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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."
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."
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
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
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