Curry anyone?

This is a posting with an article on bland baby food from the Ballard Moms listserve that I thought would interest everyone…I’ve tried mild curry and even turkey chili with Karina. She wasn’t too keen on the curry, but LOVED the chili. Thanks for the article Sheri!

“I came across this article this morning, and thought it might be of
interest to some folks. It’s an article from the AP from a couple of
years ago about how the western culture has trained its babies to have
bland palate, but that is a recent development and not universal.

Sheri, mom of 2″

HEALTH LIBRARY

(AP) — Ditch the rice cereal and mashed peas, and make way for
enchiladas, curry and even — gasp! — hot peppers.

It’s time to discard everything you think you know about feeding
babies. It turns out most advice parents get about weaning infants
onto solid foods — even from pediatricians — is more myth than
science.

That’s right, rice cereal may not be the best first food. Peanut
butter doesn’t have to wait until after the first birthday. Offering
fruits before vegetables won’t breed a sweet tooth. And strong
spices? Bring ’em on.

“There’s a bunch of mythology out there about this,” says Dr. David
Bergman, a Stanford University pediatrics professor. “There’s not
much evidence to support any particular way of doing things.”

Word of that has been slow to reach parents and the stacks of baby
books they rely on to navigate this often intimidating period of
their children’s lives. But that may be changing.

As research increasingly suggests a child’s first experiences with
food shape later eating habits, doctors say battling obesity and
improving the American diet may mean debunking the myths and
broadening babies’ palates.

It’s easier — and harder — than it sounds. Easier because experts
say 6-month-olds can eat many of the same things their parents do.
Harder because it’s tough to find detailed guidance for nervous parents.

“Parents have lost touch with the notion that these charts are
guides, not rules,” says Rachel Brandeis, a spokeswoman for the
American Dietetic Association. “Babies start with a very clean palate
and it’s your job to mold it.”

It’s easy to mistake that for a regimented process. Most parents are
told to start rice cereal at 6 months, then slowly progress to simple
vegetables, mild fruits and finally pasta and meat.

Ethnic foods and spices are mostly ignored by the guidelines –
cinnamon and avocados are about as exotic as it gets — and parents
are warned off potential allergens such as nuts and seafood for at
least a year.

Yet experts say children over 6 months can handle most anything, with
a few caveats: Be cautious if you have a family history of allergies;
introduce one food at a time and watch for any problems; and make
sure the food isn’t a choking hazard.

Parents elsewhere in the world certainly take a more freewheeling
approach, often starting babies on heartier, more flavorful fare —
from meats in African countries to fish and radishes in Japan and
artichokes and tomatoes in France.

The difference is cultural, not scientific, says Dr. Jatinder Bhatia,
a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ nutrition committee
who says the American approach suffers from a Western bias that fails
to reflect the nation’s ethnic diversity.

Bhatia says he hopes his group soon will address not only that, but
also ways to better educate parents about which rules must be
followed and which ones are only suggestions.

Rayya Azarbeygui, a 35-year-old Lebanese immigrant living in New
York, isn’t waiting. After her son was born last year, she decided he
should eat the same foods she does — heavily seasoned Middle Eastern
dishes like hummus and baba ghanoush.

“My pediatrician thinks I’m completely crazy,” says Azarbeygui, whose
son is now 13 months old. “But you know, he sees my child thriving
and so says, ‘You know what, children in India eat like that. Why not
yours?”‘

How to introduce healthy children to solid food has rarely been
studied. Even the federal government has given it little attention;
dietary guidelines apply only to children 2 and older.

In a review of the research, Nancy Butte, a pediatrics professor at
Baylor College of Medicine, found that many strongly held assumptions
— such as the need to offer foods in a particular order or to delay
allergenic foods – have little scientific basis.

Take rice cereal, for example. Under conventional American wisdom,
it’s the best first food. But Butte says iron-rich meat — often one
of the last foods American parents introduce — would be a better
choice.

Grain cereals might be worst thing Dr. David Ludwig of Children’s
Hospital Boston, a specialist in pediatric nutrition, says some
studies suggest rice and other highly processed grain cereals
actually could be among the worst foods for infants.

“These foods are in a certain sense no different from adding sugar to
formula. They digest very rapidly in the body into sugar, raising
blood sugar and insulin levels” and could contribute to later health
problems, including obesity, he says.

The lack of variety in the American approach also could be a problem.
Exposing infants to more foods may help them adapt to different foods
later, which Ludwig says may be key to getting older children to eat
healthier.

Food allergy fears get some of the blame for the bland approach. For
decades doctors have said the best way to prevent allergies is to
limit infants to bland foods, avoiding seasonings, citrus, nuts and
certain seafood.

But Butte’s review found no evidence that children without family
histories of food allergies benefit from this. Others suspect
avoiding certain foods or eating bland diets actually could make
allergies more likely. Some exposure might be a good thing.

And bring on the spices. Science is catching up with the folklore
that babies in the womb and those who are breast-fed taste — and
develop a taste for — whatever Mom eats. So experts say if Mom
enjoys loads of oregano, baby might, too.

That’s been Maru Mondragon’s experience. The 40-year-old Mexican
indulged on spicy foods while pregnant with her youngest son, 21-
month-old Russell, but not while carrying his 3-year-old brother,
Christian.

Christian has a mild palate while his younger brother snacks on
jalapenos and demands hot salsa on everything.

“If it is really spicy, he cries, but still keeps eating it,” says
Mondragon, who moved to Denver four years ago.

That’s the sort of approach Bhatia says more parents should know
about. Parents should view this as a chance to encourage children to
embrace healthy eating habits and introduce them to their culture and
heritage.

“So you eat a lot of curry,” he says, “try junior on a mild curry.”

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This
material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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