Little Foodies

AKA Kids Who Eat Everything

Claire loves olives, dates, apricots, raisins and seaweed in her snack box.  This was her 8th time trying papaya and she's finally taking to it.

Claire loves olives, dates, apricots, raisins and seaweed in her snack* box. This was her 8th time trying papaya and she’s finally taking to it.

If your first thought was, “those kids don’t really exist” or “if they do exist, they’re definitely not mine”, I ask you to put those thoughts away and think of the perfect world.  A scenario might look like this: you and your family are sitting down to a meal of whole foods, including the dreaded green vegetables, and not a whine or complaint in protest is heard, instead you hear the sounds of satisfaction, lots of Mmmms and lots of silence.  It may sound impossible and to get that every single day might not be very likely, but versions of this perfect world are within your grasp.

My sister, a Francophile at heart, recommended I read Karen LeBillon‘s “French Kids Eat Everything”.  I devoured it.  It turns out French kids really do eat everything.  (I’ve also seen Japanese kids eat everything, which means a lot of other kids must, too.)  Why do they? Karen LeBillon does a good job of explaining this and her 10 food rules are great to get you and your family onto that foodie track.

What struck me the most about her book was how food culture is developed and maintained in France.  It starts at the top (government) and trickles down into the different facets of society until it reaches the schools and the homes of each family.  Each and every person is concerned with maintaining and instilling the food culture to their children, the next generation of eaters.  Where their food comes from and how it is treated is of utmost importance. Eating is a celebration!  Food is to be shared, talked about, prepared and enjoyed together, at the table, not in the car or on the subway. There is definitely some rigidity to the way this is achieved in France, at least to my North American sensibilities, but I have to admit that while reading this I did kind of wish I was French.  Or at least I wished I was living there.

In my food culture, often referred to as the ‘fast food nation’, NONE of this is true and kids are hardly ever expected to eat what adults eat. The result is a lot of adults eating exactly what they ate as kids, usually tons of fried finger foods, pasta, meatballs, chicken, a ridiculous amount of dairy, too much sugar.  My shock at how many adults have confessed they don’t like vegetables (except for potatoes) never wanes.

So, if you want your kids to eat well as adults, they HAVE TO eat well as kids.  But how?

  • Experiment and Innovate – You will learn how to prepare the same food a million different ways.  You have to.  You have to give your child the opportunity to try a food in many different forms, textures, flavors (spices), hot/cold, raw, etc.  One way will stick and it will open him up to trying the same food in another way.
  • Be Persistent and Patient– LeBillon says that it may take 15+ times of introducing a food before your child will eat it.  This was a relief to read.  I had been persistent before but would give up after 5 or 6 tries.  I tried this 15+ out and it turns out to be true. Be patient.  Your baby/child is probably skeptical and will need patience to convince her.
  • Make it Fun, Make it Beautiful, Make it a Big Deal – When eating is a chore it is utterly boring for you and your child.  It is also utterly boring when what you are eating isn’t very appealing.  We eat first through our eyes and if it’s vibrant and beautiful, there will be more of a chance that you’ll at least get a taste to happen.  Eating IS a big deal so make it one!  Make it special.  Karen LeBillon talks about the French dressing up their tables with table cloths and special dishes and utensils for the kids.  It’s a brilliant idea and it works.
  • Do it Together – Children of one of my client’s asked to watch me in the kitchen one day.  He (11yrs) and his sister (8yrs) devoured the miso soup I prepared with a side of brown rice.  They ate fish prepared en papillote.  They loved the green juice.  All were new foods to them.  They were amazed at how the ingredients turned into the meals I was preparing because it is an incredibly amazing process.  Share it with your children and their enthusiasm for trying what they’ve prepared will skyrocket.
  • Eat Real Food – This is a biggie.  Canned peas suck.  Peas just out of the pod are like candy.  Kids are not stupid and they know the difference between real food and what is supposed to pass for food.  A huge misconception is that their taste buds can’t handle big flavors.  It’s true, their taste buds need to be developed (and it’s not just kids who need to do this), but a variety of flavors helps in this process.  Real, fresh, (yes organic, too), food explodes with flavor and as it delights you, it will delight them.

These are my own approaches with my daughter and I was beyond pleased to see that they were in some way or another on LeBillon’s list as well.  I may not come from a place with a well defined food culture, but if we all endeavor to help our kids become less-picky eaters, and more aware of food and how it binds us to each other and the Earth, we’ll be defining it from the bottom up, starting in our homes until the message gets heard way up top.

*LeBillon goes into great length about snacks and snacking.  If this is an issue for you and your family, you will be happy to know that it was a huge issue for her and her family as well.  She offers an interesting take on the whole subject!  As a mother, a chef and an expatriate, this book spoke to me on many levels.  It’s a great read, entertaining and informative and with delicious recipes to top it all off!

Bon Appetit and Bonne Chance!

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Culture Shock, Over Easy

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Right now I am in a state of shock at my culture shock.  I’ve traveled and lived in other countries before, but this recent move to Al Ain, the green oasis of the UAE, has jolted me to the core.  As most definitions of culture shock will attest, everything I know, believe, think, expect is being challenged.  I am WAY OUT of my comfort zone.

The thing about culture shock is that it’s a cocktail mixed with a bunch of other things. It stirs up emotions you didn’t think you had, fears that were previously unknown and prejudices you thought you were too open-minded to have.  Yet they’re all there and they come up when you least expect them to and they push you to overcome them. Everyday.

When you’re uncomfortable, you seek comfort wherever you can find it.  It may be in a stranger’s smile or a song you hear.  It may be a Starbucks you spotted or a re-run of Modern Family.  It could just be the sunrise and the sense of possibility of a new day.  That’s what it usually is for me.  That and breakfast.  On our 3rd morning at the Hilton, Claire and I went down for breakfast and were greeted by the organic section of the buffet!  Organic!  Little surprises like these go a long way.  Now that we’re “home” in our apartment, it’s a cup of tea with 2 eggs over easy over rice and sauteed spinach (at home, in the USA, it would be kale).

In the quiet morning, with a delicious breakfast, I can gather myself and prepare to start fresh, again.  It’s what’s required when you’re in the midst of culture shock because all things, large and small, are different.  And, you notice them all!  It’s also a time of slowness and when I can really watch Claire.  It has been incredibly helpful to be with a child.  Claire notices things are different (she hasn’t seen many women wearing abayas or men in dishdashes before) but she doesn’t judge anything as good or bad.  She notices and she looks (sometimes stares in a way that only kids can get away with) but then quickly returns to whatever is occupying her attention at the moment.  When she hears the prayer calls, she simply does her sign language for “music”.  Music!  That’s exactly what it is, that’s all it is.  When she hears our cab driver speaking in Urdu, she laughs.  And he usually laughs back.

Little by little the differences are overcome by the similarities.  It seems impossible now because as soon as you walk out the door everything is hard, but it happens.  I know it does because it’s happened before.  It just takes time, patience, some laughter and deep breaths and lots of the tea you’ll find below!  Then, allow yourself to be surprised and you will be.

A few days ago we went to one of the malls, (much nicer and with so many of the same stores as back home), and I spotted a woman covered head to toe in her black abaya and hijab (head scarf), but with her face visible to all.  She was also wearing TOMS, just like I was.  As they say in Vietnam, “same, same but different”.  Indeed we are.

Miracle Tea*

1/2 oz. each of dried chamomile flowers, dried lemon balm, dried catnip leaves and dried lavender flowers.  Combine all the herbs and seal in a mason jar.

To prepare:

Place 1 T of the mixture in a glass jar and cover with 1 C boiling water.  Steep for 15 minutes and ENJOY!

*This tea has helped me plenty.  It’s from Aviva Romm‘s book, Naturally Health Babies and Children.  She calls it “teething tea” which we’ve used several times and has done wonders for as well.  It’s soothing, comforting and positively dreamy.  I re-named it Miracle Tea because it is miraculously calming!  Thank you, Aviva!

Amaranth and Apple Pudding

Makes 1.5 C

These cool mornings have quickly brought with them the craving for creamy oatmeal for breakfast.  While preparing some for my husband and I, I also had some amaranth cooking for Claire.  (Quinoa was her first ‘grain’ and this would be her second.)  Experimenting in the kitchen is always fun.  Experimenting with recipes for Claire doubles that fun!

Amaranth is still somewhat of an obscure grain though it enjoys a very rich history.  While quinoa was the sacred, power food of the Incas, amaranth was the sacred, power food of the Aztecs.  (Not surprising, quinoa and amaranth are distant cousins.)  When the Spaniards arrived, they forbade the cultivation of amaranth, mostly because it was often used in sacred, religious ceremonies.  This was inconvenient for the spread of Christianity.  (Food permeates every aspect of life!)  Still, amaranth was resilient and its spread around the globe proved inevitable as its name indicates.  Amaranth comes from the Greek amarantos, “one that does not wither,” or “the never-fading.”¹  (You’ll think about this “never-fading” again, when you’re cleaning up after your baby dines on this goody!)

Rebecca Wood writes that, “the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has encouraged the use of amaranth since 1967 because wherever amaranth is consumed there is little or no malnutrition”.²  That’s a bold statement for the health properties of this poppy seed-like “grain”.  Like quinoa, it is a protein power-house, at about 14%.  It also contains more protein and calcium than milk.  Go ahead and read that sentence again.  This is one reason why amaranth is such a perfect food for pregnant and nursing moms and for children.  It’s also what makes it ideal for babies since babies are well equipped to digest proteins.  Amaranth contains lunasin, a peptide thought to have cancer-preventing benefits and preventing inflammation that accompanies chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.¹  It’s also naturally gluten-free, which is really just a bonus.

Amaranth can be added to thicken soups, it can be popped and spiced up as a snack or it can be added to baked goods.  It’s tiny, it’s versatile, it’s nutritious and yes, it’s delicious in all its wild nuttiness!  Your body will do cartwheels in gratitude for adding this to your diet.

Needless to say, we traded in our steel-cut oats and that morning, we all ate this amaranth and apple pudding for breakfast.

You’ll need:

1/2 C amaranth, soaked in 1 C water and 1 T lemon juice

1/2 C coconut milk

1/4 t sea salt

1 t vanilla extract

3 T raisins

1 T unrefined, extra virgin coconut oil

1/4 C stewed apple, diced (bananas work lovely wonders here, too)

sprinkle of ground cinnamon

sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg

To make:

1. Place amaranth with its soaking water, coconut milk and salt in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil then lower heat to simmer.

2. Add vanilla extract and raisins and cook for 20 minutes, stirring often, until the liquid has gotten thick and creamy.

3. Remove from heat and stir in coconut oil.

4. Serve by scooping some of the pudding into a bowl and topping with apples, cinnamon and nutmeg.

5. Enjoy!  (And if you’re feeding this to a little one, don’t be put off by the mess.  Just be prepared to find amaranth EVERYWHERE – remember it’s “never-fading” – and know that it’s well worth it!)

¹http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/amaranth-may-grain-of-the-month-0

² Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

How to Cook When You Don’t Have Time to Cook

Let’s face it.  The best meals you eat are the ones you cook yourself, or someone cooks for you, if you’re lucky!  Nothing beats home cooking.  You know exactly what you’re eating, how it’s prepared and YOU can control portion size.  Portions have gotten pretty ridiculous and most of us get through our plates because we paid for them.  Then we feel terrible afterwards and we think that this is normal.  It isn’t.  (Neither are “all  you can eat” buffets!)  Additionally, home cooking is usually made with LOVE, an ingredient that elevates most dishes and nourishes body and soul.

When I give workshops on Food and Health or am otherwise chatting about food and cooking, I oftentimes hear from people that they would cook and eat better if they only had the time to.  They tell me how lucky I am that I’m a health-supportive chef, that I must have a Rolodex of ‘healthy’ recipes and menu ideas in my head so no wonder I can cook and eat well.

I am lucky.  Culinary school was invaluable for me, not just in the professional kitchen, but in my own kitchen as well.  It isn’t however, what makes dinner possible for me on most nights.  My mom is not a chef, neither was my grandmother, yet they cooked everyday. (And trust me, I draw blanks for dinner all the time, too.)  What makes dinner possible is a bit of strategizing and planning.  It’s very much like teaching.  All the work gets done before you even walk into the classroom.  So much so that if you’ve lesson planned properly, the class can basically teach itself.  It’s the same with cooking.

Here’s what you need to know and what you need to do:

1. Organize Your Fridge and Pantry

Of course this would come first and it’s usually what trips everyone up.  Few people like to organize; with the exception of chefs and teachers maybe!  But, you have to.  You must organize the fridge and the pantry.  What do you have?  What can you use?  What needs to be re-stocked?  What gets thrown in the trash?  Take inventory and start your list.  You can think beyond the week for staples such as long grain brown rice, black beans, coconut milk, etc.  (Those are some of my staples.)

(Note:  Part of the organizing will entail you have containers to organize in.  Glass jars, ziploc bags, tupperware, it all works to get you organized.  A roll of masking tape and a sharpie really help, too!)

2. Organize Your Thoughts

OK, so you now know what’s going on in your fridge and pantry and you’ve gotten it together.  Your mind is either racing with ideas or completely blank.  Don’t worry.  Both are normal and either will happen every week!  To keep you focused, take a look at your inventory and decide what you want to use/eat/cook that week.  Rice?  Quinoa?  Lentils?  Chicken?  Want to finish that cabbage that is still good but doesn’t have much time left?

This is how you start to build an idea of the meals that will come together.  What can you do with what you have and most importantly, what are you in the mood for?

3. Menu Plan

Now comes the fun part.  Don’t be intimidated by the looming blankness of your canvas, the menu plan.  Planning is messy and it takes many revisions and what you end up cooking may be slightly different from what you planned anyway.  Be flexible and take pleasure in knowing you’re making careful decisions for your and your family’s enjoyment and health.

When thinking about the menu plan, keep these things in mind:

  • Try to eat seasonally.  Strawberries in January (on the East Coast) don’t taste good anyway.  Eating seasonally keeps you in tune with the rhythm of the Earth and that connection is another form of nourishment.  Not to mention, seasonal (and local) food tastes infinitely better!
  • Organic, Grass-fed, Pastured, Non-GMO; these are all terms that ensure that you are buying and eating the highest quality food, the most nutrient dense and also the most delicious.
  • Balance!  If you’re having pasta on Monday, try not to do cous cous on Tuesday, sandwiches on Wednesday, pasta on Thursday again, etc.  Mix it up.  Also, you want to “eat the rainbow”.  Nothing is more boring than eating and looking at a plate that is one color, nor will it do you much good nutritionally either.  Eating a variety of colors guarantees a good mix of macro and micro nutrients, anti-oxidants, phytonutrients, etc.
  • Keep it simple!  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every night.  Try to use similar ingredients throughout the week so your prep time is kept to a minimum and you’re sure to eat what you bought instead of throwing anything away.
  • Plan a leftover day.  For example:  Soups and grain and bean salads make great leftovers, roast a chicken and use the legs for dinner tonight and the breasts for dinner on Friday.  (Save the carcass for a stock;)
  • Example of a weekly menu plan:
    Lunch Dinner
    Monday coconut lentil soup
    Tuesday lentil soup chicken, black bean, rice, apple salsa
    Wednesday leftovers mushroom omelettes w/ salad
    Thursday veggie burgers w/ green salad
    Friday grain salad lamb chops, swiss chard, grain salad
    Saturday chard and mushroom risotto, green salad
    Sunday roasted asparagus soup/grilled cheese

Notice the blank spaces for lunch.  Nothing can be so perfectly planned and it’s good to leave a few blanks for spontaneity and bursts of inspiration.

4. List and Shop

Throughout the above steps, you already started your list, at least mentally.  Now finish it.  Fill in the holes.  The biggest holes will probably be fresh produce, eggs, bread and other perishables.

Shop!  The next most fun part!  Do you your best to stick to the list so you don’t get sidetracked and start re-doing your entire menu-plan in the produce section!  Remember to be flexible.  If you’re looking for chard but all they have is kale, kale will likely work, too.

5. Mise en Place

Mise en place literally means, “everything in its place”.  You’ll do some version of this every time you cook (usually).  It just means having everything ready; spices measured, veggies cut, protein marinated, etc.  I take this a step further.  For the week ahead, I’ll wash, dry and store any greens, such as kale, chard, collard greens, some lettuces, etc.  I’ll dice onions, celery and carrots and keep them in tupperware.  (These make up the mirepoix which is a basic flavor profile for many foods.)  If I’m making rice or beans, I wash and soak them for the next day.  If I’m making veggie burgers for dinner, I’ll make extra, store, label and freeze them for another dinner.

In order to be successful in your menu plan, you have to keep thinking at least a day ahead.  Cooking most things from scratch takes time (this isn’t bad!), but if you do things in parts, it won’t seem like so much time.  I usually reserve a weekend to do all this pre-work while my husband is home and I can have a couple dedicated hours in the kitchen.  Trust me, this saves a world of time and it makes dinner possible even when unexpected things pop up in your day.

6. Ready to Cook

With your fridge and pantry organized, your menu plan written out, your fridge stocked for the week and your mise en place ready to go, you’re ready to cook!  With all these steps, all the pre-work, you’ll be able to tackle most dinners in about 30 minutes.  And when you need to compromise, then do so.  A can of beans (Eden Organic are BPA free) won’t kill you if you forgot to soak beans the night before. Neither will take-out.  Just don’t let these become habit.  You’ll notice that once you start to cook and eat your own food from scratch (most of the time) most other prepared foods just don’t taste as good.  You’ll also start to feel the difference after you eat.  Pretty soon you’ll be addicted to this cycle, you’ll feel better in body and you’ll be happier, too.

These steps will get much easier with practice.  They seem involved and daunting now but before you  know it, you’ll be a skilled cook in your own kitchen doling out advice to friends and family!

So, what’s for dinner?

Baby Palate, Baby Tummy

It’s a mystery how our little gourmands work.  If only they could talk and tell us how they feel and what they feel like eating.  I’ve run into many moms at the supermarket, the farmers market, at yoga, where this is a hot topic of conversation yet everyone leaves with a question mark still sitting in their heads.  I know their frustration. There isn’t a ton of (good) information on what to feed babies, how much and when.  What there is, is often contradicting.  What are we newbie moms to do?

We are left to our own devices and instincts to introduce our babies to the world of food.  It’s a big task!  Giving our babies a sound nutritional foundation from which to spring is key to their health for the rest of their lives*.  We are responsible for setting a good example.  You’ll definitely think twice about having that danish for breakfast when you’ve got a little one beckoning for some of your food!  Parenting is the most reflective practice I’ve experienced yet.

Baby Palate

Contrary to what we adults may think, babies have surprisingly open-minded palates.  Not to mention a keen ability to “chew” food even if they lack the hardware (a full set of teeth) to perform such tasks. When I was living in Japan, I was astonished to see babies snacking on dried fish and sea vegetables.  Kids took bentos to school for lunch, filled with rice, fish or other protein, natto (fermented soybeans), etc.  As if kids just want candy.  Of course, if candy were constantly available, what kid wouldn’t eat it.  We’re hard-wired to crave the sweetness.  We’re not, however, designed to eat it round the clock.  Nor are we designed to eat processed sweets or processed anything.

We are lucky that we get our produce from an organic farm that is about 1 hour away.  Local AND organic is a luxury that is difficult to find despite increasing numbers of farmers markets.  Organic food is nutrient dense, it is real food and it is very important both personally and professionally, but that importance multiplies exponentially when I think about Claire eating.

The produce from the CSA is slightly more bitter overall.  It’s stronger in flavor and tastes like it just came from the Earth.  It did!

She eats whatever we get each week in our cherished box.  She’s eaten most vegetables; beets, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens from escarole and dandelion greens to spinach and chard, squash, potatoes, carrots, celery, corn, peas, etc.  She also eats most fruit (no citrus or berries yet) and animal protein.  Claire just isn’t into purees so I dice her veg and steam.  For greens, I steam and then put them in the food processor.  I then add a drop of olive oil or coconut oil to increase the bioavailability of the fat-soluble vitamins.  She loves it.

Getting into food combos has been fun.  Her favorites have been:

  • chicken and avocado (I put a few pieces of roasted chicken in the food processor till it was fully shredded and found that I can then form little balls with the soft chicken.)
  • beets and potatoes
  • spinach and carrots
  • nectarines and chard
  • ground beef and spinach
  • egg yolk and parsley (or cilantro)

I haven’t yet introduced grains but plan to in the next few weeks.  I’ll probably start her on amaranth and quinoa.  She also is not consuming any kind of dairy.  (The question of dairy is for another post entirely…maybe 2!)

Baby Tummy

Up until a couple of months ago, Claire’s only food had been mother’s milk.  Her food has been raw.  It hasn’t even been exposed to air. Needless to say, the introduction of food can wreak havoc on a developing digestive system.  I noticed this especially after giving her lentils, therefore I haven’t pushed any other beans or pulses.  (Processed foods are much harder for baby’s delicate digestive system to digest.)

After a worrying amount of time in the constipation doldrums, I called the doctor’s office.  The advice I got from the nurse was, “don’t give her toast, make her bran muffins, if it doesn’t get better, give her corn syrup.”**

None of that advice was applicable to us, so I went to work.  I began to give Claire raw coconut water daily.  I gave her prune juice diluted in water.  She ate plums for breakfast.  I then made a prune and apricot compote (see recipe below).  These all gave mild results.  It wasn’t until I began giving her cod liver oil that her system got back on track.  It honestly worked like a charm!

I started by adding a 1/4t to her food which she ate with the same enthusiasm.  Now she takes it by the spoonful (still 1/4t) before she eats.

Introducing your baby to food can throw you for a loop.  It threw me for one!  There are so many rights and wrongs, so many opinions, comments, comparisons.  What I have found is that following my instincts has served me well…so has following tradition.  Claire eats the same food I eat.  Bitter greens?  Yup. Sweet vegetables and tart fruit?  Yes.  Astringent vegetables, salt?  Uh huh.  I’m not sure that you’ll find what I’m doing in a book, then again, maybe you will.  I’m just interested in maximizing Claire’s nutrition as well as giving her ample opportunities to explore different flavors.  I’m not interested in “kid foods”.  If we’re having salmon for dinner, she’s having some version of it, too.  So far, so good.  She loves meal time and kicks her legs and waves her arms in excitement as she sees her plate being prepared.  I’m told this will change.  Like all else in parenting, there is no such thing as linear progression and there will always be a ton of surprises!

Let us know what you’re doing, what’s working and what isn’t.  New moms can use all the support we can get!

Enjoy your food journey with your little ones!

Prune and Apricot Compote

Makes 1 C

You’ll need:

1/2 C pitted prunes, roughly chopped

1/2 C dried apricots, roughly chopped

1 cinnamon stick

To make:

1. Soak the dried fruit and cinnamon stick in a sauce pan with enough (filtered) water to cover, overnight.

2. Remove the cinnamon stick and place saucepan over medium heat, bringing to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the liquid becomes thicker and syrup-like.

3. Let cool and serve 1-2 T per sitting to baby.  You can also mix with other foods such as sweet potatoes or spinach.

It’s also great for you to top your yogurt or granola;)

Camera shy but loving that peach!

*If you haven’t seen HBO’s Weight of the Nation, please do!

**I should note that we LOVE our pediatrician, who is also an acupuncturist.  There is a wide range of views held by the nurses in the office, however!

Gourmet Baby

Caught Red-Handed!

So, it turns out that my gourmet baby, Claire Berlin, prefers to dine on paper over any food I’ve given her yet.  She seems to have a preference for my Bon Appetit magazines, so at least I know we’re headed in the right direction.

It’s been about about a month since we started her on “solids”.  The egg yolk was our most successful attempt at getting her to eat food.  After that we moved on to sweet potato (not her favorite), banana (so-so), carrots (nope), a bite of avocado from my plate (she actually gagged), a chicken bone (she loved).  There is an explanation for this seemingly disorganized approach.  I haven’t read any parenting books on “how to” start foods.  I actually try to stay away from parenting books in general because the way my brain works, the “shoulds” would be stuck in there and I may second guess everything we’re doing.  So far things are good and questions and chats with other moms are working brilliantly.  But, the real explanation is that eating isn’t a science, it is more of an art.  And, there is much more involved in the “how” than in the “what”.

Claire Berlin has showed us an incredible interest in eating what we are eating.  She has no interest in the orange veg I put in front of her, unless we’re eating the same thing, usually.  I have presented her with mash versions of the veg + finger portions that she can pick up, play with, whatever.  As soon as she gets her hands on the mushy stuff though she looks at me with a quizzical expression, unsure of what to do and not at all pleased with this new feeling in her hands.  She also has no interest in being fed, either with a spoon or with my finger, so that stopped pretty quickly.

Since Claire is interested in everything I am doing or touching or drinking (she really loves drinking water or chamomile tea out of our glasses), I have let her explore with whatever I am engaged in.  Our most recent experiment was coconut milk.  She seemed to like it as she kept putting my finger in her mouth looking for more.  It occurred to me that maybe she’s not into bland vegetables.  After all, we don’t eat steamed veggies void of all other flavor.  Plus, the chicken bone experiment went pretty well and that particular chicken was seasoned and roasted for us adults.

With all of this information, we moved onto the next experiment.  Back to sweet potato.  This time I cut it into rods, large dice, and planks.  It got steamed and then it got a drizzle of coconut milk and a pinch of salt.  We all sat down to lunch.  She touched it, looked at us for some kind of expression and then got back to her food.  She mashed some of it, tossed some off the table, but then she got a hold of a rod and it went straight into her mouth.  She sucked it at first (coconut milk and salt!) and then bit down using her two brand new tiny teeth.  The taste is still new and she’s still working that out, but she went back for more.  This time she went for the plank.  It broke in 2 so she grabbed one piece and little by little she ate it.

Looking determined!

It’s been fascinating introducing food to our baby.  It has forced me to think of food in an entirely new way.  Small things such as the cut or the tiniest addition of fat or salt can mean a world of difference for a baby.  We’ve been taking it slowly.  I don’t want her overwhelmed and I would like for her relationship to food to just unfold as naturally as possible.  No pressure.  No charts.  No comparisons.

She just turned 7 months so we’ve done a lot and we’ve come a long way already.  I think we’ll keep revisiting some of these foods and throw in some other veggies as they turn up.  It’s a great season for fresh and diverse produce!  I have to say though that I am kind of looking forward to letting her gnaw on a little lamb chop.  I wonder how that will go down?

I’ll keep you posted.  In the meantime, please share your experiences with your little ones and food.  I’d love to hear about your journeys.

xo. Nathalie

Looking a bit more satisfied. This was day 3 of the coconut milk sweet potato.

P.S. Between writing and posting, I performed a Clara Davis experiment of my own.  I gave Claire some avocado to which she gave me an expression of an emphatic NO.  So, I put some banana next to it (both cut into rods) and after some hesitation, she went to town on it!  She even took some from my finger again!  There is no linear progression!  Just experimentation, play and discoveries!  Enjoy:)

Whole Food Baby

Imitation is amazing! She was more interested in the bowl than anything else this time.

It was not an easy decision to make.  But, in the end, tradition won over.  Last week we all had poached eggs for breakfast.  Claire dined solely on the (not so runny) yolk with the tiniest pinch of salt.  It was my first food as well as my mother’s and grandmother’s.  I figured there was a reason it was passed down the generations.  After some reading, especially on the Weston A. Price site , I learned exactly why. Before I get there, I have to emphasize just how difficult it is to NOT do what a doctor suggests, especially when it concerns your baby. Even though cereals are still widely prescribed as the best first food, for some reason it didn’t feel right.  Especially if it was coming out of a box!  Yet, mom after mom, health professional after health professional suggested it or did it themselves.  Some started with orange vegetables which was a close 2nd for us.  In any case, I’m not interested in being right or wrong or clever or different.  I’m just interested in what’s best for my baby.

I know whole foods are best.  I know this through my own experience with food and my body.  My body was chronically unbalanced and slowly it began affecting different systems.  I needed to heal and I needed to regain balance.  Food was my first step in that journey, a step that was critical to my getting pregnant in the first place.  Naturally, eating real, organic, whole foods was a priority for me.  I experienced the myriad effects of positive changes in my diet.  Yes, whole foods are best.  So, as much as was possible, Claire Berlin has been a whole food baby since she was conceived.

So why eggs and why not cereal?

It seems babies are well equipped with the digestive goods to effectively digest protein and fats, such as pepsin, an enzyme that breaks down protein and hydrochloric acid which also aids in the process¹.  They also have a special enzyme for absorbing cholesterol².  Cholesterol is essential in the production of hormones and brain cells.  What babies don’t have is amylase which is the enzyme necessary to digest carbohydrates.  (They do produce lactase which digests the lactose in mother’s milk.)  This is the science behind our choice.  It’s reassuring.  Still, that egg yolk was my, my mom’s and my grandmother’s first food was reason enough to let it be our daughter’s first taste, too.

All that thought and discussion that went into our choice and really there are dozens of wonderful first foods.  Just keep baby’s delicate digestive system in mind and there really is no wrong answer, as long as you’re feeding baby real, whole food.  There have been some fascinating studies on the subject.  My favorite is the Clara Davis experiment.  In this study, Clara Davis showed that babies really are so much wiser than we think and are able to make food choices that best suit them.  And, their palettes are varied and sophisticated!  We need not think that babies and kids need a different menu of “kids’ foods”. They should eat what adults eat, eventually!  (In most countries I’ve visited, there is no such thing as a kids’ menu.)

Food at this age is merely an introduction as the baby’s main nutrition will still come from mother’s milk or formula.  Baby probably won’t get more than a teaspoon of food in at each sitting during these first few weeks.  Still, that was the most exciting part about Claire Berlin starting to eat food.  Up until now, I had been producing her only food, a miracle I am in awe of daily.  Now she’ll be having her first bites of different textures and flavors, exploring her world in new ways again.  As we’ve been witnessing her personality unfold, now we will be able to witness the baby gourmet unfold.  We’ll get to see how her tastebuds develop and what she’ll love and what she won’t.  We’ll get to see how her relationship to food develops and how our values and ideas about food, health, the Earth and our impact on it change and grow as she does.

For now though we’ll just enjoy the firsts, the funny faces and the messes!

Is the parenting journey ever not amazing?!

Oh the places we found egg yolk! But with that smile, who cares!

¹http://www.westonaprice.org/childrens-health/nourishing-a-growing-baby

² Nina Planck, “Real Food for Mother and Baby”

Another good source/good reading is KellyMom.