I often get asked how and when I started Elvis on solid foods, and what foods I started him on. So in this post I will share my experience and my thoughts on bringing babies into the glorious world of eating!
I waited until Elvis showed true desires to EAT the foods we were eating. Babies sometimes show in early ages (of 4-6 months) the desire to PLAY with the foods that surround him. But this does not mean the baby is ready to start eating solid foods. It is totally fine and wonderful to let your little one hold a banana in their hands and mash it with delight. This is merely a sign of their development and enjoyment in learning in a tactile way of what foods feel like.
It is not uncommon for mothers and fathers to be encouraged either by doctors or respected family members, such as the grandparents, to give tiny babies solid food before they are ready. The reason for this is often an idea to help babies sleep longer at night. (By this I am referring to my friends whose doctors recommended the mother give their 4 month old baby rice cereal at night.) I do not recommend this at all, as rice cereal is not an optimal food for children, nor is it healthy for the baby to be given food before the child’s digestive system is ready.
Elvis was exclusively breast fed until he was 8 months old. His first bite of food was avocado. This does not mean that every child should be started on solid foods at 8 months old. Every child is unique and might be ready for solid foods at different times. I once spoke to a mother with her healthy toddler whose first bite of food was at one year old. I’ve also spoken to women whose babies showed clear signs they were ready to eat solid foods at six months old. Go with your intuition and there is no need to rely on an exact date to give your baby solid foods.
Pictured left: Elvis’ first try at avocado. Pictured right: The time I experimented in the kitchen and blended raw carrot, avocado and breast milk. It was more effort than it was worth. Better to give the child breast milk and then let him or her eat the avocado and gnaw on the carrot.
The first foods Elvis enjoyed were sweet soft fruits like banana, peaches and mango. He ate coconut meat and avocado with gusto and enjoyed gnawing on peeled cucumber chunks. Tomatoes were a favorite for him as well. I gave him celery to chew on once he had some teeth. I also gave him little spoonfuls of my green smoothies.
When Elvis was around 10 months old I taught him how to sip from a straw so he could drink his own green smoothies! I thought this was going to be a difficult task but it was actually fairly easy. To encourage your babe to suck from a straw, first show him or her that delicious liquid comes out of straws by sucking up liquid yourself until the straw is filled. Then hold the top end of the straw (the side you just sucked out of) closed so the liquid does not fall out. Then bring the straw to your child’s open mouth and let go of the top of the straw, so that the liquid pours out of the straw into his or her mouth. Keep doing this every day to remind your child there is sweet food coming from the straw and let him or her try sucking up the smoothie from the straw. Show your child how you drink it and share the smoothie together. Within a few days Elvis quickly learned to suck from a straw and he has been drinking smoothies ever since then.
If you find yourself not wanting to go through that process you can of course just give your child a cup (wooden or plastic) filled with smoothie to sip on. Just be warned that this method is extremely messy! Here are a couple examples of healthful smoothies to make your little one, but really, the possibilities are endless:
Blend all recipes until smooth
1 SPOTTY BANANA-2 LETTUCE LEAVES-1 TSP HEMP SEEDS-A LITTLE WATER
2 MANGOS- 1 STICK OF KALE- 1 TSP BARLEY GRASS JUICE POWDER-THE JUICE OF ONE ORANGE
1 SPOTTY BANANA-HANDFUL OF FROZEN BERRIES-COCONUT WATER
It is important to seek out the highest quality organic fruit and vegetables available to you for your family. Today, most of the fruit people purchase across the U.S. are not nearly as nutrient dense as they once were and are designed to be, due to the food agricultural business. Fruit contains the most nutrients when ripened properly on the tree and organic or wild-grown. But most of the fruit shipped to grocery stores these days are picked way before peak ripeness. Shopping at farmer’s markets, and living in a location where local tropical fruit is abundant (a location where one can easily live in a house with a beautiful mango tree in the backyard), makes having access to quality fruit much easier. But this is not attainable for everyone. So to boost the child’s nutritional intake, the addition of nutrient rich organic greens and/or barley grass juice powder in smoothies can be a very beneficial addition to the child’s diet at the proper age. Consider starting your own garden. Even if you only have a small space, it is worth growing some quality produce in nutrient dense soils (by adding veggie compost) like kale and tomatoes! Homegrown tomatoes no doubt taste loads better than store bought tomatoes. Giving your child the highest quality fruit and vegetables will not only ensure satisfaction and delight in the child’s eating experience, but will also greatly benefit their health.
I have heard the advice to not give children sweet fruit as their first foods, in fear children will become addicted to the sweet flavor, and wont desire the savory taste of vegetables. I have not found this to be the case at all, and in fact, I’ve found the opposite to be true. But first of all, let’s talk about the natural desires for sweetness. We are by nature, fruit eaters. Is it no surprise? Breast milk is naturally sweet, where cows milk is not. Cows are physiologically designed to eat grass, a diet which does not naturally have a high sugar content, which explains why cows milk is not sweet. The sweetness of human breast milk gets children ready for the sweet fruits that are to come. Humans thrive best in tropical environments. And if my family lived in nature, in a tropical location, we would be reaching for the easiest access of calories that we are naturally drawn to, which is tropical fruit. If we came across a giant rack of 90 bananas, or a mango tree that was going off with hundreds of sweet red gems hanging off the branches, you better believe we would sit down underneath the tree and eat until satisfaction. Killing, skinning, and dismembering an animal is MUCH more work, and less appetizing of a process. Humans have zero carnivorous instincts. A true carnivore/omnivore has instincts to chase and kill animals for food. To understand this with a clearer perspective, conduct a test for yourself. Place a baby in the crib. also place in the crib, an apple and a live bunny rabbit. If the baby eats the bunny rabbit and plays with the apple, give me a call.
“If it were left to instinct rather than learning, meat would hold little appeal. What is a child’s natural instinct on seeing a little squirrel; not to kill it like a true carnivore…A kitten could not pick a Mango any more than a child could rip the throat out of a rabbit. In my experience I have found that all young children love fruit, Camlo’s friends would always want to share his grapes. Over time, a processed diet can introduce many addictive and stimulating foodstuffs that can impair what foods a child would be naturally attracted to, however a ripe Mango or sweet Grapes reach out and appeal to just about anybody. Bringing up a child is a joy, a beautiful experience that can only be enhanced if the child is happy, healthy and balanced. If a child is raised on good quality fruit combined with human milk then I believe that these three requisites will be there in abundance.” -Anne Osborne on her experience raising her sons, Camlo and Cappi, on a raw fruit based diet.
Anne’s words are stated beautifully. My experience has been quite the opposite of what we are told about children “getting hooked on sweets” if given fruit for their first foods. Elvis enjoyed sweet fruit and breast milk all day, so by the end of the day, the simple flavor of vegetables and non sweet fruits were extremely satisfying to him! He devours plain tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, lettuce and even kale with delight. It isn’t natural fruits that hamper our children’s tastebuds. It is the processed unnatural foods we often force on our children that make the taste of plain vegetables less appealing to them. A child who has a taste for processed foods filled with sugar, oils, additives and salt, no longer finds cucumber and raw snap peas very exciting. I have seen children at their first birthday parties with cake all over their faces. The parents are always the ones trying to get their child to eat the cake so they can take the classic picture. And this experience is often the child’s first encounter at sugary, fat-laden junk food. Every single time I witnessed this, the child was unenthused and barely interested in the cake. Why should we force the desire of junk food on children when they don’t inherently desire it to begin with? Why start the process of addiction when it is 100% unnecessary and isn’t needed to create a happy childhood for our young ones? We should not succumb to peer pressure simply because it is socially acceptable and is the norm, when it has been proven by science time and time again that these unhealthy foods promote disease and illness.
Pictured above is Elvis’ two year old birthday party filled with loads of delicious raw vegan foods that were fun and exciting! Elvis was overjoyed to have a giant table of all his favorite foods for his party. No need to sacrifice health for fun. Foods served were fresh watermelon juice, raw vegan carrot cupcakes, raw “caramel apple pops”, mushroom pizza bites, crisp corn salad with avocado and tahini dressing, and a giant fruit cake made out of only fresh fruit! The kids at his party devoured the food and nobody missed the junk food traditionally served at birthday parties.
Whenever I come across men or women who were raised on strict diets and now resent their upbringing, choosing to raise their children with the opposite mindset, I always inquire what types of foods they were raised on. Every person I’ve come across with this experience was raised on plain, bland, non sweet foods (like plain rice, chicken, steamed veggies and tofu). Often their parents had a fear of sugar, including sugar from fruit. So if they were given any fruit it was fruit on the lower end of the glycemic index like berries or apples. WE ARE SWEET EATERS BY NATURE. So a child who is raised on non sweet foods will inevitably and eventually feel deprived. A child who is raised on sugary sweet organic fruit in abundance, fresh orange juice (NOT watered down) and delicious plant fats like coconut, walnuts, and avocado will not have feelings of deprivation, because their sweet tooth, which is a good thing not a bad thing, will be satisfied. That being said, some children as they get older and gain more independence (and are old enough to truly understand the difference between healthy food and unhealthy food and why their family does not eat animals), desire to explore the other foods their friends are eating in social situations. And at that age of understanding, we must honor their desire for their own experience and sense of self worth being able to make independent choices at a party. But lets save that topic for another day.
It is important to note that most of Elvis’ calories came from breast milk for well over the first year of his life. And he continued to drink a large amount of breast milk for quite some time after that. Solid foods for babies in the first year should mainly be for fun, and most of their nutrition during this time should be coming from human milk. He loved breast milk and I nursed him every time he asked. He self weaned from breast milk at 26 months of age. I always advocate nursing as long as children desire. Their little bodies know how much and when they need mother’s milk-which is nature’s perfect food for babies AND toddlers.
“Breast milk is the most natural choice. Most people think that breastfeeding a four year old is a bit strange and weird, yet they would support the belief that milk is important for the child. Giving a four year old cows’ milk is seen as acceptable whilst breastfeeding a child of this age is regarded with suspicion. Which is the more natural however?” -Anne Osborne
“The human body has no more need for cow’s milk than it does for dogs’ milk, horses’ milk or giraffes’ milk.” -Michael Klaper, MD
It makes absolutely no sense to feed a child breast milk from a cow. Please check out my blog post “MOOOOO Milk is for Cows” for compelling info.
As Elvis got older, new ways to enjoy food entered into his diet. Once he had a good amount of teeth and was able to chew well, I started giving him salads!
My favorite tip to give parents when introducing greens in the form of a salad is this: Get a hold of a creamy soft avocado and mash it until guacamole texture. Finely chop, and I mean super finely chop into confetti size pieces, the lettuce and other greens and mix into the avocado mixture very well so that the greens are very easy to chew. Mix it so well that each lettuce piece is very well coated in the avocado mash. Then top with other non sweet fruits like cucumber and tomato and mix into the salad. The goal is to make the salad extremely palatable and delicious to the child. Once the child gets used to this amount of greens in the salad, you can then start gradually adding a little bit more greens at a time to your child’s salads and find the right amount that they enjoy. Be sure to use only mild greens so it is not a harsh flavor to them. Super spicy dandelion greens are not likely to be a favorite to a child.
I have also come in contact with some mothers who have told me, “But my child doesn’t like fruit! I’ve tried and tried, and he simply wont eat fruits or vegetables.” I will emphasize again, when processed foods and animal foods loaded with salt and oil are introduced in the child’s diet, often fruits and vegetables don’t taste quite as appealing as they should. But there are also other reasons that your child (or yourself!) might not be enjoying fruit as much as you could be! Check out this lovely video by my friend Kat Green:
“4 Reasons You don’t Like Fruit-Low Fat Raw Vegan Diet Tips” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxemBq0fIAw&list=UU6d2zscQ3_pB7QZzfwb_kVA
If we want our children to love raw fruits and vegetables, we must be the example ourselves. Children who’s parents eat donuts, hamburgers, and chips will likely not last long eating only healthful foods and LOVING it. Contrary to popular belief, this lifestyle is about abundance, not restriction! Give your child as much sweet fruit as he or she desires. Give them coconut meat, fresh coconut water, creamy avocados galore, garden tomatoes, fresh salads, delicious sweet smoothies and of course, breast milk. Share in the delight of healthful eating with them. Find places to forage fruit where your children can see where their food comes from. Even if you don’t live in a tropical place, most places across the world have some unique types of fruit trees you might be surprised to find. My cousins in Indiana get to pick apples and pears from grandma’s tree when the season is right. And my sister is very good at sourcing local fruit. She lives in California and last summer found a couple mulberry trees in the neighborhood she runs by. She simply knocked on their door and asked if they had any extra mulberries she could take off their hands, and suggested that she was willing to help pick up their lawn for them as thanks. As a result, she has gotten baskets full of beautiful, rich, and sweet mulberries. And more recently she spotted a white sapote tree in someone’s yard. She is now helping with the house owner’s garden work in exchange for sapotes! What a beautiful thing.
Some people are curious, taken aback, critical, or they question why my husband and I feed Elvis raw vegan foods. We respect our son. And part of respecting our son is respecting his body. At his little age, it is 100% our duty to take care of and nurture him. It is our responsibility to treat him respectfully. Our outlook is that if something is unhealthy for our child, that we should not give it to him because it is disrespectful to his body. We respect his body by feeding him the healthiest foods, giving him the healthiest happiest start to his life that we can. He can make the choice to be unhealthy later, if he wants to, and experience life as he chooses. But right now, it is our duty to respect his wholeness- and to us, that includes food and health. That is why we feed him raw vegan foods, because it’s much easier to be happy when you are healthy. Also worth mentioning: both my husband and I are passionate about eating a raw vegan diet with an emphasis towards a minimalistic compassionate lifestyle. EVERYONE raises their children upon the passions and lifestyles they value. Some say we “force” our lifestyle on him. But I could easily say the same thing to every parent out there “forcing” their children to eat the diet of the parents choosing, or “forcing” them to be involved in whatever religion they believe in, etc. Just because our lifestyle is not the NORM, does not mean our child is deprived of a happy childhood. In fact he LOVES the foods we feed him and enjoys his food with gusto! He loves the waterfall hikes we go on and adventures we seek. He loves our lazy beach days and raw family dinners, and so do we!
I hope you find my experience helpful. If you would like to see another post going more into depth on how a raw vegan diet is optimal for raising healthy children, answering questions like the most common ones, “but where will they get their protein? And what about B12?”, please let me know. I encourage you to do your research in regards to raising healthy children. But I also want to encourage you to go with your instincts. Our instinctual parenting has helped us raise one beautiful, healthy, happy boy. There is A LOT of misinformation out in the world about how we ought to feed ourselves and our children. Try to be mindful of where the information is from and who stands to gain from you believing whatever information they are trying to pass off as truth.
Elvis is my little light and I’m going to let him shine. I mean, seriously, he’s just such a cool, rad, loving, compassionate dude! If you are a mom or dad who is trying to feed your kids healthy whole plant foods, and are surrounded by negativity and discouragement to do so, I encourage you to press forward. You are not alone. You will never influence the world by trying to be like it.
–Mango Island Mamma, Ellen Fisher