Common sense and healthy foods. That's all we should consider when answering the million-dollar question: what do I feed you? Lucía Martínez and Aitor Sánchez, dietitians-nutritionists and spreaders, collect the phrase as a title for a book – What do I feed her? (PAIDS)–, and from it they discuss what infant feeding should look like from the first months of complementary feeding and what we can do to make children interested in healthy eating. Always making it clear that in food, as in other issues related to parenting and parenting, not everything can be controlled. "It's not like making a recipe in which almost all variables are under our will and the final dish almost always comes the same way," they say in the book. They prefer to use the tree metaphor: "(...) Educating is more like planting a tree, where we will have to have a good foundation and a context for it to settle, and no doubt we will have to give it a series of care. But there will also be questions on that plant that we will not be able to predict, such as the exact color of the leaves or how many branches will emerge from the trunk, or how many fruits it will end up offering." While there are many aspects that will escape our control, it is good to know which ones do depend on us. At least in the feed,
QUESTION: when a baby starts eating we go crazy with how much, how and what. You warn that it is much easier than we think: common sense and, from six months, healthy food adapted to your ability to chew and swallow. How many more generations of parents will receive the famous "introduction" order sheet of food?
LA MARTINEZ: I hope few, although I don't know if I'm optimistic because there are commercial interests on those sheets. Many of those recommendations come with the food brand logo. Pediatricians themselves are the ones who often recommend specific brands of the type "My first X". In a way it happens that these leaves make their lives easier because they go in fair time and have to attend to many children in the office. Health centers should have a primary care nutritionist who could give these directions. As long as that doesn't exist, we have it hard enough to get rid of the famous leaves,
P: To all this: Is it really important to follow a specific order in which we offer food? Does it really affect food allergies or intolerances?
AITOR SYNCHEZ: Although the recommendations have been given as a calendar so far, the reality is that there is no need to follow a specific order. It is true that you have to take certain precautions for the detection of allergies, but it is sufficient to offer the food little by little, without mixing at first more than one food at a time to be able to observe if the child has any allergic reaction.
As for the rest, the swallowing and psychomotor capacity of the child must be attended at all times, and some restrictions for children under one year old (no spinach, no chard, no swordfish, no prawn heads, no honey, no cow's milk, no rice drinks , nor infusions. And for nutritional reasons, no salt, no sugar, no juices or ultra-processed). Children can eat food, and the logic tells us is that there is no need to set a specific food schedule, at specific times, beyond what has been mentioned. The children in all ages have eaten what was around them,
P: It is a more cultural issue than scientific then, but the issue of allergies in that order is often referred to,
L.M.: There is no food recommended to delay to avoid allergies or to be avoided because they are more allergenic. Peanuts were previously thought to be better to delay, but this recommendation is no longer in force because it has been proven that there is no reason to do so. Nuts can be given – ground in meals – from the beginning of the complementary feeding. We would have more precautions with children who have an allergic history in the family, but this would already apply to specific cases and not to the general population.
P: 'What do I feed you?' is the title of the book but also a recurring phrase in many families.
L.M. How can anyone in our environment say they lack ideas by having the internet at home or on mobile? If we have something today it is free and instant training. It may be laziness, lack of organization, neglect, but I find it hard to think that no ideas are found,
A.S.: Here I agree with Lucia but I add one more thing: we have that information at the click but also the information that we absorb walking around the supermarket. When you go to the supermarket and see a product called "My First (whatever)", there you have no doubt, you think "this is for my son". And this is one of the biggest pitfalls we encounter: it looks like we have to buy everything "for something" or "for someone." However, virtually no food specifically aimed at children is healthy and has no advantages over normal food.
P: There will be those who discover with your book that specific products for infants and children are not necessary (or recommended).
L.M.: I hope there are many. (Laughter)
P: you take the blame a little bit on the parents because, as you say, food is a cultural but also emotional issue. And that has been very well exploited by food marketing. Did the law, cheat?
A.S.: There is obviously a great political and business responsibility. What a share of responsibility belongs to the family and what fee to the administration or business esgoes a little on the line of how much information the family has.
There are families who have few resources, who are a little adrift from what is being done. If as a cookie-making company you turn to a family that doesn't know cookies are unhealthy, that family is going to be more vulnerable to this kind of choices. They are somewhat victims of what has been in their environment: bad information, poor food choices, poor training that public health has given them. If a family has the information, has time to go shopping and has the necessary organization to prepare breakfast, and still gives them cookies, perhaps it has a greater responsibility than the company that sells those cookies. The more information you have, the more responsibility lies with you,
P: Nutritionists insist that the first starting point for healthy eating must be put at home,
A.S.: The first stone of food education must be put at home because at first we are completely dependent beings. Food is chosen by the family "for" children, hence the initial responsibility to put at your fingertips healthy foods is so important. Then that responsibility will be shared because other environments will appear: the nursery school, the school canteen, they will spend time with other family members. It is at that point that food becomes stressful for many families because they feel they have lost that control – which they had at the beginning – of what their children eat. They discover that their child is not a robot but a new life with wills and that he is growing around – also – the stimuli that surround him. We have the responsibility, yes, but we're not going to be able to control everything,
P: you mention the school canteen. In the face of the complaint of families and the request for improvement, many schools are in the face of "covering community guidelines". Can you fight this?
L.M.: Families can fight it because you are the user. Or, rather, the legal representatives of the user, who are your children. Pressure must be made from AMPAS. Another thing is that most parents are delighted with the menu of chips and croquettes, and then there are families who feel alone. If the AMPA decides to get to work to improve the menu, it has all the pressure power.
P: Finally, you point out in the book that "We must not always intervene with food". Are adults so heavy?
A.S.: Many times we are too attentive to food, we want to control everything, as I have said before. But what also happens is that sometimes it seems that the only way to change the habits of the child is overnight, pretending that he eats at the table what we have put on the table because it is "what he touches". There are other ways of making interventions in food education: with the food available at home, with what we put in the fruit trees, with the climate that is breathed at home in front of the table, with our example, with what ends up in the shopping cart... Children can be involved in many ways in eating, from shopping to cooking with them what we will then eat,