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What is the Right Age to Start the Paleo Diet?

Paleo Diet Exceeds Common Childhood Nutrition Recommendations

Is the Paleo Diet the right diet for babies and children? I would argue that the Paleo Diet is not only the right diet for humans regardless of age, but that it is the most optimal eating pattern period. While some may argue this point, it is important to recall what the Paleo Diet is. It is a diet of real food that has not been processed and that provides unparalleled nourishment for our bodies. In short, the Paleo Diet is a commonsense approach to eating. Is it counterintuitive to mainstream recommendations of diet for infants and children? Yes it is. However, when you look at the basic dietary needs of the infant and developing child, one can quickly conclude that the Paleo Diet meets those needs. In contrast, what do not meet those needs are the mainstream recommendations commonly given. Childhood nutrition is about more than giving adequate calories.

paleo pyramid

Good Childhood Nutrition Begins with the Mother

The natural aging process tells us that babies need their mother’s milk for at a minimum the first year of life. So is mother’s milk considered Paleo? Whether or not the milk is Paleo and devoid of immune stimulating properties is dependent on the mother. Infant nutrition is directly tied to the mother’s nutrition. Therefore, if mom is not Paleo, neither is the baby. So from the outset, mom sets the stage for her child’s immune function by her food choices. Mothers have an opportunity to provide babies with many of the nutrients and immune system regulating substances needed through breast milk. But this is a fairly logical argument. A healthy mother generally equals a healthier baby. Vice Versa, if the mother is not consuming an optimal diet, she is not providing the fetus or infant, depending on the stage of development, with the nutrients that they need. It is the next stage of development and feeding that can become more controversial and which I often find myself debunking commonly held myths.

The Most Common Childhood Diet Myth

One of the most common myths presented at the time of weaning off of breast milk, or formula, centers around the introduction of solid foods. The myth revolves around the consumption of grains. Contrary to popular belief, grains are not an essential food category. While they may be a staple of some populations in the world, they are not critical to the diet to maintain good health. In fact, for many, they are a detriment to good health. A closer look at what grains provide shows that other food categories offer the same thing, but without some of the health related concerns. After examining grains, they are predominantly carbohydrates, which when offered to children can have a significant impact on the secretion of insulin. Granted, there is a need to secrete insulin to promote growth on some level, but excessive secretion is problematic and has led us to the public health crisis of childhood obesity.

The Food Choice that Is Most Optimal for Kids

A far better option is starchy vegetables and fruits. These provide the same necessary carbohydrates, promote enough of an insulin response to encourage normal growth and weight increase, all without the risk of exposing the developing child to potentially allergenic grains. Additionally, these foods are nutrient dense, having significant quantities of the vital nutrients needed to fuel the growth process. By evolving into solid foods with vegetables and fruits, the stage is set for the food category that should make up the majority of the diet as an adult.

The Ideal Diet for Kids

Are they ever too young to eat Paleo? Not when you are following the natural progression of development and introduction of food substances. Childhood nutrition is fundamental to growth and achieving developmental milestones. While the application of the Paleo Diet may be controversial with the young, it should not be. It is a diet of unrefined, whole foods packed full of nutrients. What mother would not want her child afforded the best opportunities, especially for good health. This begins with the Paleo Diet, both for mother and child.

2 replies
  1. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    This is great Dr. Hill, and so so needed. I don’t know how many times I have told mom friends, “yes, really, you child NEVER needs to have rice cereal”

    Reply

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