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Feeding Baby Green (Book Review Pedcast)
By Dr. Alan Greene
Welcome to a special edition of the pediatric blog I call docsmo.com. This is where parents can get their free pediatrics degree without ever unplugging their mp3 player. We discuss topics that span from diapers to the diploma, from the bassinet to the boardroom, and from the womb to the wedding. Pretty amazing isn’t it. Obviously we will NEVER run out of topics. In today’s discussion, I am gong to add another book review pedcast to the menu, based on the book Feeding Baby Green: the Earth-Friendly Program for Healthy, Safe Nutrition by Dr. Alan Greene. My first encounter with Dr. Greene was while cutting the grass and listening to the National Public Radio show The People’s Pharmacy. (http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/) I heard Dr. Greene talk about a variety of pediatric topics in this particular episode, and I was simply blown away. Articulate, informative, and cutting edge ideas. I had to hear more, so I bought his first of 2 books entitled “Feeding Baby Green.” Here is my review of his book.
Dr. Greene is a Princeton graduate and Stanford pediatrician who has made it his mission to change much of what we do with children, especially the way we feed them. His goals are both to improve the nutritional quality and variety of foods that babies and children eat and to do it in an environmentally sensitive manner (hence the term Green in the title). He outlines all this in his 8 steps to gaining “Nutritional Intelligence.” He introduced me to some new concepts by including a lot of research that I frankly had never heard. For example, Dr. Greene contends that babies start developing an affinity for flavors and tastes starting before they are born and continuing through the first year of life. He argues that the reason that toddlers almost always become picky eaters is biologically based, a reflex that is called “neophobia” that keeps them from eating strange vegetation that may be poisonous. He argues that if a child’s palate isn’t familiar with a taste by the time they become a toddler, their diet is likely to be very limited: hence the modern dilemma many parents find themselves in with a toddler who will only eat a few low quality processed foods. Why shouldn’t they, he says; they were fed processed, bland food as their first foods all during their first year. We programed them to eat that way, so to speak. He wants all the rules to change. No baby food, no processed bland food, rather a variety of whole foods that come at your infant like a freight train hitting top speed. No one new food at a time, no 3 days between new foods, no tasteless processed food simply mashed up, but instead flavorful, organically grown, fresh, locally grown foods fed to your baby starting at 4-9 months. Dr. Greene argues that repetition during an infant’s flavor-exploring months coupled with the process of watching a parent eat the same food is what makes the babies palate learn to accept new flavors.
Dr. Greene also makes strong arguments why parents should avoid all processed and fast foods, exclusively breastfeed their infants for the first year of their lives, buy locally grown, organic produce that includes a great variety of nutritional sources, not to mention safe fish, organically raised meat, eggs, and diary. He is a big fan of the Mediteranean diet and multivitamins. He is not a fan of artificial colors and preservatives. Almost every page of this book is an indictment of the modern food and agricultural industries. The book is organized into chapters mirroring baby development, from before pregnancy to toddler age and beyond. The chapters include anecdotes from real parents subscribing to the Greene way as well as tested recipes for both families and babies. The premise behind the book is not to indoctrinate babies to adopt certain food habits, but to learn from the environment around them. Parents and other members of the family should try to incorporate these habits as the growing babies observe everything and learn to eat from their parents. Additionally, Dr. Greene gives helpful suggestions to add flavor to foods using herbs, how to select fruits and vegetables, and even how to use certain spices and foods as remedies.
Now for the negatives that I see in this book. I think many readers of this book will be overwhelmed by its content and the scope of change that is advocated. People would be healthier if we rode a bike everywhere, grew our own crops, spent most of our time outdoors doing physical work, etc… but this isn’t going to happen. This is simply impossible and impractical. Additionally, I felt Dr. Greene was being a little arrogant a few times in the book when he made some rather large leaps from the science we know today. He may end up being right, but I think the jury is still out on the safety of modern plastics, genetically modified foods, and the cause of the allergy epidemic we are witnessing in children. Advocating for avoidance of certain modern things is fine, but presenting correlation studies as if they are conclusive science in my opinion is arrogant and just wrong. I also feel that his recommendation for a multivitamin for all children is difficult to justify from science and may be harmful…has he seen how much sticky, dental-disease-promoting sugar is in many of the best selling vitamins?
With those reservations stated, I think the obviously bright, impassioned, and extremely well informed Dr. Greene has written a accessible nutritional handbook to help parents and pediatricians find the ideal method of feeding babies, toddlers, and children. I think this book will influence us for a long time to come. I give it 4.5 out of 5 Doc Smo stars.
I’m starting my third year as a blogger and I want to thank everyone for their support. I truly hope that I am providing relevant, useful information to all those that are interested in the wellbeing of children. Your comments are welcome at www.docsmo.com and reviews are always great on iTunes. This is Doc Smo, saying thanks. Until next time.
Written by Angela Solis and Paul Smolen, MD