An interview with the authors of An Appetite for Life: How to Feed Your Child from the Start
Little Foodie Club caught up with Dr Clare Llewelyn and Dr Hayley Syrad, infant nutrition experts and co-authors of An Appetite for Life: How to Feed Your Child from the Start, the most up to date resource on what science says about raising a healthy eater. We’re excited to give away a free copy of the book! To win, email us at email@example.com and tell us about your Little Foodie’s favorite foods.
Little Foodie Club (LFC): Congratulations on the US release of your book! How is it different from all the other baby food books out there?
Dr Hayley Syrad (HS): There are so many books on feeding available to parents but virtually none of these are based on science. They tend to be based on received wisdom, old wives’ tales, and individual opinion. What scientific research tells us about developing healthy eating habits is based on samples of hundreds or thousands of children (as with Gemini). This provides much stronger evidence than one author’s experience with their own child.
LFC: Why is it so important that new parents base the nutritional decisions for their baby on scientific research instead of the latest fads?
Dr Clare Llewelyn (CL): Historically, many nutritional practices were later found to be useless or even harmful once proper scientific studies were carried out. Parents were once advised to exclude foods that commonly cause allergic reactions during the first year of life, in order to prevent allergies—but when large, well-designed studies called randomized controlled trials were conducted, scientists discovered that the best prevention for peanut allergies (for example) in high-risk babies was to introduce them to peanuts early. Our book is based on scientific consensus across the whole field of early-life nutrition, which includes vast reviews of areas that comprise hundreds of studies.
LFC: What are some go-to foods or meals that you recommend to new parents?
HS: Without question, I recommend vegetables as a go-to food. Vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and have a low energy density—fewer calories per gram—because they are low in sugar and fat. [...] Many parents report that their child dislikes vegetables. The key is to introduce vegetables early—offer a variety and offer repeatedly, even if the child rejects them initially. Children can learn to love foods. I would also recommend iron-rich foods like lean red meat, poultry, eggs, and dark green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and spinach, as well as beans and fortified food like grains and breads. Iron is crucial for healthy growth and development in infancy.
LFC: You talk about learning to read your child’s signs. What are some examples of cues that children give to show they’re full?
CL: There are early, middle, and late signs of fullness, all depending on the baby’s age. For young babies, who are still being milk-fed: early signs are slower sucking and relaxing or extending their arms, legs, and fingers; active signs are stopped sucking, release of the nipple or teat, and getting easily distracted; late signs are pushing or arching away, turning the head from the nipple or teat, sealing the lips together, or falling asleep. With older babies, the cues are very similar but usually more overt: slow or stopped eating, turning head, looking down, pulling and arching back, fussing and crying, pushing away the spoon or fork, clenching the mouth shut, becoming playful or distracted. It’s a good idea to get to know your baby’s early and active fullness cues so you can stop as soon as he or she communicates to you that they’ve had enough.
LFC: Finally, what’s the best advice you can gi new parents to give their baby the right start?
HS: I always recommend using vegetables to introduce food to babies for the first time. Since they have only had breast milk or formula, which would taste extremely bitter to us, it’s beneficial to start babies on bitter vegetables such as broccoli rather than sweeter tasting vegetables like carrot or sweet potato. Offering fruit as a first food is a wasted opportunity—we’re all born with a preference for sweetness. Most babies will eat mashed banana—but then if you offer them broccoli, it’s likely to be rejected. Offering a variety of vegetables will help babies to learn the taste of each food, and repeated offerings will help them learn to like it.
Interview with Clare Llewellyn, PhD, and Hayley Syrad, PhD, authors of An Appetite for Life: How to Feed Your Child from the Start (The Experiment, May 2019); theexperimentpublishing.com.