Raising a Less Picky Eater

Finally, an article that supports homemade baby food over packaged baby food.  This was from a blurb in my American Medical Association daily email updates:

Reuters (2/23, Rapaport) reports that, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, “babies who get homemade food may learn to like a wider variety of food types and be leaner than infants who eat store-bought products.” For the study, “researchers examined dietary data on 65 infants and assessments of body fat from exams when infants were 6, 9, 12 and 36 months old.” Reuters says that “when researchers scored babies’ diets based on how many of seven different food groups they consumed, the infants getting only homemade food achieved scores almost a full point higher than babies getting only store-bought foods.” Meanwhile, “at one year of age, babies who ate only homemade food had a lower percentage of body fat than the other infants in the study.”

I previously referred to an article that claimed the opposite:

https://paleoob.wordpress.com/2016/07/24/sugar-content-in-baby-food/

I think it makes sense that feeding your kid ONLY pre-packaged baby food is probably not the healthiest.

WZW is 18 months old today!  It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since he started solid foods.  He eats mostly regular food, but for convenience we do still have baby food as well.  The pouches are nice for bringing on-the-go, since they don’t need to be refrigerated and can be easily kept in a diaper bag.  But they are more expensive.

Even though he eats most of what we eat, it’s still a lot of effort to figure out what to feed him multiple times a day, so we still give some baby food even when we’re at home.  We still like the Earth’s Best brand, because they have the glass jars that are way cheaper than the pouches, and come in 6 oz jars (rather than the 4 oz pouches).  So we’ll put them into the reusable pouches.  They also have flavors that aren’t sweet, which is hard to find when you look at the varieties of pouches in the stores or online.

We’re lucky that WZW has never been a picky eater.  Even from when he first started solids, there were only a few foods that he didn’t like.  He mostly eats everything, and since we eat a variety of ethnic foods as a family, he has tried a variety of flavors.  He doesn’t seem to be bothered by spice as well- he can handle it better than my parents can!  If anything, I worry about him eating too much, as he’s starting to need 2 yo sized clothes, thanks to his big belly.  I guess the pediatrician will tell us at his upcoming 18-month appointment if he’s getting too heavy on his growth curve.

I think for most families, doing all homemade food can be difficult.  But given the varieties of mostly sweet foods in the packaged baby foods, I think it’s good for parents to be aware so that they can feed their babies savory foods and add variety with homemade foods.  Otherwise the babies would get used to foods they like, such as apples and sweet potatoes that are often added to make the baby food more palatable to babies.

We definitely did what we could to encourage WZW to eat a variety of foods.  Supposedly different flavors and spice get secreted in breast milk, so I ate a variety of foods during his first 6 months when that’s all he was getting.  And since then we’ve given him a variety of foods, homemade (and restaurant made) and baby food.  But I think it’s also probably just him.  Many babies, when given new foods for the first time, don’t accept them until multiple attempts have been made.  Whereas for WZW, most foods weren’t a problem the first time.

For me and my husband, we’ve been using Cook Smarts more, so we’ve been eating more Paleo than before.  Thanks to my husband who has been cooking us meals during his off days, I have been eating less carbs than what had become my usual.  I’m still not quite there in terms of being completely Paleo- it’s still convenient to eat what’s available at work on days when lunch is provided.  While before, I would definitely pick a sandwich over a salad given the choice, I’ve been trying to go for the salads more often.

The problem is that the salads leave me hungry a couple of hours later.  I had forgotten about that- when I first went full Paleo, I was eating A LOT.  And then, as I got used to it, I found that I needed less food to feel satisfied longer.  Right now, while I’m still not full Paleo, I have to deal with the low carb meals (usually pre-packaged salads) often not keeping me full as long.  But I’m proud of myself for making some progress.  I’m still usually pretty exhausted from work and WZW to put any more effort into it, so any little bit helps.

In any case, last night we were eating a Cook Smarts dish, which was tamarind chicken with bok choy on cauliflower rice.  WZW was eating it all without a fuss, and even practicing his fork skills!  Made Mom and Dad proud to see their little guy enjoying his Paleo dinner.

Sugar Content in Baby Food

So far, we’ve been buying baby food since it’s hard to find time to make our own.  We get the various jars and pouches that you find at the typical online and store retailers.  I’ve found that even then, it can be a time-consuming process to scour the various websites for which food to buy.  Of course I want to find the ones that are less expensive.  I want to find different varieties, to give WZW exposure to different foods.  And get a variety of ones with meat versus veggies.

In general, I’ve found Babies R Us to be disappointing, because even though we got a bunch of their gift cards at our baby shower, their prices are often higher than what you’d find on Amazon or the like.  And since we have Amazon Prime, we already get free 2-day shipping on most things, whereas with Babies R Us you have to pay for shipping, and it takes longer.  Now with the baby food, I find it annoying that they don’t have pictures of the nutrition labels, so even if I found something on sale, I’d have to cross-reference on other sites to check the labels.

Initially, I wasn’t checking labels too much, thinking that they would only have a few ingredients that were already listed on the front of the package.  But I quickly realized that there are all kinds of added ingredients.  Even with the baby foods that are pure fruit, the sugar content can often be quite high.  I don’t mind if he gets the sweeter all-fruit foods sometimes, but they often add apple or other fruit to make savory-sounding flavors taste better.  So if I’m not careful, even getting the ones that seem to have kale and spinach as the main ingredients end up also having sweet fruit added.

Once I started looking at labels, I realized that even with the baby foods that have no added sugar and are all fruit, you can still end up with 10 grams of sugar in a 4 oz pouch.  I know some of the fiber content helps, so it’s not like downing a cookie.  But still, I want to be mindful of what I give my son.  I was shocked when one yogurt and fruit-based baby food had a whopping 21 grams of sugar per 4 oz pouch!  Turns out they add concentrated fruit juice to it.  You might as well give your kid half a can of soda.

One of the brands I’ve found that has less sweet fillers is Earth’s Best.  They have pouches, but also have glass jars.  They do add starchy fillers like brown rice and whole wheat, but we’re not being THAT strictly Paleo for our son.  From what I hear from friends, different babies have different preferences, and some insist on feeding themselves from earlier on.  My guy still doesn’t mind getting fed from a spoon, and also does the pouches easily- which is nice for me, since they’re less messy.

I also bought a canister of puffs.  Again, they tend to have a lot of sweet varieties, but I found one that has a savory flavor.  I only give him a handful- like 5 to 10 in one sitting, and he can practice feeding them to himself.  And they don’t get messy.

Even in the recent TIME parenting newsletter, there was an article referring to a study done in the UK that showed that store-bought baby food was healthier and provided more veggies than homemade food:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jul/19/young-children-shop-bought-homemade-meals-study

But now that he’s getting older, I’m realizing that I’m going to have to deal with the messiness and have him start eating more regular food.  I had thought to myself that even if I prolong the pouch feeding, it’s not like he’s going to show up to kindergarten only eating pureed food.  Well, one friend said that her niece got spoiled by her family always feeding her.  So even at 3 years old, when a bowl of food was placed in front of her, she wouldn’t know what to do with it.  She would give my friend a look- wait, aren’t you going to feed me?

Part of the challenge is that it’s easy to revert to giving him starches- bread, rice, and noodles are so easy to feed babies.  So the thought of extra effort and time to figure out what healthier options to feed my son is a downer.  But after hearing the story above, I decided I needed to figure out options.  To start, plain scrambled eggs were quick and I already had the eggs in my fridge.  I figured they would be less messy than the yolk I tried before, and they are Paleo.  Well, turns out he had an allergic reaction.  Apparently it’s the egg white that has the protein that tends to cause allergies.

At first, I thought he was just bothered by the bib, which is not uncommon.  But then I realized he was breaking out in a rash around his mouth and under the jawline, above the neck.  I stopped feeding him, applied some hydrocortisone cream, and it rapidly faded.  It freaked me out a little seeing that for the first time.  Even though I figured it was probably just the rash, I was thinking to myself- please don’t go into anaphylaxis (an allergic reaction so severe, it affects breathing).

The baby books we have around the house said food allergies are common, and that most babies grow out of them.  These days, they recommend early exposure.  So I guess we should start exposing him to more of the common allergens, like peanuts, seafood, etc.  My pediatrician friend said I could try reintroducing the eggs in 3 months and see how it goes, but it can often take until kindergarten age to grow out of allergies.