Feeding Infants and Toddlers...Stop Overthinking it!
Pretty much everyday I see a question in one of the parenting groups I follow asking how to supplement their toddler or growing infants nutrient needs. In reality there are few nutrients that need to be supplemented in most infant/toddler diets. Traditionally infants do need supplementation with iron and zinc even when breastfeeding continues through the first year. Cereal grain does not provide quality sources of either of these nutrients though they are often fortified and many people still incorporate these in the diet. The issue with cereal grain is they are really just a filler. They provide nutrient poor calories for the growing infant body, and take up valuable space that could be filled with small amounts of nutrient dense foods including:
Fermented dairy: yogurt, kefir
Pasture raised or omega rich egg yolks
This transition occurred over the last 200 years with the institution of agriculturally based societies. Prior to this infants were breastfeed, and fed premasticated foods by their mothers. The idea of premastication is interesting, in that, it was very common in many cultures and has fallen out of favor due to the idea that saliva is dirty or germ filled. In the case of infants and mothers however it has been noted that saliva may contribute similar constituents to those found in breast milk.
Due to the nature of iron stores in the human body many infants require iron supplementation or heme iron rich foods (think red meat, poultry, seafood, and fish. Heme iron is more bioavailable and more readily absorbed by the body.) Here is were premastication or if nothing else the idea of well cooked boiled meats might come in. One could easily boil or cook meat in a crock pot and blend it with a little salt, or seasoning and include it in an infant diet beginning at a very young age. This would allow for the infant to obtain ample amounts of iron, and replenish or support their iron needs.
Zinc is another nutrient that can become depleted in infants after the first 6-8 months. Providing foods that are quality sources of zinc might seem like a challenge but again with a little prep and planning these foods can easily be included in an infant diet. Zinc foods again include some animal proteins as well as nuts, seeds, and chickpeas. Even mushrooms have zinc in them. Grassfed beef can be boiled or well cooked, and smooshed up for kiddos to eat. If you are wanting to get them to try mushrooms you could do a mushroom powder and add it to their blended veggies. Try the one that Michelle Tam has created over at Nom Nom Paleo. She includes red pepper so you can omit that for the tiny ones, or add a little in and get their palate developed for some spicier fair.
Stop Overthinking it....
So here's the meat and potatoes of it (see what I did there), stop overthinking it. If you are eating a nutrient rich diet full of veggies, fruit, nuts, seeds, eggs, and meat feed that to your kids. Attempt to think outside the box and don't start with cereal grain as a first food. Start with some smooshed avocado, sprinkled with a little mushroom powder. Give them blended meat, but for goodness sake sprinkle it with a little pink salt, or sea salt for some flavor. They don't need a multivitamin unless your doctor has prescribed one, they don't need a fancy MLM version of fruit or veggie powder. Spend that money on real food and teach them to eat real food. Try them on fermented dairy and see how they do.
Dewey, K. G. (2013). The Challenge of Meeting Nutrient Needs of Infants and Young Children during the Period of Complementary Feeding: An Evolutionary Perspective. The Journal of Nutrition, 143(12), 2050–2054. http://doi.org/10.3945/jn.113.182527