Homemade Baby Food – More Nutritious & Cheaper

Making homemade baby food does not have to be a lot of work. The book “Baby Love” makes the case that homemade baby food is better than commercial because you can control what’s in it. Both homemade and store-bought food contain vitamins and minerals your baby needs. But the book notes that those little jars of food on the grocery shelf also can have add-ins such as modified cornstarch, though major brands such as Gerber and Beech-Nut don’t add starch (or salt or sugar) to their purees. And, the authors say, because the food in those jars has been cooked at high temperatures to ensure a long shelf life, they may have lost some of their nutrients and flavor.

Making your own can be far cheaper than store-bought baby food and nearly as convenient, the authors insist. Most of all, though, O’Donnell and Tracy say, homemade baby food simply tastes better and can foster a lifelong love of healthful food.

“Baby Love” features delicacies as straightforward as Get Your Greens, a blend of spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, water and milk, for children 8 months and older; and as exotic as Ginger Beef, a puree of 12 ingredients that requires some cooking, for kids 10 months and older and their parents. For kids 12 months and older, there are baked goods such as Norah’s Brain-Booster Zucchini Muffins. Foods for the youngest babies (6 months) are necessarily simple: Perfectly Basic Avocado, for instance, involves mashing half a ripe avocado with the back of a fork for 90 seconds, then mixing in a tablespoon of orange juice. Even I could have done that!

One time-saving strategy suggested in the book is organizing all the ingredients and equipment before you start to cook, known as mise en place. Tracy writes that doing this allowed him to make food for two weeks in just an hour. Most recipes for the youngest kids are purees meant to be frozen in an ice-cube tray, then stored in plastic baggies in the freezer.

Jatinder Bhatia, MD, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Nutrition and is my former attending at the Medical College of Georgia, notes that feeding babies a version of the family’s meal is a time-honored way to influence the child’s future tastes in food. “It’s common sense,” he says. “That’s how ethnic babies learn to eat ethnic food.”

“At this point, your baby is still a captive,” Bhatia says. It’s an ideal time to “present what the family’s eating” — assuming, that is, that the family is eating healthfully.

What’s Your Feeding Style?

Meals to parentingby http://justtherightbyte.com/2010/10/whats-your-feeding-style/

Feeding is arguably one of the most time-consuming and grueling jobs of parenthood.  Often thankless, and plagued with parental insecurity and low confidence, parents struggle and muddle through the process of feeding their children. Here is a sobering statistic:  throughout an 18 year childhood, a parent will feed their child over 28,000 times (assuming age-appropriate meals and snacks). The effort to feed a child can be overwhelming…planning, procuring, preparing, serving, and cleaning up.

Parent feeding styles, and their impact, warrant attention, particularly when you look at the magnitude of feeding interactions throughout a child’s life.

Researchers suggest that feeding styles, or the attitudes and actions a parent uses in the process of feeding their child, closely mirror parenting styles.  Did you know that each parent has a style of their own when it comes to feeding?  And while one style is generally used most of the time, all the parenting styles can overlap and mingle.

Our feeding styles also tend to mimic our own experiences as a child;  they are deeply ingrained, and our “go to” method for feeding our own children.  In other words, parent feeding styles reflect childhood experiences with food and eating.  In the current climate of childhood obesity, it is sobering to think about the feeding styles that our current generation of children may be using with their future offspring.

There are four parenting styles and as an extension of this, feeding styles:

Authoritarian, also known as “parent-centered” parenting.  In the realm of feeding, this style is associated with “The Clean Your Plate Club”, where rules about eating predominate, from trying foods to completing a meal. Dessert is contingent upon eating dinner.  Parents plate the food for their children.  Eating is directed by the parent, rather than self-directed by the child.  A child’s true feelings and subsequent actions about food and eating may be hidden, while potential animosity and compensatory behaviors build around eating.  Weight problems, both underweight and overweight, are correlated with this parenting style.

Permissive, also known as “The ‘Yes’ Parent”.  A parent with this parenting style feeds their child in a similar fashion: even though “no” or limitations may be the first response, “yes” ultimately reigns.  The classic example of this is the mother who is attempting to manage the vocal child in the grocery store who wants candy at the checkout stand.  He begs and begs, hearing, “no, no, no…well….okay, I guess so.”  Children of permissive feeders may become overweight, as research shows that the limits on calorie-dense foods may be unlimited.

Neglectful parenting, when aligned with feeding, often produces the ill-prepared parent: irregular shopping, empty cabinets and refrigerators, and no plan for meals. Food and eating may lack importance for the parent, and that may transcend to feeding their child.  Children who experience this feeding style may feel insecure about food and eating, and unsure about when they will have their next meal, if they will like it, and if it will be enough.  These children may become overly focused on food and frequently question the details around mealtime.

Authoritative, or the “Love with Limits” parenting style, promotes independent thinking and self-regulation within the child, but also sets boundaries within which the child is expected to operate. The authoritative feeder determines the details around the meal (what will be served, when it will happen, and where it will be served), but allows the child to decide if they will eat what is prepared, and how much they will eat.  Trust and boundaries are the basis of this parent feeding style.  Children who have authoritative parents in the home tend to be leaner, good at self-regulating their food consumption, and feel secure with food and eating.  The most current research advocates this style of parenting/feeding as an effective childhood obesity prevention approach.

So, mom and dad, what’s your feeding style and how is it affecting your child?

Go with your gut. Stop problems before they start.

Gut healthBy Siri Carpenter

Once you’ve polished off a meal, you probably don’t give it much thought. But when you push away from the table, your gut’s work is only beginning — it will take between 9 hours and a day or two for the food you just ate to be fully digested. During that time, your stomach and small intestine break your food down into molecules that the small intestine’s thin lining can absorb, allowing essential nutrients — the energy stream that fuels every cell in your body — to enter your bloodstream. The lower part of your small intestine then wrings out the water remaining in your meal and ushers it into your colon, which funnels it into your bloodstream to help keep you hydrated.

As straightforward as this process sounds, the seemingly simple chore of digestion depends on a finely orchestrated series of muscular contractions, chemical secretions and electrical signals all along the 30-foot-long gastrointestinal tract. But there’s also plenty you can do to keep this operation running smoothly.

Follow its pace 
A rushed meal is out of sync with the creeping pace of the gut. Savor your meal. In a neat bit of mind/body magic, the thought, sight and aroma of good food jump-start the digestive process, signaling the stomach and salivary glands to secrete chemicals that will help break down food. Chew your food well so your gut doesn’t have to work as hard to break it down. Eat slowly to avoid gulping air, which will make you gassy, bloated and — thanks to the mind’s payback to the body — irritable.

Nurture its residents 
Gut-friendly bacteria use fiber, an indigestible carbohydrate, as their main food source, so eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, such as oats, barley, whole wheat and popcorn. Fiber also aids the passage of food and waste through the gut. Most adult women should aim for over 20 g of fiber a day; men should get at least 30 g. But again, go slowly: Increasing your fiber intake too quickly can cause gas and bloating.

Respect its opinions 
Even the most finely tuned machine has its quirks — if certain foods trigger GI problems for you, avoid them. Common heartburn culprits: acidic, spicy and fatty foods; caffeinated and carbonated drinks; chocolate; and onions.

Notorious gas producers include beans, onions and cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage and radishes. (These veggies are loaded with vital nutrients, so don’t shun them altogether, but enjoy them in small doses.) The same goes for packaged low-carb treats and other foods containing artificial sweeteners — especially the sweetener sorbitol.

Lighten its load
People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from GI problems. Whatever your weight, though, regular exercise can help alleviate digestive distress. In a study involving 983 people participating in a weight loss program, the more physical activity people got each week, the fewer GI symptoms they had. Aim for at least 20 minutes of moderate activity each day.

It’s your second brain 
Your gut is also intimately involved in some intensely emotional business: We rely upon our gut instinct to tell us the right thing to do. We have a gut reaction to people who offend or delight us. We do a gut check when facing a challenge and congratulate ourselves when we display the intestinal fortitude, or guts, to take it on.

When you think about it, you won’t be surprised to learn that your gut, or “second brain,” is synced up with your real brain. Just think about how a bout of intense fear or panic can liquefy your innards — or, more commonly, when a cramp or brief wave of nausea alerts you to a nagging anxiety your mind had been working so hard to suppress. There’s a good reason your gut and your “first brain” communicate so seamlessly: Every class of neurochemical produced in the first brain is also produced in the second.

Another kind of chemical is the primary go-between for these two brains: stress hormones. When the brain detects any kind of threat — whether an impending layoff or a dustup with your spouse — it shoots stress hormones to your gut. Sensory nerves there respond by adjusting acid secretion and shutting down both appetite and digestion — a throwback to more dangerous times in our past, when we needed to summon all our resources to stand and fight, or flee. The result may be a nagging stomachache or a full-blown bout of GI distress.

Tummy trouble is the body’s way of saying, “Pay attention to what’s bugging you!” says clinical nutritionist Elizabeth Lipski, PhD, CCN, author of Digestive Wellness and Digestive Wellness for Children. “If my gut doesn’t feel right, my job is to figure out what’s out of balance.” Although resolving work or personal problems requires long-term strategizing, you can tamp down the symptoms of a troubled gut with these tried-and-true anxiety-reducing techniques:

Breathe into your belly 
Meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and other practices that encourage mindful relaxation make the body less sensitive to stress, research suggests. Deep breathing, using the muscles of your diaphragm (you should feel your belly expand and deflate with each inhale and exhale), can also help calm your mind and release tension in your abdominal muscles, easing indigestion. Another way to calm the body’s autonomic nervous system — which regulates digestion, among other things—is through progressive muscle relaxation, tightening and then relaxing small groups of muscles beginning in your toes and working your way up to your face.

Go for easy workouts 
Moderate exercise is a known enemy of stress. (Whenever you can, exercise outdoors — natural settings help calm frayed nerves.) Start slowly and increase activity gradually — even a 20-minute stroll will help soothe nerves, improve digestion and reduce bloating, gas, and constipation by optimizing the passage of waste through your bowels.

Remember: Your ultimate goal in soothing a troubled tummy is to get clearer intuitive signals. When something really bugs you, your second brain will let you know loud and clear.

It’s your shield against germs 
If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you know your gut is an uncompromising vigilante. When a nasty microbe hitchhikes a ride into the body on the back of real food, the gut quickly recognizes the interloper and strong-arms it to the nearest exit. To make the ID in the first place, it calls upon a reliable army of sentries, millions of immune system cells residing in its walls.

If the fact that the gut plays a major role in immunity sounds surprising, consider that the whole purpose of the immune system is to differentiate what’s you from what’s not you. Then consider that every day, you introduce pounds of foreign material — your daily bread — into your gut. The immune system has to decide what’s okay to let through and what’s not, so it makes sense to headquarter that process right where the food comes in.

This powerful system gears up from day 1. A newborn’s gastrointestinal tract is entirely germ free, but immediately after birth, pioneering bacteria begin to colonize it. The first few years of life, everyone’s gut develops a unique extended family of bacterial species, determined in part by genetics and in part by diet, hygiene, medication use and the bacteria colonizing those around us. Perhaps bacteria’s most important job: stimulating and training the body’s immune system and, by its overwhelming presence, crowding out more harmful critters.

The specific microbial mix (your gut contains thousands of species of bacteria) you wind up with has a big impact on your health. Besides making you more resistant to disease, the balance (or lack thereof) of microbes in your gut may lower your risk of obesity or influence your risk of autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease. Clearly, this extended family deserves coddling. Just in time for cold and flu season, here are immune-boosting ways to protect it:

Steer clear of detoxes 
Colonic “cleansers” rid the colon of good bacteria and can cause overgrowth of bad bacteria.

Avoid overusing antibiotics 
They kill not only pathogens causing your ailment but also good bacteria.

Consume foods with probiotics
Look for yogurts and soy milks that contain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. In addition to protecting against colds and flu and promoting healthful bacteria, probiotics can help relieve diarrhea caused by infection or antibiotics, irritable bowel syndrome, or Crohn’s disease.

Understanding ‘Ba Ba Ba’ as a Key to Development

Baby babble developmentBy PERRI KLASS, M.D.

As a pediatrician, I always ask about babble. “Is the baby making sounds?” I ask the parent of a 4-month-old, a 6-month-old, a 9-month-old. The answer is rarely no. But if it is, it’s important to try to find out what’s going on.

If a baby isn’t babbling normally, something may be interrupting what should be a critical chain: not enough words being said to the baby, a problem preventing the baby from hearing what’s said, or from processing those words. Something wrong in the home, in the hearing or perhaps in the brain.

Babble is increasingly being understood as an essential precursor to speech, and as a key predictor of both cognitive and social emotional development. And research is teasing apart the phonetic components of babble, along with the interplay of neurologic, cognitive and social factors.

The first thing to know about babble is also the first thing scientists noticed: babies all over the world babble in similar ways. During the second year of life, toddlers shape their sounds into the words of their native tongues.

The word “babble” is both significant and representative — repetitive syllables, playing around with the same all-important consonants. (Indeed, the word seems to be derived not from the biblical Tower of Babel, as folk wisdom has it, but from the “ba ba” sound babies make.)

Some of the most exciting new research, according to D. Kimbrough Oller, a professor ofaudiology and speech-language pathology at the University of Memphis, analyzes the sounds that babies make in the first half-year of life, when they are “squealing and growling and producing gooing sounds.” These sounds are foundations of later language, he said, and they figure in all kinds of social interactions and play between parents and babies — but they do not involve formed syllables, or anything that yet sounds like words.

“By the time you get past 6 months of age, babies begin to produce canonical babbling, well-formed syllables,” Professor Oller said. “Parents don’t treat those earlier sounds as words; when canonical syllables begin to appear, parents recognize the syllables as negotiable.” That is, when the baby says something like “ba ba ba,” the parent may see it as an attempt to name something and may propose a word in response.

Most of the time, I ask parents: “Does he make noise? Does she sound like she’s talking?” And most of the time, parents nod and smile, acknowledging the baby voices that have become part of the family conversation.

But the new research suggests a more detailed line of questions: by 7 months or so, have the sounds developed into that canonical babble, including both vowels and consonants? Babies who go on vocalizing without many consonants, making only aaa and ooo sounds, are not practicing the sounds that will lead to word formation, not getting the mouth muscle practice necessary for understandable language to emerge.

“A baby hears all these things and is able to differentiate them before the baby can produce them,” said Carol Stoel-Gammon, an emeritus professor of speech and hearing sciences at the University of Washington. “To make an m, you have to close your mouth and the air has to come out your nose. It’s not in your brain somewhere — you have to learn it.”

The consonants in babble mean the baby is practicing, shaping different sounds by learning to maneuver the mouth and tongue, and listening to the results. “They get there by 12 months,” Professor Stoel-Gammon continued, “and to me the reason they get there is because they have become aware of the oral motor movements that differentiate between a b and an m.”

Babies have to hear real language from real people to learn these skills. Television doesn’t do it, and neither do educational videos: recent research suggests that this learning is in part shaped by the quality and context of adult response.

To study babbling, researchers have begun to look at the social response — at the baby and the parent together. Michael H. Goldstein, an assistant professor of psychology at Cornell, has done experiments showing that babies learn better from parental stimulation — acquiring new sounds and new sound patterns, for example — if parents provide that stimulation specifically in response to the baby’s babble.

“In that moment of babbling, babies seem to be primed to take in more information,” he said. “It’s about creating a social interaction where now you can learn new things.”

A study this year by this group looked at how babies learn the names of new objects. Again, offering the new vocabulary words specifically in response to the babies’ own vocalizations meant the babies learned the names better.

The experimenters argue that a baby’s vocalizations signal a state of focused attention, a readiness to learn language. When parents respond to babble by naming the object at hand, the argument goes, children are more likely to learn words. So if a baby looks at an apple and says, “Ba ba!” it’s better to respond by naming the apple than by guessing, for example, “Do you want your bottle?”

“We think that babies tend to emit babbles when they’re in a state where they’re ready to learn new information, they’re aroused, they’re interested,” Professor Goldstein said. “When babies are interested in something, they tend to do a furrowed brow,” he continued; parents should understand that babble may be “an acoustic version of furrowing one’s brow.”

Right there, in the exam room, I have that essential experimental combination, the baby and the parent. It’s an opportunity to check up on the baby’s progress in forming sounds, but also an opportunity to help parents respond to the baby’s interest in learning how to name the world — a universal human impulse expressed in the canonical syllables of a universal human soundtrack.

Health Canada Adds Bisphenol A to List of Toxic Substances

BPA toxicityThe federal government has decided to add bisphenol A to the country’s list of toxic substances, a move that is likely to renew attention on the widespread use of the controversial chemical in almost all food cans sold in Canada.

The toxic determination, issued in Saturday’s Canada Gazette, makes Canada the first country to classify as risky bisphenol A, the chemical building block for polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins.

The government took the action based on worries that infants up to the age of 18 months might be inadvertently getting too much of the chemical, which mimics the hormone estrogen, from baby formula cans and plastic baby bottles, as well concerns that fish and other wildlife could be harmed from environmental exposure. The federal statement didn’t raise concerns over adult exposure.