weaning (BLW), check out this blog post.

$14 off! Picky Eater e-book and online seminar + Introducing Solids online seminar

Excited birthday girl. ~ Is finding a way to get your picky eater to try new foods your New Years resolution?

~ Is your baby entering into toddlerhood and you want to do everything you can to prevent them from becoming a picky eater?

~ Are you getting ready to start your baby on solid foods?

 

 

To get your family’s 2014 started on the right foot I’m offering a New Years resolution sale!

Get the evidence-based information you need from the convenience of your own computer or tablet.

To celebrate 2014, both of my online seminars and my guide e-book are $14 off (from now until 7am, January 2nd).

Use coupon code: NY2014 to get your $14 off:

Introducing Solid Foods (4-8 months) Online Seminar: Everything you need to safely meet your baby’s rapidly changing nutrition needs. And, instill a life-long LOVE of healthy eating. Online Seminar.

Snacking Secrets: How to plan healthy snacks that your 2 – 5 year old will eat (without ruining their dinner). Online Seminar.

Provide, Trust, Love (Then Introduce New Foods): A step-by-step solution to transform your child from picky eater to food-confident kid ~2-5 year old edition~ Guide e-Book.

Act now! Use coupon code: NY2014 to get your $14 off before 7am, Jan 2nd.

Iron-Rich Baby Finger Food Ideas

In my recent feedback survey you asked for more finger food ideas for babies and toddlers. So, I recorded this video as a sneak peek behind the scenes as I prepared finger food samples for an upcoming workshop. All these examples are iron-rich finger foods. And, they're all good ideas for babies and toddlers from about 6 months onwards, whether you're moving on from purees or you're following Baby-Led Weaning.

Enjoy! " width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen">