First Grain, Whole Grain

Not being a Mom-type, I don’t really pay that much attention to what babies do. As long as they don’t do it on me, it doesn’t usually hit my radar. Usually. Last week, I heard about an interesting campaign launched by Dr. Alan Greene, author of Feeding Baby Green and other books about baby-raising, that caught my short attention span.

WhiteOut is an initiative to eliminate white rice cereal from the grocery store shelves and our your babies’ bellies and to educate parents on the benefits of choosing brown rice cereals and other foods. The intent is to ensure babies get the maximum nutrition possible in their early years and to help them develop tastes for real foods.

Being baby-less, I didn’t realize that white rice cereal is the #1 source of calories (not counting formula or breast milk) for most babies in their first year of life and has been for the past 50-60 years. Dr. Green says that 98% of us ate this stuff when we were babies. I honestly don’t remember. Then again, I don’t remember going on my first diet at the age of 6 months, but my mother swears it’s true. (Seriously, she and the pedi-guy switched something in my formula/milk rations because I was gaining weight too fast. I’m sure it had no effect on my future years as a serial dieter. No pun intended.) When the white rice cereal trend started, though, the foods were less processed than they are today

Now, I have nothing against white rice, nor am I ready to blame the entire childhood obesity epidemic on its consumption as a baby breakfast cereal (juices, fast foods, and sugary cereals have their places as culprits), but I do believe the (sort of) current theory that our tastes and preferences are formed at a very young age, which is one of Dr. Greene’s arguments against white rice-based baby cereals.

All of this could be disproven or superseded by the next new thing very shortly, but I wonder what it could hurt to try to do as Dr. Greene suggests, “Let every baby’s first grain be a whole grain.”

Or no grain. In his FAQ, the good doctor recommends mashed avocado, sweet potatoes, or bananas–foods the itty bitty one has seen his/her parents eat. (That presumes the parents aren’t chowing down on chili mac and french fries five nights a week.) Starting kids out with whole grains and real foods may just set them up for a bright and healthy future. Surely it couldn’t hurt.

Your thoughts?

Be sure to check in on our growing Potluck table. Michele (Healthy Cultivations) and Debby (Debby Weighs In) were kind enough to stop by and share some tasty-looking treats! Not one grain of white rice between them! :)

7 thoughts on “First Grain, Whole Grain

  1. Starting kids out with whole grains and real foods may just set them up for a bright and healthy future.
    HECK YES!!!!

    and have to add I loved Debby’s potluck recipe today too :)

  2. This really makes me think. My understanding was that we started with white rice cereal because it was so gentle on little baby stomachs and least likely to cause allergies. If that is indeed true, than I can see a movement instead to still start there but to then incorporate and evolve to the whole grains. Of course, after rice cereal, came veggies for my boys and they ate them all as baby food. How and when did that change?

    I do think our tastes form young. And it was quite an adjustment for myself to go from soft, white bread to the healthy whole grain kind. And look at all the cultures where kids are fed with what we’d consider strong spices. Food for thought today, Cammy. Pun intended:)

  3. “Let every baby’s first grain be a whole grain” Amen!

    I always wonder if I was exposed to more different foods as a youngster if I would have avoided a weight problem growing up. I was a notoriuosly picky eater liking carbs, meat, and potatoes.

  4. Hmmm…no babies around here either. In the hospital we use the rice cereal occasionally, but I always thought it was for our babies with very delicate systems. I had no idea, really, that it was the major baby food used in the real world.

  5. Certainly food for thought.

    But here’s the rub.

    My first cereal was called Farex, a kind of fine wheat porridge. Then came sieved veggies, always silverbeet/chard and carrots with some potato and meat juices. Graduating by degrees to adult food as we grew teeth. Eggs fitted in there too somewhere. I was born a few months before WW 2 and New Zealand was very patriotic and supportive of Britain so we had food rationing. I think as far as my family were concerned this probably had limited affect as we lived mostly off our land and my mother made her own butter. She would have bought bread and done baking with limited amounts of sugar. There was only the fruit we grew ourselves and I don’t remember us growing much, so fruit was a something we had at Grandmother’s. She had an orchard.

    No processed food. Limited wheat products and little sugar. There weren’t many overweight people and we did one heck of a lot more exercise, or at least our parents did. Children were expected to be slightly chubby, but not fat, to be healthy. Round rosy cheeks were important so we usually got fed some disgusting supplement with castor oil in it.

    So why am I fat/obese now? Personally I think mothers who avoid heavily processed baby foods do a better job now than ever. Their children usually get a wider variety of natural food than has ever been.

    It’s the Take Away trade that has done the most damage. When people face the facts of fast food and fries and make better choices general health improves. I’m all for Jaimie Oliver but I don’t think for one minute it will solve the problem of obesity completely. Obesity will always be a complex issue.

    My own children, the eldest of whom is 46, grew up on almost exactly the same kind of food as I did. We did have some canned baby foods but they were only used when travelling or in emergencies, such as when I was sick.

    Sorry to prick the bubble but we develop food preferences as we grow older and taste buds develop. Much of today’s obesity is down to our choices with as much genetic propensity as you like to throw in.

    Interesting subject to ponder.

  6. Hi Cammy,
    Just found your blog via Michele’s Healthy Cultiviations site. Wanted to say hi and tell you how much I like it! I’ve bookmarked it and will visit often.

  7. Personally, I think setting your kids up for health from a very early age is important. I grew up on less than great choices & I learned to like that stuff & not so much healthier options. Yes, I got my taste buds & the food I ate to change later BUT I was heavy for a lot of years & took a tool on my self worth.

    I am for anything that helps kids start out in a better way…

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