Children and young people · Eating well · In the news

Paleo baby food. Whatever next?

There are, thankfully, more stories exposing restrictive eating styles as the Fads they are and not the automatic route to wellness as promised by the self styled, unqualified gurus. A lovely article in the Irish Sunday Independent when I was in Dublin a little while back, picking apart the Gwynneth Paltrow, Goop image of what wellness looks like, helped restore my faith in responsible journalism. Unfortunately, I can’t find the link to the article.

Some of you may think what is the harm in these wellness blogs and businesses. Are they just selling to the affluent, worried well and aren’t they getting people eating more fruit and veg which is what nutritionists and dietitians have been banging on about for ever. Just jealous that they are having more effect on people?

Mmmm. I get that point of view. But there are a few things that scream out to me. Yes, I want to see people eating more fruit and veg.  I want to see them enjoying it. I want to see people eating a variety of foods.  Many of these wellness gurus are promoting a restrictive style of eating creating fear around certain foods and components of food. That is bad.  Restrictive styles of eating also mean reducing variety and this in turn makes it harder to get all the nutrients that we need across the course of a day or week.

And so is the pure versus naughty concept. The guilty or virtuous eating, which can fuel disordered eating.

But it comes to a head in my view when it touches vulnerable groups. Children are a vulnerable group.  They have to eat what they are given, be that from their parents, their schools or their childcare setting.  They should be protected from restrictive eating which reduces the range of nutrients they eat and from styles of eating that can fuel a poor relationship with food. They are quite capable of restricting what they eat by themselves. Most kids go through faddy phases.

So when we adults are won over by styles of eating, be that paleo or ‘clean’ eating or various ‘free from diets’ when there is no medical need, believing this to be a route to wellness and health, it is automatic that we then can see this as the best that we can give to out children.  This creates a demand that companies fill selling these foods or recipe books meeting these restrictions for children, marketing them as way of doing the best thing for your child.  This is when I want to scream.

Take for example paleo foods for babies ……paleo is a restrictive style of eating encouraging an avoidance of dairy and grains in particular, which could affect the intake of carbohydrate and some nutrients whilst being very high in protein and considered unsuitable for babies by dietitians and paediatricians.

We adults, especially parents, shape and influence the way children eat and if we are avoiding gluten unnecessarily, or dairy, or detoxing etc does not give kids a good example.  If we are sold these promises of wellness and we then pass this on to our children in the belief we are doing the best for our kids then this is bad.  The downsides of restrictive diets don’t just affect the ‘worried well’.  The downsides filter out to other groups who have no choice but to eat what they are given.

Variety of foods is particularly important when feeding children. Helping them to form a good relationship with food, accept a wide variety of food which can be a challenge as many children are averse to new foods and go through faddy phases, ensuring a good range of nutrients to support their growth is essential.

So sorry our messages are a bit boring and maybe a little vague.  Excluding foods is not the way to health even when some of those foods are foods we should be eating less of.  I’ll get off my soap box now.

Cooking session with some friends on Monday, demonstrating pupusas and refried beans.  Hopefully I remember how to get the dough right!!

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