Should I Take a Probiotic?

should-i-take-a-probiotic

You asked me to cover probiotics. And sure, I know about probiotics. But instead of listening to me, I decided to reach out to a true, leading expert in probiotics. I'm proud to call Desiree Nielsen a friend. And, I can tell you that probiotics and gut health are her jams. She's who I turn to for keeping up on this topic that the scientific community is rapidly learning about. So, I wanted to share her directly with you. Just like me, she gives you the real goods. Enjoy this interview!  And, if you want more of Desiree, check out her show Urban Vegetarian playing on Gusto TV!

Should Parents Be Giving Kids Probiotics?

If a child was born naturally and breastfed, eats a healthy diet and has no health issues, they may not need a probiotic daily. Of course, probiotics are a great choice when the time is right: the literature shows that probiotics may be helpful during cold and flu season to prevent respiratory infection or to prevent traveller’s diarrhea.

In addition, there are certain health concerns that are a clear indication for the use of probiotics daily such as colic, infectious diarrhea or tummy troubles like reflux or irritable bowel syndrome.

Should Us Adults Take Probiotics?

I always tend to err on the light side of supplementation but as adults, there are many reasons why a probiotic may be an excellent idea. Any chronic digestive or inflammatory concern, from IBS to eczema, is worth a three month trial of a clinical strength probiotic to assess improvement. If a probiotic works, you will feel it. I cannot tell you how often I have talked to someone who has been taking a probiotic for years with no result and when they make the right switch, they are shocked by how much better they feel. They can be taken therapeutically and discontinued when you improve…but for those with chronic concerns, I recommend continuing daily as part of lifestyle management.

Probiotics are also helpful on an 'as needed' basis for everything from recovering from food poisoning, prevention of side effects from antibiotics use and as a boost during cold and flu season. They are a great, natural remedy in the wellness toolkit.

For those who tend towards an ‘insurance’ mindset in supplementation, a small daily dose of an effective probiotic certainly doesn’t hurt and you may find an improvement in your day-to-day wellbeing.

What is the Difference Between Prebiotics and Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are part of the natural human microflora…and prebiotics help them thrive. Not too long ago, we would have said that prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates such as inulin. The low FODMAP diet for IBS works by drastically reducing these prebiotic compounds to alter fermentation in the gut.

However, the definition of a prebiotic is changing and it is thought that a whole host of compounds, from plant polyphenols to even the diabetes medication metformin, may help boost the growth of beneficial microbes.

Can We Get Probiotics from Fermented Foods, e.g. Yogurt? Or, Do We Need to Take Them as a Supplement?

Fermented foods are produced thanks to beneficial microbes…but not all fermented foods may contain truly probiotic microbes. This takes a bit of explanation: the definition of a probiotic is ‘a live microorganism, which when administered in adequate amounts, confers a health benefit on the host.”

So the issue with fermented foods is that in the fermentation, many of the microbes may die or there might not be sufficient amounts to actually have an effect. The research on fermented foods is surprisingly spotty, with kimchi and yogurt being two of the standouts. But the average yogurt contains about 1 billion live bacteria at manufacture (which may not be alive when you eat them) whereas most supplemental probiotics are in the tens of billions.

Eat fermented foods daily as part of a healthy diet…take a supplement when you need extra help.

What Should Someone Look for in a Supplement? There Are so Many Available, How Do You Choose?

It’s a tough call; in my mind, the only probiotics that someone should consider are those with high level evidence to support their use. They are very few in number and you can find them on a very helpful website called www.probioticchart.ca - choose one of the brands with level 1 or 2 evidence. Then, the decision becomes a lot easier. We can spend so much money on supplements but if they aren’t effective, we are better off spending our money on healthy food!

In general, good quality probiotics have enteric coated capsules (with a couple of exceptions for fresh or powdered formulas) with a minimum of 10 billion live active cells, guaranteed to a clearly marked expiry date.

Who is Desiree Nielsen? Bio:

Desiree-Nielsen-registered-dietitian

Desiree Nielsen is a dietitian based in Vancouver, Canada. She is the author of Un-Junk Your Diet: How to shop, cook and eat to fight inflammation and feel better, forever! and the host of Urban Vegetarian, a cooking show on Gusto TV. Passionate about integrative therapeutic approaches to nutrition, Desiree maintains a nutrition practice, with a focus on digestive health, plant-based diets and anti-inflammatory nutrition. Her new app, MyHealthyGut is an evidence-based resource for those looking to improve their digestive health.

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.

My kid used to eat just about everything…

My kid used to eat just about everything

Does this sound familiar?

“My kid used to eat just about everything and anything but she stopped eating meat all of a sudden. She's now 2.”

This, hands-down, is the single most common question that parents come to me wondering. Well, it’s not always meat that their children suddenly won’t eat. It may be vegetables, fruit, or most foods (i.e. they’ll only eat something like 5 foods).

If you’ve recently experienced this, the good news is that you’re not alone!

Most (but not all) kids will happily eat almost everything when you’re first introducing solid foods. From about 6 months onwards, these happy babies keenly gobble up most foods you put in front of them. In fact, they’re delighted with all the different textures, shapes, and tastes that you introduce to them.

Then, all of a sudden, something changes. This change can happen as young as 9 months, and most commonly happens somewhere between 18 months – 2 years.

Welcome to the picky eating stage.

It’s a completely normal developmental stage that most kids go through.

No, you didn’t cause your great little eater to suddenly “hate” foods that she loved previously. If you’re like most of the parents I’ve worked with, I know that I need to tell you to turn down the volume of the Mommy-guilt (or Daddy-guilt) voice in your head that’s telling you that it’s all your fault, that you did something wrong to cause this. That you “broke” your child. Let me tell you definitively: you didn’t.

The science doesn’t tell us why kids all of a sudden become picky. Some scientists have theorized that it’s a protective thing. From back when we lived in caves. At this age infants become toddlers and start wandering away from parents. It would be evolutionarily protective to have kids become scared to put random (i.e. potentially poisonous) plants in their mouths. It’s an interesting theory but who knows if this is true.

What I do know is that picky eating is a developmental stage. Kids become wary of foods. They honestly become scared to try things (yes, even if they’ve eaten them before). They don’t have the language skills to tell you that they’re feeling trepidatious about trying that food. So they simply say “I hate it!” (before they’ve even tried it.

The good news is that you don’t just have to wait until your daughter or son grows out of this stage. You can support them to be confident enough to try new foods, to increase the range of foods that they’ll eat, and to get the good nutrition that they need.

The bad news is that I can’t solve your question in 1 short and snappy blog post. I can, however, point you in the right direction.

As first steps, I encourage you to:

  • Continue serving your child small servings of every food that you eat in your household.
  • Role model eating these foods by joining your child at as many meals and snacks as possible.
  • Plan meals and snacks that include both familiar and challenging foods.

And of course, keep your eyes on your peeled for other strategies I'll share to help your picky eater transition smoothly through this difficult phase (while ensuring that they’re meeting their nutrition needs).

You can support your child to eat more foods. Get successful picky eater tips. sign-up for my e-newsletter today.

What’s the Right Age to Start Solid Foods?

age-to-start-solid-foods

Parents have been sending me a lot of questions lately asking what is the right age to start introducing their baby to solid foods. They’ve heard 6 months before. Now they’re hearing 4 months from other health professionals. And, some places online say 4 – 6 months. They’re right to be confused with all this conflicting information. If you’re wondering what age to start your baby on sold foods, here’s the scoop…

The recommendations haven’t changed. The World Health Organization recommends 6 months¹. In Canada the recommendations from Health Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada say 6 months². The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “around 6 months”³.

I suspect that reports from a new, and important, study on preventing peanut allergy are behind the advice that these health professionals are giving parents. Now I’m not in the doctor’s office when the parents are being given this advice, so this is a best guess. But the study is being talked about a lot in the health provider community, which is why I’m suspecting it’s behind the advice that parents are receiving. Unfortunately the researchers chose to use a phrase that I’m suspecting is creating some of this confusion.

The research study found a significant decrease in peanut allergy with their intervention⁴. What was their intervention? To introduce, and regularly feed, peanuts to children starting as babies versus waiting until they were 5 years old. Giving peanuts to the babies reduced the incidence of peanut allergy. But here’s where I suspect the misunderstanding comes in. The children in the “early” introduction of peanuts group were between 4 – 11 months old. Because this is “early” versus introducing peanuts at 5 years old. The article doesn’t compare introducing peanuts at 4 months versus 6 months. However, I suspect that busy health professionals could have glanced at articles describing the study and mistakenly concluded that the “early” group meant introducing peanuts at 4 months versus 6 months of age. Especially, since the researchers didn’t report the older children’s age as 5 years, but as 60 months.

The reality is that the scientific and health communities still don’t know anything definitive about the perfect age to introduce solid foods to minimize food allergy.

What we do know is that babies start to run low on the iron that they’ve stored in their bodies at approximately 6 months of age. And so it’s at this time that we need to start introducing iron from a new source, i.e. solid foods. Iron is important for brain development in babies and young children.

And, babies show the signs of being ready to start solid foods between 4 – 6 months. Just like every other developmental stage, babies arrive here at slightly different ages. The signs of readiness for eating solid foods are:

  • The disappearance of the extrusion reflex.
  • The ability to sit up (with support) and hold their own head up (without support).
  • Can visually track your movement.
  • Becoming fascinated with watching people eating.

As we learn more about what causes food allergies and how to prevent them, the recommendations may change. There are some fantastic studies underway that I can’t wait to get the results from. Until we know more, I still recommend starting solid foods at about 6 months. If your little one is between 4 – 6 months, you’re seeing all the signs of readiness, and you’re keen to start – go ahead. If you enjoy the simplicity of breast or bottle feeding or you’re not yet seeing the signs of readiness in your child, hold off until 6 months of age. My advice for the last 7 years has been “start solids at about 6 months”. I’m not changing my advice yet.

References:

  1. http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/complementary_feeding/en/
  2. http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/healthy-living-vie-saine/infant-care-soins-bebe/nutrition-alimentation-eng.php?_ga=1.150740528.74375254.1447739252
  3. https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/HALF-Implementation-Guide/Age-Specific-Content/Pages/Infant-Food-and-Feeding.aspx
  4. http://www.leapstudy.co.uk

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1 Simple (and Overlooked) Step to Get Picky Eaters to Eat More

get picky eater to eat more

There’s a very simple technique to get picky eaters to eat more. It’s something that I always look for when working with individual families. I can’t tell you how often it’s missed by parents. Let’s just say a lot. So, what’s this super simple tip? Make sure your child has their feet resting on something solid. Kids eat best when they have something solid to rest their feet on. Take a peek at your child’s feet when they’re sitting in their highchair or booster seat. Are their feet dangling? If you want your child to eat better, get them something on which to rest their feet.

Have you ever sat at a bar stool that didn’t have a footrest? Did it feel unsettling to have your feet dangling? Likely, yes.

This is something that I’ve looked for since I started my practice in 2008. But I never knew why kids ate best when their feet are supported. Then last month I attended a workshop and learned why. The reason is that while eating is a priority for our bodies, there are two priorities that supersede eating: 1) breathing; and, 2) staying upright (i.e. not falling on our heads). When your child’s feet aren’t resting on something solid, their bodies are required to focus on not falling over. This takes away from the focus on the task of eating. Babies and young children under 3 years of age are still novice eaters and they need to pay full attention to the task of eating. By providing a solid footrest, you’re removing a big source of distraction.

Some highchairs are adjustable. These are my favourites. Don’t have an adjustable chair? Not to worry, just MacGyver a footrest for your child. Inexpensive footstools (usually used at the bathroom sink) work well. As do a stack of phone books – although these are getting harder to come by.

The perfect height for your footrest is the height where your child’s feet are 90 degrees from their legs. In other words, your child is resting flat-footed.

Remember, check your footrest every couple of months. Kids grow!

Get more tips to help picky eaters eat well - in my e-newsletter.

Baked Avocado Eggs

Baked avocado egg

I'm a long-time lover of avocados and so I'm excited to see that many others have realized how delicious they are. And, that their healthy fat is not something of which to be afraid. Browsing around Pinterest for some cooking inspiration (I love Pinterest), I found this recipe. I like to give credit where credit is due, so here's the original recipe: http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Baked-Eggs-Avocado-Recipe-30787252 This baked avocado egg recipe has all the creamy deliciousness of an eggs benny - without all the work of Hollandaise sauce. In other words, it's a perfect recipe for Easter breakfast. Finger Food Version: Cook a few minutes longer until both the whites and yolk are set (it's recommended that babies under 12 months don't have runny egg yolks). Cut the egg and avocado into finger-food size pieces. Or, spread on long, skinny pieces of toast.

Baked Avocado Egg Ingredients:

1 avocado

2 eggs

salt & pepper

Optional: toast

Baked Avocado Egg Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Slice the avocados in half. Remove the pit. Scoop out enough flesh from the avocado,  so the egg will fit in the centre. Reserve this flesh for another recipe/snack.
  3. Slice a small piece off the back of the avocado halves so that they will sit flat without rolling around. Place the avocados in a small baking dish, making sure they fit tightly. If your dish is too big, scrunch up a piece of tin foil to fill the space.
  4. Season the avocado halves with salt and pepper. Crack an egg into each avocado half.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the size of your eggs and avocados. And, how you like our eggs cooked.
  6. Enjoy scooped directly out of the avocados. Or, spread on top of toast.

Check out more healthy, delicious recipes here.

Can Kids Have Too Much Fruit?

baby w fruits & veg

Here’s what a Mom recently asked me: "I have what may be a silly question. Should I be concerned with my 8 month old getting too much fruit? In other words, can kids have too much fruit?

Can Kids Have Too Much Fruit?

In a word: yes. Let me expand with 2 key points.

  1. All of us (i.e. adults too) can get diarrhea from eating too much fruit at once. If your child’s stools are getting loose, then it's a sign of too much fruit.
  2. Of course, fruit is a healthy food. But human beings need a wide variety of foods from all the food groups to meet our nutrition needs.

In particular, for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, iron is a key nutrient that we’re looking to provide through food. Fruit is low in iron. It’s recommended that you offer iron-rich foods twice a day.

It’s normal for kids to have food preferences. However, kids aren’t at a developmentally ready to understand that human beings can’t survive on a favourite food alone until they’re well into their school-age years.

How to Make Sure Your Child Doesn't Get Too Much Fruit

If you notice that your child will always choose one or two favourite foods, I recommend starting a technique that I call “controlling what’s on the menu”.

Here’s how. You choose what foods you will offer, i.e. what foods are on the menu, at meals and snacks. Your child gets to choose what they’ll eat from what you’ve provided. And, they get to control how much of each food they eat (yes, including zero bites).

This way you are creating a situation where your child eats a balance of food groups throughout the day. And, your child gets to express themselves by controlling what they eat from what you’ve provided. You’ve created an environment where you’re making sure that your child is getting good nutrition at the same time as your child’s personal boundary with their body is respected.

For example, for this mom’s 8 month old, at one solid food time each day serve an iron-rich food either on it’s own, or with another food that isn’t fruit – maybe it’s a vegetable or a grain. Feel free to offer fruit at the other solid food time where you’re offering the iron-rich food. If your child eats a particularly huge amount of fruit one day and you notice that his stools are loose, hold off offering fruit for a day or two. Create balance by offering vegetables, protein foods, and grains.

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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.

When Can I Give My Baby Soy Milk and other Plant-Based Milks?

little child drinking soy milk

{Expert Guest Post for Love Child Organics: www.lovechildorganics.com} In last month's post I promised that today I’d talk about when to give baby soy milk and other plant-based milk alternatives.

In the last number of years there’s been an explosion of plant-based milks – soy, almond, oat, hemp, coconut, rice, quinoa, and more.  Many of us adults use them in our smoothies, on our cereal, and in our coffee. So it’s no wonder that parents are wondering when they can introduce them to their babies.

Recently in Canada, the Health Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and the Breastfeeding Committee of Canada* provided some guidance around plant-based milks for babies and young children. They recommend waiting until 2 years for using soymilk as a replacement for breastmilk or formula and don’t recommend other plant-based milks (they didn’t give an age for introduction).

I haven’t seen any guidance from US organizations on introducing plant-based milks.

Personally, I find it difficult to give clear advice that I’m certain of. Here’s why:

  1. I believe that there are many healthy eating patterns – we don’t all need to be vegan, or vegetarian, or eat meat to be healthy. Many cultures around the world traditionally don’t include cows’ milk. And, many cultures do traditionally include cow’s milk. So I don’t see how we needs to or need not to introduce cows milk to babies’.
  2. We may use cow’s milk or any of these plant-based milks in similar ways (they’re wet and white). However, they are actually quite different foods. They each contain very different nutrients, such as fat, protein, vitamins and minerals. They aren’t equivalent substitutions for each other. So, it’s difficult to give one recommendation that covers so many different beverages.
  3. This is the first generation of kids where these milks have been widely available (soymilk has been widely available for the longest) so we just don’t have the evidence to see the long-term impact on kids’ health and growth.

That being said, if you’re not planning to introduce your baby to cows milk, here’s what I recommend:

  • Continue breastmilk or formula as the primary milk source until your baby is 2 years and older.
  • Introduce a wide variety of foods, so that your baby is getting the nutrition that they need from the foods that they’re eating – such as fat, protein, iron, other minerals, and vitamins.
  • Think of plant-based milks as a “big kid” food. In other words, serve them in an open/ lidless cup, not in a bottle. Offer them only very occasionally under 2 years of age. If your child is eating a good amount of a wide variety of solid foods, after 2 years of age (or be extra careful and wait until your child is 3 years old), slowly increase the frequency that you offer plant-based milks. Stay well under the limit of 3-4 cups per day (which is the recommended limit for cows’ milk).
  • At all ages, choose unsweetened, vitamin and mineral fortified plant-based milks. The “original”, vanilla and other flavoured varieties can have a lot of sugar.

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/recom-6-24-months-6-24-mois-eng.php

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When Can I Stop Boiling Water for My Baby?

Stop Boiling Water for My Baby

“Can you tell me when I can stop boiling water for my baby (formula)? And when I can stop sterilizing her bottles? Seems silly since she puts everything else in her mouth.” Thank you to the parent who asked me this question.  Parents also often ask me a related question: whether they need to boil water when they’re teaching their babies how to drink from a lidless cup or sippy cup. So I’ll answer all these water-related questions together here.

Sterilizing Baby Bottles

It’s safest to always sterilize bottles before using them. As long as you’re using bottles (for any liquid), do continue to sterilize them. Breastmilk and formula are both rich foods for babies, and unfortunately for germs too. Bottles, nipples, lids, etc have so many nooks and crannies that they’re difficult to scrub clean. Sterilizing is the best way to make sure that you’re keeping your baby safe. Use a sterilizer or boil all parts in a pot of boiling water. Household dishwashers aren’t able to truly sterilize bottles. For more directions check out: http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile69a.stm

Boiling Water for Baby Formula

If you’re feeding your baby powdered or liquid concentrate formula, always use water that has been boiled. There is no age to stop using the boiled water. There are thorough step-by-step instructions available at this great resource: http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile69b.stm

Boiling Water for Baby (Drinking)

Any time after you’ve started introducing solid foods, you can start providing your baby the opportunity to learn how to use an open/ lidless cup and a sippy cup (yes, even as young as 6 months). As long as you have safe drinking water, you can use water from your cold tap. There’s no need to pre-boil this water. What do I mean by “safe drinking water”? I mean that you live in a city or town with a municipal water system and you’re using the water that’s intended for drinking (sometimes the term “potable” is used). Or, you’re on a well system that you’ve had tested recently and know is safe. If you haven’t had your well tested in a long time, this is a great reason to get testing done.

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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)

Vitamin D Kids - Sunshine and Beyond

vitamin D kids

{Guest post on Love Child Organics} All this sunshine that we’ve had lately has me thinking about Vitamin D. Vitamin D’s nickname is ‘the sunshine vitamin’ because our bodies make it from exposure to the sun. However, our bodies don’t make it when we wear sunscreen. So if you’re choosing to have your kids be sun safe, you need to rely on vitamin D kids from food and supplements. Our bodies also don’t make it at the latitude of Canada or the northern United States from September through March – even on a sunny day.

Vitamin D’s Role in Our Bodies

Vitamin D is involved in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. You’ve also likely heard about how it’s being investigated by the scientific research community for a wide variety of other roles in our bodies. While there isn’t enough evidence yet of vitamin D’s involvement in all these other roles, the research strengthens the idea that we want to make sure that babies and kids (and us adults too) get the recommended amount of vitamin D.

Here are the current recommendations:

Age

Recommended Intake

Safe Upper Level

Birth to 6 months

400 IU

1000

6 to 12 months

400 IU

1500

1 – 3 years

600 IU

2500

4 – 8 years

600 IU

3000

9 – 70 years

600 IU

4000

Over 70 years

800 IU

4000

Pregnant + Breastfeeding

600 IU

4000

Vitamin D For Babies Less Than 12 months Old

Breastmilk is naturally low in vitamin D (yes, even if you’re taking vitamin D yourself). Therefore, if you’re breastfeeding your baby, it’s recommended that you give your baby 400IU of vitamin D drops every day.

Formula does have vitamin D in it. If your baby takes 1000mL (32ounces) of formula a day then you don’t need to give your baby vitamin D drops. If your baby takes less than 1000mL (32 ounces) of formula a day (for example, if you do both breastfeeding and formula), then it’s recommended that you give your baby 400IU of vitamin D drops per day.

Vitamin D - Kids and Teens

At 12 months, the recommendations increase to 600IU of vitamin D per day. This may be from a combination of food and vitamin supplements (e.g. drops, pills, gummies).

Vitamin D in Food

Vitamin D isn’t found in many foods. I have a number of the best sources of vitamin D listed below. Note that while fluid cows milk has vitamin D in it, most yogurts and cheeses are made with cow’s milk without vitamin D in it so they aren’t sources of vitamin D. However, some yogurts are starting to be made with vitamin D fortified cow’s milk. Read the labels to find out if the yogurt you like is made with vitamin D.

While many kids are happy to drink lots and lots of glasses of milk, this usually crowds out other foods resulting in an unhealthy balance and not enough of other important nutrients (such as iron). Because of this, it’s recommended that kids drink a maximum of 2 glasses of milk a day. Goat’s milk, soy milk, almond milk, and other alternative milks may or may not have vitamin D added to them. Read the labels to find out.

Food

How Much

Vitamin D

Cow’s Milk

1 cup

100 IU

Formula

1 cup (250mL or 4 oz)

100 IU

Fortified Soy Milk

1 cup

80 IU

Fortified Orange Juice

½ cup

45 IU

Egg Yolk

1

25 IU

Salmon, canned or cooked

75grams (2.5 ounces)

608 IU

Tuna, canned

75grams (2.5 ounces)

41 IU

Kids Vitamin D Supplements (Including Drops) 

Since sunshine and foods end up playing a small role in providing vitamin D, most kids need to continue to get vitamin D from a supplement.

The amount (i.e. number of drops) that you need to give your baby, child, or teen is different with the different types and brands of drops. Read the label on your package to find out how many drops you need.

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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.

Constipation in Babies when Introducing Foods

In this video I answer a parent's questions about constipation in babies when introducing your baby to solid foods.

During weaning it's normal for infants' poop to change. I share what's normal, and what's considered constipation.

And, I share 4 food-realted ways that can help get things moving again.

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!

Limiting Cow's Milk for Toddlers

toddlers cow's milk Recently a parent asked me this question: “How much cow’s milk to offer toddlers. Do you allow them to regulate/drink as much as they want or just fill the cup up once and then when it's empty that's it? Being only 17 months, he can fill up pretty quick on milk during the meal, but I also don't want to be taking it away. I would prefer to just allow him to self regulate, but not sure what to do once the sippy cup is empty.”

Regulating Cow's Milk for Toddlers

It’s common for little ones to fill their tummies with milk instead of eating foods. To make sure that your child is getting the nutrition that he needs, use what I call the ‘control what's on the menu’ strategy regarding beverages (the same as with foods).

  • Choose which meals/snacks you offer milk. In other words – you control what’s on the menu.
  • Let him drink as much (i.e. as many glasses) of milk at those times as he wishes.
  • At the other meals/snacks offer water.

This way there's no battle over how much milk he drinks. But he won't be able to fill his tummy with milk instead of eating at every meal/snack. Approx 500mL (2 cups) of milk provides calcium and vitamin D that little ones need without crowding out other nutritious foods. Little ones who drink more than 750mL (3 cups) of milk daily increase the risk that they’re not getting the nutrition that they need from eating a variety of foods. But again, it's not your job to referee how many cups he drinks at a meal/snack. Instead, use this as a guideline for how many meals/snacks to offer milk at. Restricting access (i.e. limiting the number of servings at a meal/snack) to a food or drink only increases a child’s desire for it. While restricting access usually comes from good intentions, it actually interferes with learning self-regulation. Another technique that can help make sure toddlers aren’t drinking too much cow’s milk is only offering milk in an open (lidless) cup. Often, toddlers who are drinking too much cow's milk are drinking it from a bottle or sippy cup. An open cup is more difficult for little ones to manage so it slows them down.

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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 Position on Gluten-Free

my position on gluten-free About a month ago I was interviewed by a blogger about my position on the gluten-free trend. As is always the case, the blogger used some of what we talked about. A reporter can never use everything that an interviewee says – there just isn’t enough space in a post/story. I didn’t feel that my quotes used in her piece fully covered my position. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I was misquoted. I just thought that I would take the opportunity to write an article sharing (and explaining) my full position.

Perhaps you can call me old and jaded but I studied nutrition at university for 8 years and I’ve practiced as a dietitian for over 10 years. I’ve seen many trends come and go, like the low cholesterol trend, the low fat trend, Atkins, soy being an all powerful super food, soy being evil, and more. Gluten-free is the current trend.

First, as you’ve already realized, I do believe that it’s a trend. As such, it will have its time and then pass on (and another trend will come along).

However, saying that it’s trend doesn’t mean that I think it’s all junk.

Quite the opposite, celiac disease is real and it’s serious. The medical community is finding more people who have celiac disease. What’s not clear is whether it’s truly on the rise or whether they’re just doing a better job of finding people who have celiac disease through better diagnostic tests and a better understanding of the disease.

In addition, there are also people who have gluten sensitivities. In fact I’m one of them. If I eat more than a serving or two of a gluten-containing grain then I get hives.

I don’t, however, think that everyone needs to avoid gluten. Or that’s it’s inherently unhealthy. Or, that it’s the cause of the gazillion things of which it’s been accused.

If you’ve been wondering if your family should go gluten-free, or if your family should be eating more gluten-free foods, here’s the positives to take advantage of and the traps to avoid.

 

Gluten-Free Positives:

  • Inspiration to Try New Grains: Human beings are omnivores. We thrive on eating a variety of foods. Often people think that they’re eating a variety of grains, but eating wheat-based cereal, toast, flour tortillas, crackers and pasta are all just different shapes of wheat. Wheat was out of balance in many people’s eating habits. I like that the gluten-free trend is inspiring people to try new grains. After all there’s a huge variety out there: rice, wild rice, quinoa, barley, oats, teff, millet, amaranth, corn, buckwheat, and more.
  • Better Gluten-Free Products: In the past, gluten-free products were difficult to find and many tasted awful. With the trend creating a market, more companies are creating delicious gluten-free products which is awesome for people with celiac disease!

 

Gluten-Free Traps to Avoid:

  • Gluten-free = Healthy: There’s a marketing term called the “health halo”. It means that the public will mistakenly think that an unhealthy food a food is healthy by a false association. Right now, people are equating “gluten-free” with “healthy”, when in fact it’s not necessarily true. A gluten-free brownie is still not a health food. Hey, if you want to eat a brownie, go ahead. Just don’t be tricked into thinking that it’s a health food. I know that I’m being obtuse with this brownie example. But I see intelligent people falling for the health halo all the time. Food products made with highly processed (gluten-free) flours, lots of sugar, high in salt, and/or few nutrients such as cakes, cookies, breads, cereals, crackers, candy, chocolate, and chips are not a healthy choice.  Recognize and enjoy them for the treats that they are.
  • Include Sources of Iron and Folic Acid: Wheat flour is fortified with folic acid in Canada and many common foods, e,g, bread and cereal, are fortified with iron in Canada. Most gluten-free substitutions are not fortified. If you eat a lot of wheat-based grain products and are thinking about including more non-wheat grains, be sure that you’re eating other sources of iron and folic acid. Iron-rich foods include beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and nut butters, meat, poultry, seafood, egg yolks, black strap molasses, iron-fortified baby cereals, (and cooked spinach has some iron). Folic acid is found in dark, leafy greens, beans, lentils, corn and oranges. Note: it’s recommended that all girls and women from their first period through menopause take 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid from a supplement. Most multivitamins for women contain this.

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Will Starting Solid Foods Make My Baby Sleep Through the Night?

will feeding my baby solid foods make them sleep through the night? {Guest Post at Love Child Organics} Exhausted parents often ask me: “Will starting my baby on solid foods make her sleep through the night?” I understand why Moms and Dads (desperate for some sleep) grasp on to this myth. However, it is a myth. Feeding your baby solid foods won’t make your baby sleep through the night.

Does Starting Solid Foods Make Baby Sleep?

It’s true that some babies start sleeping for longer stretches through the night at about the same time that they start solid foods. But it’s not that the solid foods have caused the sleeping. It’s that for many babies, the developmental stage when we start to feed them solid foods coincides with the developmental stage when they start sleeping for longer periods of time. Sorry exhausted Moms and Dads, it’s not the solid foods causing longer sleep.

While I’m at it busting myths related to starting solid foods, I’ll take the opportunity to address a couple more.

Do Big Babies Need Solid Foods Early?

Myth: Big babies need to be fed solid foods early. This is false. There’s no evidence to support starting solids early for babies who are at the top end of the growth curve. Breast milk and formula are very rich. And, your baby is likely an expert at breastfeeding or formula feeding by this age. Therefore, continuing exclusively breastfeeding or formula feeding until about 6 months is recommended (the same as average-size babies).

Do Small Babies Need Solid Foods Early?

Myth: Small babies need to be fed solid foods early. This is also false. There’s no evidence to support starting solids early for babies who are on the small end of the growth curve. As I mentioned above, breast milk and formula are very rich and your baby is an expert at breastfeeding or formula feeding by this age. So continue to exclusively breastfeed or formula feed your baby until about 6 months (the same as average-size babies).

In summary, starting solids early won’t provide big babies or small babies with extra nutrition. Nor will it make your baby sleep through the night.  Introduce solid foods when your baby is about 6 months old.

 

Ready to start your baby on solid foods? Here's how to start your baby with purees or Baby Led Weaning (BLW)