Feeding Our Childrenhttp://www.fourfoldhealing.com/Print...20Children.htm
An important part of the study of a healthy diet is the special needs of children, including transitioning from nursing to solid food. As most parents with children know, choosing and implementing the proper diet for our children is one of the most daunting tasks there is. Drawing on my years of the study of nutrition, my numerous pediatric patients over the years, and perhaps equally as important 18 years of feeding my own three children, I would like to outline what I see as a proper diet for our children.
The first principle I would emphasize is that choosing to eat well is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate to our children such things as the value of work, where real things come from, and how human beings can be not only consumers but also producers of things of value. Hopefully, other activities in our homes will also demonstrate these principles, but many of us are not fortunate enough to have the skills to make our own furniture or even make our own music. It is perhaps the greatest gift we can give our child to teach him or her that things of value, things that are real can be made with our own hands and our own efforts.
With food, this lesson is readily accessible. All of us need to eat, and with minimal skill, effort and expense, we can participate in the procurement of our food every step of the way. Children readily understand these kind of lessons; they easily understand the value of work and how we humans transform the earth to nourish our bodies. They’ll understand the value of eating well if they see it, if they watch us grow and cook food, and participate themselves. Therefore, I encourage each family, no matter how limited their space, to grow at least some of their food. For some this may mean only a potted tomato plant; for others it can include a whole garden and the raising of animals. Of course, these gardens should be totally organic, not only for health reasons but also so children can learn to work with and respect the complexities nature offers to us.
For most of us, the majority of our food has to be brought into our homes from outside sources. As much as possible we should obtain this food from local organic farmers or community-supported farms. Again, the more connection the family has with the source of their food, the more children will develop a heart connection with their food. “These apples are from farmer Groh’s trees,” one child will say, while another will remark on how their rich, creamy milk came from a special cow that they know. These lessons and insights are also the beginning of an ecological awareness that comes from the heart and belly rather than the often abstract concepts of the modern ecology movement. I also think that the all-too-common modern phenomenon of food allergies is combated by a more personal relationship to the source of our food. After all, an allergy is a physical and soul reaction against food. This is less likely to occur if that same food has been lovingly nurtured by our own or our father’s hands. For these and many other reasons, the first step in developing a child’s diet is to expose them to how food is grown and procured, and to help them be part of this process in some way.
This principle of working with children so they see and understand how food is made does not stop when the food is brought into the house. After the food arrives, the work of turning it into nourishing meals can begin. Proper storage and processing of food is an important part of eating well. Again, I encourage all families to do some of their own food processing, be it bread making, including the nurturing of the sourdough culture and the grinding of flour, making pickles and other fermented foods, yoghurt and cheese making, and many other home food processing processes. Many of the techniques for this are described in Nourishing Traditions and other books on home food processing.
Again, besides the increased freshness and nutritional value of the food produced in this way, there is a valuable lesson for children in becoming creatively involved with their own nourishment. Children love to knead bread, churn butter and make berry preserves, and while doing so they learn firsthand how to turn the bounty of the earth into our daily bread. They learn to work effectively without wasting anything, valuable lessons for their lives ahead. It therefore goes without saying that as much as possible all the food fed to young children should be prepared by a family member. This is why I do not recommend or encourage prepared baby foods of any kind. All food should be freshly made and contain even the microorganisms that are actually living in their own house, not those of a factory. In a subtle way this actually helps children become grounded physically in their own home and in balance with their own micro-environment.
Now we come to the actual feeding of the child, by age group.
A very few times in the history of my practice a mother was unable to breastfeed her children. Even though we tried everything, these mothers could not produce enough milk to adequately feed their children. In these few cases, I advise supplementing with the formula described in Nourishing Traditions, which has always proved to be successful. The preparation of this formula does involve more work than simply buying formula from the grocery store, but all the women I have known who have chosen this route were very pleased with the robust health of their children.
Six Months to One Year
Children generally start to eat food other than breast milk between five and seven months of age. Usually, a child will give some sign that he or she is ready to eat, perhaps having trouble sleeping through the night, or just becoming very excited at the sight and smell of food. It is at this time that children no longer spit out the food but readily accept and swallow it.
In keeping with the principle that there are three major food groups, I encourage starting the child with one or two foods from each group as their first foods. These foods will be the main foods given for the first two weeks. From the animal food group, I start with egg yolks cooked for about 8-10 minutes, and butter, preferably cultured butter, as yellow as possible. The grain category will include brown rice and millet, both soaked for at least 24 hours, then cooked with plenty of water for a long time. The resultant, slightly sour, very thin porridge can be mixed with the other food eaten in this time. The vegetable group will be carrots and sweet potatoes, again cooked for a long time until they are very soft. The approximate proportions of this food should be a third of each or perhaps even up to 50% of the animal food category.
The most important nutrient for children are healthy fats. These fats help to provide immunity, development of the nervous system, and to protect them from micro-organisms. This category of food should never be lower than one third, if at all possible. After 2-3 weeks on this diet, more foods from each category can be introduced. In the animal food category during this next month or two introduce whole-milk yoghurt or kefir, slightly warmed whole raw milk, ghee, organic liver, and soup broth. Until about the end of the first year these are the only animal foods that the child should be given. In the grain category, all the other grains can be introduced in these next 3-6 months.
Of all the food groups, grains are the most likely to cause digestive disturbances or allergies if they are not properly prepared. All grains should be soaked for at least 24 hours before cooking and then cooked at low heat for a long time. Bread should be natural sourdough bread, hopefully made in your own kitchen. In the vegetable group, most vegetables can be added in these 3-6 months.
All the vegetables should be cooked, if only blanched or steamed, and should always be eaten with a liberal amount of fat, usually olive oil or butter or both. At this time lacto-fermented vegetables should be introduced into the diet. This not only aids with digestion and immunity, but also gets children used to enjoying the sour taste early in life. Once this taste is acquired, it seems to stick with children for a long time, perhaps even for life.
During this 6- to 12-month-old stage, fruit can be introduced, starting with berries then working up to apples, pears, and other non-citrus fruits. Citrus fruits should be introduced only much later.
With slight daily variations of vegetables and perhaps some variety in grains, this should be the diet for the child under one year old. If at all possible refined foods should be avoided in this critical first year. This especially includes pasta, boxed cereals, fruit juices, and sweeteners such as sucanat, honey and maple syrup. During this time the child should learn to enjoy the natural sweetness of grains, vegetables, and fruit. If this is allowed to happen, the child’s nutritional habits will be set on a strong foundation for the rest of their lives.
Another food worth mentioning is coconut butter, which should be started in the first month that the child is eating food. Coconut oil is nature’s richest source of Lauric acid, one of the predominant fats in human breast milk. This valuable fat helps protect the child against fungal and viral infections, thereby giving them a chance to build up their natural immunities.
One to Three Years
At the age of about one year, when a child begins to walk, the diet can be expanded a bit. This is also the time the child can be fully weaned from breast milk. This next phase of the diet will continue for the next two years until the child is three years old, when they enter the next major stage of development. During this period from one to three years, all of the above foods should be continued, keeping the proportions in the approximate balance of one third from each group. If you vary from this, it should be in the direction of increasing the percentage of animal food and fat in the diet. This is especially so if the child is at all underweight, has allergies, or in general seems to be unsettled.
During this time, the various forms of meat and fish can be introduced including poultry, lamb, and beef. The meat should be strictly from organic, grass-fed sources and probably eaten no more than once or twice per week. The fish should be from deep-water ocean sources. Also, the whites can now be included when eggs are used. During this period of development the most important foods from the animal food category continue to be egg yolks, butter, yoghurt, kefir, raw milk, and liver. Soup broth should also be used liberally as a base for the preparation of grains and soups.
To the grain category, which also includes natural sweeteners, deserts can now be added to the diet. They should not be given every day, as then the children come to expect sweets rather than experience them as a treat. Perhaps the best rhythm in this period is once or twice per week, including a festive meal on a special family day. The dessert can include berry pies, cookies made with butter, coconut oil and fruit, and other recipes found in Nourishing Traditions. Also added to the grain category are nuts and seeds, which can be eaten fairly liberally during this period. Again, please consult Nourishing Traditions for the proper preparation of nuts and seeds.
In the vegetable category, during this period raw vegetables can be introduced in the diet. A wide variety of salads can be offered to the child, always including a dressing made with olive and flax seed oils. The healthy fats found in avocados can also be introduced in this time. By the end of the third year, the diet of the child will look almost identical to that of the adults. The exception is that because children have a relative paucity of the enzyme that converts B-carotene into vitamin A, children younger than five years generally do not do well with vegetables. I tell all my parents not to worry about their children not liking vegetables, as this is normal in this stage of life. In fact, because they are slow in this enzymatic conversion, perhaps it is best left to the cow to do this conversion and for the child to eat butter and cream. This is actually probably more as nature intended it anyway.
Three to Fourteen Years
In the years between age three and 14, there is not much difference between the optimal diet for the child and the adult. The main issue at this age is how to account for the child’s tastes. To this the answer is often that unwitting parents often try to encourage a diet that actually does not suit their children. Children need and often crave fat. They need fat for proper neurological development in the early years, healthy immune function in the school age years, and for sexual development in the teenage years. If they are not provided with adequate good fats in the diet, invariably they will end up like so many American children as carbohydrate cravers. The only solution to the child who will eat only a white diet of rice, pasta, white bread and candy is a vigorous outdoor life and food with a liberal amount of healthy fats.
A healthy child’s diet in these years would look something like this:
Breakfast: French toast with homemade sourdough bread doused with fresh cream (crème fraiche), cooked in butter and coconut oil, topped with maple syrup and berries; porridge with soaked grains and lots of butter, cream, and fruit; eggs and naturally made sausage
Snacks: Always include at least a small amount of fat or it will not satisfy their hunger and they will get into the cycle of eating tremendous amounts of carbohydrate-type foods between meals. Examples could include whole-milk yoghurt and fruit, hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter on Essene bread crackers, or roasted nuts and seeds. All these are nutritious, balanced snacks that will curb the carbohydrate urges of children.
Lunch: Lunch often presents a challenge because the child is at school and must carry a lunch to school. Often there is also a hot lunch provided, which is inferior nutritionally. Again, with some effort nutritious and inviting lunches can be made. I often encourage parents to invest in a good thermos or hot lunch receptacle, which allows you to send to school things like soup or warmed up casseroles from last night’s dinner. The other standby is sandwiches, which can contain the three food groups: a turkey sandwich with cheese, homemade mayonnaise, lettuce, sprouts, and an apple often goes over well. Again, if you use a liberal amount of mayonnaise, the child will be less likely to seek out sugary desserts.
Dinner: Dinner should be a family time if at all possible, when the family comes together and talks about their day and their lives, when family tradition can be passed on. A good amount of time at dinner should be taken, as is the custom in many parts of the world. Dinner suggestions can be found on the Sample Menus page, and these are fine for the children of this age.
Other issues that come up around the feeding of children include choice of beverages and what if any supplements to give. The best beverages for children of this age are whole, raw milk if available, water, or fermented fruit beverages as found in Nourishing Traditions. Pasteurized fruit drinks, sodas, sports drinks, or other high carbohydrate beverages should be avoided for as long as possible. As for supplements, the only one I routinely give to children of all ages is 1 teaspoon per day of cod liver oil, especially during the winter months.
The final comment I would like to make on this subject is that during the teenage years one invariably loses a lot of control of the child’s diet. During this stage the child must be allowed to make his own choices about food when he is away from home. The only protection I can offer is that during these years and earlier, boys especially often love and need to eat meat. It is not unusual to need to feed a teenage boy some sort of meat three times per day. As long as the meat is of the best quality, this will actually foster a robust muscle development. Boys will have much less interest in satisfying their nutritional needs outside the home if they’re served plenty of meat supplemented with grains and salads. For girls the equivalent food is fat, especially cream and butter. These are necessary for hormonal development, functioning like meat for boys, helping to meet their cravings and to stop them from looking outside the home for food.
With these guidelines you should be well armed to meet the awesome challenge of feeding your children in accordance with the true requirements for their bodies and souls.