Real food for babies

Making the simple switch to real food for babies we might cultivate a taste for whole foods and help prevent diabetes

Photo: Annabel Karmel’s First Meal’s Your Questions Answered. Copyright 2011 DK Publishing

One in three babies born today is expected to develop diabetes later in life, unless something dramatic changes. What if white rice helped trigger diabetes and brown rice helped to prevent it, regardless of weight or lifestyle? That’s just what a 2010 Harvard study suggests.
 
The Problem
 
Most core food preferences are learned during critical early windows of opportunity. In America we have raised a generation where most children learn to get zero servings of whole grains daily by the time they are 18 to 24 months old.
 
Official recommendations encourage us to replace white flour with whole grains for children and adults, but this is very difficult because we usually start after taste preferences have already formed. Let’s start earlier, when babies won’t mind at all.
 
Today, the majority of babies in America are given white rice cereal as their first bite of solid food. White rice cereal isn’t just babies’ first food. In the US, this processed white flour is the number one carb eaten by babies from the first bite to the first birthday.
 
The Solution
 
If we just made the simple switch from white rice to whole grain brown rice for babies we might cultivate a taste for whole grains and prevent millions and millions of people from developing diabetes.
 
Even Better
 
For that very first bite of solids, though, I prefer choosing something that doesn’t come in a box or jar. Let your baby see a real whole food in its natural state, something she’s seen you eat before, such as a banana or an avocado. Let her handle the whole food. Let her smell it. Let her see you eat some, and then let her see you mash up a bit, perhaps with some breast milk. If you are nursing, she will already have experienced the flavor in your breast milk before.
 
Her strong desire to imitate you and to learn from you, coupled with this powerful combination of seeing, tasting, smelling, and touch creates a profound learning experience that is deeply satisfying and fun. Let a whole food mark this momentous occasion – or a whole grain cereal. But not processed white flour rice cereal.
 
The Harvard study suggests that if we switched from white rice to whole grain brown rice we could drop diabetes by 36 percent. Consider a future population of 300 million in the US, with 100 million expected to develop diabetes. A 36% reduced risk would represent a huge savings of life, limb, eyesight, money and health.
 
It’s time to change babies’ first food and give them a healthy start. They deserve to love the taste and texture of great food. They deserve a chance to beat the odds of getting diabetes.

Alan Greene, MD, FAAP, is the author of Feeding Baby Green.

Content provided by The Mark News.

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