A nutritionist’s five rules for feeding her own baby

Just because I have a PhD doesn’t mean I can churn out food all day long.

This is Sophie. Wish she looked like that when I try to feed her brussel sprouts.

After I wrote about how I don’t trust store-bought baby food, I received emails from busy, anxious parents confused about what they should be feeding their kids. I feel for these busy parents because I am that parent. Having a PhD in Nutrition doesn’t make it any easier for me to churn out healthy meals. There are some days when I’ve driven myself nuts just thinking of all the things I was or wasn’t feeding Sophie.

To preserve my sanity (and keep my mom guilt in check), I’ve adopted these five simple rules. As long as I’ve checked off each one by the end of the day, I can feel pretty darn great about what I’ve fed my baby. I hope this is helpful in finding your own way of feeding your kids well.

  1. Real food, no matter what. An apple isn’t the same as apple puree, and an orange isn’t the same as orange juice. Real food doesn’t come prepared in a package. It wasn’t cooked in a factory or processed to extend shelf life. Michael Pollan said it best when he said, “If it comes from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.”
  2. Quick is not only okay, but sometimes best. Don’t feel bad because it was easy. Not every meal has to look like it came from Bon Appetit. Sometimes the quickest meals can also be the most nourishing, like smashed avocado sprinkled with chia and flax meal, or steamed carrots with fresh thyme and a dollop of yogurt. I love shortcuts like flash frozen produce, which not only can have more nutrition than fresh produce, but also cut back on cooking and prep time.
  3. Protein, twice a day. Babies actually need a lot less protein than most people think, about 11 grams a day for babies 13 grams a day for toddlers. A baby serving of a protein-rich food like an egg or a quarter cup of beans is about 5 grams of protein. As long as you’re offering your child a protein-rich item twice a day, you’ve likely met their protein needs.
  4. Mix in good fat. Babies need three times as much fat as protein, so I try to include some healthy fat with every meal. A drizzle of olive, coconut or avocado oil, or straight up avocado usually gets the job done. Bonus points if you’re serving up oily fish like salmon or mackerel.
  5. One bite is okay. This rule is what keeps me sane. I want to hug this rule. Sometimes I’ll spend a whole hour prepping what I think will be the perfect meal for Sophie, only to find 99% of it in her hair or on the floor. And before I completely lose my mind, I think back to all the research that says it’s okay to for kids to just have one bite, because from this they’ve tried a new food and learned not to overeat. Thank you, research.

In a few short weeks, we’ll be launching Raised Real, which is based on these nutrition fundamentals and more. I created it to make living by these guidelines a lot easier and more accessible. But until then, I’m sticking to them to keep my kid healthy and myself sane.