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Should Your Baby Go Paleo?

In a word: No.

Paleo has been a huge buzzword for a few years now; its advocates shun dairy, grains, processed sugars, beans, peas and other legumes. What they do eat are produce (mostly vegetables) and meat. Proponents claim that chowing down like a Paleolithic hunter-gatherer is a smart way to achieve low cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce system-wide inflammation.

So when Australian celebrity chef Pete Evans tried to sell his idea for a kids' Paleo cookbook, at least one publisher said, "Sure! Why not? We want kids to be healthy and have low cholesterol and no inflammation." And they gave him and coauthors Charlotte Carr (a baby recipe blogger) and Helen Padarin (a nutritionist) a book deal for "Bubba Yum Yum: The Paleo Way for New Mums, Babies & Toddlers."

RELATED: 25 Delicious Slow Cooker Paleo Recipes

Unfortunately, the book featured a bone-and-liver broth formula that the authors promoted as a healthy alternative to breast milk (which could be construed as "dairy"). Thankfully, public health experts caught wind of the recipe, which reportedly provides more than 10 times the safe maximum intake of vitamin A for babies—not to mention none of the essential nutrition that comes from breast milk or formula—before the book hit shelves. Other suspect recipes featured runny eggs and added salt, neither of which are recommended for kids. The publisher has since pulled the plug on the book, but Evans vows to print it independently.

In what may be the least encouraging book blurb ever, Public Health Association of Australia president Heather Yeatman said, "In my view, there's a very real possibility that a baby may die if this book goes ahead."

Any time you eliminate entire food groups with no medical need, it's a sign of disordered eating.

Washington D.C.-based registered dietitian (and mom of two young girls) Rebecca Scritchfield agrees. "Parents might think they're doing something good for their babies by following a Paleo diet," she says. "They hear 'Paleo' and they think, 'It's unprocessed, that's healthy.'" And that part is true—the less processed our foods are, the better. But infants are a different story. Few, if any, 4-month-olds are eating candy bars and white bread that they need to be saved from. Newborns don't have any soda habits that need breaking.

"Until the age of 4 to 6 months, breast milk and/or formula are the perfect—and sole—source of nutrition that babies need," Scritchfield emphasizes. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only breast milk or formula before age 6 months.) Replacing either with bone broth, she says, would lead to a failure to thrive, "like what you would see in an impoverished, third-world country."

Around age 6 months, most parents begin introducing purees and solids, primarily to help babies begin developing their swallowing and chewing skills. Even if a parent skipped the bone broth but still insisted on a Paleo lifestyle for her or his infant, that would mean limiting baby foods to mostly vegetable and fruit purees and meats. No easy-to-pick up lentils, cheese shreds or peas. No yogurt. No oatmeal, rice or pasta. (On the "Bubba Yum Yum" website, sample baby food recipes include Miracle Marrow and Willow's Pâte .)

And children growing up in a Paleo household are at heightened risk for disordered eating, Scritchfield warns: "Any time you eliminate entire food groups with no medical need, it's a sign of disordered eating. It teaches moral judgment around food and could trigger fears around eating." She also fears it would be hard for Paleo kids to participate in social situations, like parties serving birthday cake or playdates with, well, any snacks besides bone marrow or asparagus and beef tips.

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It seems like a safer, healthier alternative would be to incorporate Paleo-friendly snacks and meals into a well-rounded nutrition plan for kids. I'm sure our 3-year-old would devour these Paleo-friendly roast beef and veggie roll-ups with berry salad, and I'd feel better giving them to her than, say, microwave mac and cheese. But when it comes to infants, remember, they're not cavebabies. When it comes to nourishing your little one, listen to your trusted health care provider, not your favorite CrossFit blogger.

Image via ABC

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