Better Baby Food

December 9, 2010 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

This past weekend, I sat in a cozy hotel room in Paris watching the snow fall onto a picturesque street. I snapped a photo of this lovely moment to share with you. In one hand, I held cup of espresso and in the other a copy of USA Today. In it, an article written by the famed pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene captured my attention. The thrust of the piece was to persuade parents to discontinue using white rice cereal as a starter food for their babies. Who could disagree with that? As is often the case in medicine and nutrition, there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

First things first. I should disclose that I generally agree with the recommendations put forth by integrative pediatricians such as Dr. Greene. If most parents would simply shift their health care philosophy more in line with his, I think upcoming generations would be much better off. Having said that, I don’t endorse all of what this good doctor is selling in his latest book, Feeding Baby Green. Though I must admit that it’s a clever title. (1,2,3)

One of the primary assertions in the article and book is that parents should employ a “white out”. In particular, white rice cereal should be replaced with brown rice cereal. There is an evidence-based rationale for making this recommendation. Numerous studies of late demonstrate that reducing one’s intake of white rice can substantially lower the odds of developing diabetes and stroke in adulthood. In addition, most interventions that have examined the merits of rice-based formula in infants have concluded that it’s an effective vehicle for nutrition – especially for babies who cannot tolerate dairy-based formula. (4,5,6,7,8,9)

Rice Formula is a Good Alternative for Dairy-Intolerant Babies
Source: Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2010 June; 21(4p1): 577–585. (link)

The question that lingers in my mind is this: Why feed babies any rice at all? If you compare the nutritional labels of a conventional white rice cereal and an organic brown rice cereal, you’ll find that the nutrient composition is nearly identical.

  • Gerber White Rice Cereal: Calories: 60. Protein: 1 gram. Carbohydrates: 12 grams. Fiber: 0 grams. Fat: .5 grams.
  • Earth’s Best Whole Grain Rice Cereal: Calories: 50. Protein: 1 gram. Carbohydrates: 11 grams. Fiber: 0 grams. Fat: 0 grams.

In fairness, Dr. Greene also advocates making homemade baby food using a food mill or processor. In my opinion, this is a much better option. Pureed whole foods are far superior sources of macro and micronutrients than grains. A simple study of the product labels of pea and squash baby food tell the story plain and simple: They both contain fewer carbohydrates, more fiber and nutrients. It’s also important to factor in the non-nutritive elements found in low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, namely, the health promoting phytochemicals. Furthermore, the values presented on product labels are based on commercially produced baby food. Making it from scratch at home using organic fruits and vegetables can only improve on the final product and the health of any baby being fed in such a manner. (10,11,12,13)

Be well!


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Posted in Children's Health, Food and Drink, Nutrition

10 Comments & Updates to “Better Baby Food”

  1. Vadim Says:

    Hold down a second! Paris? Wow, what are you doing in Paris? I definitely need to catch up. I hope you are enjoying it!

  2. Kevin Says:

    Very interesting article! Thanks, JP!

  3. Pradip Gharpure Says:

    It is really good and healthy to make baby foods at home. In India many mothers are doing it . You can have various alternatives and also provide different tastes by changing the ingredients.

  4. JP Says:

    Hello, Vadim!

    We’re just back from a business trip that took us to several destinations in France. Much consulting work to be done! It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it. 😉

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Many thanks, Kevin! I’m happy to know it was of interest! 🙂

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    That’s good to know, Pradip. I hope a similar trend takes hold in the US and beyond.

    Be well!


  7. Cheryl Greene Says:

    Thanks for this great article! Have you seen the video Dr. Greene did on WhiteOut? It’s on the Welcome page at . In it he lists the “real foods” like avocado, bananas, and sweet potatoes that he especially likes for baby’s first foods. We’d love to have any of the readers here join the WhiteOut campaign by “liking” our Facebook page.

    Thanks and here’s to a healthier next generation!

  8. Terry McVicker Says:

    I can’t understand what is so bad about white rice generally they way everyone is talking here suggests that white rice is like poison. I’ve always been lead to beleive everything in moderation.

  9. JP Says:

    Hiya, Terry.

    I’m not suggesting that white rice is poison. However, I am saying that it’s essentially a source of “empty calories”. My assertion is that it’s preferable to put something of value into a baby’s body rather than including something of poor nutrient density.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Update: Check labels!

    Pediatrics. 2015 Feb 2.

    Sodium and Sugar in Complementary Infant and Toddler Foods Sold in the United States.


    To evaluate the sodium and sugar content of US commercial infant and toddler foods.


    We used a 2012 nutrient database of 1074 US infant and toddler foods and drinks developed from a commercial database, manufacturer Web sites, and major grocery stores. Products were categorized on the basis of their main ingredients and the US Food and Drug Administration’s reference amounts customarily consumed per eating occasion (RACC). Sodium and sugar contents and presence of added sugars were determined.


    All but 2 of the 657 infant vegetables, dinners, fruits, dry cereals, and ready-to-serve mixed grains and fruits were low sodium (≤140 mg/RACC). The majority of these foods did not contain added sugars; however, 41 of 79 infant mixed grains and fruits contained ≥1 added sugar, and 35 also contained >35% calories from sugar. Seventy-two percent of 72 toddler dinners were high in sodium content (>210 mg/RACC). Toddler dinners contained an average of 2295 mg of sodium per 1000 kcal (sodium 212 mg/100 g). Savory infant/toddler snacks (n = 34) contained an average of sodium 1382 mg/1000 kcal (sodium 486 mg/100 g); 1 was high sodium. Thirty-two percent of toddler dinners and the majority of toddler cereal bars/breakfast pastries, fruit, and infant/toddler snacks, desserts, and juices contained ≥1 added sugar.


    Commercial toddler foods and infant or toddler snacks, desserts, and juice drinks are of potential concern due to sodium or sugar content. Pediatricians should advise parents to look carefully at labels when selecting commercial toddler foods and to limit salty snacks, sweet desserts, and juice drinks.

    Be well!


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