Archive for June, 2008

Safely Feeding Babies – 10 Important Tips (plus 1 you already know)

Monday, June 30th, 2008

From Lisa Barnes

I see many questions and myths shared about food for babies on parenting websites and blogs.  The ones that are most alarming to me are those regarding food safety and proper food handling, and all the “my grandmother used to_______” (the ______ was something like “put Brandy in a bottle” or “put honey in the cereal”.

Babies usually triple their birth weight the first year. That’s why nutritious and safely handled food, served in an age-appropriate way, is so important.  Being aware of safe food handling practices and potential feeding dangers are the best ways to protect your family from food illnesses and accidents, while also giving your child a healthy start on development and growth. Here are a few important tips and reminders.  (of course you know the final one – that’s why you’re reading it on this blog)

1. Wash Hands. It’s important to wash your hands before preparing food or beverages, especially when feeding babies. According to a Penn State University study of mothers with infants less than 4 months old many moms said they routinely forget to wash their hands after changing baby’s diaper, and using the bathroom. Not washing hands could result in infant diarrhea from the bacteria transferred while engaging in these activities.

2. Handle Bottles Carefully. Although some babies will drink a bottle straight from the refrigerator, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises most babies prefer milk warmed to room temperature. Warm the bottle by holding it under a running hot-water faucet or putting it in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes. Shake well and test milk temperature to make sure it’s not too hot before feeding. Microwaves can heat unevenly. Children’s mouths and throats can be severely burned by bottles heated in the microwave.  Always discard leftover milk in bottle to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria.

3. Cow’s Milk. Avoid serving regular cow’s milk until infants are 1-year-old. Before then, infants may experience an allergic reaction, stomachache and low blood iron. When you begin serving regular cow’s milk, serve whole milk.  Do not switch to lower fat milk until the baby’s doctor recommends this change usually around age 2.

4. Mixing Cereal and Formula in the Bottle. Do not serve cereal mixed with formula from a bottle.  Many think this practice helps babies sleep better through the night, however there is no evidence of this. Plus, there is a possibility of a baby choking.

5. Hold Baby When Bottle-Feeding. Babies who are put to bed with a bottle are more likely to have cavities. This practice also increases the potential of choking.

6. Limit Juice. Serve only 100 percent juice and in small quantities so it doesn’t interfere with the infant eating other nutritious foods. AAP recommends giving juice diluted with water only to infants who are approximately 6 months or older and who can drink from a cup. AAP recommends offering no more than a TOTAL of 4 to 6 ounces of juice a day to infants. (Source: American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition)

7. Avoid Honey And Corn Syrup. Do not serve infants honey or corn syrup during the first year of life. These foods may contain botulism spores that could cause illness or death in infants.

8. Food Introductions. When introducing new foods, try only one at a time, and start with single-ingredient foods. Avoid serving mixed ingredient foods until each food has been given separately. Begin by serving about 1 to 2 tablespoons and then increase the amount as baby wants more. Wait at least 3 days before trying another new food so you can tell if there are any adverse reactions.

Iron-fortified rice cereal is usually the first food offered, as this is easily digested. It’s frequently recommended to continue fortified baby cereal through the first year of life.

Remember your baby will still be receiving the majority of nutrition from breast milk or formula during the first year.

9. Serve Solids Safely. Transfer an amount you feel baby will eat from the baby food jar to a dish. Throw away any food left uneaten in the dish. Avoid feeding directly from the baby food jar. Bacteria from a baby’s mouth can grow and multiply in the food before it is served again. Use refrigerated jarred baby foods within 1 to 2 days after opening.

Once opened, do not leave baby food solids or liquids (breast milk or formula) at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Bacteria can grow to harmful levels when food is left out longer than this.

10. Choking Hazards. Avoid serving foods that may choke an infant, such as nuts and seeds, raw carrots and celery, whole kernel corn, raisins, large chunks of meat or cheese, popcorn, chips, pretzels, grapes, whole berries, cherries, unpeeled fruits and vegetables, hard candies, pickles, hot dogs, marshmallows (regular or miniature), and peanut butter. In general, avoid foods that are round and firm, sticky and chewy or cut in large chunks.

As infants grow into toddlers, they can begin eating the foods above, if cut into small pieces. Most pediatricians advise foods should be no larger than 1/4 inch for toddlers and 1/2 inch for preschoolers.

Plus One…

Finally my continuing tip and philosophy is to serve organic.  Try to purchase organic foods for babies and children whenever possible to reduce exposure to potentially harmful pesticides and chemicals.  According to the US EPA Department of Health and Human Services, the greatest exposure to pesticides and chemicals is in a child’s first 4 years.  See my post Why Organic for Kids.
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See also Lisa’s Introducing Solids To Baby (with Organic Sweet Potato Puree Recipe)
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: Lisa Barnes (her babies tasting their first food)
OrganicToBe.org | OrganicToGo.com
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More Wheat Berries Please! (with Organic Wheat Berry and Citrus Dressing Salad)

Friday, June 20th, 2008

wheat berries

From Lisa Barnes

I like to experiment with various grains – amaranth, quinoa, couscous, millet (not my favorite) and now wheat berries. I didn’t do much with them because I think they’ll take too long to cook. True some recipes ask for an overnight soak as well as an hour of cooking time. But the recipe below uses the wheat berries al dente – with a bit of texture and crunch. I believe it’s this crunch that makes my son enjoy this salad.

When I was first recipe testing the wheat berries my son wasn’t very interested in trying. However once he knew they weren’t mushy, but actually crunchy – he dug right in and even asked for seconds. My daughter likes them too… although there is a bit of a mess (but better than when I make couscous) under my daughter’s chair. Her pajamas are usually peppered with the little grains.

This salad is good for a family get-together or pot luck, as it will feed 6 – 8 people and can be made ahead. Wheat Berries are high in protein as well as iron and fiber – but there’s no need to tell people it’s good for them.

Organic Wheat Berry and Citrus Dressing Salad

For those children that like crunch wheat berries are an interesting nutty and plump option. They can be enjoyed hot or cold and with just about any dressing, veggies or nuts. Wheat berries can be found in natural food stores and organic markets in the bulk cereal and grain section.

Makes 6 cups

2 cups organic wheat berries, rinsed
6 cups water
2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
½ cup organic grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
½ cup Kalamata olives, sliced
¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Dressing:
Grated zest of one organic lemon, about 2 teaspoons
Juice of one organic orange, about 1/3 cup
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed organic lemon juice
2 tablespoon minced green onions
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine wheat berries, water and salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cover until plump and chewy, about 1 hour. Wheat berries will still be al dente. Drain into a serving bowl.

In a small bowl whisk together, juices and zest and onion. Whisk in olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add prepared tomatoes, olives and cheese to serving bowl of wheat berries and stir with serving spoon. Drizzle dressing over wheat berries and toss to coat.

Go Green! While lemon is not on the “dirty dozen” list as potentially harmful, we’ve suggested organic because we’re using the zest (outside peel where pesticides can be heavy)

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See also Lisa’s Why Organic For Kids?
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: Grains of Winter Wheat © Alexander Ryabchun | Dreamstime.com
OrganicToBe.org | OrganicToGo.com
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Hos“pitiful” Food

Friday, June 13th, 2008

From Lisa Barnes

Until recently I had only been in the hospital for two reasons – the birth of my son and the birth of my daughter. I remember the hospital food to be pretty decent. There were even two menus of food choices. One was a standard chicken, pasta, and sandwiches. The other menu was Asian with jook, noodles and stir fry. I switched up my entree choices, but once I tried the green tea ice cream, I was hooked. I had it with every meal. It was just the right of sweet and smoke and a lovely sage color.

The last night of the hospital stay in the maternity ward was called “Date Night”. There was a special menu including steak, greens and creme brulee for two. A table for two was set in the room with linens and candles. And our newborn was whisked away to the nursery. It really was a nice dinner and the hospital made a big effort to make you feel like you were on a date. I appreciated the uninterrupted meal even more once my husband and I were home with the new baby as we discovered what so many parents call the “witching hour”. This is the time you set your dinner plate on the table and your baby starts to wail (no matter what the hour).

When I found myself heading to the hospital (not maternity ward) this time I thought, “at least I’ll have my green tea ice cream”. I was wrong. Apparently the “healthy pregnant” people get the good food and the sick people get the left-overs. O.K. I wasn’t expecting local sustainable organics but I was shocked to see so many processed foods loaded with partially hydrogenated oils, artificial colorings and flavorings. My full liquid tray consisted of low fat milk (not organic), coffee (decaf, regular, who knows?), Swiss Miss egg custard (a huge list of offensive ingredients), cranberry juice “cocktail” and a bowl of very mushy and gelatinous oatmeal. (see my post for a yummy organic oatmeal option).

I’ve always advocated for children’s developing bodies and brains to get the healthiest organic foods. But shouldn’t hospitals be ground zero for providing and teaching about whole healthy foods? Whether it’s a new life or an older one we trust hospitals to make us better, not add to health problems. I know it’s expensive but so is healthcare. A $3,000 night in a hospital can’t include some thoughtfully prepared veggies, soups, and grains? A hotel couldn’t operate with such substandard food. I guess hospitals know the patients have no choice and it’s not an “amenity”. Food as a necessity means they can cut costs and take short-cuts.

I’m going to need to research. I know I’ve read about some hospitals making a better effort for nutrition and food service. If Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver are increasing nutrition awareness and culinary curriculum for children in schools, who’s doing the same for patients across the country in hospitals?
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See also The Top Ten Green Hospitals (National Geographic Green Guide)
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: National Geographic Green Guide
OrganicToBe.org | OrganicToGo.com
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Breakfast for Dinner (with Organic Yogurt Pancakes For Kids Recipe)

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

From Lisa Barnes

Before we were parents my husband and I would sometimes skip dinner (both had a big lunch, out) or just have a glass of wine with a baguette and some yummy cheese. My roommate in college sometimes had a bowl of ice cream for dinner. And I meet plenty of new parents who are intimidated to cook for their children in the first place because their own dinners are often eating take out meals standing in the kitchen.

But once you have kids that are old enough to eat your food and hear your philosophy about healthy meals and eating habits, that freedom is lost. It’s not that you want to revert back to some poor eating habits all the time, but maybe once a month or year. It just doesn’t happen – kids want and need a meal. Plus you are the one cooking it and setting a good example.

If you’re a parent who’s tired of coming up with creative ideas for your family dinner together…take a break. Be a hero and announce to your kids you’re having “breakfast for dinner”. This usually is welcomed with squeals of delight. I’m not advocating a cereal dinner (although I know a few parents who have that on the rotation for those really difficult days) but how about family favorites you only make on the weekends such as pancakes or a cheesy omelet (which also happens to make great use of left-over veggies and meat)?.

My kids and I (Dad was out) had these pancakes tonight with an impromptu veggie cheese omelet and side of fruit and everyone was happy.

Organic Yogurt Pancakes

1 cage free organic egg, slightly beaten
2/3 cup organic yogurt – plain or favorite flavor*
2/3 cup organic milk or soy milk
3/4 cup organic unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Expeller pressed canola oil to prevent sticking

In a medium bowl, mix together egg and yogurt until smooth. Add milk, flour and salt. Mix until batter is smooth. If batter is too thin, add more flour.

Heat skillet over medium heat. Spray cooking oil in bottom of skillet, or drizzle enough oil to lightly coat the pan. When oil is hot and sizzles, drop quarter cup fulls of batter into pan. Leave enough room around each heart to turn easily. Cook one to two minutes and watch for bubbles to form on the surface before flipping with a spatula. Cook another one to two minutes on other side until cooked through, and lightly browned on each side.

Top with fresh organic berries, yogurt and/or maple syrup.

Makes 10, four inch pancakes.

*If you choose a flavored yogurt such as strawberry or raspberry, the batter will take on a bit of color. Pancakes will also be sweeter than using plain yogurt.

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See also Lisa’s No Yolking Around – Organic Pancakes for Kids Recipe
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: Runaway Pancake (a Rand McNally Junior Elf Book), Ben Williams 1956
OrganicToBe.org | OrganicToGo.com
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