Growing a healthy human. This journey begins with those first foods that are introduced to a baby’s palate. I love the analogy of using food as the building blocks for laying a strong foundation, one that will withstand whatever life or mother nature throws at it.
If this foundation is laid well at the start of life, it will provide a child with a strong base for good health in the years to come. Food therefore becomes our fuel and our medicine.
I am a qualified Medical Herbalist and Naturopath and the proud aunty of four gorgeous young nephews. It has given me great joy watching the boys eat wholesome food right from the start.
I’ll never forget the beautiful array of colour on their plates when solids were first introduced to their diet and then to see them scoff it down, always wanting more. Years down the track their palates are so diverse, they eat almost everything that is put in front of them. Thanks to my sister and sister-in-law and the countless hours they spent cooking, the boys’ solid nutritional foundation has been laid.
My sister’s journey, plus other mothers like her, helped inspire Sharon McDonald and Robyn McArthur to start The Baby Pantry, producers of organic, frozen baby food delivered to the doors of busy mums, dads and caregivers. They offer handmade food using organic or spray free ingredients, real flavours and textures to broaden and shape little palates and strengthen immune systems.
This is how we grow a healthy human!
STARTING ON SOLIDS
Progression from breast milk or formula to solids isn’t always a seamless process. Believe me, I have observed it. A baby’s entertaining facial expressions doesn’t mean they don’t like a food, it’s just that ‘it’s different’. It is very normal for babies to reject certain foods or all food at first.
Keeping positive, calm and repeatedly offering a variety of vegetables during the first 2-3 weeks of starting solids will mean they are more willing to try and accept new tastes. It can take 12-16 times for a baby to decide whether they like a food or not.
There is a “golden window”, during the first six months of introducing solids, when babies are willing to try everything. It is important to capitalise on this if you want to create a lifelong, healthy eating behaviours.
When it comes to choosing first foods, simple is best. Organic wholefoods are far more nutrient-dense and filling compared to supermarket shelf-stable food. This means babies won’t need to eat as much so you will spend less time and money at the supermarket.
The Baby Pantry’s ‘Pure’ collection offers delicious pumpkin and carrot options to get them started. There is also an apple meal to use as a treat. The reason I say apple as a treat is because it is important to try to develop a more savoury palate early on.
Humans are hardwired to prefer sweet flavours, a fact not lost on commercial baby food manufacturers. That is why so many of their savoury meals are mixed with fruit, making it difficult for babies to learn what individual foods taste like on their own – this can encourage fussy eating habits.
Another consideration is the extraordinarily high levels of heat used in the processing of commercial baby food in jars and pouches. This high heat method helps kill bacteria and enables the product to be shelf-stable without refrigeration for a long period of time. Unfortunately, it also breaks down nutrients and destroys enzymes essential for proper digestion.
DIGESTIVE & IMMUNE HEALTH
One of my biggest passions is digestive/gut health and its connection with the immune system. It’s hard to believe that 70-80% of the immune system resides in the gut. The digestive tract accommodates a very complex part of the immune system that houses immune cells which help to defend against invading microbes such as bacteria, viruses and fungi.
The probiotics or beneficial bacteria in our microbiome act as mighty warriors for our immune system. They are allies for these immune cells, not only helping toboost immune function, they protect the gut wall and keep the bad bugs at bay so they don’t enter further in to the body. Maintaining healthy populations of good bacteria in the gut is so important. Without them, the immune system cannot do its job effectively.
It’s great we can look after these little guys so easily through our food. The substantial amount of fibre in each of The Baby Pantry meals provides babies with an amazing pre-biotic source. Prebiotics encourage the growth and re-population of our good bacteria.
Food intolerances are an issue we see regularly in clinical practice in children and adults. If we focus on vegetables and a small amount of fruit for baby’s first foods, we can minimise the risk of developing food intolerances. Their wee digestive and immune systems simply aren’t mature enough to deal with much else during their introduction to solid foods. In addition, they also get fantastic levels of nutrients for boosting gut and immune function.
It’s fair to say we are living in world that is different to a generation ago. Today there is increased exposure to many chemicals ranging from herbicides and pesticides through to artificial colours, flavours and preservatives.
Organics isn’t just the latest fad, it’s the way we farmed and ate for most of our history as a species. It’s a way of farming that nurtures the health, not only of humans but of the land itself. By nurturing the soil, we replace the need for toxic chemicals and we can grow high quality produce packed with nutrients that really nourish the body.
What I love about The Baby Pantry is their quest to minimise your baby’s exposure to these chemicals by sourcing high quality, super-fresh, seasonal organic and spray-free produce.
Growing a Healthy Human requires a strong nutritional foundation by using simple, organic wholefoods to provide the best start in life.
Medical Herbalist & Naturopath