by Erin Donley
Have you ever heard the term, “Food before one is just for fun?” I call that baloney. Have you ever thought of the most nutrient dense foods you eat? Some may say baked salmon, fruits, vegetables and coconut oil. Yes! All of those foods are very nutrient dense. They have awesome fats for the nervous system (helps the brain work well!), vitamins and minerals for beautiful skin and energy, and coconut oil is very satisfying and can even help your metabolism.
So, now think about those first foods infants are usually fed…rice cereal, packaged fruits & vegetables, infant cookies & crackers (puffs) and maybe some fresh fruits. Rice Cereal is not that nutrient dense compared to salmon or coconut oil. Children prior to the age of 18 months actually cannot digest grains such as wheat, barley, oats and rice. They don’t have the digestive enzymes and their systems have not matured enough to break them down. So what is there to feed baby then?
Letting baby lead the process of starting solids is the best way to encourage healthy eating behaviors. Some babies will start as early as 5 months or so or up to 10 months for their first foods.
There are many soft and easy to mash up foods that are perfect for children up to age 2. For instance, the Weston A Price Foundation, a group that advocates nourishing traditional foods based on the work the dentist Weston A Price, suggests baby’s first foods should be egg yolks, liver, bone broth, butter, avocados, fish eggs, and fermented cod liver oil. These foods are easy to swallow and are chocked full of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. These foods can be introduced at around 6 months old. Just lightly cook a whole egg in a skillet and grate some grass fed frozen liver into the egg yolk. Then just put some on a little baby spoon. You may be quite surprised how much your baby loves this food! Babies also love to eat mashed banana and avocado.
At around 10 months or so, babies can be fed a variety of meats, fish, fruits, fermented dairy (if tolerated) and vegetables. Don’t forget to include healthy fats such as grass fed butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and other grass fed fats when cooking for baby.
My son, now almost 3, had many digestive issues as an infant. After trying every commercial formula, we researched and found the infant formula recipe in the cookbook, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. We started giving it to him when he was about 5 months old. He loved it. Then at around 6 months we started with the liver and egg yolk. Some of his digestive issues started to return so we stopped the eggs in recommendations of his physician. However, we continued to feed him soft cooked sweet potatoes and other root vegetables blended with bone broth. He would practice feeding himself avocado, banana, soft pears, and even beef stew meat. His skin was beautiful and his sleep was finally settling out better at night. Honestly, I was surprised how easy it was to feed him a whole foods based diet. I saved a ton of time using my crockpot frequently to cook down many types of animal meats.
By feeding your baby nutrient dense foods prior to age 1, you will encourage him to enjoy nutrient dense foods and develop a palate for vegetables and fruits. Plus, the whole family benefits from eating a whole foods based diet together. Remember that the main source of baby’s nutrition should come from breastmilk or formula before 1.
Erin Donley M.Ed NTP is a Nutritional Therapist in private practice in Mechanicsburg PA. She has a passion for working with young families transitioning to a whole foods based diet, working with couples trying to achieve pregnancy, and running the RESTART group program for those looking for solid nutrition education and a sugar detox. Find more information on Facebook @ Faithandhopewellnessassociates and at www.faithandhopewellness.com.