Most first time moms struggle with breastfeeding. Although we have all read about the challenges and talked to friends and doctors, the first few weeks are certainly not easy when it comes to feeding a baby. As the days pass, things do become easier, we either decide to stick with it if we can, or turn to infant formula when we can’t, and that is just fine. Mothers only want baby to be happy and healthy, and that means a belly full of nutritious goodness.
As the weeks and months go by, a healthy baby will begin to put on weight and start weaning from the breast or bottle - at this point, it becomes a natural and unavoidable process.
Then begins a new milestone in baby’s life, and that is the introduction of solid food in his daily diet. So many questions! Where do we begin? What fruits should I introduce first? What fruit should I avoid? Is spinach ok? Maybe I should go with carrots?
Believe me Mom, we have all been there. Even before baby is born and weaned we have read all the books, yet we are still uncertain when baby is actually sitting in that highchair.
The first steps in deciding what to feed baby are essential in baby’s future relationship with food. Everything will be new to him: taste, texture, and even the temperature at which you feed him the food can make a difference in accepting or refusing those first few feeding times.
Essential information for the care-giver is to know what to AVOID feeding baby the first year of life.
Let’s look at 15 foods that may get baby sick if he is given them during this first year. It is important to note that in some cases choices may be cultural, but generally this is what is recommended by most health experts.
15 High Nitrate Foods- Leafy Greens!
Nitrate is a salt of nitric acid and is actually found naturally in fruits and vegetables that are grown closer to the ground, like leafy greens for instance. Not to make things too complicated, but simply put, the nitrate can go through a conversion process (nitosamines) in the body which can have some negative effects on the baby’s health.
Excessive nitrate in a baby’s system can cause what experts call “Blue Baby Syndrome” (BBS). BBS hinders the normal transportation of oxygen to the red blood cells, thereby giving baby’s skin a blue hue. In more extreme cases the lack of oxygen may lead to gradual asphyxiation, and urgent medical care may be required. However, most cases are caused by the combined use of well water and vegetables high in natural nitrate, when preparing homemade baby food.
Interesting fact: On the other hand, because nitrate also causes low blood pressure, the following vegetables are actually highly recommended against hypertension and heart disease for adults!
Can you think of any veggies that grow close to the ground? Yup….all of them!
The ones that stand out the most, as they are often used in the preparation of baby food are:
For spinach and other leafy greens like kale, or collard greens, nitrate levels may actually increase with improper storage. It is best to introduce babies to these vegetables after 6 months of age.
As most of the warnings about nitrates in baby food are related to homemade preparations, as long as you carefully prepare and store the food you make, there is an extremely low chance your baby will ever have BBS.
Here are some tips you can follow to avoid excessive nitrate in baby's food:
- prepare and freeze vegetables immediately after purchase
- avoid using vegetables frozen for over 4 months (id with date)
- don’t thaw vegetables at room temperature
- do not use well water
- use organic as much as possible as these have been proven to contain less nitrates
Also, you should not feel guilty if you use store bought baby food on occasion, as companies that manufacture these do screen for high nitrate concentrations. There is also a safety standard they have to abide to by law.
14 Foods High In Saturated And Trans Fats - Butter!
If you are at all interested in wellness and health, and have not been living in a cave somewhere, you have probably heard of the negative impact of saturated and trans fats on health.
According to the American Heart Association, "Eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood increase your risk of heart disease and stroke."
In fact, if a child is fed foods with saturated fats and/or trans fats, both considered to be "bad" fats, they will make baby's system produce "bad" cholesterol, AND unfortunately also reduce the "good" cholesterol. The use of saturated and trans fats in general, will increase the risk of heart disease later in the life for your baby.
Here are some foods with high saturated fats you should avoid to give baby the first year, and possibly later on as well:
- butter / lard
- all fatty meats (mainly beef, poultry with skin)
- processed meats (bacon, pepperoni)
- certain dairy products (whip cream, cheeses)
- hydrogenated oils (palm oil)
- commercial snacks
- some infant formulas
Although it may be difficult to avoid these foods altogether as baby starts nearing the age of 1, health experts recommend that no more than 10 percent of daily calories should come from saturated fats.
As we will see, babies absolutely need some sort of fat for brain and nerve tissue development. They are in fact nutrients that also provide energy for your baby. Healthy alternatives to feed baby should contain "good" fats, like using olive or sunflower oils instead of butter for instance.
This being said, moderation may be key when it comes to the health of an adult, but avoiding butter all together is the best option for baby.
13 Low Fat Foods - Yogurt!
As we saw in the previous post...babies require healthy fatty foods for growth and development. If baby tends to be on the average of the percentile scale when it comes to weight, that is fine. However, unless your child has been diagnosed with an illness that causes him to gain weight, you should never reduce your baby's calorie intake.
According to research nutritionist Debby Demoy-Lace, parents should not restrict a child's fat intake before age 2, as it can affect brain development. Starting at age 2, children should get about 30 to 35 percent of calories from fat (the good fat!). Then, as of age 4, your little one should eat 20 to 35 percent of calories from fat.
The concern is that if you reduce the fat intake the first few months, calories will obviously also be reduced, and this might may impede the baby to reach his growth potential.
It is therefore crystal clear that as baby grows, the fat intake should be reduced, and that feeding him low fat foods like low fat yogurts, is not necessary nor makes any sense. This is also why breast milk is high in good fats when baby is born and then fat gradually decreases as baby needs less.
12 Unpasteurized Foods - Honey!
Pasteurization is a heating process that kills bacteria in foods and discovered by Louis Pasteur over 150 years ago. It is thanks to this process that we are able to store foods for longer periods of time without the risk of getting sick!
This is the last thing we would want for our baby, so why risk feeding baby non-pasteurized foods if we don't have to?
One of the foods we imagine to be safe, because considered a natural sweetener and nutritious, is of course honey.
The greatest fear with unpasteurized honey is that it may have potentially deadly spores that can cause infant botulism. Babies between 3 weeks and 6 months are much more prone to botulism infection, but it can also affect older babies, as well as adults.
Common symptoms can be: poor muscle tone and weakness, constipation, and difficulty in eating and swallowing
Other foods at risk of botulism are:
- unpasteurized milk
- unpasteurized cheeses (some soft cheese)
- home-canned vegetables and fruits
Pasteurized honey does exist, but in pasteurizing it, most of the nutrients that actually make honey healthy are lost, so there is really no point in feeding it to baby before the age of 1. Also, it is quite easy to get used to sweet food, and then want more of it, so delaying the use of sweet additives in baby food is the best way to go.
11 Sugary Foods - Breakfast Cereal!
Who doesn't love their Cheerios? How often have you seen older babies, even under the age of 1, happily snacking on a Tupperware full of Cheerios? An easy distraction trick every mom knows....
The truth is that Cheerios is one of the breakfast cereals with the least amount of sugar on the market, but why go down that path to begin with?
In fact, research has shown that introducing babies to foods containing added sugar early on in their life will not only lead them to desire increased amounts as they grow. It will also increase their chances of being an overweight toddler and develop heart disease and diabetes later in life.
Other common sugary foods to avoid:
- jams and jellies
- syrups (maple ,corn, fructose)
- fruit juice
Of course, let's not forget about the damage sugar can do to tiny teeth, and gums alike. In fact, sugar creates enamel-attacking acid in baby's mouth that can cause cavities early on.
There may be cases where babies are considered to be underweight and may need added calories in their diet. In this case however, it will be up to the paediatrician to guide you in making healthy food choices to increase baby's weight; added sugar and bad fats are never an option.
10 Salty Foods - Gravy!
Yum, gravy.... all that added flavour adults love so much! Well, odds are your baby may like it too, but is it good for him? The fact is that whether you prepare it from scratch or make it from a dehydrated mix, gravy is never good for your health. The high contents of fat and salt, as well as hidden sugars are not suitable for anyone, let alone a baby.
Added salt is just as bad as added sugar, and you should refrain from adding any salt to baby's food for at least the first year. As with sugar, salt can be addictive, and once baby has a taste of it he may not want the meal you prepare with so much love if he now considers it bland.
If your baby likes starchy products like bread and biscuits that were purchased at the supermarket, these will already have added salt, so it is easy to have more salt in your diet that is actually good for you.
According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, the maximum recommended amount of salt for babies and children is the following:
- up to 12 months – less than 1g of salt a day
- 1 to 3 years – 2g of salt a day
Also, before your baby is six months old, he will get all the sodium his body needs from breastmilk or infant formula milk.
9 Foods With Dangerous Allergens - Nuts!
Peanut butter is a staple in most homes in the US and Canada, and the go-to spread for a healthy toddler snack.
For the 6 percent of babies and toddlers with true food allergies, eating certain foods can trigger an immune system response that can cause anything from itching, to swelling and hives, to difficulty breathing and even life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
Imagine being this parent? Imagine having to triple check everything your child puts in his mouth for fear of him dying?
For parents of children with severe allergies, the fear does not diminish as baby grows. The fact that parents have increasingly less control over what their child eats as he becomes older puts the child further at risk.
In the past, experts recommended that avoiding foods containing allergens during the child's early years would put him at less risk of developing allergies. However, more recently they are recommending to do the opposite, even by the age of 6 months. Health professionals now believe that avoiding certain foods completely can actually increase the risk for baby of developing an allergy.
So what should you do? According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, there are certain rules to follow to avoid an allergic reaction when introducing your baby to highly allergenic foods.
- introduce these foods at home rather than at a restaurant or daycare
- talk to the paediatrician before introducing them
- the doctor may prepare a personalized plan for your baby
- introduce highly allergenic foods after he has tried other solid foods
- gradually increase amounts of allergenic foods
- introduce one type of allergenic food at a time
According to healthlinkbc.ca, foods that commonly cause allergy in young children include:
- milk (and milk products)
- tree nuts (e.g. almonds, cashews, walnuts)s
- seafood (fish, shellfish, and crustaceans)
8 Raw And Undercooked Foods - Eggs!
Not serving raw or under cooked foods to your baby may seem logical, the truth is we may not realize we are doing it. Serving foods that are not properly cooked is a common and easy mistake, especially as we begin to introduce baby to meats and other animal proteins, like eggs. Vegetables can also be an issue if they are not pureed, as harder parts of a carrot, or broccoli may cause a choking hazard.
The main issue with undercooked eggs and meats is contamination from the salmonella bacteria. Although contamination is known to be spread mostly by the outer shell of the egg, there is always a risk that the inside is contaminated as well.
You can rinse the egg before breaking it, and of course, make sure the egg is cooked well before serving it to baby once he is ready to be introduced to this new food.
When it comes to cooking meat, wholesomebabyfood.com suggests the following practices to ensure safe handling and cooking for your baby:
- always have clean hands or use plastic gloves
- wash your hands after handling meat
- use different utensils for different foods
- wooden cutting boards are safer than plastic ones
Some safety measures to follow when cooking meats:
- cook all red meats to an internal temperature of at least 160°F
- cook white meat poultry to an internal temperature of at least 170°F
- cook dark meat poultry to an internal temperature of at least 180°F
- cook fish to an internal temperature of 160° F
- always have a meat thermometer on hand to check the temperatures
- always serve meat "well-done"
- thaw meat in the refrigerator and microwave
7 Certain Types Of Meats - Bacon!
There are certain types of meats that should be avoided completely before your baby is one year old. I am not necessarily referring to an animal type, but rather to the way the meat is stored, as well as to specific animal parts.
Processed and cured meats generally contain sodium nitrate as it is used as a preservative, a way to fight harmful bacteria in ham, salami and other processed and cured meats. Unfortunately, under certain conditions nitrite can damage cells in the human body, and can in more extreme cases, change into cancer causing molecules. Unlike the nitrates passed on to fruits, vegetables and grains, sodium nitrate is considered an additive.
Cured meats like bacon, salami, prosciutto, ham, turkey etc., contain additional additives you would never want to feed yourself, let alone a baby under 1. Some of the worse known processed meats have additions of:
- sodium nitrates
- sodium benzoate
- msg (monosodium glutamate)
These are preservatives that are already unhealthy if used individually, but guess what? They are often used in combination. Yikes!
As with sugar, the taste for fat and salty foods starts early on in life. If your baby or even toddler is exposed to foods high in salt or fat early on he will be asking more and more of them, and not appreciate the taste of a healthy meal. Likewise, if your cooking is low in salt and fats, this is the taste he will get used to, and will love it growing up.
6 Citrus And Acidic Fruits - Lemons!
We've also seen those cute faces on the web (see above! lol!) of babies trying lemons for the first time. Most people will actually have a similar expression regardless of age, but watching an adorable 1 year old react like this is so much more entertaining, isn't it?
Seasonal citrus fruits are extremely healthy. With the many vitamins and minerals oranges, grapefruits, and clementines contain, they are actually highly recommended to add to a diet on a daily basis. So where is the problem?
Citrus fruit is very acidic, and often, infants under the age of 12 months are more sensitive to this type of fruit because of their acidity levels. Babies can develop rashes, tummy aches, and even vomit. These reactions are more common than we might think, and are not related to allergies to the fruit itself.
During the first few months, babies may also be prone to acid reflux, and adding an acidic fruit to his diet will not only be counterproductive in helping, but may cause baby much pain as well.
The general rule is to avoid citrus fruits until baby has turned 1, and then introduce them gradually as you would with every other new food baby is exposed to.
5 Foods With Yellow And Red Dye - Fruit Drinks!
The food industry has gone rampant over the past few decades! What do you think of when you read the following on a food label: "yellow 5, yellow 6, red 40"? I shudder...and it is a scary idea that these artificial food colourings (AFCs) are still being used in foods we find on supermarket shelves.
AFCs in food have been associated with sever allergic reactions as well as linked to:
- body rashes and swelling
- increased hyperactivity in children with ADHD (in some studies)
- hyperactivity in children in general
- sleep disturbances
They do not add any flavour or nutrients to food, and are simply used to make food look more enticing to the eye.
To be fair, there are certain foods that contain "natural colours". These can be derived from clorophyl, as well as from the female cochineal insect, as is the case for "carmine" color (red) used in yogurts, ice creams, frozen meats, fish, and drinks.
Artificial dyes, especially Red 40, is among the most dangerous still allowed to be used by the FDA and Health Canada. It is commonly found in juices and drinks, cake frosting and decorations, in cookies and cereals, as well as in many candy varieties.
4 Shellfish And Certain Fish - Shrimp!
Fish contains many nutrients that will help baby develop and grow, including certain fish oils like, Omega 3s, considered extremely important for brain and nerve tissue development.
There are 2 main reasons why certain types of fish and shellfish should be avoided before the age of 1:
- high mercury levels
Shellfish (shrimps, clams, lobster, crab) are known to be allergenic foods, and therefore should be avoided like any other food that may cause an allergenic reaction. However, this can depend on family history, and on whether your baby is prone to allergies. You will find recipes on-line for baby food that do contain shrimp; however, please be cautious, because your baby may have an unwanted reaction you may not expect.
Considering the levels of mercury in fish these days, making the right choice in choosing the best quality fish to feed your child is essential in reducing the intake of this dreaded poison. This is just as important in pregnant and breastfeeding women, as mercury is easily absorbed into the blood stream and passed onto the fetus or breast-fed baby.
Best fish options for a baby under 12 months:
Often, waiting for your baby's immune system to mature will drastically reduce the risk of reactions from ingesting these foods. Whether you decide to introduce fish or shrimp in your baby's diet, it is always best to talk to your child's paediatrician to make sure there is no risk.
3 Caffeinated Drinks - Soda!
Really, what is the point? If you want a good laugh seeing your child's face tasting cola for the first time, you might as well give them a tablespoon of white sugar and a cup of dark roast coffee straight up.
Your child will never need a caffeinated sugary drink in his life. These drinks not only provide an excess amount of sugar and caffeine to the system, but will damage baby's emerging teeth.
What are some of the devastating consequences of feeding your child (of any age) soda?
- tooth decay and gum disease
- weight gain and obesity
- dehydration (soda cannot replace water)
- sugar addiction
- will replace much needed nutrients
- phosphoric acid content slows down absorption of nutrients
- excessive caffeine intake
Oh yes, and this is one you don't even have to ask your paediatrician about. It will be a resounding NO!
2 Fried Foods - Fries!
Yes, as we saw, babies need fat for brain and nerve tissue development. We also saw there are good fats and bad fats...but is there good fried food and bad fried food? Unfortunately not. Frying foods with "healthier" oils can make your meal "less unhealthy", but it will never be considered a healthy meal...
I think the word "fried" should be a synonym of "delicious"....but generally speaking, what tastes good is not always good for you. Then, if we consider the delicate digestive system of an infant who is barely 12 months, and his readiness to try something new, there is much to consider.
For instance, a study carried out by Harvard School of Public Health, clearly links fried food with a series of unhealthy consequences for babies and adults alike. Type 2 diabetes and heart disease are included on the list.
Some may advocate that everything is ok if eaten in moderation, but experts argue this is more relevant to an adult diet. It is not the case for a baby who is 1 year of age or less. As we saw, taste buds can easily get used to savoury and sweet foods and once a habit is formed it can be quite difficult to return to low-salt and low-sugar options, as should be the case for all babies exploring their preferences.
1 Artificial Sweeteners And Flavors - Gatorade!
Just like carbonated drinks and fried foods, there is no reason why your baby should be exposed to artificial sweeteners and flavours early in his life. Depending on store bought snacks can seem like an easy fix, but is it the right fix? The longer your child stays away from anything synthetic the better!
Substances (such as aspartame and sucralose) have only been more commonly used in the past couple of decades. This means that the long-term effects on humans are not yet clear.
The truth is that our bodies do not metabolize these foreign additives, and this is the only reason why the nutritional facts on a package will read "0" calories. Our bodies do not recognize them. Let that sink in.
Several studies have been done which in fact prove that our brain is tricked into believing it is being fed sugar. This causes a counter-reaction, and actually increasing the chances of developing diabetes. The human brain is then left without the sugar it was promised, and then simply carves more.
Sources: hsph.harvard.edu, aaai.org, mayoclinic.org, wholesomefood.com, nutritionfacts.org,healthychild,org, aap.org, infantbotulism.org