What you feed your baby is key to their growth, especially in the period from birth to three years. It’s important to train the baby’s nutrition system early – the taste buds, brain and gut – to like smart foods. Dr. Bill Sears will give us tips on how parents can shape their baby’s tastes for healthy food for a lifetime.
Neuroplasticity, also known as neural plasticity, or brain plasticity, is the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization. These changes range from individual neuron pathways making new connections, to systematic adjustments like cortical remapping.Now that’s just a big word that means if the brain could talk, it would say “Hey man, I will change and adapt to whatever you need me to”. All the wiring in our brain is so changeable and the best way to do that is with smart foods. Particularly a mother’s milk which is considered the smartest food ever made.
Shaping your child’s palate towards smart foods like vegetables is very important to prevent them from being a picky eater and make it easier for you to feed them real foods that contain the right nutrition that their body needs for growth and development.
Full Interview Transcript
Kelly: Do you think a child’s IQ is malleable? Are there things that you can eat or things that you can do to help raise your child’s IQ or cognitive development?
Dr. Sears: Yes there are Kelly. You used a wonderful term there called malleable. Now the scientific term for that is called neuroplasticity. Now that’s just a big word that means if the brain could talk, it would say “Hey man, I will change and adapt to whatever you need me to”. The brain is so changeable. All the wiring is so changeable so the term malleable, you’re totally correct. Now, the best way you can do that is smart foods. Let’s start with mother’s milk – wow! – smartest food ever made and I make it very simple for moms, I say alright “feed your child a smart fat diet” and as soon as I mentioned the term fat, they go “oh really? I’ve heard all these bad things about fat wrong! A baby’s brain is 60% fat so, the way I get parents to remember this, is tell them, you are growing a little fat head. A mother’s milk is 40 to 50 percent fat and doctor Mother Nature does not make mistakes. So, the first most important group of foods to grow a smarter little baby’s brain and child’s brain is fats. Number one mama’s milk. Then at six months, I have this, let’s pretend Kelly that you’re coming into my office and you want to talk about beginning solid foods to grow a little fat head and I say ok “first food avocados, wow! What’s different about avocados, they are the fattiest fruit on Earth”. So avocados at 6 months, and this will surprise your audience, at 7 months we begin salmon. I have a big sign in my office “salmon at 7 months” and parents look at me, really? Yeah, you get a piece of wild salmon and you mush it up and you place it on your finger and you place it on baby’s tongue. Now here are the three magic words “shaping young tastes’”, shaping young tastes’, beginning at 6 months. So, you shape their taste for fruits and veggies and good healthy fats like avocados and salmon and here’s another thing we do at 6 months I call it my “sprinkles test” because the most common question I get from parents is my child won’t eat vegetables.
Dr. Sears: We have a little veggie talk. At 6 months we have a little veggie demonstration, I open a capsule of concentrated ground up vegetables, lots of greens, ten different greens all ground up in a capsule. It’s called Juice Plus and I open the capsule and I have mom wet her finger and I pour the greens on her finger, the powder, and she places it on baby’s tongue little, by little, by little and it shapes the baby’s taste towards vegetables. I’ll explain what’s going on because the brain is hard to talk about briefly but I’m going to explain what happens. Say you put a little bit of ground up broccoli or kale or salmon or avocado on the tip of a baby’s tongue and the tongue sends a text message to the brain and the Brain says,” Like! Bunch of Facebook friends” on the brain says, I like broccoli, I like salmon, I like have avocado and then the head brain sends a text to the gut brain that says, “coming down is really good food”, you pretend you like it and then the gut brain doesn’t like it, and I gut brain, checks and the head brain says, “keep eating more vegetables, it is good for you”. That’s what we call building in cravings at a very young age.
Kelly: Oh interesting. So you don’t do it for just introducing food? I mean do you try to get them all different kinds of food, I mean, real food, and then if that doesn’t work, then just giving them something (like vitamins) would actually change their palate to help them like food more?
Dr. Sears: Exactly, you mentioned another magic word there Kelly, real food. Just serve real food. We don’t feed babies out of the box anymore. Gone are the days of rice cereal out of a box. No, no. Think outside of the box. One of the reasons, and that this is fairly new, for starting real foods in children and babies on a real food diet, is called the microbiome. Now the microbiome is just a big word for “gut bugs” where normal bacteria live in your gut, trillions of them. In return for free foods and a warm place to live, these bacteria do good things for your body they make lots of natural medicines for your body and so real food feeds the microbiome, your gut bugs, in a real good way.
About Dr. Bill Sears
Dr. Bill Sears has been a frequent guest on television talk shows, including 20/20, Good Morning America and CNN, and was also featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in 2012. He is the medical and parenting consultant for BabyTalk and Parenting magazines and the pediatrician on the website Parenting.com. For more information, visit: www.askdrsears.com.