Kids health

5 Amazing First Foods That Nourish

Breast milk is universally accepted as the perfect first food for your baby, but what about the perfect next food? This sparks much more debate and general confusion.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends mothers worldwide to exclusively breastfeed infants for the first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. They recommend breastfeeding for up to two years, and beyond if so desired, along with nutritious complementary foods. No matter how long you’re breastfeeding or using infant formula, nutritious complementary foods are key to infant development.

So, what are those nutritious complementary foods and what is the science behind why those foods are best?

  • Best for mitigating nutrient deficiencies
  • Best for neurological function
  • Best for growth and development
  • Best for the development of a robust immune system
  • Best for the development of a healthy gut microbiome

That in mind, here are my top 5 picks for amazing and nourishing first foods to try with your little one:

1 BONE BROTH

Bone broth makes an excellent first food for babies. It helps support a developing digestive system because it contains gelatin. Gelatin stimulates and supports digestion, making it easier for baby to digest and absorb the nutrients from any food eaten with it. Bone broth is packed with minerals - especially calcium, magnesium, and potassium - in a bioavailable (highly absorbable) electrolyte form. The collagen in bone broth helps create healthy tissue throughout baby’s body for strong bones, tendons, and connective tissue. Baby can sip it, or you can mix it into other foods like scrambled eggs or any purée. Recommended for babies 6+ months.

2 LIVER

Liver is hands-down the most nutrient-dense superfood - for babies and adults. It’s a powerhouse of nutrition packed with vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin K2, folate, betaine, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, selenium, zinc, and iron. Zinc and iron are critical for healthy growth and development, particularly during infancy. At around six months, levels of zinc in breast milk naturally fall and baby’s iron stores deplete, so sources of these nutrients are especially important1. Liver also has brain-building choline, anti-inflammatory omega-3s, serotonin-making tryptophan, and is rich in antioxidants. It’s truly a whole-food daily multi-vitamin. Very little liver is needed for a super nutrition boost for babies. You can start with just ½ to 1 tsp. Due to the high quantity of vitamin A found in beef liver, I suggest 1 oz. (28g) of beef/calf liver every other day. For travel or on-the-go, desiccated beef liver in a powder form transports well and easily mixes into a paste with breastmilk or formula. The powder also mixes well with avocado, sweet potato, and other soft foods. Recommended for babies 6+ months.

3 SAUERKRAUT BRINE

Probiotic foods, beverages, and supplements help establish healthy gut flora to promote normal digestive function, protect against infection, regulate metabolism, and strengthen the immune system. More than 75% of the immune system is housed in the gut - so good health really does start with the gut! Both probiotic supplements and fermented foods are critical for a healthy gut. Fermented foods are beneficial because they contain good diversity of healthy bacteria from foods grown in different locations/soil, the organisms in the soil, etc. Probiotic supplements supply a high quantity of healthy bacteria yielding 20, 50, or 100+ billion CFUs (colony forming units) in a single capsule. A daily combination of both is ideal. The liquid/brine can be mixed into baby’s cool or room-temperature purées or sipped from a spoon. Recommended for babies 6+ months.

4 WILD SALMON

Cold water fatty fish like wild salmon are a good source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Salmon has the highest DHA content of any fish source, which is a critical nutrient for neurological development. Once baby moves beyond puréed salmon and on to finger foods, salmon roe (eggs) are a fun, fascinating, and nutrient-dense superfood to develop baby’s pincer grasp and self-feeding practice. Salmon roe is an even more concentrated source of DHA and EPA than salmon fish.2 Recommended for babies 6+ months.

5 EGG YOLKS

Egg yolks contain a powerhouse of nutrients, chief of which is choline. Choline is critical for the development of the brain, specifically the formation of connections between the neurons, called synapses3. Eggs are a rich source of cholesterol, an important nutrient for the brain, nervous system, and GI tract4. Additionally, egg yolks are packed with vitamins A, D, K2, and E, as well as folate, biotin, iron, zinc, and selenium. Just look at the deep, saturated yellow/orange color of organic, pastured eggs and you can see that the combination of sunlight and foraging increases their nutrient density, as compared to hens eating in a hen house. Egg yolks are introduced before egg whites because an allergic reaction is less likely to occur. Recommended for babies 8+ months.

Take heart if your little one doesn’t immediately take to these new foods. It’s fine! Just keep offering and your consistency will pay off. As with anything new, it takes time. Avoid forcing or pushing so your child has a positive experience and trust is maintained. Avoid being emotionally attached to the outcome, remember it takes many tries. Embrace where you are today, celebrate the small victories along the way, and always keep in mind that food should be fun and enjoyable!

Andrea Laine White, MNT Bio Andrea White is a Functional Nutrition Therapist with a clinical practice in Castle Rock, CO. Additionally, she is the in-house nutritionist and Chief Marketing Officer for http://www.babyfreshorganics.co. Follow @nutritionmovement.

Healthy Gut, Thriving Child

[thrive: To grow or develop successfully. To flourish or succeed to one’s full potential.]

THE BEST GIFT

If there was one single gift you could give your child that would make the biggest impact on their long term health and ability to thrive, it would certainly be the gift of a healthy gut. Gut health truly is everything! The gut is responsible for the absorption and assimilation of our food and food is information that tells our cells how to express themselves. The gut also houses more than 75% of our immune system, so gut health is essential to overall health.

GUT MICROBIOME

The gut microbiome is a hollow tube beginning at the mouth and ending at the anus. It’s a mucosal surface, much like the inside of the nose, that protects the gut lining. It runs through the entire GI tract and houses the trillions of bacteria in the gut.

GUT HEALTH

There are two factors that determine a healthy gut: the gut barrier (integrity of the intestinal tract) and intestinal microbiota (gut flora). The function of the gut barrier is to allow nutrients to enter the body and, just as important, prevents harmful foreign substances from crossing into the body. The human gut contains an incredible 100 trillion microorganisms. In fact, there are 10 times more bacteria in the human body than our own cells!1 So, it would be true to say that we are more bacteria than we are human!

The gut is intimately connected to the brain. Almost all of the neurotransmitters are made in the gut. Approximately 90% of serotonin, the feel-good hormone (stay relaxed, calm, avoid depression, become more resilient, manage stress/anxiety, etc.) is made in the gut.2 Serotonin is the precursor to melatonin, the sleep hormone. Dopamine is the reward and motivation neurotransmitter. It’s what gets us going and keeps us on task, helps us stay organized, and assists in all executive functioning. Nearly 50% of dopamine is produced in the gut.3 The importance of gut health simply cannot be overstated. If you only do one thing to make the biggest impact on improving your child’s health, work on the gut.

MAMA/BABY DYAD

The mama/baby dyad is a powerful connection. Traditional Chinese Medicine [TCM] doesn’t separate the mother from the child, they’re intertwined. The health of the mother is the health of the child so maternal and child care is one. Modern science and research continues to confirm this ancient wisdom as we now know that the mother’s microbiome passes through the placenta and establishes the child’s microbiome.4 The microbiome the child inherits plays a critical role in determining which genes are or aren’t expressed - something called epigenetics, the study of how environment impacts genetic expression.

THE FIRST 1000 DAYS

After the first year of life, the infant gut microbiome achieves a more complex structure, and it becomes similar to that of adults by age three.3 The gut microbiome is responsible for properly assimilating nutrients, educating the naive immune system, and programming the metabolic system.

PROBIOTIC SUPPLEMENTS

A 2012 study found that one particular strain of beneficial bacteria, Lactobacillus rhamnosus helped maintain a vaginal microbiome free of pathogenic microorganisms (including Candida albicans) and helped maintain a low vaginal pH.5 Lactobacillus rhamnosus has also been shown in clinical trials to reduce the risk of allergies in children by as much as 50% when taken during the last trimester and early breastfeeding.6

Probiotic supplementation of the mother during and after pregnancy has been shown to alter the infant's microbiome. Randomized trials provide evidence that L. rhamnosus given during and after pregnancy can colonize the intestine of vaginally delivered, breastfed infants until 1–2 years of life and can increase the abundance of Bifidobacterium spp. in the infant gut.3 Administration of Lactobacillus reuteri to both mothers in late gestation and to infants throughout the first year of life decreased the infants' levels of IgE antibodies to food allergens at 2 years of age.7

NUTRITION FOR A HEALTHY GUT

So much can be accomplished in restoring and maintaining good gut health just through diet and nutrition adjustments. Here are my top tips:

  • Eat a nutrient-dense, whole food/real food diet.
  • Aim for macronutrient balance (high-quality protein + whole food carbohydrates + healthy fats) in every meal.
  • Eat and drink probiotic foods and beverages regularly, in addition to taking probiotic supplements.
  • Eat a variety of phytonutrients from plant food - all the colors of the rainbow. The fiber in vegetables is a prebiotic (feeds the beneficial bacteria of the gut) to help create a diverse and healthy gut.
  • Eat organic/non-GMO (glyphosate-free) because glyphosate wrecks havoc on the gut microbiome.
  • Respect the tiny, still-developing digestive system of your infant. Babies have limited enzyme production, which is necessary for the digestion of foods. It takes up to 28 months, just around the time when molar teeth are fully developed for the big-gun carbohydrate enzymes (namely amylase) to fully kick into gear. Foods like cereals, grains, and breads are very challenging for little ones to digest.

1 Clemente, J., Ursell, L., Wegener Parfrey, L., Knight, R. (2012). The impact of the Gut Microbiota on Human Health: An Integrative View. Cell, 148(6), 1258-1270.

2 Yano, Jessica M. and Yu, Kristie and Donaldson, Gregory P. and Shastri, Gauri G. and Ann, Phoebe and Ma, Liang and Nagler, Cathryn R. and Ismagilov, Rustem F. and Mazmanian, Sarkis K. and Hsiao, Elaine Y. (2015) Indigenous Bacteria from the Gut Microbiota Regulate Host Serotonin Biosynthesis. Cell, 161 (2). pp. 264-276.

3 Eisenhofer G, Aneman A, Friberg P, Hooper D, Fåndriks L, Lonroth H, Hunyady B, Mezey E. Substantial production of dopamine in the human gastrointestinal tract. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 82, Issue 11, 1 November 1997, Pages 3864–3871.

4 Mueller, Noel, Bakacs, Elizabeth, Combellick, Joan, Grigoryan, Zoya, and Dominguez-Bello, Maria. The infant microbiome development: mom matters. Trends Mol Med, 2015 Feb; 21(2): 109-117.

5 Stojanovic N, et al. Normal vaginal flora, disorders and application of probiotics in pregnancy. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2012;286:325–332.

6 Barthow C., Wickens K., Stanley T. The Probiotics in Pregnancy Study (PIP Study): rationale and design of a double-blind randomised controlled trial to improve maternal health during pregnancy and prevent infant eczema and allergy. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2016;16:133.

7 Abrahamsson TR, et al. Probiotics in prevention of IgE-associated eczema: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007;119:1174–1180.

Andrea Laine White, MNT Bio Andrea White is a Functional Nutrition Therapist with a clinical practice in Castle Rock, CO. Additionally, she is the in-house nutritionist and Chief Marketing Officer for http://www.babyfreshorganics.co. Follow @nutritionmovement.

Smart Supplementation for Kids

As a nutrition therapist, my philosophy of practice is to adjust food first and use supplements strategically and wisely when necessary. As their name suggests, supplements are meant to be supplemental to a healthy, nutrient-dense, whole foods based diet. That said, it has become increasingly difficult to get all of the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids, and antioxidants our bodies require purely from diet alone. Multiple factors have contributed to the need for high-quality supplementation in addition to a nutrient-dense diet. Most notably, a decline in soil diversity and quality have negatively impacted the nutrient density of our foods. For adults and children alike, aim to obtain as many nutrients as possible from food, and then use targeted supplementation to make up the difference.

While every individual is biochemically unique and supplementation is best when customized for your child with the assistance of a health practitioner, there are several basic supplements that are beneficial for most kids:

1 PROBIOTIC

Probiotic foods, beverages, and supplements help establish healthy gut flora to promote normal digestive function, protect against infection, regulate metabolism, and strengthen the immune system. More than 75% of the immune system is housed in the gut - so good health really does start with the gut! Probiotic supplements differ in the unique variety and combination of Lactobacillus and Bifidofactor species offered. Each strain has a different and unique impact on the gut, immune system, brain, metabolism, mood, hormones, and detoxification pathways. For example, strains such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri help reduce the risk of food allergies.1,2 To get maximum benefit from your child’s probiotic, choose a brand with as many different strains as possible and a CFU (colony forming unit) count of 5 - 10 billion/day for infants and 10 - 25 billion/day for children 2+. Probiotics are especially important for babies born via Cesarean section, on infant formula, or have thrush or reflux. The infant gut microbiome is predominantly comprised of Bifidofactor species, while the adult microbiome is mostly Lactobacillus species. After the first year of life, the infant gut microbiome achieves a more complex structure, and it becomes similar to that of adults by age three.3 Use an infant probiotic for the first two years of life, and after age three children can use the same probiotic as an adult. Recommended at birth for babies born via Cesarean section and 6+ months for babies born vaginally.

2 LIVER

Liver is hands-down the most nutrient-dense superfood - for babies and adults. It’s a powerhouse of nutrition packed with vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin K2, folate, betaine, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, selenium, zinc, and iron. Zinc and iron are critical for healthy growth and development, particularly during infancy. At around six months, levels of zinc in breast milk naturally fall and baby’s iron stores deplete, so sources of these nutrients are especially important4. Liver also has brain-building choline, anti-inflammatory omega-3s, serotonin-making tryptophan, and is rich in antioxidants. It’s truly a whole-food daily multi-vitamin. Very little liver is needed for a super nutrition boost for babies. You can start with just ½ to 1 tsp. Due to the high quantity of vitamin A found in beef liver, I suggest 1 oz. (28g) of beef/calf liver every other day. For travel or on-the-go, desiccated beef liver in a powder form transports well and easily mixes into a paste with breastmilk or formula. The powder also mixes well with avocado, sweet potato, and other soft foods. Recommended for babies 6+ months.

3 VITAMIN D

Vitamin D is a critical fat-soluble vitamin synthesized from sunlight exposure. It’s not just a vitamin though, it’s a neuroregulatory steroidal hormone that influences almost 3,000 genes in the body! Vitamin D receptors have been found in almost every type of human cell influencing heart health, neurological function, the nervous system, bone strength, and immune system function. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all babies receive 400 IU per day of vitamin D supplementation. The primary source of vitamin D for babies, other than sunlight and supplementation, is what they stored from mama prior to birth. The vitamin D status of mama during pregnancy directly affects baby’s vitamin D stores at birth so it’s of utmost importance that pregnant women optimize their vitamin D levels. Be sure to have your Vitamin D, 25 Hydroxy tested during pregnancy. Anything less than 50 ng/ml is deficient and a range of 60 - 70 ng/ml is optimal. It does take considerable effort/dosage to raise serum levels above 40 ng/ml but once there, a maintenance dosage is 2,000 IU daily. For breastfeeding mamas, a 2015 study concluded that maternal high-dose vitamin D3 supplementation (6400 IU/day) or conventional infant vitamin D3 supplementation (400 IU/day) lead to similar vitamin D status of healthy exclusively/fully breastfeeding infants by 7 months of age.5 Recommendation is either 400 IU daily for babies or 6400 IU daily for exclusively breastfeeding mothers beginning at birth.

4 VITAMIN C

Vitamin C is well known as the nutrient for strengthening the immune system, however it’s essential for so many other reasons: supporting energy production, making collagen for healthy skin, and production of the master antioxidant glutathione, just to name a few. For vitamin C supplementation, I prefer a natural, wildcrafted source with ingredients like camu camu berries - one of the richest whole food sources of vitamin C (30 - 50x MORE than an orange)! Amla and acerola berries are also excellent natural sources of vitamin C. Amla is super-charged with vitamin C and known for assisting in the digestion and absorption of nutrients as well as liver support and detoxification. See the Brands & Resources section below for my product recommendation that includes these, as well as the naturally-occurring vitamin C co-factors buckwheat berry sprouts to improve assimilation and black pepper berry to increase vitamin C uptake into the cells. Recommended for babies 6+ months.

5 OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

A common theme runs through good infant and child nutrition and that is nutrients that support neurological function and overall brain development. A child’s brain undergoes an amazing period of development from conception to age three. At birth, the infant brain already has nearly all of the neurons it will ever have. It doubles in size in the first year, and by age three it has reached 80% of its adult volume.6,7,8 Even more significant, synapses (the connections between the neurons) are formed at a faster rate during these years than at any other time. Choline is a critical nutrient for the development of the brain, specifically the formation of these synapses. Egg yolks are an excellent source of choline, both for pregnant mamas and as a first food for infants. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are another critical nutrient for brain development. They are called essential fatty acids because our bodies cannot make them from scratch, we must consume them in our diet. Two important omega-3 fatty acids are eicospentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA is important because it directly reduces inflammation in the body. DHA is important for proper neurological function, specifically important for brain function. I recommend supplementing with both EPA and DHA because, unless your child is eating cold water fatty fish 3 - 5 times per week, they are probably lacking in these essential fatty acids. Recommended for babies 6+ months.


1 Barthow C., Wickens K., Stanley T. The Probiotics in Pregnancy Study (PIP Study): rationale and design of a double-blind randomised controlled trial to improve maternal health during pregnancy and prevent infant eczema and allergy. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2016;16:133.

2 Abrahamsson TR, et al. Probiotics in prevention of IgE-associated eczema: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007;119:1174–1180.

3 Eisenhofer G, Aneman A, Friberg P, Hooper D, Fåndriks L, Lonroth H, Hunyady B, Mezey E. Substantial production of dopamine in the human gastrointestinal tract. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 82, Issue 11, 1 November 1997, Pages 3864–3871.

4 1 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.

5 Bruce W. Hollis, Carol L. Wagner, Cynthia R. Howard, Myla Ebeling, Judy R. Shary, Pamela G. Smith, Sarah N. Taylor, Kristen Morella, Ruth A. Lawrence, Thomas C. Hulsey Maternal Versus Infant Vitamin D Supplementation During Lactation: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics. 2015 Oct;136(4):625-34. doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-1669.

6 Gilmore JH, Lin W, Prasatwa MW, et al. Regional gray matter growth, sexual dimorphism, and cerebral asymmetry in the neonatal brain. Journal of Neuroscience. 2007;27(6):1255-1260.

7 Nowakowski RS. Stable neuron numbers from cradle to grave. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2006;103(33):12219-12220.

8 Rakic, P. No more cortical neurons for you. Science. 2006;313:928-929.

Brands & Resources

Here are some of the brands and resources I love and trust.

Infant Probiotics

Klaire Labs Ther-biotic for Infants

Jarrow Baby’s Jarro-dophilus

Seeking Health ProBiota Infant

Organic3 GutPro Infant

Children’s Probiotics

Klaire Labs Ther-biotic Complete

Klaire Labs Children’s Chewables

Metagenics MetaKids Probiotic

Desiccated Liver Powder

Radiant Life

Dr. Ron’s Ultra Pure

Vital Proteins

Vitamin D

Nordic Naturals Baby’s Vitamin D3

Vitamin C

Pure Synergy Pure Radiance C

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Dropi Cod Liver Oil

Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil

Metagenics OmegaGenics EPA-DHA 750

Andrea Laine White, MNT Bio Andrea White is a Functional Nutrition Therapist with a clinical practice in Castle Rock, CO. Additionally, she is the in-house nutritionist and Chief Marketing Officer for http://www.babyfreshorganics.co. Follow @nutritionmovement.