In my family, we are usually not big celebrators of Valentine’s Day but I found these really cute heart shaped ramekins at the Goodwill and felt like I couldn’t let them go to waste. I experimented high and low looking for a tasty, but healthy chocolaty dessert to fill those adorable hearts. After I tried a chia recipe that my husband said tasted “leafy” and my chocolate loving son refused to eat, I knew my search was not over. Then I remembered that while visiting Bend, Oregon in June, I had tasted a chocolate avocado pudding. After my failed chia attempt and a few other experiments that will go unmentioned, I decided to try to recreate the avocado experience.
The bulk of this mousse is avocado. I love avocados because they are a particularly rich source for potassium, Vitamin E, folate, Vitamin K, Copper and Vitamin C. (Read more about all the benefits of avocados here). I love this mousse because it was so easy- just a few whirls of all the healthy ingredients in my NutriBullet and a few hours in the fridge and then it was ready to be devoured.
People often lament to me the high cost of organic fruits and vegetables. I definitely feel their pain. I know my grocery bill has significantly increased since I began focusing on buying organic. However, I do feel buying organic is important to decrease our exposure to harmful toxins for ourselves, the environment and the farmers growing our food. But what if it is just not financially feasible for you to buy everything organic? Are there some specific areas you should focus on?
When working with clients, I ask them to think about a few different areas when deciding to buy organic. For products that you or your children consume on a daily basis, buying organic, if at all possible, is definitely advisable. When my boys were little, they consumed volumes of milk on a daily basis so this was an product I tried to always buy organic (or at least hormone free). Think carefully about your overall diet and switch those items that make a daily appearance to organic.
Also, items that are higher up on the food chain like meat are important to buy organic. Livestock that is fed a conventional diet of corn and other grains have greater exposure to the toxic pesticides used on their food. These pesticides are then concentrated in fat of the meat you eat. Also, animals allowed to graze on their normal diet of grass have greater amounts of the natural healing omega-3s. I recognize organic meat can be expensive so I have started making meat more of an accent in my meals instead of the main ingredient. This approach saves me money and increases my consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables.
Finally, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out a list of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen every year. The Dirty Dozen lists the fruits and vegetable which contained a number of different pesticide residues and showed high concentrations of pesticides relative to other produce items. Relatively few pesticides were detected on the fruits and vegetables on the Clean Fifteen list, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticides. If you are rationing your grocery store dollars, focusing on buying the fruits and vegetables from the Dirty Dozen list may be your best bet. Checkout the info graphic at the beginning of the article for your complete list. (You might notice that my list is only a Clean Fourteen. The EWG’s list contained sweet corn. In the last year, GMO corn has begun appearing on our grocery shelves. I would advise buying organic corn to ensure you are avoiding a GMO product.)
Now that you have determined your baby is ready for solids and you have decided how you want to feed your child, the all important question of what to feed them becomes relevant.
In the recent past, iron fortified rice cereal was often the recommended first food for babies. This recommendation has started to come under question. Rice and other cereals are a heavily processed food with most of the nutrients stripped out. Rice cereal, in particular, has recently been called into question due to the presence of arsenic in some rice (AAP, 2003). There is also some question about a baby’s ability to digest grains due to a lack of pancreatic amylase, the enzyme needed to breakdown carbohydrates. A baby doesn’t have full pancreatic amylase production until the age of 28 months (Dessinger, 2011). However, breast milk is a rich source of alpha amylase, offering breastfed babies added digestive help (Lindberg, 1982). This amylase is unique because it has a broad range for pH tolerances. This broad range helps the amylase survive the low pH of the stomach and helps digest carbohydrates in the small intestine. Babies also have two other enzymes in their small intestines, sucrase-isomaltase and glucoamylase, which aid in the digestion of carbohydrates (Harrison, 2012).
One more factor to consider in the introduction of grains is the timing of adding them to your baby’s diet. In 2012, Norris et al conducted a study looking at the relationship between the time of first gluten exposure to the development of celiac disease. They found that babies fed barley, rye or wheat cereal in the first three months of life had a 5 fold increase in the development of celiac disease over children whose first exposure was between 4-6 months of age. Children who were not exposed to gluten until the seventh month, had a marginally higher rate of celiac then those children exposed between four and six months. A similar study looked at time of first wheat exposure and the development of a wheat allergy. Pool et al (2006) found similar results about the timing of first exposure. Both of these studies point to a sweet spot of four to six months of age for first time gluten exposure to decrease the risk of celiac disease or wheat allergy.
Adding grains to your infant’s diet will need to be a personal choice. If you do decide to introduce them at this time, do not make them the main component of your child’s meals. Vegetables, meat and fruits should be the main course with cereal as a small addition. Remember an infant’s stomach is only as big as his/her fist. Adjust your portion size accordingly. Avoid processed baby cereal. You can make your own cereal gruel with properly prepared, soaked and sprouted grains such as oats, spelt, rye or barley (Fallon, 2013). Sally Fallon is an excellent resource for properly preparing grains.
Good first foods for babies include avocado, green beans, squash, egg yolks, carrots, pumpkin, banana, bone broth, sweet potato, shaved organic liver, and pureed meats. Small amounts of unsweetened goat or sheep’s milk yogurt and fish eggs can also be good additions to an infant’s diet. If at all possible these foods should be organic and/or grass fed. Fruits and vegetables should be soft cooked and consist of only one ingredient. Introduce only one new food every few days so if your child has an allergic reaction you can pinpoint the culprit (Sears, 2013). If after a couple of days of eating a new food you see no reaction, then you can add another new food. Signs of an allergic reaction include:
Hives or welts
Flushed skin or hives
Swollen tongue, face or cheeks
Diarrhea and/or vomiting
Loss of consciousness
Coughing or wheezing
Allergic reactions can escalate quickly. If your child is having difficulty breathing, having severe diarrhea and/or vomiting or is experiencing swelling of the face or tongue, call 911 immediately.
Before sitting down to a meal of solid foods, allow your infant to breast-feed or bottle feed first so they are not starving when they sit down and become frustrated with getting the food to their mouths. As your child becomes more adept at eating solids, you can continue to introduce new tastes, textures and smells. The goal is to get your child to eat the same food you are eating. If your child refuses a food at first, reintroduce it at a later date. It often takes a baby multiple exposures to a particular food or texture before he/she likes it (Satter, 2000). Now is not the time to restrict healthy fat. Fat from fish, avocados, fish oil, breast milk and other healthy sources are necessary for brain development and vitamin absorption (Sears, 2013).
Foods to Avoid
Hot dogs, nuts, hard candies and other choking hazards.
Foods with added sugar.
Cow’s dairy before 1 year of age. Sheep or goat’s milk unsweetened, cultured (like yogurt or kefir) dairy can be okay in moderation.
Honey before 1 year of age.
Common allergens such as nuts, wheat, citrus, corn and soy.
Peanuts, egg whites and shellfish are also common allergens so care should be exercised in their introduction.
Spinach and strawberries have been known to cause reactions in some infants.
Care should be used when introducing fish due to the concern with contamination from mercury. White, small, middle swimming fish should be introduced first.
Recently, I have noticed an increased interest in avocados. It seems they are the new super food. In the past, back in the low fat crazed days, avocados were avoided due to their high fat content but now that people are realizing how necessary fat is for our bodies, avocados are enjoying a popularity surge. Even though avocados are high in fat, most of that fat is oleic acid, a mono-saturated fatty acid. Oleic acid helps our digestive tract form transport molecules for fat that can increase our absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like carotenoids. Mono-saturated fats also help lower our risk of heart disease. Avocados also contain phytosterols, which are invaluable in lowering inflammation, especially in arthritis. Avocado is an excellent source of carotenoid lutein, which known to help protect against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. They contain lutein which helps fight macular degeneration and their high fiber content helps keep blood sugar level. Avocados are a particularly rich source for potassium, Vitamin E, folate, Vitamin K, Copper and Vitamin C. With all these amazing health benefits, it is easy to see why avocados are the new darlings of the nutrition world. Throw some on a salad to increase your absorption of fat soluble vitamins. Grind one into a smoothie to add a thick, rich, satisfying texture. Mix one with some honey and smear on your face for a moisturizing mask. The possibilities are endless. What is your favorite way to enjoy avocados?