What is with the emphasis on super foods today? You would think these foods offered immortality and everlasting youth. As the phenomena peaks, I see more and more push for feeding super foods to young children and babies, as if parents can assuage all their angst by feeding their child mostly broccoli, salmon and kale.
A few years back I contributed nutrition content and reviewed Smart Bites for Baby by Mika Shino. I immediately embraced Mika’s intent to expose babies to a wide range of food experiences. Ironically, the current focus on feeding baby super foods may actually undermine a parent’s best intentions.
Today’s reductionist focus on super foods short circuits a deeper appreciation of diet and our children’s health. A short list of foods that happen to measure higher levels of specific nutrients reinforces the idea that the nutrient content of food trumps everything else. Preferentially feeding kids the richest source of any specific or mix of nutrients distorts the entire feeding experience for baby and may actually interfere with baby’s development and health.
SUPER FOOD HYPE
- 1. Babies benefit developmentally from being exposed to a wide variety of flavors, textures, colors and tastes. A focus on superfoods inherently works against that goal, and gives the impression that nutrient content trumps everything else.
- 2. If the goal is improved phytochemical content, then we all need to buy organic as we can. Fruits and vegetables grown without intensive chemical inputs produce 20-40% more antioxidants per serving.
- 3. The mix of foods impact metabolic health more than individual nutrients. The most significant health challenges we face today relate to metabolic health, not specific nutrient deficiencies.
- Instead of a short list of preferred foods, we should be encouraging parents to feed their kids seasonal and fermented foods. Our health is increasingly tied to a healthy microbiome and eating a variety of foods throughout the year improves microbial diversity in the gut.
A RENEWED FOCUS IN MATERNAL AND INFANT NUTRITION
As a young dietitian I worked with WIC (Women, Infants and Children), a maternal and infant public health program, and presently I find myself increasingly drawn back. Today more and more people struggle with weight management and metabolic health as adults. If we are ever to get ahead of this curve, we need to improve metabolic health in our babies.
Today I find myself looking for opportunities to make a difference when it counts most: before, during and after pregnancy as well as with efforts to improve policy and practices regarding maternal, infant and child nutrition.
I’m looking forward to volunteering with Venice Family Clinic, I’ll continue to see private clients, and I also embrace the challenges that come with supporting the owners and operators of McDonald’s of Southern California. My goal is to help every one who touches food and influences a child’s food choice to step up. Let me know if I can be of help to you, organizations you belong to, and wherever adults are concerned about children and their health.