In a previous episode, I revealed what I eat on a regular basis to stay healthy and I was thrilled to get so much positive feedback about it. So, I thought I would pull the curtain back a little further and share what I feed my kids to keep them healthy now and to help them develop a good relationship with nutritious food. In this episode, I walk you through what my 5 year-old son and 9-month old baby daughter eat now and what they ate getting to this age.
I know that kids are not easy when it comes to food. I hear, ‘my child is a picky eater!’ all the time and mine are too. It can be tough, but remember, that even if they don’t like something, it does not mean they won’t like it forever. In fact, studies show that kids have to try a food over and over again before they learn to like it so don’t give up after one or even a few tries.
Introducing Healthy Foods Early
You can expand a child’s palate and willingness to try new things by introducing healthy foods and supplements at an early age. For example, I started giving Jake, my 5-year-old, liquid fish oil (Omega Marine Liquid) at such a young age, that he is totally used to the taste. He will even remind me when I’ve forgotten to give it to him. And the baby gets excited now whenever I pull that fish oil bottle out of the fridge.
I also introduced Jake to probiotics at an early age by opening up the capsule and sprinkling it into his food. Sometimes you have to get creative! It’s worth it because the more you introduce to them early on, the more they will get used to these foods and it will be easier later.
When to Start Babies on Solid Food
There’s always been debate over exactly when babies should start eating solid foods. These days, pediatricians recommend introducing solid food between 4 and 6 months (it used to be 6 months). The thinking is that introducing solid food earlier (including potential allergens) may decrease the chances of the child developing food allergies to things like peanuts, dairy, egg etc.
I think there are a few sides to this story though.
First, some kids are just not ready for solids so pushing those too early may be stressful for both you and the child.
Second, while I understand introducing small amounts of allergens early is sort of like doing allergy shots, you have to remember that babies are born with essentially a leaky gut. It takes time for that to fill in. In my opinion, it’s better to wait especially if there’s a family history of autoimmune disease.
In my case, I have Hashimoto’s and I have the DQ8 gene for gluten so I knew that my kids would be at risk of also having this gene. In fact, I had my kids tested to determine if they inherited this gene (there’s no such thing as too early for genetics) and I discovered that they actually had both the DQ2 and DQ8. As a result, I have never given them gluten.
For dairy, I waited until Jake was a year old. If you have a dairy intolerance, be sure to listen to the full episode because I explain how introducing dairy too early could result in cross-reactivity or molecular mimicry with dairy and the islet cells on the pancreas which can lead to an autoimmune reaction for type 1 diabetes. Of course there are many other factors involved but I just personally felt that dairy was not necessary for us and waited till a year after which this may be less likely to happen.
How to Start Babies on Solid Food
If you were to follow the conventional recommendations for slowly adding in solid foods, pediatricians suggest putting rice cereal in the breast milk or formula. After that, introducing rice or oats and soft foods like bananas and other fruits.
My recommendations are a bit different.
If they are getting enough calories from breast milk or formula, there is really no need for grains or fruit so early on. Instead of helping them develop a taste for sweet food, encourage them to experience veggies instead. With both Jake and Juliette (the baby), I started with zucchini that I steamed and pureed. I added a bit of breast milk but you could also just add a little water too.
Pureeing Your Own Veggies for Babies
I know there are a lot of healthier options for buying pureed baby food but I prefer to make my own because, as I said, I want to avoid the sweeter fruits and veggies early on so I can help the kids develop a palate for things other than sweet.
I started with zucchini (which I peel to avoid too many lectins), avocado, green beans, bok choy, and cauliflower. As the babies got a little older, I added in kale, broccoli, butternut squash, and swiss chard. Next, I started to integrate sweet potato and beans. The next addition was pureed meat, egg, and nuts. All of this was before I introduced fruit around the 8-9 month mark.
Are Puffs Really Good for Babies?
Anyone who’s had a baby in the last few years knows what puffs are – they’re everywhere. The idea is that they help babies develop because they have to pinch them to pick them up s its good for their fine motor skills and they dissolve in the mouth so they’re not hard to eat.
I suggest really looking at the ingredients before jumping on this trend. I did find one brand of puffs, Lesser Evil Puffs, that seemed to be not too bad. I prefer to make bite-sized soft foods myself. This might be pressure cooked chicken or lamb, or veggie puree rolled into balls and baked. The baby can still grab it and I know that healthy, whole foods have been used to make them.
Helping Picky Eaters Love Vegetables
I know a lot of parents deal with kids who are picky eaters. Often, when we find one healthy food they like, we continue to give it to them until they get bored with it. That doesn’t mean they don’t like it anymore, it just means it’s time for a break. I try to rotate his foods and always have a balanced plate (grains, veggies, and protein) just like I do for us adults.
Another thing you can do is pay attention to what your picky eater does like – it might not be the food they’re rejecting but how it’s prepared so you can look for patterns. Do they like soft foods, crunchy foods, certain colors or flavors? If so, work with that. I noticed that Jake really likes crunchy foods so I try to make our healthy food crunchy so he’ll eat it. For example, I’ll bake asparagus tips or zucchini fries in the air fryer.
Meal Plan for a Child
Here is a typical day of eating in our house.
Lunch: A protein (grilled chicken, steak, pork chops, lamb), a side (oats, rice, sweet potato, beans) and veggies (asparagus tips, steamed green beans, air fried eggplant, zucchini, broccoli).
Dinner: Similar to lunch and we will often rotate these around. If we include a dessert, it’s usually frozen berries, NadaMoo! dairy-free ice cream or chocolate (HU Chocolate is low in sugar). Sometimes I’ll make muffins or brownies using the SimpleMills mixes.
School Lunch: Meat sandwich (turkey or meatballs), side of veggies, and sometimes a protein drink (we like the Paleo Pro Chocolate).
Healthy, Gluten-Free Brands our Kids Love
Soozy’s makes good grain-free bagels
Simple Kneads for bread.
SimpleMills for snacks and I use their muffin and brownie mix
Supplements for Kids
There are a few supplements that most kids can really benefit from:
- Fish oil – If you have a picky child, you might try adding OmegAvail Smoothie (by Designs for Health) to their smoothie. There are great flavors like Mango Peach.
- Probiotics (starting at 6 months)
- Bone broth stating around 6-7 months (great for extra hydration)
- Multivitamin – We like SuperNutes but SmartyPants is also good.
- Vitamin C – Kids find C+biofizz fun and tasty
- Vitamin D (especially if you don’t live in a sunny climate) – Emulsi D3 Synergy
- Allimax is good to have on hand for when kids feel a little under the weather or there’s something going around.
Starting Kids Strong
I know nutrition for kids can be a real challenge. I’ve been successful (or lucky) that introducing healthy foods at an early age has helped my kids maintain a balanced diet. Could my tips help a mom or a mom-to-be feel more confident in their feeding habits? Please share this episode.
ZuccHini Fries Recipe
1 Tablespoon Avocado Oil
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 ½ Tablespoons Gluten Free All purpose flour
¾ cup gluten free breadcrumbs (I use Sogni Dolci brand)
2 medium zucchini, cut in quarters lengthwise and then each quarter halved
2 large egg whites, whipped until frothy (almost soft peaks)
Preheat oven to 500ºF. In a small bowl, mix together Italian seasoning, flour and salt. Place bread crumbs in another small bowl.
Dredge a zucchini fry in flour mixture and then dip into egg whites; dredge in bread crumbs. Place coated zucchini on parchment paper on baking sheet and repeat with remaining ingredients.
Roast, turning once, until desired crispness, about 10 minutes.
Use this technique with any summer squash or even eggplant. Works great with thick-cut onion rings or even green tomatoes.
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