Can you imagine if you had never put anything unhealthy into your body? No fried foods, candy, caffeine, soft drinks, alcohol, drugs, red dye #40, processed foods, chemicals, hormones or any of that other known bad stuff? Not to mention if you had never intentionally baked your body in the sun, smoked cigarettes or placed yourself in a cloud of aerosol hair spray daily for years? If your body was as pure and toxin-free as it could be?
Once our little girl began eating table food, I realized that we had a great opportunity to take advantage of this (no doubt brief) period of time when we could control what goes into her body. For the time being, we can make sure she only consumes clean foods, which we hope will put her at a health advantage as she grows and get her off to a good start.
Our hope is that she'll develop a taste for natural, organic, whole foods, and therefore not develop a craving for (or addiction to) fast foods and sugary treats. Of course, it could be all over as soon as someone gives our daughter her first energy drink or candy bar. But at least we can try to create a healthy physical foundation (for her to later ruin if she so chooses). And we can educate her about the dangers of certain types of food so she will hopefully make healthy choices as she gets older.
I think part of the reason it's so difficult for us adults, especially us older adults, to "switch" to healthier foods is because we've gotten used to the unhealthy ones. If we weren't raised on hamburgers and french fries, cookies and ice cream, we might not crave those types of foods. We wouldn't be having to "develop a taste for" healthier versions of the foods we grew to love.
A friend of mine chose to raise her children on healthy, organic foods from the beginning. For her, this included raising them vegetarian. She told me of the time her daughter had one of her first sleepovers and came home very angry with her mother. She had been given a certain famous brand of fried chicken, and demanded to know WHY her mother had kept this delicious delicacy from her.
Rather than scold her daughter for eating fried chicken, or launch into a diatribe on the dangers of fast food, my friend chose to handle the situation a little differently. She told her daughter that she could have fried chicken if that's what she wanted. They'd drive through and pick up some straight away. But ... her daughter would have to wait until the next day to eat it.
Her daughter agreed, and they duly acquired an order of fried chicken to go. When they got home, they put it into the refrigerator to save until the next day. The daughter was excited ... until she opened the refrigerator the next day and saw what had happened to her beloved fried chicken. It was covered with a thick, white gelantinous substance.
"Gross! What is this?!" the daughter exclaimed. My friend then explained that the white stuff was the grease or lard in which the chicken had been fried ... that when it got cold, it congealed. And lard, my friend explained, was fat from the abdomen of a pig that had been rendered for use in cooking. "That's what makes it taste so good," my friend explained.
Suddenly fried chicken became a lot less appealing to the young girl.
I think if we all took a hard look at the source and content of the foods we ate, we might not eat half the things we do. If you doubt me, why don't you sit down and watch "Food, Inc.," "Forks Over Knives" or "The World According To Monsanto." Unless we make mindful and informed food choices, we're all in danger of poisoning ourselves.
So even though it's challenging for some of us to convert to a largely raw, vegan, plant-based diet -- a diet that will create an environment unfriendly to cancer and other life-threatening diseases -- we can help our kids eat healthy right out of the gate.
So what do I feed my toddler? The goal is to make sure she eats a nutritious, balanced diet with sufficient calcium and protein (and more in keeping with the current government "healthy plate" chart, a far cry from the meat and carb-heavy food pyramid of my youth). Some staples right now are:
Whole pastuerized goat milk (easier to digest than cow milk, and I opt for the pastueurized version over the raw version due to her young age and her susceptibility to bacterial infections);
Lots of fresh fruits (apples, pears, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi and watermelon are favorites, plus she probably eats an average of an entire avocado a day);
Raw and steamed vegetables, including root vegetable other than starchy potatoes (steamed edamame and carrots are staples);
Beans, beans beans (garbanzos, black beans and organic, low salt refried pinto beans are always in heavy rotation);
Organic string cheese in moderation;
100% pure, organic juices such as pear, prune and apple juice, in moderation and always diluted with alkaline water;
Whole grain pasta with yogurt spread instead of butter;
Sunflower seed butter (instead of peanut butter);
Non GMO tofu;
Brown rice cereal or oatmeal;
Grains such as quinoa, cous cous and long grain rice;
Organic applesauce; and
Whole grain pita bread in moderation ... those kinds of thing. We avoid sugar like the plague, and have opted not to give our daughter any meat at this point (although local, grass-fed meats at some point would not be out of the question).
As for us, my husband and I are trying not to consume things that we would deem unsuitable for our child (the occasional glass of wine or cocktail not included).
The bottom line is that the old adage is largely true: we are what we eat. And as long as we can help create for our daughter's body an environment that will help protect her against disease and illness, we feel like we're doing our part.
What do you feed your kids?
Images top to bottom: Joanne Montgomery; US Department of Agriculture