Sunday, June 12, 2011

Healthy Grains, Happy Baby

A new day, a new food. And just as the introduction of egg yolk opened Isla’s world up to food much different from her diet of fruit and vegetables, her latest food took her yet another step in a new direction: grains.

Grains that are low in or free from gluten are recommended for nine- to 12-month-old babies. Quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet and oats – Isla’s latest food – are all good options. Oats are an excellent source of fibre and are rich in Vitamin E, B vitamins, and minerals, including iron, zinc and calcium. According to my naturopath, substantial growth and maturation of tissues occur at nine months. Foods containing iron and zinc are suggested at this age, including those that are high in fibre, which encourages good intestinal health.

Further, Nutritionist Kim Corrigan-Oliver of Your Green Baby recommends holding off introducing gluten-containing grains (such as wheat, barley, rye, spelt and kamut) until after your baby is 18 months. Her reasons include:

(1) The enzymes to properly digest gluten are not present in full amounts often until between 12 and 18 months;
(2) Introducing gluten-containing grains earlier risks increasing the chances of digestive distress; and
(3) Energy potentially spent on trying to digest difficult-to-digest gluten could be better spent on growth, development, immune system function, and general health and well being. Letting the digestive process be as easy and smooth as possible allows for maximum absorption of nutrients with little energy expended.

With this in mind, Isla recently got her first taste of organic oats, which are also considered a low-allergen food. To replace the coconut oil I usually mix in with Isla’s food, I used organic coconut milk instead, pureeing the cooked oats with the coconut milk to create a creamy, beautifully rich food.

To sweeten the deal, I mixed in some pureed, stewed, organic prunes to much fanfare – Isla loved the new taste and texture and had no negative reaction to the oats. Healthy grains, happy baby!

Sunday, June 5, 2011


A couple of weeks ago, Isla turned nine months old and with that milestone, reached a whole new level of food introduction. In addition to her diet of fruit and vegetables, it was time for Isla to be introduced to something entirely different: egg yolks.

Nutritional experts vary on when the best time is to introduce babies to egg yolks. Some say as early as four months while others advise to wait until nine months. Regardless of when they’re introduced, egg yolks are rich in choline, cholesterol and other brain-nourishing substances, offering optimal nutrition to growing babies. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation:

“Cholesterol is vital for the insulation of the nerves in the brain and the entire central nervous system. It helps with fat digestion by increasing the formation of bile acids and is necessary for the production of many hormones. Since the brain is so dependent on cholesterol, it is especially vital during this time when brain growth is in hyper-speed. Choline is another critical nutrient for brain development.

The traditional practice of feeding egg yolks early is confirmed by current research. A study published in the June 2002 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the nutritional effects of feeding weaning infants 6-12 months of age regular egg yolks, enriched egg yolks, and an otherwise normal diet. The researchers found that both breastfed and formula-fed infants who consumed the egg yolks had improved iron levels when compared with the infants who did not. In addition, those infants who got the egg yolks enriched with extra fatty acids had 30% to 40% greater DHA levels than those fed regular egg yolks. No significant effect on blood cholesterol levels was seen.

The best choice for baby is yolks from pasture-fed hens raised on flax meal, fish meal, or insects since they will contain higher levels of DHA. Why just the yolk? The white is the portion that most often causes allergic reactions, so wait to give egg whites until after your child turns one.”

I opted to hard boil the organic, free-range egg (produced by chickens fed an all-vegetarian diet), carefully removing the yolk from the white. I even went as far as to rinse the egg yolk to ensure no traces of white remained. Then I mashed the yolk and mixed it with one of Isla’s favourite foods – pureed butternut squash. Once the egg yolk was camouflaged, not only in colour but also in texture and taste, it was no problem ensuring Isla ingested her share of nutrient-rich goodness.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Your Green Baby

One of my favourite baby food introduction resources is Your Green Baby, a website and blog by Ontario mom and Nutritional Practitioner Kim Corrigan-Oliver. Now Kim also has a new book called Raising Happy Healthy Babies. I wanted to buy it not only for the information it contained, but also to support Kim. And boy am I ever glad I did.

Lately, I've felt like all I’ve been doing is battling it out with Isla at every mealtime. Some days, Isla eats so robustly, it’s all I can do to keep up with the spoonfuls. But more often than not, Isla doesn’t even want to even open her mouth, let alone swallow. This is nothing if not frustrating. Why won’t she eat?! Then, in the midst of all my hand wringing, Kim’s book arrived in the mail. In it, I read something that took all the stress out of Isla’s mealtimes for me:

“Food introduction is about getting your baby accustomed to food: it is not about providing nutrients. So breastfeed or bottle feed your baby as normal, and within 30 to 60 minutes of finishing, introduce some solids.”

She goes onto write: “How much your baby eats will vary from one baby to another. It may just be a taste off of your finger or it may be a tablespoon or two. Remember it is about learning to eat, tasting food and creating an experience – it is not about nourishment.”

These passages served as an excellent reminder for me to relax when it comes to feeding Isla. It’s about creating an experience, not getting as much food as possible down her gullet. Up until I read Kim’s new book, the fact Isla wasn’t ingesting what I was offering was proving more and more stressful. How on earth could I be consistent in her introduction to food if Isla refused to eat?

However, thanks to Raising Happy Healthy Babies, I’ve decided to worry less and enjoy feeding time more - whether Isla eats or not. Something I’m sure Isla will appreciate as much as I will.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Baby Food Mash-Up

Most babies like routine and structure, so it comes as no surprise that Isla lost all enthusiasm for solid food after a week without - I just didn’t expect it to happen so quickly and completely. In an effort to travel light, I opted to breastfeed exclusively while we were away from home, but upon our return I paid the price for my culinary laziness. Isla wouldn't have anything to do with solid food, throwing a (very dramatic) fit at the very sight of her bib, let alone the food.

In a bid to have her resume her consumption of solids, I pulled out all the stops, abandoning my new-food-introduction agenda and offering her favourites. I served up banana. I sweetened the deal with sweet potato. I even mixed the two. Nothing but more cries for the boob. Then I figured, just for the hell of it, I’d throw a spanner in the works and try something altogether new and different – broccoli. I alternated broccoli with banana and sweet potato in the same sitting. Her interest was not piqued. Not to be outdone, I introduced fresh, steamed, pureed organic blueberries. Who could resist? Not Isla! After several days of disgruntled and occasionally tear-filled mealtimes, Isla once again took to the spoon, and enthusiastically. The winning combination? Blueberries and sweet potato.

Throughout this mini drama, I debated the merits of my persistence. Should I just let sleeping dogs lie and let Isla continue to breastfeed to her content? How then would I know when to reintroduce solids? In the end, I figured that if I consistently offered her food she could decide whether or not she wanted it, but at least the message would be sent that exclusive breastfeeding wasn’t (necessarily), the name of the game.

Saved by the Smock
When Isla does decide to eat solids, she does so messily. She likes to pull up her bib and lick whatever goodness has fallen onto it. Often, she’ll excitedly “clap” her hands, expertly knocking the spoon and its contents out of my hand and onto her/the floor/the counter. If she’s quick and lucky enough, she’ll even manage to get her little fingers into the food itself. So blueberries are a risky endeavour, to say the least. As such, I was thanking my lucky stars I had recently bought a smock bib to cover her in. It wasn’t an easy search. Most smock bibs are made of plastic, polyester or some other synthetic material that can be easily wiped off or thrown in the wash. However, I’m not interested in draping my child in such fabric, so I searched for a material I could live with and found Mimi the Sardine, a Californian company that produces organic cotton bibs with a non-toxic, water-based acrylic coating that is water and stain resistant, but not so stiff that Isla can’t move her arms when she eats. Aside from the blueberries that ended up on her legs, it works a charm – especially when she’s actually eating...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The (Second) Demise of the Carrot

Like most rational people, Isla likes fruit a whole lot more than veggies. But the mother in me was stubbornly determined to have her eat more veggies. So it was time to try carrots again. This time, I was going to get it right – the perfect carrot-to-water ratio, followed by the creation of a silky smooth consistency, rounded out with an infusion of organic coconut oil. I whipped up a batch and while still warm from the steaming, offered them to Isla. Resolute rejection. Well, I don’t like warm carrots either. The next day, I pulled out the carrots from the fridge, only to discover they resembled something close to frozen (orange) cottage cheese. No baby could eat those, nor would one want to.

Of course, Isla doesn’t have to eat solids, but following a few days without, I wanted to reintroduce them to her. After Isla experienced her first-ever runny nose (well, nostril), I decided to abandon the solids for a few days and just breastfeed her to ensure she was getting all the nutrients she needs. Her nose dried up in a day, but I continued breastfeeding for a few more. Now, as I mournfully stabbed the solid carrots, something in the corner of the kitchen caught my eye. The fruit bowl – with a soft, browning banana in it. So it was that Isla was joyfully reunited with her old friend, which she lovingly and enthusiastically embraced.

Today, we tried the carrots again, this time at room temperature. And as Isla pushed my hand away, I finally conceded defeat. Now I just have to figure out what’s next on the menu...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Apricots - SO2 + Fat = Pure Goodness

At first glance, you’d never know they were apricots, void of the bright orange colour we’ve come to associate with the soft little fruit. So when I stood scanning the shelves of my local health food store for organic, dried unsulphured apricots – Isla’s next culinary offering – I could be forgiven for missing them entirely.

Sulphured apricots
In my bid to give Isla the healthiest food possible, I opted to forgo colour for purity. Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is used in dried apricots and other fruit to preserve their colour and increase their shelf life. According to Healthy Child Healthy World’s Chemical Encyclopedia, sulphur dioxide and five of its sulfite relatives are approved for use as preservatives in foods such as canned fruit and vegetables, dried fruits (except prunes and black raisins) and applesauce.
The amount of sulphur dioxide found in any food isn’t enough to affect most of us, however in sensitive individuals (particularly asthmatics), ingestion can cause asthma attacks, skin rashes and upset stomach. So why on Earth would I give it to my perfectly pure baby?
Unsulphured apricots
As it turns out, Isla cares little what colour she eats. In fact, she gobbled up her brown apricots. And in a (slightly delayed) stroke of genius, it occurred to me that I could add (odourless, flavourless) organic coconut oil to Isla’s fruit dishes, as well as her veggie ones, ensuring she gets much-needed fat in all her solids. As my naturopath wrote in one of her emails:
“The MOST important nutrient for babies is fat!! Fat!! Fat!! Your breast milk is over 50% saturated fat, so as we introduce solids keep this in mind, especially if you are planning to raise her without meat. In fact, most beta carotene found in squash, etc. requires fat to convert to Vitamin A.”

So it is, for the next six days, Isla will eat fat-laced, suphur-free, brown-coloured apricot-y pure goodness – and apparently enjoy every bite.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Solid Gold

I had my doubts. How, pray tell, would I steer Isla away from the addictive sweetness of fruit and back onto the veggie path? My only hope was butternut squash. So I peeled, cubed and steamed half an organic butternut squash and pureed it with organic coconut oil into a silky smooth consistency. Isla devoured it. Welcome to the new golden food.

I couldn’t be happier. In fact, very few things please me more than my daughter opening her mouth wide and eating to her heart’s content nutritious food. Butternut squash fits the bill perfectly. It helps to boost a baby’s immune system and lowers the risk of cancer and heart disease. Plus, the amount of Vitamin A it contains is almost off the charts – one cup of cooked butternut squash has 457% of the recommended daily allowance. Isla’s eyes will be the picture of health.

As important as flavour, I believe, is a food’s texture. Unlike peas, or other less puree-able foods, well pureed butternut squash just feels good to eat. Add to that the pleasing mouthfeel of fat (in the form of coconut oil) and you have a tasty, brightly coloured, healthy food that makes the mouth sing. Hallelujah!

Spoon Me
Just like Green Toys says on its website, I care about what goes into Isla’s mouth – and not just in the form of food.

As such, I searched for a perfect-sized spoon that not only felt right, but that was also environmentally friendly and safe for Isla to eat off of. I found the Green Eats Feeding Spoons, in an 8-pack nevertheless.

Made from 100% recycled plastic milk containers, the cute little spoons (they’re 4¼ inches long) contain no melamine, BPA, phthalates, PVC or external coatings. Even the packaging is made from recycled and recyclable materials and printed with soy inks. Love it.