Real Food for Healthy Brain Development

Claire Hoyt-Bastien, Founder of Big Dipper Foods

We all know that our kids should eat healthy. The questions are: how do we get them to actually do it, how do we find the time and how do we do it on a budget? Claire Hoyt, founder of Big Dipper Baby Food, answers these questions and more.

Full Interview Transcript

Getting a baby to eat food they like, yet is nutritional and well balanced, is one of the biggest challenges for a parent. We all want our kids to eat a healthy diet, but the process can be a bit mystifying, especially for first-time parents.

Claire Hoyt, founder of Big Dipper Baby Food, has some helpful suggestions.

“The way we eat affects us at a cellular level. It affects everything we do, from our emotional health to how we sleep at night,” she says. “It literally touches us on every level, so the quality of the foods we eat has a direct impact on the quality of our life from a very early age.”

The right kinds of fats and cholesterol are especially important for brain development, she says. “Fat provides a really great energy source since babies are developing at an astronomical rate. As adults, we can’t wrap our heads around how quickly things are changing and how they are developing by the minute.”

For parents, it’s easy to fall into the routines they all know. One of the most common mistakes, says Claire, is introducing rice cereal too early into the diet. A baby’s digestive tract hasn’t matured enough to have all the enzymes that are required to break down grains. What happens, is that the rice cereal can’t be digested properly, which can lead to nutrient deficiency and in the long run, allergies.

So how do you handle a finicky eater? “I think that we have in our mind that it can be difficult to train a baby to love healthy food, largely because we have our own unhealthy habits we picked up as a child that we have internalized. But babies mimic what we do and follow our lead in every way. So, this is a good time to break your own habits while introducing your baby to healthy, nutritious foods and a balanced diet.”

One of the keys is maintaining flexibility while being creative. Claire points to her own experience with her child. “It got to the point where he was eight months old that I began to get scared that he wasn’t getting the nutrients he needed because he would only eat a spoonful or two at mealtime. Here I was running a baby food company and I have a baby who wouldn’t eat.”

After speaking with her pediatrician, she ended up changing the timing for mealtime. “That really ended up working.” Claire also suggests adding some breast milk to the food since it will be familiar to the baby and may spark interest a bit more.

As far as introducing foods in a healthy diet, Claire says the first foods to introduce should be the easiest to digest. This includes egg yolks, which are packed with nutrients. Bone broth is another good food to introduce. “We often forget that since birth babies have been living off an animal product diet, whether it’s breast milk or formula. The switch to egg yolk or bone broth is less disruptive, since they are also animal products rather than grains.”

Meal planning will help you keep to a routine that is nutritious and delicious. It will also help you reduce waste and make the most out of your food dollar. Seasonal fruits are a great first food, especially tropical fruits like kiwi, mango and papaya. Frozen fruits are just fine and can help reduce your food bill. Kiwis are the perfect finger food once your baby shows interest in feeding themselves. A little grated ginger can be a welcome addition to your baby’s diet, not only for added taste, but for the immune and anti-inflammatory properties they contribute. Just remember that a little goes a long way.

Bone broth has made a real comeback in recent years, she says. “If it’s gooey and kind of gelatinous then it’s a sign that you have a lot of gelatin. This is filled with nutrients that are really good for babies and helps line their intestinal track.” Orange sweet potato with a little bit of broth is really delicious, as is butternut squash. Toss it with a little olive oil and throw it on a sheet pan until it’s golden. The roasting really brings out the flavors.

If possible, Claire recommends shopping in the organic section at your local grocery store. “I almost always pick up a banana, and avocado, some apples and mangoes. I also have a couple of sweet potatoes in the house and coconut oil. We usually roast a chicken once a week, which means we’re making our own stock. But you can go to a Whole Foods and purchase a high-quality bone broth in the refrigerated section if you’re not making your own.”

One of the keys is to saving time and money without skimping on nutrition is to schedule your preparation time into your weekly routine, says Claire. For instance, make it a habit to go to the market on Saturday to pick up your ingredients. Then on Sunday you do all your meal prep for the following week. Make large batches that you can store for the week and retrieve and prepare as necessary. “And mix it up, a bit,” she says. Introducing new flavors helps you baby develop and expand his palate, such as mint, ginger or turmeric. Dedicating part of the freezer for your baby’s meals will make it easier to manage your schedule once the work week arrives. You can, for instance, start with sweet potatoes and then do apples next week. Two weeks later you can mix them together to keep the food interesting for your baby.

For parents just getting started, Claire recommends Super Nutrition for Babies,which is a deep dive into nutrition for babies. It shatters a lot of the myths we’ve been sold on for the last 60 to 80 years. It also has helpful tips on how to make great stock and when to introduce grains and dairy. How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman is another lifesaver. There are lots of tasty vegetarian dishes that are easy for the beginner and challenging enough for a chef.

Claire Hoyt interview about Food for Brain Development
About Claire Hoyt-Bastien

Claire Hoyt-Bastien is the founder of Big Dipper Foods. She has created and brought to market a line of refrigerated, organic, minimally processed baby foods using HPP Cold Pressure Technology with an emphasis on healthy fats and proteins. Passionate about making healthy foods approachable and delicious she also teaches an introduction to solids class for new parents with an emphasis on nutrient density and palette development for baby's first bites as well as a newly launched series, One Table, which aims to help busy families prepare and share homemade meals.

See Other Interviews

Early Stem
Chess Beginning Basics for Kindergartners
with Kingston Thomas, Age 6, Marin Scholastic Chess 1st Place Champion of Marin Scholastic Chess
Sleep
Getting Your Toddler to Sleep: Tips and Secrets
with Vivian Sonnenberg, Pediatric Sleep Consultant of www.VivianSonnenberg.com