Ep. 174: First Foods for Baby

By: Cassy Joy Garcia
Fed & Fit
Fed & Fit

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On today's episode, I'm talking with baby nutrition expert Megan Garcia all about ideal first foods for baby!

Fed and Fit podcast graphic, episode 174 first foods for baby with Cassy Joy

We're back with our 174th episode of the Fed+Fit Podcast! Remember to check back every Monday for a new episode and be sure to subscribe on iTunes!

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  • Learn more about Megan Garcia on her website HERE.

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Episode 174 Transcription

Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. I am your host, Cassy Joy Garcia. And today I’m joined by a {laughs} I really wanted to say sister from another mister! {laughing} She’s a fellow Garcia. Please forgive my nerdiness. And I’m really excited to chat with her. Her name is Megan Garcia.

She is, to tell you really quickly about her, Megan is a mama of two boys. She lives in Los Angeles. She has a master’s degree in traditional Oriental medicine. And is the creator of First Foods and Beyond. When Megan found out she was pregnant with her first baby back in 2011, she began exploring baby health and wellness. Specifically, a baby’s first 1000 days. Her interest in baby health, combined with a big love for all things food and gut related, has become the heart and soul of what she does in her own little corner of the web at MeganGarcia.com. Gosh, that is the second time I tried to mispronounce your last name, which is very embarrassing, because it’s my name, Megan; welcome to the show!

Megan Garcia: Thank you! I’m so excited to be here.

Cassy Joy: I’m so excited to have you here. This is going to be really fun, and it’s very relevant, because I have an 8-month-old. And I feel like I’m a sponge right now, learning as much as I can about first foods. So thank you so much for taking the time to come on. I would love it if you could tell us a little bit more about yourself. And then we’ll jump into some of these questions.

Megan Garcia: Ok. So, I have a background in Chinese medicine. And I talk about herbs and acupuncture a lot in my work, just because it’s kind of a natural way to manage imbalances in the body. But, when I was in school, I did a lot of writing for folks in the health industry. Bloggers and other people. So, when I was doing that, I kind of realized that I wanted to read actual research and science. And I live right next door to UCLA, and that’s where I went to school as an undergrad. So I ended up spending a lot of time on the UCLA campus, reading a lot of research about the gut and the immune system. And that’s how I did my work then.

Then I got pregnant, and I continued to do that. I had a baby. And I was interested in pregnancy and nutrition for baby. But it really wasn’t until he was 2 years old that I kind of decided that I wanted to do something of my own. And start blogging, instead of more of a ghost-writing position. More of; this is me, and this is what I think about.

So, it turns out that gut health and the immune system, it really has a big role in pregnancy and diet as well. All the different diets that we do, like AIP diet, and paleo, and all of that. It plays a really big role in those first 1000 days of baby’s life. Which would be 9 months of pregnancy, and then the 2 years of your baby’s life. And those 1000 days have a huge impact on the rest of your baby’s life.

Not to put pressure on moms; I know we already have enough pressure and mom guilt. But it really helps to have knowledge about what might be the best thing. That’s what I’m really passionate about. Because I feel like there is a lot of pressure we place on ourselves, so there’s room for compassion. And just understanding yourself, and being kind to yourself. But at the same time, there’s also room for legit research knowledge to come into play, and help you make choices in a really easy way.

Cassy Joy: I love it. Well I’m all about empowering information. It’s one of those things; when we know better, we do better. Right? Across the board. And sometimes we just can’t. I’m thinking; my heart is going out to maybe a lady who is listening right now. She’s in her first trimester, has horrible morning sickness, can’t keep anything down except for graham crackers. {laughs} You can survive these periods, and things will be ok. So this is not meant to shame people {laughs} in those stages. But I love the idea that when we are able to get good foods in, how to prioritize and strategize what foods those are. I love this topic.

Megan Garcia: Yeah. It’s really interesting that you say that. And we’ll probably talk about that a little bit later. But one thing I’m really interested in right now is allergies and how they develop. And so many moms that probably you work with and I work with; they’re on the paleo diet or AIP and they “healthy” foods. But a lot of times, the foods that aren’t healthy, or they think aren’t healthy. Wheat, grains, legumes, the graham crackers. Those actually contain things to help build baby’s immune tolerance. And during pregnancy, your immune system does this really wild shift where you could tolerate foods that you couldn’t before, if you have food sensitivities.

So, I really encourage moms to just embrace those foods. Because it actually helps to build your baby’s immune tolerance later down the road. It’s really important, and that’s something that comes up a lot. Especially in the community that I’m in. Which is very much about food restrictions.

Cassy Joy: I love it. Something we talk about a lot here on Fed and Fit, so you know the audience. What they’ve heard over and over again is that the name of the build your own lifestyle game isn’t about finding out what foods not to eat, and whittling down that list more and more and more. We try to be in the game of; eat all the foods we can eat. And try to get as expansive of a list as possible. And I think that’s something that folks get really excited about. And I hate to go down a tangent, but it’s one of my nerdy passion topics. I love talking about it.

I would love to know; talking about, and that’s so interesting too, on your point, because I don’t want to forget it. About how our immune system does this really wacky thing when we are pregnant. I absolutely found that some of my food intolerance pre-pregnancy really dissipated during pregnancy. I was able to tolerate a lot more. For example, cow’s dairy. I did much better with. It was much easier on me then. And wheat gluten, which has always bothered me, was actually the opposite. It gave me full-blown migraines in my first trimester. Ad it was just so interesting. It’s kind of like the rules go out the window in a lot of ways, and you just have to figure things out for the first go-round.

I would love to know, talking back about first foods for babies. Because this is a question, partially because of Gray, my daughter. Her age. And there are a lot of moms who were also in that same boat. Have babies around that age, or they’re pregnant getting ready to have their first. I get a lot of questions about when to introduce what foods. I would love it if you could give us an overview of your perspective on a timeline for first foods.

Megan Garcia: So, a timeline for introducing first things. Basically, it’s not necessary to have a strict timeline. And that goes back to the issue with the allergens. You no longer have to wait to introduce allergens as they once said. So you want to introduce allergens once solids have been established. And that’s still pretty early in the game. That 6 to 12-month mark is a really important time to get all the things in baby. Because you want that diverse, wide range of foods, like you were talking about. So that’s really important to keep in mind in general.

And then some babies have a lot of food sensitivities, and you can tell. If they’re breastfed, you can tell they react to the proteins in mama’s milk. So there’s kind of a dance that has to take place. Because you want to expose your baby to certain foods. But at the same time, you don’t want your baby to cry all night or be uncomfortable. Or have blood, or mucus in their stools. Which is very common.

So I generally recommend to follow a timeline if there are issues before beginning solids. Such as reflux, and issues with stool. The other thing I do is 100% meat first recommendation for all babies. And I’ll talk more about that later, probably. But it’s just so important in terms of the nutrition in meat. Usually, most parents feel; I think there’s this tendency to go towards fruit and vegetables because we think those are “healthy”.

But if you think about it; fruit and vegetables are really hard to digest. Think about SIBO, and FODMAPs, and oxalates. And all of these things that adults deal with in plant foods, because their gut is kind of lacking. Well, babies have a developing gut. And plant foods are really hard to digest. So there’s that thing from meat.

And then also, meat has a lot of nutrition in it that babies need. Most importantly, heme iron, zinc. It has, sometimes, different fatty acids. Fish will have more of the DHA. So I’m very much focused on animal foods. And I like liver, lamb as first foods. If you want to do pears to help with constipation, which happens a lot, that’s really great. But also, if you do too many plant foods in the beginning, you can see an uptick in constipation. So that’s something to keep in mind.

It’s really just like paying attention to your baby’s response to food. But meat; starting with meat is my main recommendation.

Cassy Joy: I love it. Why lamb? I understand why liver, but I’m curious why lamb.

Megan Garcia: So, babies are really sensitive to food protein. And chicken is an allergenic food. So if you're baby has something; it’s basically like, if your baby has an allergic response to foods, chicken is one of those foods you would want to remove. And that usually shows up as blood in the stool. It’s actually more common than you would think. I come across it a lot. Lamb is the most hypoallergenic meat that you can get. And I’ve seen babies do really badly with beef and chicken, and they do really well with lamb. So there’s proof in the pudding.

Cassy Joy: Very interesting. That’s so fascinating. One of Graysen’s first food was actually beef, and she did really well with it. But we did; we gave her some grass-fed beef and that girl loved it. She absolutely loved it. And conventional medicine, I think, is absolutely caught up with a lot of this. My pediatrician advised definitely; she said, I think beef is a perfect first food. And she was breastfed up until; I want to say we very briefly started her on foods right at about 6 months.

The common anecdotal thing is, you know you child is ready for food when she opens her mouth and watches you eat every single bite {laughs}. She was very curious. So, that’s really interesting. What would you say are some other signs that babies are ready for food? Or do you like to follow at 6 months, start to introduce foods?

Megan Garcia: I do like food at 6 months, because that’s when the iron needs for baby are at their peak. And basically it declines then. It’s really important to get some iron in at that point, because if there’s low iron, you can’t go back and make it up. The effects will be seen later on, according to research. And this is all suggestive. It’s not like, cause and effective. But at the same time, it’s interesting to know. So I do think it’s important to start at 6 months.

They say that food before 1 is just for fun. And I think it’s more than fun, because I think it’s really important to get food in before 1. And at 6 months. So I do like the 6-month starting date. Some babies start before, some babies start after. A lot of babies tend to sit up at around 8 months, so while some babies will sit earlier, I don’t see that has a hard prerequisite for starting solids. It’s more interest in food, and just the tongue thrust kind of decreases, but you’ll still see that. You’ll still see some gagging, which is totally normal. It’s very scary, you know. Like, a baby might cry, turn bright red. And it’s super scary to see a baby gag. But it’s normal. And it’s like, a necessary step to get through solids.

Cassy Joy: That makes a lot of sense. Oh, pickles, I had a question for you. What was it? It will come back. Oh, impacts of low iron. Iron introduced too late. What are some of those impacts?

Megan Garcia: It’s mainly in the brain. You’ll see reduced motor skills. Or even later in life, as a teenager. This is really interesting. You’ll see more risky behavior. Iron has a big impact on mental and emotional development, as well. Not just motor skills. But it really has this deep impact. And risky behavior; I mean, a lot of teens are risky. But it’s even more risky behavior in terms of just the activities that they engage in.

Cassy Joy: So interesting. So that’s the correlation which has been found. Which is not causation, but it’s very fascinating. I get what you're saying.

Megan Garcia: Exactly.

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Cassy Joy: Ok. So, we’ve touched on iron being really important. Zinc being really important. Which are found in animal products. What other nutrients are important to prioritize early on?

Megan Garcia: I would say DHA is super important. You might have to supplement. It’s totally ok; it’s that important. It’s good for baby’s brain, and also some of the vitamin D is really important too. Moms can take 6400 IU a day to get their levels up in milk enough to supplement their baby. This was study published, I think in 2015 or 16. But most moms don’t supplement that high. If you do, awesome. But you're not going to get that in fish oil.

You might get some in egg yolks, and cod liver oil. So there are places you can get some vitamin D. Sardines, oysters. But usually I recommend supplementing. And usually mom, if possible. So that way you don’t have to give any to baby. But if you do, that’s totally ok. I’m not against supplements. Those are the other two big ones I like to focus on.

Cassy Joy: Got it. Makes a lot of sense. And if they were going to prioritize some fruits and veggies to accompany, you mentioned pears to help with constipation if that’s something they’re worried about. What other fruits and veggies popped to the top of your mind as good companions?

Megan Garcia: I really like colorful fruits and veggies. You get a lot of nutrition in those colors. And they actually act as a prebiotic, and they feed the gut bacteria. And they help to diversify the gut. So colorful foods. Like berries, purple potatoes, purple sweet potatoes, orange sweet potatoes. Peaches, which are also an allergen, so that’s important to keep in mind.

So just kind of a good mix of color; and meat is the general direction that is great to see parents go towards. And then after you’ve established solids, within 6 to 8 months, you really want to start introducing all of those allergens. Like peanut butter. Cow’s milk. And eggs, if you haven’t already. Wheat, and tree nuts, and fish. All of those things. Because again, that exposure, especially if you eat those foods, plus that exposure. It will help to protect against food allergies later on.

Cassy Joy: Can you walk folks through a couple of signs of an intolerance; aside from bloody and mucousy stools?

Megan Garcia: Definitely. So, you might see hives, eczema is a really, really big one. Hives can be excess histamine, as well, which is very common in babies. So it’s not a reason to stop a food. And it can be kind of scary to see; oh my gosh, my baby is having a response. I need to stop with the strawberries, or something. And it might just be histamine. And that’s really common. It’s not a reason to stop a certain food. You might want to pull back a little bit, but again, you want to keep those foods in the diet if it’s not a really bad reaction, because that will build up the immune tolerance.

Other things you might see might be any changes in skin or stool are really big indicators. If you're having a severe allergic response, which is uncommon but it can happen. There’s going to be more swelling, more coughing, and wheezing happening.

Cassy Joy: Got it. Makes a lot of sense. Ok, Megan, I would love to pick your brain. There are a lot of schools of thought, depending especially on the generation {laughs} you're a part of, as far as how to feed your baby. Not necessarily what foods, but how to do it. Purees, baby lead weaning. What is your take? I’m so curious.

Megan Garcia: OH you are? Well, maybe afterwards you can tell us what you're doing.

Cassy Joy: Yeah, I’d be happy to.

Megan Garcia: What I think is best is doing what works, honestly. And that’s such a middle road answer.

Cassy Joy: I like it. I’m all about the middle road. {laughs}

Megan Garcia: Oh, good. Ok. I’m not against purees, actually. I have come across a lot of moms that want to do more of the baby lead weaning style, and their babies just don’t eat. But the baby will take a puree. Again, that nutrition is so important during that 6 to 12-month mark. If your baby eats purees, then it’s ok. You could try pouches. You could try a spoon that’s preloaded. I think this most important thing for me, and that I’ve seen in research, is having a responsive dynamic with your baby. Meaning, you're paying attention. You are watching for cues. You're allowing your baby to self-feed, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can just play around with different techniques, and different styles, and different textures.

The one thing that is really interesting is I did see this paper once, and it was saying that babies who were exposed to texture after 9 months, they were pickier eaters at 7 years old. So, that’s a pretty big window. {laughs} So you really want to get texture in before 9 months. But usually what I recommend is if your baby is having issues with eating, you can do a meat puree. Because I really think those meaty foods are very important. So a meat puree with some kind of whole finger food. So your baby is exploring different textures and different things.

But I do think emphasizing those meats are very, very important. And there has been research around baby led weaning. There was a paper, I think it came out in 2016, and then there was another one recently. And basically, babies who follow baby led weaning, they have lower levels of iron, zinc, and B12. And all of those things are in meat. So, that goes back, again, to just parents wanting to do their best for their baby, but not really understanding that meat is important. Or they think it’s hard to digest. Or it’s too heavy, or too fatty, or something like that. I’ve heard a lot of different things around meat, about why it might be a problem. And the reality is that vegetables are way harder to digest. And meat has everything your baby needs, really. So to give your baby that first is a priority. Especially if you're going to do more of the baby led weaning style.

Cassy Joy: I love it. So, I will share what we’re doing. And I don’t think I’ve ever answered this in its entirety. {laughs} I’ve put it off. I’ve put it off because there’s lots of charged conversations around everything baby related. So what we are doing is almost identical to what you described. We’re doing a little bit of middle of the road. For the textorial; did I make up a word? {laughs}

For the advantages of her learning how to feed herself, and introduce new textures, I’m definitely pro-baby led in that regard. Handing her a strawberry and letting her figure out how to eat that. Which, funny you mention, she actually did get some hives from. So we’re approaching that with some awareness around it.

So giving her things like that; some really good finger foods that we can watch and be there for. But we do puree the majority of her meats, for a volume perspective, for that reason. Because when I want her to get in a good amount of volume for certain things, I will puree it. And then I’ll leave some aside that she can kind of nibble on, if that makes any sense. Or just put on her tongue and get used to the texture. But to make sure she is getting in a meal, so far I have been pureeing the majority of what she’s actually consuming.

And she’s great with a spoon. She loves it. This girl of mine loves food, period. {laughs} So it’s been pretty easy in that regard. But when she’s in charge of feeding herself, which she enjoys. It’s more for fun in a lot of ways, is kind of how I see it. Because she doesn’t actually consume a whole lot of what she’s been feeding herself. So we’re doing a little bit of both.

I would say what she’s actually taking in have been the purees, the things that I have blended up about half of what I made her, so we can feed it to her. But we let her kind of play around with the food first.

Megan Garcia: Yeah, that’s exactly what I think a lot of parents end up doing. And there can be some pressure to do all finger foods, or to stick to a certain style. But when it comes down to it, there are just so many different responses to food. And there’s no shame in anything that you do. You just do your best.

Cassy Joy: Totally.

Megan Garcia: And be responsive to your baby, and be present.

Cassy Joy: Absolutely. It’s like they say in the breastfeeding conversation; fed is best. And I think that a lot of that goes along with this, as well.

This is so fascinating. Before I wrap up a little bit, I would love to know; what are some of your, are there a couple of things you just wish people knew? We know that we want to get in food. I’m thinking back on the highlights of our conversation. We know that we want to prioritize trying to get babies introduced to solids, as close to 6 months as possible. And we don’t have to wait for them to sit up; that’s a big lesson learned, I think, for a lot of folks. We really want to prioritize meats; meats are a complete food. They’re going to be getting a lot of what they really need. So that can come first; really emphasize that.

It’s ok if they’re pureed, it’s not the end of the world, but do try to introduce textures before 9 months. What things to look out for when it comes to sensitivities and does it mean that we can’t ever give those to them again. Start thinking about potential allergens sooner than later, especially once solids have been well established for about 8 months. I hope that was a good enough recap.

Are there any other things that you want to put up a billboard, and say, “I want parents to know this!” What are a couple of those things.

Megan Garcia: We pretty much covered it. I think the biggest topic that comes up for me, when speaking with moms, is their own way that they eat, and how they feed their baby that way. With the best intentions. But there may be food restrictions. Or they’re concerned about carbs. Or too much sugar.

You know something that’s really interesting, and I like to share. Babies burn through sugar; at the age of 4, two times faster than an adult. So it increases until the age of 4, and then it starts to decrease. Basically what that tells us is that kids need sugar to just be functional, and not go into a fasting state or something.

So there’s a lot of fear around sugar and carbs. And I think that’s kind of in relation to the climate that we’re in in terms of the keto diet, and that whole world. And in reality, kids need sugar. But not like candy sugar. Like starchy carbs, and fruit, and colorful fruit. I mean, there’s really great ways to get these things in. I think that’s the biggest thing that stands out for me. Just not seeing babies as small adults. They have their own little thing happening, until the age of around 2 to 3. And it’s really important to kind of get a few details in in terms of nutrition, which is basically the meat, the colorful fruits and veggies, and allergens. And putting your own food restrictions aside, and just kind of opening the doors completely for baby in a responsive way.

Cassy Joy: I love it! Man, this is so great. I’m just sitting here nodding along with everything you're saying. That’s great. I have one quick question before I let you go, because it’s something that I’ve come across a lot, and it’s a question I’ve gotten a lot, so I’d love for you to just answer it. {laughs} The question of salt. I know a lot of folks who are feeding baby what they’re having for dinner. And it’s interesting, some folks getting very concerned about exact grams of salt that baby is getting per day. Is this something that you think parents really need to be concerned about? Or, if we’re generally not over-salting our foods, it’s ok if we pull the middle of the pot roast out and mash it up for baby?

Megan Garcia: Exactly. Again, I think stress is really something to step away from. Because we get so much stress from so many different places in our lives. And adding more to the plate, so to speak, it does more harm than good.

So in terms of salt, there is a recommendation kind of that parents think they need to actively salt baby’s food. Add salt to baby’s food because it has some trace minerals in it. But, in general, you don’t want to salt your baby’s food. But, if your baby gets salt through the family table or it’s just kind of in the food that you're eating, I think that’s ok. Preserved meats tend to have a little excess salt. Like if you have an Epic bar, for example. I think an Epic bar has, I don’t know how many. But it’s salty. I think it’s around 2. So you might want to give your kid half, if you have a toddler.

I would just be aware and conscious of it, but definitely don’t think about it too much. Because they do have kidneys that are developing, so you do want to be conscious of it and aware of it. But it’s not an issue for the most part, as long as you're not actively salting your baby’s food.

Cassy Joy: Love it. It makes a lot of sense. Well wonderful, Megan! Thank you so much for this. Can you tell folks where they can learn more about you, and your work, and how they can connect?

Megan Garcia: Yeah. So, I have a free eBook on my website. I think I have 5 or 6. Some are on massage for baby, and then there are some on nutrition. So probably the one on nutrition would be the most linked to today’s podcast. It’s totally free. You can go and become a member of the website, and download it. That’s at www.MeganGarcia.com.

And then I also have my Instagram feed, where I get a lot of questions. And I’m happy to answer as many questions as possible. Facebook, I miss questions a lot of times, so that’s probably not the best place to reach out. And if you need to get something answered, you can also email me. I do my best to just be available for moms, because I just feel; I get a lot of emotional gratification. I feel so good connecting with moms. And I get so much response; like, thank you so much!

But in reality, I also feel so much gratitude to just connect, and help, and be of service. It just lifts me up in a really special way. So I’m happy to be available. But I also have time constraints. So I might not get to all of those.

Cassy Joy: I know exactly what you're talking about. And that is so sweet and lovely; you're definitely in the right profession, then, if that’s what fills your cup. Megan, it has been a true pleasure speaking with you today. Thank you so much for making time to chat with our group. It’s been a lot of fun. I learned a few things, and I hope that it was helpful for everybody who tuned in.

If you would like to connect with Megan, and maybe you're driving and you didn’t have a chance to write any of that down; don’t worry. We’ve got all those notes over on www.FedandFit.com in the show notes, as well as a completely transcript of today’s show.

Megan, thanks again. Everybody else; as always, we’ll be back again next week.


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  1. Marie says:

    In addition to introducing meat (among other foods) at/around 6 months, do either of you suggest upping mom’s iron or DHA intake at that time? Thanks, this was so helpful and interesting!

  2. Marianne says:

    What about bone broth? I’m a working mom with a 2-hour one-way commute. Due to schedule, I’m hoping to only breastfeed until 5-6 months. Any guidelines and tips you can provide for me?

    Bone broth isn’t solid per se but I do understand that we need to be careful of animal proteins. When and how do you recommend getting baby started on that?

    How do you serve baby’s first meat? Lastly, any recommendations on other first food to have my baby start to get a taste of at around 5 months or so? Provided he shows interest in food and showing the other cues, of course.