Once your baby is up and running (12-24 months) it will be lots of fun keeping anything out of their mouths, not the least of which is food that poses one hazard or another! There are three key reasons to avoid some foods: choking, allergies and food borne illness. (The “because its crap” category will covered later).

Choking:

It is good to get into the habit of allowing a child to eat only when he is sitting down to enjoy it.  This helps prevent choking, yes, but it is also a gift that you can give you baby now so she will have good eating habits later.  I have seen parents do all sorts of strange things in the name of nutrition.  Allowing a child to leave the table before you are finished is going to happen, they don’t have the attention span to wait out a full meal. But, it is advisable to be sure that they are finished their meal before allowed to leave the table. A child who runs around and comes to your side for mouthfuls is likely to choke, yes, but the foundation of the message is worse.  It lays an unhealthy groundwork for eating. A person who is aware that they are eating and allows digestion to happen without the interference of activity is much more likely to be a normal weight person with a good relationship to food.  The body and mind need to co-ordinate who is doing what, are we sending energy to the stomach for food digestion or to the legs for running? Show your child how to help her body decide while avoiding choking

Here are the most common foods that can cause choking. All are the perfect size and shape to block the windpipe while sitting or in motion.  Avoid until at least age 2:

  1. Corn
  2. Raw carrots
  3. Raw celery
  4. Grapes
  5. Gum
  6. Nuts
  7. Cherry tomatoes
  8. Wieners or sausages

The longer you can put off some foods, the better in order to avoid allergies. The topic of food allergies is controversial mostly because there is no reliable medical test that can give you a definitive answer.  Lactose intolerance can be tested for but that would classify as sensitivity, not an allergy.  It is a lack of tummy enzymes that would cause a lactose intolerance and the response can be anything from tummy pain to diarrhea. The solution is the same, remove the food, solve the problem.  Food allergies are far more stealth.  I have seen some pretty weird symptoms in children and adults that clear up when removing the food.  Things like skin rashes, clearing of the throat, acid reflux, indigestion and even joint pain can be signs of food allergy.  They often don’t show up for many years and tracking them down can be a big drag.  The best way to manage them is to avoid the common potentially allergenic foods as long as possible and prevent allergies from developing in the first place.

List of Foods to avoid at least until 1 year for allergies:

  1. Cows milk
  2. Wheat
  3. Egg whites
  4. Yeast
  5. Corn

These five are really tricky, I won’t lie to you.  One slice of pizza contains all of them.  Yeast is a mold that is hard to digest and can set off a host of other gut flora issues.  Feel free to bake with baking powder and baking soda but try to keep the yeast leavened breads to a minimum.  Wheat is such a common ingredient that we often don’t think about it, I mean, it has been a staple for millennia, right?  Except that traditionally it would have been sprouted and ground, which makes it far more digestible.  Modern wheat has been hybridized to contain 5X the gluten because we like things light and fluffy rather than dense and chewy.  It also creates more yield for the grower/baker since the gluten is the protein in bread that allows dough to stretch and contain more air.

Don’t let this list overwhelm you, just know it exists, wait as long as you can and introduce slowly.  Keep a watchful eye on skin and digestion and suspect this list if something goes wrong

From a food borne illness perspective, you could probably write the list yourself but here goes:

  1. Honey- you want unpasteurized honey for its health benefits but it can harbor botulism spores that an adult can easily fight off and be all the better for it.
  2. Processed meats-just don’t. There are so many real, whole foods that are just as quick and easy and do not contain salt, sugar, fat and potential pathogens.
  3. Ground meats-they all need to be stored and cooked really, really well to be sure that they are safe.  They can be affordable, nourishing options just take care to cook properly and enjoy.

The hardest part about feeding your child is being informed yourself.  They don’t have the knowledge to set them up on a healthy path but you do.  And, it couldn’t be easier

Better Spaghetti

This recipe comes from my cookbook Cook Once a Week, Eat Well Every Day and it is a staple in countless kitchens.  The veggies are grated to prevent choking and picking out.  There is just the right amount of protein and lots of hidden vegetables.  I use this to top rice pasta or roll into a wrap.  Older kids will love it topping cornchips as nachos.  The uses are endless!

Servings: 8-12                      Recipe By: Theresa Albert, DHN, RNCP

1 lb medium ground beef (or chicken or pork)
1 tsp grapeseed oil
1 onion, grated
2 carrots, grated
1 sweet red pepper, seeded, cored and grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp Italian herb seasoning
1 tsp fennel seed (optional)
1 lg can pure pumpkin
1 can (26 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (5 1/2 oz) tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup (50 mL) ground flaxseed

• In skillet, brown meat over medium high heat; place meat in a strainer in sink. Run under hot water to drain as much of the fat as possible (this turns a fatty protein into a lean one!) Set aside.

• In a very large saucepan, heat oil over medium high heat; cook onion, carrots and green pepper until softened, about 5 minutes. Add cooked ground beef. Stir in garlic and Italian seasoning. Add fennel seed (if using).

• Add pumpkin and heat through. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste and wine. Simmer for at least 20 minutes or for up to 1 1/2 hours. (you could pop this into a slow cooker and let it simmer all day.)

• Divide sauce into useable portions. Store some in the fridge for later in the week on pasta or nachos. Store some in the freezer for last minute lunches of burritos or “taco salad”. Serve some tonight over spaghetti noodles.

• Stir ground flaxseed into sauce after it is warmed to preserve all of the seeds’ nutrients.