It took a long time, but I finally finished reading How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger, M.D. The biggest reason why it took so long is that I got really into it and took a ton of notes. That's the biggest sign that I enjoyed a book and learned a lot from it.
I liked the scientific rigor of the book and how the author (a physician) focused on reviewing the actual strong published medical literature and studies for the best recommendations on diet and lifestyle. The book ended with around 150 pages of citations, the vast majority of which were PubMed-style references to medical journals, and I liked how most of the studies seemed to be of high quality (double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled). I also liked the author's wit and personality injected throughout the book.
I'm already putting into practice a lot of the recommendations from the book. Truly integrating these lessons is going to take some work, but this gives you a very actionable path forward to introducing more vegetables, spices, and good dietary practices (moving more towards whole, plant-based foods).
My full notes on the book are below.
One of the methods for introducing babies to solid food is called "baby-led weaning," which just refers to babies controlling the process of eating by feeding themselves with their fingers rather than being spoon-fed purees. This method seemed logical to me, so to learn more, I read the official manual on it, Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods-and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett.
It was a fast, practical, no-nonsense read, and I loved the many quotes from parents about their personal experience. It's interesting to me how trying to teach good food habits to a baby should make the adults around him improve their own nutrition (since babies tend to copy everything).
My notes below skip over a lot of the detailed lists of foods and mini-recipes as well as some introductory stuff from the beginning of the book.
Less gagging because gag reflex triggered near front of mouth then moves to back over time so earlier they learn to gag the better
Spoon feeding sucks to back of mouth without gagging or chewing
Ability to move food to back of throat for swallowing (or accidental choking) only develops after they know how to chew and move food around
Rice cereal not nutritious
Should eat whenever we eat
Just sit on lap and let eat from our plates. Will encourage us to eat healthy.
Sit vertically. Adjust high chair back and tray level or towel under butt so he sits higher or bring high chair under main table.
Initially all food should fall out of mouth until 8-10 months when actually will swallow.
Will spend more time chewing and mouthing then with spoon so will digest better
Let explore and play with food when not hungry
Give cup and spoon to play with at mealtime before ready
Filling up on foods that are less nutritious bad for breastfeeding and nutrition
Small things can't even be picked up until pincer grip developed at 9 months so won't choke on those because can't even pick up
Sticks or fingers of food 2" long: half to hold and half to munch
Broccoli ideal first food because has handle
Handle part of food needs to be able to be gripped with closed hand
Wash baby hands before feeding
Offer stick shapes for playing
Veggies shouldn't be too soft or will be like mush or too hard or else can't gnaw
Hands off approach better. Don't put food in his mouth. Just offer on tray.
Put baby food on plate that has been in fridge for half an hour so it cools down the hot fresh heated food faster
Offer 3-4 different things to start with: carrot, broccoli, strip of meat. Refill 1-2 pieces at a time.
Ignore whether eats of not
Forget having clean plate or finishing all food in front of u
Better to share our food than prepare special food
Describe food and colors as eating
Don't try to help him eat. He wants to get it himself.
Frustration not a sign that hungry or needs help. It's because don't have all skills they want to have.
Takes a lot of time initially. 40 min for a meal to learn and practice skills over and over again. Pacing self allows to learn when full too.
Standing back and letting baby explore may be hardest part. Trust him and not interfere.
Try not to pay too much attention or watch every bite. Quiet support enough.
Baby shouldn't be only one eating. Always eats with at least one other person. Lunch easiest meal to start with.
Treat with same respect as other meal companions. Don't tell how much to eat. Don't wipe face constantly or do any washing up while still eating.
Aim to eat same food as baby.
No need to praise or scold for eating or not to direct learning. Just share in his enjoyment.
Will miss mouth completely first few days.
Be relaxed when he drops food to ground. Doesn't matter. Mess will get less when discovers more about eating.
Ok for him to sit on our lap and eat. Later can do high chair.
Think of mealtimes as play times in beginning
Offer a variety of foods throughout the week so can choose. Experiments show babies will choose varied and healthy diet naturally.
Important to practice feeding before need much food so better to do BLW from beginning instead of spoon feeding first.
Plain steamed veggies or fruit
If no family history of allergies then can offer any foods
Eggs after 6 mo
Animal milks ok In cereal
Low or no salt
Low or No sugar
Wide variety of foods reduces allergies
Babies need lots of healthy fat like nondairy animal fats like vegetable oils, oily fish, olive oil
Full fat cheese and yogurt
don't stick with just one taste at a time. Offer variety and let baby choose over the course of a week. Will end up avoiding foods he is allergic to.
No mesh feeders
Can give cows milk but use it as food and part of cooking not as a drink
Always include variety of food including meat and meat products so baby can choose what he needs for iron and vitamins
Offer meat in different forms including ground. Chicken drumstick. Slices of meat stewed. Lentils.
Offer foods with vitamin c to help absorb iron
5 after the early days
Can't teach anything. Need to sit back and watch him learn.
No need for bland or single taste foods. Babies used to strong flavors and variety of flavors from mothers milk which changes flavor based on moms food.
Crunchy textures are naturally fun and missed out on with purées
Use dippers like toast or rice cake to eat runny food like yogurt
Normal to not eat anything for 3 days and then eat a lot for 3 days
Baby finds way to communicate that ate enough. Throws food on floor. Turns head. Hand food to parents.
Might eat one thing only for a few days then more variety later. It is the baby regulating what its body needs and will pass.
Relax about any food fads
Start with fork because easier than spoon
Learning how to use a dipper like a breadstick or carrot with soft foods like hummus or yogurt helps baby learn to use spoon later
can hand baby loaded spoon to show works
Food will fall off silverware many times before mastered
Try not to help him too much
Set a place for baby with spoon and fork so he can use when he joins u at the table later and can play with for now
Will play with wanting to feed the adults or for u to feed him but just a game
Better to practice with real cups at home even if messiest
Slanted cups: don't need to be tipped as much and show baby what's inside
Full cup easier to start with than half full since doesn't need to be tipped as far
Allow baby to practice pouring games in bathtub or sink to learn how cup works
Babies not allowed to play or experiment with food behave worse at table when older
Inclusion in family mealtimes teaches them how to behave
We are the role models so be reliable
No need to praise for behaving well or scold for bad behavior. Babies have natural desire to copy others and do what is expected of them. Simply trust to behave well.
Just share same food
Ask for child or appetizer sized portion of adult dish or extra plate to share yours
Tapas and mediterranean appetizers good finger foods to share
No need to only go to places with kids menu. Just normal healthy adult food.
Take him for a walk around restaurant or outside to explore while waiting for food
Order child meal as soon as u can so comes out as quickly as possible so has more time to eat
Delay sitting child at table until meal close to arriving. Take for walk.
Take small toys and coloring book and crayons
Check food and plate not too hot. Ask waiter to set in middle of table so u can check before kid grabs food.
Let child feed self and don't make overeat just because paying for it
Take along own cup. Also teach to drink from straw.
Take own set of utensils to use or play with
Take own splash mat
Let kids serve selves from serving trays so they get only what they want to eat. U can help with the serving spoons.
He will copy what u do so watch how u use salt or sauce
Start with salads and cold dishes to practice
Keep containers of healthy snacks and fruit bowl in kitchen so kids can help selves to them
Teach him to sit down and eat his snack with u
No unhealthy snacks in the house
Cookie every once in a while fine. And making things forbidden will make more desirable. Can share dessert with u.
Bribes rewards and punishments
Linking food to behavior rather than appetite will distort his attitude to food and management of his behavior long term
If give sweets then child will associate them with good behavior and expect them
Will also think of sweets as better than other foods and want more
No statements like if you eat your carrots we can go to playground because will think veggies are second rate foods and be suspicious of them
Food and comfort
Don't give sweet treats to cheer up
Sweets can risk becoming just a bribe to stop crying which you don't want
Cuddle and kiss better
Can make kids more prone to seeking sweets when feel miserable
Avoiding emotional battleground
No battles if parent trusts child's appetite
18 month old doesn't need more food than 9 month old. Growing much slower now.
Don't fill up on milk juice or non nutritious snacks between meals
Need to tell grandparents all these things about food and trusting child appetite and not convincing to eat more or giving rewards
Clean plate forget
Care provider instructions
Don't offer solid food when baby hungry for a milk feeding
No need to put food in his hand or pieces in his mouth
Just let him sit and explore on own
Doesn't matter how much he eats
Give plenty of time for him to play
Baby should be in full control over what goes in his mouth
If u try to persuade baby too early to like food and Rush BLW then can come to dislike it
7 a healthy diet for everyone
Babies know when ur having same food as them so makes u think twice about ur food
Offer something from each of main food groups every day
Babies need more fat than adults and less fiber
Baby sized portion is size of baby handful
Introduce variety into week menu each week and try new flavors and substitutes for what used to
Junk food and sugary food only a couple of times a week
Can bake own healthier desserts too with less sugar and more fruit instead
Don't ban any foods or use as reward for good behavior or else will make more desirable
If U don't eat them everyday then ur child won't expect to either
Good iron: beans, lentil, peas, dried fruits like apricots figs and prunes and green leafy vegetables
Can drink diluted freshly squeezed juices for vitamin c
Toddlers eat more carbs and babies more fat
Maximizing Food you buy
Eat fruit and veggies with peel on (if organic)
Steam veggies rather than boil
Cut fruit just before eating
No high fiber foods like bran cereal for kid
Babies do need soluble fiber: oats, lentils, brown rice, peas, fruit
Avocados have lots of healthy fat
Two servings of fish per week
Spinach not as good source of iron
Tea stops iron absorption so don't give to kids
Nice dinner combo with all food and nutrient groups: grilled salmon with rice peas carrots and piece of fruit for dessert
The darker the olive oil the better for u
Whole grains like some pasta and brown rice and cereal have lots of insoluble fiber so shouldn't be given to babies at every meal
Breastfed baby used to being in control of feeding so won't want spoon feeding. Will push food out and hand spoon back to parent.
Sometimes spoon feeding will send mixed messages about how much we trust him
Better not to spoon feed at every meal
Won't get enough variety of texture and opportunity to develop his skills
Reserve spoon for certain foods like yogurt or to hand loaded spoon every now and then and let him decide whether to eat it
Don't distract while he's eating. Let him concentrate
Make all ur meals something baby can share
If overloaded tray with food, he will want to clear the deck so he can concentrate
By 7 months some babies barely started eating
Don't talk about some foods as his “favorites” or others he doesn't like. Don't make it sound permanent
Periods of eating less are normal especially during teething or a cold when using energy to fight it. Breastfeeding helps with teething.
Life changes affect appetite
Ok if skips food entirely for a couple days for no reason and then comes back
Offer a little food and let him ask for more if he wants it. Don't overload tray which can overwhelm him.
Babies often happier sitting on parents lap for first few weeks or months of solids
Don't stare at baby while he's eating
Don't force to sit at table for long periods when not interested in eating
Allow him to make as much of mess as wants
If not enjoying being at table try a picnic
Babies whose families have history of allergy are late starters in solids
Continue to include in meals even if not interested in it yet. Can take months even to 10 months old.
Baby putting on lots of weight is antiquated and wrong goal
Playing is baby's way of learning about how things work and developing new skills
Give freedom to spend as much time playing with food as possible
All that matters is if seems healthy and thriving and filling diapers. Amount eaten doesn't.
I hope you're hungry (because just writing this is making me salivate).
No shame: I love chocolate, and for me, dessert is the main course. I feel like waiters are wasting their time asking, "Save room for dessert?" I always think, "Who wouldn't?"
Grouped by category, below are some of my most favorite chocolate desserts of all time.
1. Abuela. Somewhat spicy and exotic, this is like no other hot cocoa. I've had this one at home and in restaurants, and it's always nice. In terms of more traditional hot chocolates, I had some of the best at a takeout counter in Dublin, but Abuela can be found much more readily and is quite different than you'd expect. After all, if Mexican cuisine includes chocolate as a regular part of the main course preparation (like for mole), it's clear they know what they're talking about. I also like that "abuela" means "grandma;" it makes the brand feel warm and cozy.
2. The Farm at Beverly Hills. Any restaurant whose domain name includes the word "brownies" is clearly serious about dessert. Try a brownie sundae here, and you'll know why. Life-affirming -- delicious. The Farm's brownies are dense and sprinkled with a light dusting of powdered sugar. "Moist, dark, and fudgy in the middle, they have a light crisp top crust and melt on your tongue" is what Los Angeles Magazine wrote in 2005 when naming them the "Best Brownies in Los Angeles."
3. Ghirardelli Chocolate Caramel Turtle Brownies. I blogged about this before. Make 'em at home, and you won't save any for tomorrow.
4. The Great Wall of Chocolate at PF Changs. Insanely large portion, and it keeps quite well in the fridge for almost a week. I also love the tangy raspberry sauce it comes with. For me, a cake must strike the perfect balance between spongy hardness and softness and include enough filling to make it just moist enough. This cake does just that. From the menu: "Six rich layers of frosted chocolate cake topped with semi-sweet chocolate chips, served with fresh berries and raspberry sauce."
5. Moustache Cafe. This place is unfortunately closed, but it served for many years as my favorite restaurant, simply because of its breathtaking soufflé. This dessert is so hard to cook to get "just right" (I tried learning how to do it in a college cooking class), and this restaurant was able to do it perfectly every time.
6. Grand Lux Cafe. This one is not a traditional French soufflé but a "chocolate molten cake." That dessert has grown in popularity quite a bit over the last 10 years (to my satisfaction), and Grand Lux Cafe is my favorite one of this variety. I love breaking the outer shell and seeing piping hot chocolate ooze out.
7. Mulholland Grill. The menu description of their "chocolate truffle" dessert almost suffices to describe the amazingness of this dessert: "hot, dark Godiva chocolate oozes out! Served over homemade vanilla gelato. Also available in hot, white Perugina chocolate."
An honorable mention in the soufflé category is CPK with its "chocolate soufflé cake." This one is neither the French traditional version nor the molten cake version but sort of a hybrid between those and a brownie; for a mainstream chain restaurant, though, it's pretty darn good.
8. Chocolate churros at Red O. I came here for my anniversary, and the food exceeded my expectations. The "Just-Made Churros" dessert was excellent: "golden-crunchy outside, creamy within, served with warn chocolate-Kahlua dipping sauce." These churros are not like in the theme park; they are softer and so much more flavorful.
9. Chocolate macarons at Paulette. These are the best French-style macarons in the world. They were the party favors at our wedding, and each macaron is so flavorful that it captures your entire attention every time you take a bite.
10. Chocolate Disco Crêpe at Harajuku Crêpe. Don't be fooled by the size of this place; it is no match for the heart and creativity of its owner and cook that mans the crêpe machine all day and evening. Having done a social anthropological study of the culture of crêpes in college, I've been lucky enough to eat crêpes in many shapes and sizes all over the world, and they are definitely one of my favorite foods (it's so neat having an entire meal of savory plus sweet crêpes). What I love about Harajuku is that it takes an ancient French food and turns it upside down, imbibes it with Japanese flair, and makes it even more delicious.