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In Our Own Backyard: The Perfect Foods for Health (for Baby and You)

by Lisa on December 9, 2011

What foods are perfect or best for us? 

Often people look to exotic fruits—things like goji berries, cacao beans, and maca powder, imported and overflowing with certain nutrients. I’m a fan of those things—but I’m not so much a fan of their price tags. I like the idea of micronutrient loading, and promote it to my clients and students–that we should be trying to get the most nutrient density (quality) in our food as we can. Additionally, staying away from the empty calorie stuff as a habit is important (but hey, if you have a piece of pizza and a cupcake once in a while, that’s not going to ruin your health!).

Lately, I’ve been focused primarily on eating traditional foods that have been essentially phased out in our culture—in their original form, anyway.

If we were to look at how our ancestors ate (no, I’m not talkin’ Paleolitic, I’m talking just a few generations back) when a famine or a Depression was not occurring, we can gain much useful practical information. Those people most likely consumed organic, non-hormone, non-antibiotic, pasture-fed meats, dairy, and eggs. Most likely, their dairy was primarily fermented (or aged, in the case of cheese). Veggies were preserved for the off-season by culturing them, which boosted the nutrient content and digestibility exponentially. Obviously, processed foods, soda, and empty calorie fruit juices were not consumed. They ate real food made out of real ingredients.

What is different now? Maybe you eat waffles that go in the toaster, eggs and chicken that come from a gross chicken house (or worse yet: powdered eggs and mechanically separated chicken), beef and dairy products that come from a CAFO (with gosh knows what in it!), things like “maple syrup” that is just brown colored high fructose corn syrup, and processed food that sort of resembles the original but is made out of chemicals.

My feeling? These substances are not actually food. I’m going to refrain from ranting more here about what people should not be eating, and just focus on a few super foods–true superfoods that our ancestors ate in their un-messed-with formats. If we focus on adding the good quality versions of certain staple foods to our diets, our mental and physical health will benefit beyond any expectation.

Baby’s first food–what should it be?

I searched the literature, and found that rice cereal is the exact opposite thing you would want to give your tiny baby. Why? It’s carby and nutritionally void–it begins a trend of carb cravings and a mindset (unintentionally) of filling the belly but not maximizing the nutrient intake. Babies don’t yet have the proper enzymes in abundance in their digestive tracts to break down carbs/starch (Have a gassy baby? Quit the carb-overload!).

Instead?

Try an egg yolk. 

Yes, I mean that. No, I’m not going to talk about cholesterol here, but I will say that the egg/cholesterol myth is sufficiently debunked now–dietary cholesterol does not contribute to blood cholesterol, and in fact, the contents of an egg yolk (not the white—that’s the part babies can be allergic to!) are wonderfully supportive of brain development and baby’s overall health. There are many research studies and evolutionary evidence that demonstrate this is an amazing baby food choice, beginning around 4 months for babies who will tolerate it. Ideally, you’d get your eggs from a farm–pasture-raised chickens as the source (or chickens given feed containing flax, for the essential fatty acid benefit that they would get from eating bugs in the grass).

Farm eggs from pasture-raised chickens have the darkest yolks you will ever see...full of nutrients!

A little later?

Pureed meats (high quality pasture-fed organic meats of course)–if you’re really gutsy, you can add some grated liver!

Cod liver oil (for vit A, D, and essential fatty acids necessary for brain development)

Avocados

Banana (it contains amylase, so the baby gets assistance in breaking down the carbs)

Other pureed veggies 

My next suggestion is more of an exotic food, and care needs to be taken when choosing a source:

Coconut cream/milk – in some cultures, coconut is fed to the baby as her first food, and is done so in a religious ceremony. Lauric acid in coconut is supportive of baby’s exceptional health (breast milk and pasture-fed butter are the other primary sources).

Also, coconut milk/cream should not be from a can! My favorite source is Wilderness Family Naturals—you’ll pay an arm and a leg for shipping, but it’s the best quality I’ve found.

Unfortunately, Americans (and much of the world) think fat is a bad thing, and spend way too much time counting grams of it, and counting calories in general. If you want to vilify something we eat—please focus your blame toward sugar and simple low quality crappy carbs. (Another topic I don’t want to go into right now, but I sure do have lots to say about it!)

Another food to add relatively early is homemade yogurt (or an organic non-hormone, non-antibiotic plain yogurt from pasture-fed cows). Not only does it introduce the sour flavor to baby, but it also introduces useful bacteria into the digestive tract—raw milk would be best, definitely non-homogenized, and goat milk is good too.

The most well-supported sources I could find for baby food choices include: The Weston A. Price Foundation — this specific page has quite an in-depth reference list, and I cross-referenced with Mary Enig’s work, Mindy Pennybacker’s work, and the studies about the nutritional effects of egg yolks on babies. You can also find information about why not to use rice cereal at Dr. Mercola’s site. I hesitate linking to him, because some people get really fired up and call his advice too extreme–I do happen to think his standpoint on this issue is comprehensive, supported, and realistic. Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions, has a couple-page blurb about feeding babies, but I believe you can find all the same information on the Weston Price Website (including instructions on how to prepare the egg yolks).

The funny thing about all of this?

If you asked me what today’s superfoods should be for growing kids and grown-ups, I would answer the very same things as I listed for baby foods (well, you probably don’t need to puree your chicken…).

Notes:

*All foods given to a baby (and, in my opinion, to human beings in general, but especially for babies) should be non-GMO, organic and high quality without additives or preservatives. It matters because the chemicals and substances have a greater impact on smaller body–it makes sense, right?

*Additionally, you should never just start feeding your baby anything without the guidance of a professional (in person, not through the Internet). If your doctor does not support this type of approach, find a new one who will.

I’m a stickler for quality of food, but not for counting calories or fat grams. Human bodies will put up with a lot of abuse in the form of processed and crappy quality food, but it’s not necessary, and it’s most distressing to me when I see children suffering because of it. Give them (and you) and advantage, and just step back in time to when food was real, and nutrients were abundant (and health care bills were probably paid in chickens…).

What do you think about this topic?

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  • Roy Andrea M

    Love this topic…  and agree with your research.  Although when faced with the choice of my son’s first food I am reluctant to “stray” from the society norm of rice cereal!  I think I’ve made the choice to start with veggies and fruits (sweet potato, avocado, and banana) but I haven’t put it into practice yet.  Additionally, I was hoping that I could offer local organic fruits and veggies which is not as easy as I was hoping, especially in the winter. 

    Now the egg yolk would be my first choice and several breastfeeding references talk about baby’s first food’s being protein; but…  I have reservations since my son has reacted to egg proteins in breast milk.  It’s a shame too… since we have the most amazing fresh eggs!  It makes me feel better knowing the food source of the chickens…  we are what we eat!

  • http://spicedplate.blogspot.com/ lauren@spiced plate

    Sharing this with my friend who has a baby that’s coming up to the “food introduction” phase!  I am so loving eggs right now…for a while I couldn’t stomach them but had two with lunch today and felt so great this afternoon…loved how much I learned in this post, Lisa!

  • Jtones

    Love this topic! My Mom has in my baby book, a “prescription card from my pediatrician (and my siblings as well) to “feed baby an egg yolk a day”… I’d have to look at how old I was, but it was real young. I hope my youngest outgrows his sensitivity to eggs, my oldest loves them and I feel good about the nutritional value and the price! I would love to phase out/replace some other foods we eat here, but  I will have to re work my budget majorly… it’s so sad that healthier foods can be so pricey!!

  • Anonymous

    wow, thanks for sharing your findings with us, lisa! i found this blog post fascinating!
    first: “Have a gassy baby? Quit the carb-overload” – bingo! yet this is a totally new idea for me. i do think you are on to something here.
    your list of first foods makes SO MUCH sense! and i agree about keeping babies’ foods as pure as possible, as long as possible.
    eggs are such a great food – i still love them!
    i won’t go into my full rant here (i notice you contained yourself so i will, too!) but i think a large part of behavioural issues with kids today is due to foods consumed – as babies and at their current age.
    again, this was a great read, and i love learning new ideas!

  • http://www.pure2raw.com Pure2raw twins

    love egg yolks! but probably love avocado and coconut more ;)

  • http://twitter.com/ChefKatelyn Katelyn Block

    Hello muffin! First and foremost, I miss you oodles. I can’t wait to catch up as soon as I’m home.
    This post was extremely helpful and informative, as per usual. Nutrient density is so important, but as you said, quality is also incredibly important. I feel that growth hormones, pesticides, and other additives are just literal clutter in your body. It’s like dust accumulation.
    I agree wholeheartedly — although you are directing this information especially for babies, EVERYONE should consider it.

    p.s. For a little entertainment, Google search “RawBrahs”. You’re welcome.

  • Gina (Candid RD)

    Last night I was home by myself and saw a commercial for Denny’s “holiday kid’s breakfast” and they had eggnog milkshakes and eggnog pancakes with whipped cream and sprinkles.  I thought to myself “even 20 years ago when I was a kid, there was NO WAY they would be selling this stuff to kids”!!  It’s as if no one even thinks about health and wellness anymore, they just care about making money and catering to what we “want” and we eat it because they have made us addicted to the cheap sugar, salt, and calorie-filled foods!  Ugh.
    I’m excited to have children and teach them what real food is, and how important it is to know where your food comes from, and how food is really the true medicine for our bodies.

  • http://www.love-life-project.com Stephanie

    Fascinating post!  The idea of rice cereal being a bad first choice for baby food makes a lot of sense.  I’m filing the idea of egg yolk away for “hopefully someday”.

    Question, though: while I agree that organic non-GMO is the ideal, what would you suggest for people who can’t afford organic non-GMO meat, dairy and eggs?  When looking at eggs in my local grocery store, the organic free-range Omega 3 eggs cost 5.99 per dozen.  The regular eggs cost 1.99 per dozen.  I choose the free-range eggs for my own ethical reasons, but I recognize my own privilege in being able to make that choice.  I live in an area with a high level of poverty; many people can’t make that choice.  So what are your thoughts on “regular” eggs, meat and dairy? 

  • http://www.healthfulsense.com/ Lisa @ Healthful Sense

    I couldn’t agree more with everything in this post!  I get so frustrated w/ food choices… esp the foods available for kids!  It’s such a challenge to teach little ones that food is not chicken nuggets, lunchables, chocolate milk and soda.  People seem surprised that kids really don’t need “kid” food at all… they should be eating whole foods, just modified a little!!

  • http://www.thrive-style.com Lisakthrives

    That’s an interesting question‹and there isn’t a perfect answer to it. I attended a Food as Medicine conference in DC in June where the focus was often on how to implement “good nutrition” among people with low incomes. The first thing that comes to mind is to have people look locally for sources of meat, eggs, and milk. (This won’t work in the city) Where I live, I can actually get a dozen eggs straight from the farm for under $3 (I don’t know what that would be in Canada). I can also pool together with my family and friends and “buy a cow” —the farmer/butcher processes it into whatever is requested, and by the end of splitting the cost among families, it is comparable in price to conventional grocery store meat (of course, you have to have some freezer space to do that one!). I know around here, also, there are farm sources for milk—but one of the things I would suggest to people is to make yogurt out of organic milk (post coming soon on that topic). Here, organic milk is about $5 a gallon, but…you can end up with a gallon of yogurt for that $5 (plus the cost of one container of plain yogurt to do the culturing…so say, add $2 for that). For $7, you have a gallon of yogurt—much more cost effective than buying yogurt, provides healthy bacteria that we’re lacking, and lessens the need to drink milk. Sardines in a can are a great source of healthy fish oils and calcium, and relatively cheap—even in their non-organic state, they are not usually highly contaminated because they have a short life (plus, the experts I met with said it’s actually more important to get the oils/calcium than to worry about that).
    All of that being said, it’s more important to eat the meat cooked on the
    bone, eggs, and milk—so having to buy those staple foods in a non-organic
    version is last resort (but still better than not eating those foods).
    They’re lacking some nutrients and they contain some contaminants we’d
    rather not have people ingest…but, life can’t always be perfect! If a low
    income family cuts out all fast food (expensive over time, feels cheap in
    the moment) and processed food, there is more room/resources for better
    quality staple foods. I’ve worked with people on strategies for making it
    happen—honestly, the issue usually comes in with the level of desire to
    change/improve.

  • http://thehealthybeehive.wordpress.com/ Jane

    Very informative, and definitely a lot to think about!  However, it makes me think that I’m not ready to have a baby yet :)

  • Jay

    love avacado…thanks for sharing this lovely post..:)
    Tasty Appetite

  • http://anediblemosaic.com Faith

    You make such a good point about eating the way people ate just a few decades back.  And even though there isn’t a baby in my life (yet anyway…someday, maybe :) ), I thought the baby food info was really interesting…bookmarking this!

  • Anonymous

    I definitely agree with this approach to nutrition for our children.  Great post Lisa =)

  • http://dishesanddishes.wordpress.com hännah

    Thank you for sharing all this information!  I used to think it was out of my budget to buy pastured eggs, good quality milk, and grass-fed, humanely raised meats (still don’t buy much of that since I live with a vegetarian!)  I’ve learned, though, that I can afford the good stuff if I’m smart about my shopping choices, cook things from scratch, and do everything in my power not to waste food.  I got my hands on some raw goat milk the other day and it has been making me so happy :)

  • http://www.ravenwavesblog.com Sophia @ Raven Waves

    So interesting, especially about the egg!! Definitely something I will remember!

  • Lauren George

    I”m pinning this post to read again when I have a little one! Soooo interesting! Thank you for the infor Lsa!

  • http://www.love-life-project.com Stephanie

    This is probably the best answer I’ve ever gotten to a question that I’ve asked in a comments section.  I’m so glad that I came back to check!  Thanks for the taking the time…and you’re absolutely right, it doesn’t HAVE to be so expensive.  But not everybody knows that.  I can’t wait for your post on making yogourt.

  • http://weightingfor50.wordpress.com Roz@weightingfor50

    HI Lisa.  Brand new to your blog, and so glad I found it.  So much info to read!!!  Thank you, I’ve bookmarked and will be back often. Have a great week.

  • http://purplebirdblog.com Christin@purplebirdblog

    I was AMAZED the first time I had farm-fresh eggs… those gorgeous orange-y yellow yolks are bursting with amazing flavor unlike any egg I’d ever had.  Seeing a store-bought egg in comparison with its weak yellow color was shocking! 

  • Anonymous

    LOVE! I am not giving Kaylin rice cereal. I’m so against it. If I want to give her cereal, I’ll make very mushy oat bran! But I plan to do lots of veggie and fruit purees. And scrambled eggs!

  • http://iheartvegetables.wordpress.com/ Liz @ Iheartvegetables

    It is INSANE how much food has changed in the past 50 or so years. There are so many “products” (i.e. cheese product, etc) and you HAVE to wonder what’s in those, or what the long term effects are. I couldn’t go totally raw or natural or whatever, but I DO think it’s important not to eat sketch food all the time. 

  • http://www.thenondairyqueen.com/ Sarena (The Non-Dairy Queen)

    I LOVE this! Since I started studying nutrition, I am really working on our diets here even though I thought we did such a good job before! I have really fallen in love with egg yolk too! It seriously makes the most amazing salad dressing ever!

  • http://fitnessfoodandfaith.blogspot.com Sam

    so cool! i know nothing about feeding babies, so i am definitely tucking this away for the future (and implementing it for me now!). thanks for the helpful info!

  • Anonymous

    So glad I finally got around to reading this post!!
    Im so interested in this topic and couldn’t agree more! Kids need to eat these whole foods as early as they can. My mom used to feed my siblings and i raw egg yolks mixed with sugar. Lots of old fashioned Italian moms did this. Not so sure now about it being raw and including the sugar with it!

  • Anonymous

    So glad I finally got around to reading this post!!
    Im so interested in this topic and couldn’t agree more! Kids need to eat these whole foods as early as they can. My mom used to feed my siblings and i raw egg yolks mixed with sugar. Lots of old fashioned Italian moms did this. Not so sure now about it being raw and including the sugar with it!

  • http://oliepants.wordpress.com/ Susan

    As a new mom, I really appreciate this list.  I have to say I was skeptical about the rice cereal thing because it just seems like a lot of carbs!

  • http://mamasweeds.com Alison Spath

    (for some reason, your posts don’t show up in my reader until a few days later?!)

    ANYWAY, I’m really excited about taking a different approach to introducing solids to this baby than I did with my daughters… offering real food right from the start, skipping baby food altogether.

    Many doctors recommend starting with rice cereal to make sure baby is getting enough iron, and even though rice cereal is high in iron, it’s not very easily absorbed.  There isn’t a huge amount of iron in breastmilk, but what IS there is HIGHLY absorbable and assuming your baby was healthy and carried to term, the iron found in breastmilk is all your baby needs until some time in the middle of the first year.

    I’d always considered egg yolk something to offer later on, not as a “first food”… you’ve got me thinking now, especially when considering how packed full of nutrients eggs are as you mentioned.  I like it!

    So many mom’s (and dad’s!) need to hear about this, I’m so glad you’re spreading the word Lisa!  This is important work.

  • Lauryraiken

    I have do much to say about this but I’m still getting used to typing on my phone haha! Did you see my post on skipping rice cereal? Ella’s first food was avocado then bananas and other veggies and fruit. She still hadn’t had any grains. They are binding and the iron in the rice cereal can cause issues from what I’ve researched! I’m not into giving her meat for other reasinsbut will introduce egg yolk in a couple of months. Great post!

  • http://nevernotbeautiful.blogspot.com Laura @ nevernotbeautiful

    I put off reading this post for a few days until I knew I’d have the time to really soak it in and I’m so glad I did! My friend and I were just talking this weekend about the people who feed their kids mac and cheese 5 nights a week and how much that makes us CRAZY. I like to think that my kids will never experience an artificial food until they’re school aged and it becomes beyond my control… I love the idea of feeding them avocados, bananas and purred veggies, though I don’t think I could feed them meat or eggs, given that I don’t eat either myself. I guess that’s “today” though… who knows what I’ll be eating by the time I’m a Mom! Thanks so much for taking the time to write this!!

  • http://www.thrive-style.com Lisakthrives

    Once I started reading about this stuff, I knew I had to tell people—I know people really do have good intentions, and so many doctors promote rice cereal so they don’t question it. Scares me! When I have kids, I’m slightly nervous that I’ll be kind of crazy about the baby food issue‹but it’s a good crazy, right? :)

  • http://www.thrive-style.com Lisakthrives

    I don’t think I saw your post about skipping rice cereal with your little beauty…but I’m gonna go search for it. I just wish doctors would wake up and learn what would actually benefit babies instead of just preaching the status quo… Someday it will happen—and in the meantime, people like us can at least post about it and hopefully prevent a few cereal/grain eaters in the baby world!

  • http://www.thrive-style.com Lisakthrives

    I don’t know why google reader is like that—I haven’t addressed it, but sometimes there’s about a 3 day lag time….hmmm.
    Thanks for the iron explanation—now I have a comeback to that argument when it will inevitably come up :)
    I think you’d like the info at the Weston Price foundation site—they’re definitely entirely holistically and traditionally minded. I spent a while reading comments from parents on their posts—that in itself was very informative (their experiences, etc).
    Have a great weekend!

  • http://www.thrive-style.com Lisakthrives

    Thanks for stopping by :)

  • http://www.thrive-style.com Lisakthrives

    I hope you keep me posted on what you decide to do!
    Maybe later on, you can try the eggs (I’d probably try and find a doctor to support that decision, but I know how difficult that can be too). The part babies can be allergic to in the egg is the white, but I know there can be remnants of white on the yolk… On the Weston Price website there is a lot of great info about how to do it/try it. I was reading a lot of the comments too—parents discussing their experiences with trying different things. I also just started reading a book called Real Food for Mother and Baby, by Nina Planck. A lot of it is about fertility and pregnancy, but it also addresses baby’s first foods really well!
    Good luck :)

  • http://www.thrive-style.com Lisakthrives

    The sensitivity is most likely to the white—can your doc check that? Eggs are so awesome, even if he could eat the yolks now it would be a fab superfood to add in. You have plenty of space for chickens in your yard, don’t you? :)
    I guess you’d have to keep the bears and big critters away—-Matthew is a chicken farmer now—he had 6, now 5 (a hawk got one), and one rooster named Big Steve. Those yolks are the yellow-est I’ve ever seen! The veg/yard/flax fed eggs have most omega benefits—someday I’ll live where I can have chickens (and pay someone to do all the work!). …

  • http://www.thrive-style.com Lisakthrives

    I share that exact “Ugh!” feeling with you about the foods Americans eat and what is being offered…it’s frightening.

  • http://www.thrive-style.com Lisakthrives

    Hi Hannah‹thanks for the comment! I agree—adding in some valuable good quality animal products can be manageable if you try and be thrifty in other ways. I’m lucky I live in farm country and can get the stuff cheaply without many middlemen trying to make money.
    I’m envious of your raw goat milk—I just found a place sort of nearby where I can get raw jersey cow milk, and I’m really excited about it!

  • http://www.pancakeorganics.com/ Benjamin Weingarten

    Thanks for giving such a great information on health food. I have been searching this kind of information but didn’t found anywhere. I have read this blog and found lots of useful info. I am also making use of coconut oil for cooking. It is amazing.

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