Our daughter, Myla, turned one year old over the holidays, and, thus, she got her very first taste of grains. We decided to not give her any foods with grain (soaked or otherwise) because we read in Nourishing Traditions, among other places, that a baby’s tummy does not produce a certain enzyme needed to properly digest grains until he or she is around a year old. Plus, we were not too fond of giving our daughter fortified cereals. In our mind if something needs to be fortified, then it probably is not the most nutritious food to eat. Often, the added nutrients are not as easily absorbed by our bodies as if the nutrients were already naturally present/occurring in the food. We figured it would be better to give Myla whole foods filled with nutrients in their naturally occurring state. For instance, for iron, we made sure Myla ate plenty of meat.
It was difficult to keep grains away from Myla for an entire year. Grains are often added to store-bought baby food, even to foods with such labels as “Spinach and Potatoes“. It was also difficult to keep Cheerios and Goldfish away from Myla as she got older. Family and friends would often give us puzzled looks when we told them Myla was not allowed to have either one.
I was nervous at Myla’s 9 month doctor’s appointment when the doctor tested her iron levels. I knew her primary source of iron was meat and not fortified baby cereals. I was curious to see if her levels would be sufficient. I knew in my head that she was getting her iron from the best source possible, but I still wasn’t sure it was going to be enough so I mentally prepared myself for a speech from her doctor about the need to give her iron-fortified baby cereal. I was so relieved to hear the doctor say, “Her iron levels are great!”. Phew!
So, what did Myla eat her first year? Well, we started her on banana and avocados at around 6 months. From there we expanded to meats (lamb, beef, and chicken) pureed in homemade stocks. She also enjoyed a wide variety of veggies- from kale to carrots. She has yet to refuse any veggie we put in front of her. Myla also enjoyed most fruits. We did avoid fruits with high levels of acidity (oranges, etc.), as they would cause a diaper rash. Although we made most of her food (pureed it) ourselves, we did occasionally give her organic, store-bought baby food, particularly when we were traveling. When she was around 10/11 months old, we started giving her homemade raw yogurt on occasion, which she loved. We introduced cheese around 11 1/2 months.
We gave Myla primarily whole foods. We did not add sugar or other seasonings to the food we made for her, aside from sea salt and pepper on occasion. If we needed to cook her food, we used water, stock, butter or olive oil to cook it in. If her food was store-bought, we bought organic baby food that had only the fruit or veggies listed with water- no added sugar, preservatives, etc. So, her diet mainly consisted of only meats, fruits and veggies during her first year.
I agonized for hours about what type of cake to make for Myla’s first birthday. Not only was she turning one, but it was also going to be her big welcome to the world of grains. I knew we were going to be out-of-town when we celebrated her birthday so my usual soaking of grain practice would be a bit of a hassle. I also did not want her first cake to be especially sweet (she’d never had white sugar). I did not want her to have a crazy sugar high and then crash (making both her and her birthday guests miserable). So, I finally settled on making a chocolate zucchini cake. I combined and modified a few recipes into the one I’ve included below. The cake is sweetened with Rapadura so there is no white sugar in it. I hit a wall with icing though. I did not want to use pre-made icing from a container sold at the store (have you ever read the ingredients in that stuff? Gross!). I ended up finding an organic icing mix at a supermarket in the town we were visiting. It only had three ingredients (and I knew what each ingredient was) and all I had to do was add butter and milk. Viola! Problem solved.
For ice cream, we made it ourselves using our new ice cream maker (a Christmas present). I did use white sugar in the ice cream since I was running short on time and did not have time to experiment with using Rapadura or maple syrup as a replacement. It did not matter too much in the end since Myla did not like how cold the ice cream was so she did not eat very much of it.
The cake was a success! We, especially Myla, loved it and we’ll be making it again on special occasions.
Looking back on the past year and to the future with another baby on the way, I’ve been thinking about what I’d do differently this time around. One thing I know I’ll do the exact same is delaying the introduction of grains. It’s tough, but I think the health benefits far outweigh the inconvenience or funny looks we may get from others. Even though we have been giving Myla some grains since she’s turned one, she still prefers her veggies to anything else we put in front of her. Of course, that may change and it may not have anything to do with delaying the introduction of grains, but I’m planning to delay grains for our next child so his or her digestive system is not unnecessarily strained, and in hopes that he or she will be as voracious an eater and love nutrient dense foods as much as Myla.
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Dry Ingredients: 2 cups whole wheat flour, 2 cups Rapadura, 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Wet Ingredients: 4 eggs, 3/4 cup olive oil, 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce, 3 cups grated zucchini
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×13 inch baking pan. Stir dry ingredients. Add eggs, olive oil and applesauce. Fold in zucchini. Bake for 50-60 minutes in oven.