Tag Archives: processed foods

Nutrition Improves in the US (Article)

Nutrition experts believe that breast milk is the best food for babies, plain and simple. Human milk contains vital nutrients and other substances that allow babies to thrive. Mothers need all the help we can give to be successful in this important task of motherhood. We should all want mothers to not only choose to start breast feeding, but to continue the practice as necessary.  Recent studies have found that more mothers are choosing to start and continue feeding from the breast. The National Immunization Survey (NIS) collects vaccination and other health data from households with children.  In 2003, the NIS found over 70% started breastfeeding, 34.5% breastfed for 6 months, and exactly 16% breastfed for 12 months.  Their latest data, from 2008, showed improvement in these percentages with 74%, 44.4%, and 23.4%, respectively. Interestingly when racial/ethnic data were included in the 2001 data, the survey found over 47% of African Americans, 71% of Caucasians, and 77% of Hispanics initiated breastfeeding.


Are we in the midst of a food “Renaissance”?  Mothers in the US are increasingly choosing more natural foods as their primary source of nutrition for their infants and children.  I think we should all be thrilled by this news. Breastfeeding an infant for six to twelve months, or longer, is great for babies as well as mothers. The twentieth century ushered in the revolution of fast, convenient, processed, inexpensive foods. Infants and children shared in this “revolution” by increasingly being served such things as infant formula, sodas of all variety, processed meats, juices, and of course, fast food.  Maybe the 21st century will undo much of this “progress”.


Artificial food has lost much of its luster in recent days, with parents increasingly seeking and demanding whole foods for their children.  What could be more “whole” than breast milk? In the midst of the obesity and diabetes epidemic, I think that parents sense how important good food is to the well-being of their children. I see parents, whenever possible, pushing back the clock to a time when food was food and natural was natural.  What better place to start than the day a baby is born by starting with what almost everyone agrees is the best food for newborns, your mother’s milk!


I welcome your comments at my blog, www.docsmo.com.  Until next time.


Written by Norman Spencer and Paul Smolen M.D.


Smo Notes:




Feeding Baby Green, by Dr. Alan Greene (Book Review Pedcast)

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Feeding Baby Green: The Earth Friendly Program for Healthy, Safe Nutrition During Pregnancy, Childhood, and Beyond

Feeding Baby Green (Book Review Pedcast)

By Dr. Alan Greene

Jossey-Bass Publishing


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

DocSmo’s picky eater turnaround (Pedcast)

Welcome to another pedcast. Thank you for joining me today. I am your host, Dr. Paul Smolen, a general pediatrician with now 31 years of practice experience. Yes, you guessed it, I am the Doc and Smo in the docsmo.com blog. Our topics here range from the womb to the workplace, from diapers to the diploma, from gestation to graduation…. Well, you get the idea. We talk about almost anything that relates to children.

I am often asked by frustrated parents during their children’s checkups, “How can I get my school-age child to eat ‘good food?’ All he will eat is chicken nuggets and french fries,” they tell me. My next question is always, “Do you prepare a special dinner for him or her or do you offer him what the rest of the family is eating?”  When the answer is a special meal, I know I have my work cut out for me. I am asked so often about the picky eater that I thought I would share with you a strategy that you might find helpful if you are in this situation.  So sit back and listen to DocSmo’s approach to what I call the “rigid picky eater.” I hope it will help.

Let’s say your child demands the same low quality food every night and you have gotten used to giving in to his or her demands… you know, special meals for junior and all processed food. What can we do to change this?

Before we get into the specifics of my recommendations, let’s talk about the goals that you should set to measure successful change.

First goal: If you have one of these rigid eaters, we want to improve the quality of the food that they get. We all know that processed meats, pastas made from refined flour, fake cheeses, deep fried potatoes, and the like are very low quality foods for a child. Goal One is to change them to eating REAL HIGH QUALITY FOOD.

Second goal: Increase the variety of foods your child consumes. Your mother taught you to eat some of everything on your plate, and she did this for a reason…It is almost impossible to get all the nutrients one needs from a small number of foods, especially if those foods are low quality to start with. Make sure you listen to your mother!

Third goal: We want to achieve improved nutrition with minimum disruption to the family. Parenting is hard enough without adding more stress, more work, and more battles to fight.

Fourth Goal: We want to create an environment where eating is a pleasurable experience for everyone in the family, including your rigid little eater! Eating is supposed to be a joyful experience, not a vehicle for conflict.

Doc Smo Pearl: Your child’s choices in food should be between good food and good food…no junk served in this kitchen!

OK, that is all well and good, but you as a parent are trapped in a situation where your 6 year old refuses to eat what the family is eating and demands and expects to get the few low quality foods they are comfortable eating. Your child is getting a “special meal” because you are frankly tired of the conflict. What do you do? Here is what I recommend:

  • Give some warning: Tell your little rigid picky eater that the rules are going to change and that he or she is going to get to choose some new foods to eat.
  • Decide what alternative meals are acceptable to you, remembering our goals of high quality, increased variety, not requiring a parent to prepare, and something your child will find pleasurable, or at least not distasteful.
  • When mealtime comes around, put the family meal (the stuff you are going to eat) in small quantities on your child’s plate at mealtime.
  • If your “rigid eater” refuses the meal, calmly tell them to go fix one of the alternatives you both have chosen.

Good alternatives could be yogurt, boiled eggs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with high quality bread, peanut butter, and real jam or honey, real cheese sandwich, or the like. You and your child decide ahead of time. Make sure these are whole food alternatives.

When your little “rigid eater” starts whining about dinner, you–the parent–are not to stop eating or get up to help prepare another meal.  Show no emotion at all. Your child needs to take care of this. The moment of truth…they have a choice: get up and get an alternative dinner they have to fix or deal with the food on their plate. If they do try everything on their plate, recognize this fact! Praise them. Recognize their accomplishment. If they refuse to eat what you fixed, drop it. Not a word. Remember another DocSmo pearl: “Children will do what is in their own best interest almost every time.” Over time, if it’s easier for your child to eat the wholesome food presented rather than getting up and fixing dinner themselves, they will eventually eat what the family eats.

Here are some other suggestions that might help your child get more familiar with different types of foods and flavors:

  • If your child might like to cook, having them involved in food preparation may help them be more adventurous with their eating.  Even very young children can help cook!
  • If you are very motivated to help your child broaden their culinary palate, getting them involved in growing some of the family’s food is an extremely powerful way to get children to try new exciting whole foods. Try a small garden yourself, maybe even growing vegetables in pots if necessary.

I have found over the years that this approach to a rigid eater works. Slowly but surely they will try new textures and tastes, and you can feel reassured that even while they cling to just a few foods that they will accept, at least those foods that you are providing are whole foods, high in nutrition, and low in added sugars, preservatives, and pesticides. I hope that helps. I welcome your comments on Facebook, iTunes, or my blog, www.docsmo.com. Take a minute and share the posts you like with a friend or give your own suggestions. This is Dr. Paul Smolen, your pedcast host, hoping you don’t teeter when it comes to providing good food for your little rigid eater.  Until next time.

Lunchroom Lowdown: Nutrition (Article)

I started this week’s lunchroom lowdown by posing the following question to my partners: “How is the diet of your patients different than yours as a child?” This question generated a lively discussion among the doctors and nurse practitioners. What came through loud and clear was the fact that almost all the food that we consumed as children was prepared at home home, not made in a restaurant, and certainly not in a fast food restaurant. Drs. Moorman and Plonk were raised in rural towns whose economies revolved around agriculture. Neither had any regular access to restaurants, so home-cooked meals were all they got.  Everything was prepared by hand from freshly grown or produced “whole foods.” As Dr. Plonk noted, “Everything we ate was free range and much of it was raw, including the milk we drank.”  Even the doctors who grew up in more urban environments like myself ate mostly home prepared foods. Melissa Davis, one of the pediatric nurse practitioners, said her mother even made all the pastas that the family ate. Everything was homemade. Eating out was an incredibly unusual event during all of our childhoods. As far as fast foods, they just didn’t exist. We all carried our lunches to school and had family dinners every night. Doesn’t sound like today’s world, does it?


Next I posed the question, “How can parents improve the nutrition of their children?” All the providers felt that reducing “eating out” and eliminating “processed foods” like sugary cereals, white flour based breads, and sugary drinks are definitely good first steps towards improving children’s nutrition.  Dr. Moorman said succinctly, “No potatoes and no sugary drinks.” Dr. Plonk felt that the national “no white foods” (eliminating foods made from white flour, white rice, and sugars) campaign makes a lot of sense and could really help. Melissa Davis believes strongly in the benefits of home cooked meals. She suggests making this process more feasible by preparing certain meals ahead of time; when she is cooking on the weekend, she makes extra portions that the family eats on days when she works and doesn’t have time to cook.  Dinner is essentially ready before she ever gets home, because she made it last weekend! She loves her crockpot! Melissa also had another good tip that I thought was worth passing on: she starts teaching her 3 children from a very young age what is whole food by describing the food as “healthy” to her children as she serves it. Finally Beth Haynes, another of our great nurse practitioners, thinks that parents need to lead by example.  She says that if parents are active and eat a balanced diet, their children will follow. “Exercise as a family and eat as a family,” she says.


My final question for the group was the following: “Do you have hope that the obesity epidemic will get better in the near future?”  I felt this was a fair question since we all spend almost all our waking hours talking to families about health and diet issues, and thus we should have a fairly good sense of whether parents are willing and able to do what it takes to reduce the epidemic of overweight children in our society. Dr. Plonk and I were hopeful that change is coming. We can feel it in our daily experience. The other providers weren’t as optimistic. They  were somewhat pessimistic on the subject; they feel things may get worse before improving. I certainly hope they are wrong. Eating a traditional, whole food diet is something that has taken mankind thousands of years to perfect, and to lose it in one generation because of cheap and convenient processed foods would be a terrible state of affairs.  Can you imagine a generation of children who don’t know what real food is? I certainly hope we never get to that point.