Childhood nutrition is extremely important. Children, with their small size and rapid growth rate, need a particularly nutrient-dense diet, and their early foods may influence their food habits for many years.
Given the importance of early diet, what does a nutritionist feed her baby as a first food?
How about an Oreo cookie?
Yep, I did that.
Let me quickly say that perhaps I could have made a better choice. I really don’t think babies should be eating junk food (really!). But this example does have a lesson in it. First, however, let me tell you how I happen to have 25 pictures of my oldest daughter at 11 months gleefully smearing chocolate cookie all over her face.
My daughter was an easy baby. She slept well, nursed well, and was happy to explore her fingers and toes or make faces at her brother while I cooked dinner. When she refused to eat the traditional rice cereal I first attempted to feed her at 6 months, I wasn’t too concerned. She was healthy and appropriately pudgy-she would eat solid food in due time. As the months passed, she continued to reject one food after another-pureed vegetables, meats, baby biscuits, bananas, and yogurt all were spit out with an expression of disgust on her sweet little face. This was so different than my son, who had voraciously consumed every healthy food I offered him from the beginning, that I didn’t know what to do (life lesson-just as soon as you think you have this parenting thing down, something will come up that you have no experience handling!).
During my internship which was part of my dietetic training, I had worked with babies and children who had developmental delays which kept them from starting solid foods until they were 1 ½ or 2 years old. These children seemed to have missed some ‘window of opportunity’ for accepting food with texture, and getting them to eat new foods was extremely difficult. Even though my daughter didn’t have these delays, my worried mind went straight to the worst-case scenario. So I started trying every (safe) food that had some texture. Nothing was working, until in desperation, I handed her an Oreo. Bingo! She loved it! And wanted another, which I gave her (while snapping photos for the baby book). Somehow, this watershed moment broke the curse, and she began eating lots of different solid foods after that day.
This story illustrates a couple of points…One, nobody has a ‘perfect’ diet. I certainly don’t, nor did I feed my kids perfectly, whatever that even means. Perfect is not the goal-nutrient dense is the goal. Two, sometimes you have to do the best you can in the circumstances of the moment. What we eat on a daily basis matters, but we’ve all been in the position of feeling like there are no good choices-on road trips, at an airport, at a work luncheon where only pizza and soda are available. Keeping in mind a few priorities can make these decisions easier and help keep you on a nutrient dense track.
- Do you have any food allergies or intolerances? If you suspect that two bites of that pizza will leave your gut in agony, it’s best to avoid it.
- Go for nutrient-dense foods. This means vegetables, fruits, meats, nuts and seeds, and legumes. The mixed nuts are better than the puff pastry at a party.
- Avoid sugar as much as you can. Unsweetened iced tea or carbonated water with a squeeze of lemon are far better than soda.
- Occasionally have a treat (just be careful how you define occasional! I usually define it as once or twice a month). Remember, every once in a while, even a cookie can save the day.
Oh, and my daughter? She’s now a healthy 25 year old, who only rarely eats Oreos.
Lisa Scranton, MS, RDN, LD
Nutritionist. The Center for Medicine and Healing Arts
610 Eastbury Dr. Suite 5 Iowa City Iowa 52245
- 319-358-9510 F. 319-358-9524 E. [email protected]