Category Archives: Food

Whoa: Mercury in HFCS

First that whole insane peanut contamination thing, and now this:

Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury

First off, thanks to Amy (soon to be Dr. Amy, PhD) for tipping me off to this.

Second, the SweetSurprise.com or SweetSuckers.com or whatever-the-HFCS-Marketing-Board-calls-themselves people can bite me. Hard. (We talked about those beyond ridiculous commercials promoting HFCS a few months ago here. If you are not in a mood for one of my rants, don't read that post.)

Third, I had a Dr. Pepper yesterday. A full-on, real Dr. Pepper with HFCS. It tasted good, if shocking because it had been a long time. But you know what? It wasn't worth it. If I'm going to take a chance with my body and future reproductive capability by ingesting mercury, it's going to be in the form of delicious, delicious tuna sashimi.

Now, if you read the full article (and I hope you do–I shouldn't be your primary news source any more than Jon Stewart is), you'll see that there's definitely technology to make mercury-free HFCS. So there are two ways to avoid the mercury contamination: 1) Stop ingesting HFCS, and 2) Push back and make contact with the comapnies that make your favorite HFCS-laden foods and call them and ask for mercury-free HFCS. If enough people push back, they'll do it. (Remember when goldfish crackers still had trans-fats? Consumer pushed back and now they don't.)

What's your take on this? Is it going to affect what you buy and eat? And which would you choose: sushi or soda?

Q&A: bloody, mucusy stools

Rachel's got a question that's stumping me:

"My daughter is almost 5 months old and has had frequent bloody andmucusy stools on and off since she was about 6 weeks old. She is
exclusively breastfed.  Our pediatrician initially said it was dairy
and soy protein from my diet, so I cut those out. It seemed to make no
difference. I then cut out wheat, then eggs, until eventually the "top
8" allergens were out of my diet. Still no improvement. My pediatrician
says to wait it out, and since my daughter is gaining weight, seems
happy, and is meeting developmental milestones I shouldn't worry. I
just don't feel right about this, and since we are creeping up on
solids introduction age I really want to figure it out.  Do you have
any suggestions? We are so at the end of our ropes here."

Yeah, I just can't imagine that having blood and mucus in your poop is something that should just be ignored, so I'm kind of shocked that your pediatrician is telling you not to worry. Something is definitely not right.

You've dealt with the most obvious things: dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, etc.

Is this ringing a bell with anyone? I'm trying to think backwards through what I'd suggest if it were an adult suffering from blood and mucus in the stool, but I'm not getting anywhere with that in my head, either.

Was your daughter ever given antibiotics? That's the only thing that's jumping immediately to mind.

Please jump in with ideas if this is sounding familiar to anyone.

Q&A: breast pumps

Woo-hoo! Back to alleged reality for most everyone today. Over the break, my cats pried seven of the keys off my laptop, I had wacky hijinx involving airline flights, and I discovered that somehow all the crap in my apartment is reproducing so the more I get rid of the more there seems to be. I hope you're well.

Today's question is from Maria, who writes:

"Do you have any advice on picking out a breast pump? I feel lost trying to pick one out!"

This is when I confess that my breast pump knowledge kind of stopped in 2005, when it became evident that my second son was never ever ever going to drink my milk out of anything but me, so I gave up on pumping, and if I was out he just ate something else or waited.

But I do think the advice I've been giving all along is basically sound: You don't really need to have a pump ahead of time.

Here's the logic: Some women don't need to pump at all for the first month or so, and, in fact, pumping can screw around with their supply and get them overengorged and just cause all kinds of wackiness that's basically unnecessary. (Those of you who suffered from undersupply may not believe it, but oversupply can cause problems, too.) Plus it's just another task added to your overstressed brain and body, and why cause more headaches for yourself if there's no reason to do it?

If you are having actual supply issues (and by "actual" I mean that it's not just the normal "am-I-making-enough-how-can-this-possibly-be-working-when-I'm-not-actually-doing-anything-and-why-does-the-baby-want-to-nurse-from-3-9-every-evening?" stuff) then you should go directly to renting a hospital grade pump for the first few weeks until all that shakes out anyway. Sometimes supply issues are a matter of management and time (if you have edema, for instance, or got a bad start or had a traumatic birth) and you'll end up needing your own pump, but you can figure out which kind once you know what kind of pumper you are. Sometimes you're going to need to keep the hospital grade pump for the duration of your nursing experience. Sometimes you have issues that mean nursing isn't going to work, and having bought a pump is just going to add to the whole ball of suck that surrounds that discovery.

So. Upshot: Unless someone else desperately wants to buy you one, and will only buy it now, or you live someplace where you need lead time to obtain a pump, hold off until the baby's a few weeks old so you know what kind you'll need.

Having said that, I'll recommend the two gold standard pumps from a few years ago. Please, commenters, if there have been any new developments in pumping, put them in the comments.

For people who only have to pump once or twice a day, the universal favorite was the Avent Isis. It's a hand pump, but women said time and time again that they get more and have an easier letdown with the Isis than with an electric pump. I know first hand that their customer service is phenomenal, so if you lose a part or are confused about something (the white star disc has to go in facing down or you won't get any suction) they will fix you up cheerfully and quickly. (I would not use any other hand pump, no matter how cheap or available, because it just isn't worth it IMO.)

For people who need to pump more often, the Medela Pump in Style (PIS) was the winner. It's portable and reasonably quiet and has great, comfortable suction. Everyone I know who had to pump on the jobsite had the PIS and loved it about as much as anyone can love a pump.

And with that, I'm going to leave you with my own opinion, which is that pumping sucks. I don't know anyone who liked it, no matter how often or for how long they did it. It's one of those things we do for our kids if we can, but just counts as a sunk cost of parenting. 

Any new pumps out there that beat the Isis or PIS? Has anyone tried the new dual electric Isis and want to give a review?

Another feeding kids post

Can we talk about food for kids yet again? But this time for older kids.

I'm feeling in a distinct and pernicious rut. My children are old enough to eat real, adult food, but they just seem to refuse to eat things that aren't the old stand-by foods (burritos, pizza, Cowboy Supper –hot dogs and baked beans–and homemade baked chicken nuggets that they help me bread).

Frankly, I'm sick of it, but demoralized that when I make the effort to put together something better they just turn their noses up. It doesn't seem worth it to put together something decent if I'm the only one who will eat it. But I'm not going to do the two meal thing.

I guess I'm looking either for ideas that will bridge the gap between homemade chicken nuggets and  braised monkfish with asparagus risotto. Last Sunday I roasted a chicken (it was amazing) and the kids barely even touched it.

So I need ideas, or assurance that at some point they will eat what's offered. (At this point they just refuse and go without eating, pretty much, and don't seem to care.)

Q&A: baby not eating during the day

Fran writes:

"This is kind of an odd question, but is it possible for a six-month-oldbaby to refuse food even if she's hungry? Lately I've been having a
horrible time with my daughter Lulu. She refuses a bottle constantly,
or else eats just a couple of ounces (she's bottlefed) and rejects the
rest in favor of playtime on the floor. That would all be fine with me,
she's in the 100th percentile for height and weight, so no health
worries, and I don't want to force her to eat, even if that were
possible. What drives me nuts is that 1) she's grumpy a lot of the time
because she's hungry and won't eat (and yes, she's definitely hungry,
because if I can somehow get her to eat, she cheers up immediately),
and 2) she's started waking up at 2 and 5 am demanding food again, I
think because she's not eating enough during the day. This is maddening
because she was one of those kids who slept through the night early on,
and we're having a hard time adjusting. I've tried giving her solids, tried watering down her formula for those middle of the
night feedings, tried giving her just a pacifier or water, but nothing
seems to work. She's just on the cusp of crawling, but I'm not sure
that's the reason for her not eating; she seems bored by the bottle,
and will only take it if I put her in weird places, like her
exersaucer, or lying flat on her back in the middle of the living room.
I'd like to think this is just a phase, but if it is, it's a very, very
long one.

The pediatrician recommended not giving her a bottle when she cries in
the middle of the night, lest she get used to it, but what can I do?
The girl's obviously hungry. At the same time I definitely don't want
her to get the idea that this is going to be a regular feature of
nighttime. We are so tired that I'm not even sure what I'm asking
here–but if you and the Moxites have any suggestions for any of this,
we would be so, so grateful!"

And here I thought this was a problem that mostly affects breastfed babies. It just goes to show that one of my primary theories may be correct: Everyone's got the same problems, they just manifest themselves differently depending on your circumstances.

At any rate, this does seem to be a problem of this age and stage of development of babies. They get to this age and are just so excited by everything that's happening during the day that they don't want to stop and take the time to eat. It mean, who wants to waste time on milk when you could be looking at cool stuff? Or trying to crawl or scoot or roll? Only suckers waste time eating.

I also think that sometimes at this age babies are teething (either pre-teething or active teething) and that make them not feel like eating. So combine those two factors, and the kids may not eat much at all during the day.

Of course then they need the calories, so they eat at night while nothing exciting's happening, and while they're relaxed enough that the teething might not hurt so much.

So I would NOT try to cut out food at night, since I think the mechanism works the other way around, and that won't entice them to eat more during the day but will make both of you miserable without fixing the problem. Instead, I'd try to help them want to eat more during the day. The classic trick that most breastfeeding moms have tried (notice how I word that–it may or may not work) is to go into a dark, quiet, super-boring room when it's time to eat. Minimize distractions as much as possible, and hope that that lets the baby focus on eating.

You can also try to feed the baby right as soon as she's coming out of a nap, since kids seem to be more likely to eat while drowsy, before they remember that there's all that exciting stuff going on. As many calories as you can sneak in during the day will help with nighttime.

You can also try to alleviate some of the teething symptoms by giving the homeopathic teething tablets (either Hyland's Teething Tablet–they contain lactose–or Humphrey's #3 formula–they contain sugar but not lactose). The pills  are small and will dissolve easily in a baby's mouth and have such teeny tiny concentrations of active ingredient that there's debate over whether they can do anything at all. I've been happy enough with them (even if it is a placebo affect) to use them for both my kids and give a bottle as a shower gift to my friends. A pill a few times a day should take the edge off just enough to help a teething baby more likely to eat.

The good news is that this is a time-specific problem. At a certain point the baby will become more interested in food again and less agog about the environment, and the days and nights will flip back in your favor.

Anyone remember this phase?

Special needs of all sorts and the school year

I had a great time at the Phila area meetup yesterday. What an interesting, thoughtful, funny, snarky bunch of people.

One theme that came up a lot was that parents seem to be dealing with all kinds of issues with their kids and a variety of special needs, and things seem to be extra amped up now that school's in session.

Food allergies. ADHD. IEPs. Therapy. Learning disabilities. Movement issues. Autism/Asperger's. All kinds of stuff. I just think about these parents standing at the bottom of the cliff, looking up, knowing they're going to have to do such an incredible haul to get up to the top to make sure their kids are OK. It's exhausting just thinking about it.

And if you're thinking, "This doesn't affect me," well, it might, and you just aren't aware of it. I found out last week that the "nut-free and dairy-free classroom" notice for my son's class didn't just mean that one of the kids, A., wasn't allowed to ingest dairy. It means that if A. touches dairy or touches a kid who's touched dairy and hasn't washed hands in between, he puffs up like a big red itchy wheezing balloon. It would have been nice to know how serious it was, so that I'd avoid all dairy things in my son's lunch. I'd been putting cheese inside his sandwich on the logic that my son knew not to give bites to other kids in the lunchroom (bonus of my short-lived gluten intolerance–my son accepts food issues). But once I told my son about the other kid's allergy *he* said, "Oh, so I shouldn't bring cheese in my sandwich anymore in case I accidentally touch A. after I eat it!" Woulda been nice to know–for us *and* for A. and his mom–three weeks ago…

So, anyway, until I get the message boards up and running, could those of you who've been there (enu, hedra, etc.) provide some emotional support for the parents who are in the middle of a long process of advocating for their kids? Also, is there anywhere online a printable list of commercial snacks that comply to food allergy specifications? (Like a list of snacks that are GF, one that's dairy-free, one that's soy-free, etc.)

Product Review: Batter Blaster

If you're like me, you get a Million Dollar Idea every couple of hours or so. Anything from a Monkey Ranch to train monkeys to replace dropped pacifiers in the middle of the night, to very elaborate public toilets in NYC, to a full-body parent suit that would keep us dry and comfortable when pushing a stoller no matter what the weather, to any number of baby gadgets which I'd tell you about except I still harbor plans to manufacture them and sell the in the One Step Ahead catalog (aka SkyMall for Parents).

So I admire people who come up with a Million Dollar Idea and then actually act on that idea. Like the guy who thought, "I could make pancake batter out of organic ingredients, then put it in a Cheez Whiz can, so people could make one pancake or waffle at a time."

And if you're doing something that brilliantly goofy, you might as well call it Batter Blaster.

It's a completely bulletproof idea. Kids like pancakes, but adults don't always have time to mix up a batch. (Apparently it's also marketed to empty nesters or single people who only want a few pancakes at a time.) The mixes cut out some steps, but aren't that delicious, plus they contain a bunch of added preservatives and crap. Batter Blaster is made of organic ingredients and very few preservatives, so technically it's probably healthier than anything you could whip up yourself (unless you buy all organic cooking flours and sugars, etc.).

Confession: I don't like pancakes or waffles. (Although I love French toast. Go figure.) So this is perfect for me. My kids can have pancakes whenever they want, but I don't have to mix up a batch and then feel guilty for not wanting to eat any myself. I tried it out on the kids, and they both gave thumbs up on the flavor. I'm not sure it's better than my mom's recipe, but since I rarely make my mom's pancake recipe because I don't like pancakes, the kids are coming out ahead with the Batter Blaster any way you look at it.

The kids had fun spraying it into the pan themselves. And all I had to clean was the pan. No mixing bowl and measuring cups.

As far as I can tell, there are only two negative things about Batter Blaster. One is that it's on the pricey side: Around $4.80 for one can that makes 24 pancakes. (Although still way cheaper than going out for pancakes.) The other is that it's made of actual food and not chemicals, so it only lasts so long in your fridge before it goes bad. That means you can't stockpile cans of it in your emergency kit. So no pancakes In Case of Emergency.

But if you're willing to pay the money to have good, easy pancakes in the next few days, Batter Blaster is one of those iedas that makes you annoyed you didn't think of it yourself.

The thing I think would make Batter Blaster truly amazing is if they'd make a gluten-free version. Think about the awesomeness of being able to make gluten-free pancakes or waffles by the piece. One GF person in a house of gluten-eaters could still have pancakes! But maybe I shouldn't have given away that particular Million Dollar Idea…

(The Batter Blaster people sent me a can to test out, but I got no compensation except the actual batter.)

Superfoods checklist

One of the support groups on the T-Tapp web forums is challenging ourselves to eat more "superfoods" for the next six weeks. We took a couple of the superfoods lists and mashed them together and reorganized them, then I turned them into a PDF. The challenge is to eat two servings from each of the categories every week. If you want to play along, download the list and jump in.

Download superfoods_chart.pdf

(If you want to mess around with the chart and add your own columns, here's the Excel version.)

Download superfoods_chart.xls

Q&A: hiding early pregnancy on family vacation

I realized I've been dodging writing about negotiating things with your parents for awhile, but it's time to bite the bullet and write about it. And that it's really more like 3 days' worth. So the whole adult kids/adult parents thing is going to start Tuesday, after I've had the holiday weekend (here in the US) to work on it.

For today, though, a time-sensitive question from Rachel:

"I am going to [American region famous for wineries] for an extended Memorial Day weekend family vacation
with my in-laws! And, I will be almost 7 weeks pregnant at that time, and don't want to tell them!

Help!

My husband and I don't drink, so we are already out of the wine tasting events, but we have reservations for almost every meal (Sunday through Wed morning) at amazing restaurants. Under normal circumstances I would be *very* excited about these restaurants, however for the past week I have been having major food/smell aversions and my diet has consisted of things like plain chicken breast, white rice and mini stoned wheat thin crackers. Don't think I'll be finding these items on the menus of the foodie restaurants in [American region famous for wineries]. I am assuming my morning sickness/aversions will be getting worse before they get better…Another problem is that my in-laws are late eaters, so all of our dinner reservations are at 8pm and I know I'm going to need to eat before then, especially the first day when I will be on east coast time and 8 will be 11pm for me.

We are also all staying in a "family lodge" which has separate bedrooms, but a common living area, so it may be hard to sneak off for naps, go eat on my own,  to go throw up, etc.

We may end up having to tell them, but really don't want to tell people quite so early as I haven't even had a prenatal appointment or ultrasound yet (just a confirming blood test).

I thought about faking sick, but my MIL is a nurse, and so any mention of illness will actually bring more attention from her, not less. we don't want the pregnancy to be the focus of the vacation, as the intended purpose of the family vacation is to celebrate my inlaws anniversary and birthdays.

If your readers
have any advice I would appreciate it! Would also recommend easily
portable snacks that can go through airport security for the plane —
my old standby of a turkey sandwich is out due to the pregnancy ban on
deli meats…"

Rats. My old standby, faking sick, is out.

Unless… Can your husband fake sick? And you can stay with him to "take care" of him?

My other suggestion is to choose one or two people you would be OK with knowing if you do miscarry, and have them run interference for you.

But you guys are sneaky, too. What do you have for Rachel?

Q&A: “baby led weaning” for a formula-fed baby

Suzie writes:

"At our 4 month doctor visit the other day, the pediatrician brought up the idea of already starting to feed the little Pumpkin solids (rice cereal, purees, etc.), and my internal thinking was, "OK, whatever, I’m waiting for the girl to want to eat before offering her anything to much on." But the ped did leave me wondering: when you start your baby on "real" foods, do you offer only one thing at a time (a la "wait 2 weeks before adding anything new") or just go whole hog and offer a little bit of everything? How do you handle the potential for allergies?

Also, I know the whole premise of BLW is breastfeeding; but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t give it a go with my formula-fed baby once she shows interest in what hubby and I are eating, right?"

First of all, BLW (baby led weaning) is explained by researcher Gil Rapley on this page, which now has a photo of a woman nursing about halfway down, with exposed nipple. (I’m not sure why that’s necessary. And if anyone knows who makes that sexy nursing bra, please post in the comments.) If you don’t want to or can’t look at that page, just read the quick and dirty on Wikipedia (taking it the same way you take everything you read on Wikipedia). If you don’t want to do that, the basics of BLW are:

Kids will eat solids when they’re ready to, and if they aren’t ready yet they won’t swallow. They tested a bunch of babies and found that in general they were interested in tasting food at around 4 months but wouldn’t really swallow until 6 months. Kids have more control over big chunks of food they can hold onto and shove in themselves instead of purees that are shoved to the backs of their mouths that they can’t control. So in general they develop the smal muscle coordination to pick up small pieces about the time they can safely eat them. Keep giving them breastmilk or formula until at least a year, and they’ll just transition to solid foods gradually and naturally. The End.

Anyway, the trend in the US is to offer only one thing (and people usually start with the totally disgusting rice cereal, which by now everyone knows I hate and think people should skip and go straight to bananas or avocado or something orange instead) for a few days because then you’ll know if the baby is allergic to it before you move on to something else.

The problem is that I don’t think that there’s been any research about whether that has any effect on allergy rates or discovery of allergies, or if it’s just something people came up with because it’s logical. I don’t think there’s any harm in doing one thing every few days, but I also don’t know if it’s necessary. I’d like to see if there are any differences in allergy rates or allergic reaction rates in groups that separate and groups that don’t.

I also think that parents know a whole lot about what our kids may be or probably aren’t allergic to before we get to the solids phase. You know if they have problems with dairy or soy if you’re using formula, and perhaps if you’re nursing (anyone who’s had to eliminate that sweet, sweet ice cream because of a baby’s dairy intolerance is cringing right now). If your baby is your biological child you also know some family history of allergies, and you may have this info if your kid is adopted. Lots of food allergies seem to be connected to skin rashes and other external things you alreayd know about. So definitely take all of this into account, and if your child tends to have allergies to one thing, be cautious about introducing too many new things that tend to be allergens.

And, yeah, of course you can do BLW if you’re formula-feeding. She’s a human baby, after all, so all the stuff about food size and choking and her learning process (which BLW is about, as much or more than it’s about actual nutrition) is the same for her and you as it is for the kid on that site whose mom is wearing that black lace nursing bra. Formula should be her primary source of nutrition for at least the first year, and she’ll tell you when she’s ready to eat other stuff.

Just beware of veggie burgers, because garlic poop is indescribable.