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Serenity Scoop

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Nutrition can be overwhelming. With so many different opinions and perspectives it can be hard to know what’s healthy and what’s not. And when it comes to introducing foods to your little ones, the overwhelm can turn into stress. After all, we all just want what’s best for our babes. And the pressure to not screw it up is real.  So rather than tell you what to do, we’re sharing a bit more on why we do what we do - why we follow a grain-free diet. These reasons, combined with the way grain-free eating makes us feel (healthy and full of energy!) make the choice to go grain-free a no-brainer for our family. That said, eating habits are a completely personal choice, so we aren’t here to preach - you do you! So here’s what we don’t love about grains that has led us to avoid them: They lack nutrients The bottom line is that grains just don’t contain much nutrition. And in fact, there are no nutrients in grains that you can’t get in other (more nutrient-dense) foods. And since little ones have limited belly space, why fill it up with stuff that doesn’t give them the nutrients they need?  When every bite counts, filling our kids plates and bellies with nutrient-dense foods like clean meats and veggies will give them a bigger bang for their nutritional buck than grains. They irritate the gut Grains (especially wheat) contain lectins. Lectins are a type of protein that bind to carbohydrates. In nature, lectins are used by plants as a defense mechanism. But these defense mechanisms can also create problems during human digestion. Lectins resist being broken down in the gut, and in fact, research has found eating large amounts of lectins may cause inflammation and irritate the gut wall. This can lead to a number of digestive issues, including leaky gut.  They are often refined and processed  Most grains that are available in your grocery store are processed and refined. Yes, even the bread bag that boasts 20+ grams of whole grains likely contains refined grains in addition to whole grains. Many of these processed grain products also have added sugar (yes, even plain bread). These types of foods enter the bloodstream quickly, causing a sharp spike in blood sugar. The spike is followed by an equally large crash, which can lead to a whole lot of unpleasant side effects - from toddler hanger and tantrums to trouble focusing and disrupted sleep. They may impair absorption of nutrients Grains contain antinutrients, like phytic acid and lectins that can reduce the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients. This means that they can cause important nutrients to be lost. Research shows that antinutrients like phytic acid bind to minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium and keeps them from being absorbed by the gut. These nutrients are critical to proper growth and development, so possibly blocking their absorption isn’t a risk we want to take. They Commonly Contain Heavy Metals and Pesticides Heavy metals are considered neurotoxins, essentially a poison which damages your nervous system. They can affect everything from memory and cognition to mood and energy. They aren’t entirely unavoidable in our food system (metals exist in soil), but they can be limited by avoiding certain foods known to have particularly high levels. Arsenic and other heavy metals are especially high in rice crops. These substances are known to be associated with an increased risk of bladder and lung cancers. In fact, according to a study by the FDA in 2016, completely eliminating rice from a child’s diet before 12 months might reduce their risk of these cancers by 6%.  In addition, most nonorganic grains are sprayed heavily with pesticides containing the chemical glyphosate.  It’s a controversial topic, but there is enough evidence against glyphosate that we choose to avoid it. But don’t babies and kids need carbs? Yes, they do! But those carbs don’t need to come from grains. Vegetables are a great source of healthy carbohydrates, and they come conveniently packaged with fiber and other vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Other great alternatives to grains that can be used in cooking and baking include cassava flour (found in our grain-free puffs!), tapioca flour (also from the cassava root), almond flour, coconut flour, and tigernut flour.  Some favorite grain-free recipes  If you want to give grain-free a go, check out some of our favorite recipes: Beef + Ginger Patties 15-Minute Nutrient-Dense Pasta 🍝 Beef & Broccoli Pasta  Salmon Patties Pumpkin & Squash Mini Muffins No grains, no problem Bottom line: we find that a grain-free way of eating makes us feel good, and with so many delicious and nutritious alternatives, we just don’t miss grains in our lives. Whether you avoid grains entirely or not, we hope our lineup of grain-free snacks for kids are a hit in your household too! Shop now!
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5 min read
When you think of first foods for baby, you might be thinking of soft veggies and fruits, or single-ingredient purees. Or, maybe you’re all about baby-led weaning (for the record, we like both). One food that might not come to mind as an ideal first food? Meat. But we’re here to tell you why it should. But first, why does it matter? Babies grow rapidly in their first few years of life and they have higher specific nutrient needs relative to their total body weight than adults do. They also have very small bellies, which means they need to pack a lot of nutrition into a small amount of space.  This makes it very important to emphasize the most nutrient-dense foods (like organ meats, fatty fish, healthy fat sources, and vegetables) and limit “empty calories,” which take up volume in a child’s stomach without helping them reach their daily nutritional needs.  Okay, so why meat? Read on! #1 It is easy to digest Our modern culture has led us to believe that refined grains and cereals are a great first food as they are bland and easy to digest. But the reality is, grains and cereals have little valuable nutrition (and what they do have is generally just fortified with synthetic vitamins) and can actually irritate your baby’s digestive tract. A baby’s stomach more easily digests proteins and fats than starches. Meat is the most digestible complete protein, and of a higher quality than grains, beans, and other plant sources. That means that more of the protein from meat is effectively absorbed and used by the body. Considering that much of Baby’s food may end up on the floor, on themself, or on you, efficiency is key! #2 It has healthy fat Fat is critical for brain development, hormone regulation, and building the immune system. Fat is also needed for Baby’s digestive system to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Saturated and monounsaturated fats also increase intestinal absorption of calcium necessary for rapid growth. Fats are also satiating foods, which means that just like adults, they help babies feel full longer. It might even help them get a longer, higher-quality night’s sleep. There is a reason that human milk is high in fat - because babies need it! So doesn’t it make sense to feed your baby high-fat foods to continue to support your baby’s growth and development? #3 It is savory, not sweet Studies have shown that infants are biologically wired to prefer sweet tastes, and those tastes are further developed through the consumption of breastmilk and/or formula for the first several months of life. But just because babies prefer sweet tastes doesn’t mean that they need to consume high-sugar foods when introducing solids. In fact, just the opposite - they already like sweet, so it’s time to introduce them to something new! And the good news is, you don’t have to use sweet as the default. Studies have shown that taste preferences are malleable and develop in response to a number of social and environmental factors. This period of taste preference development is called the flavor window, and it is most open from the period from 6-18 months. That means you have a pretty incredible opportunity to influence babies' tastes for life. Because babies exposed to a variety of foods can learn to like more complex and unique flavors, like bitter and sour. You just have to introduce them! And be persistent - research shows that it can take up to 15 exposures for a baby to “learn” to like a taste. It’ll be worth the investment, promise.     Shop Meat Pouched Purees    #4 It is full of the nutrients babies really need Babies go through very important and specific developmental processes, and they rely heavily on certain nutrients to successfully grow and develop properly. That means that these specific nutrients are particularly critical to incorporate as Baby’s first foods:  Vitamin B12: used in many metabolic processes and is important for neurological health (including playing a role in myelination from early fetal development all the way through early adulthood). The best sources of vitamin B12 are animal products like meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, and eggs.  Zinc: plays a role in growth, development, neurological function, immune function, and cell metabolism. Zinc deficiency can impair children’s physical growth and increase their susceptibility to infection, so adequate intake is important for preventing “failure to thrive.” The best sources of zinc are organ meats, grass-fed and pastured meats, shellfish, and crustaceans. Iron: Most newborns have sufficient iron stored in their bodies for about the first 6 months of life,  depending on gestational age, maternal iron status, and timing of umbilical cord clamping. However, by the time they hit 6 months, infants typically require an external source of iron apart from breast milk. In fact,  babies 7-12 months need 11 mg of iron each day to support proper growth and neurological development. For reference, an adult male only needs 8 mg, and a menstruating female needs 18 mg - babies need a LOT of iron! ​​It’s also important to note that heme iron (from animals) has higher bioavailability than non-heme iron (from plants). That means that iron from animals is better absorbed than iron from plants. Note, these aren’t the only nutrients that babies need. They also need vitamins A, C, and D, plus calcium, iodine, and omega-3 fats (especially DHA), which is why we also recommend eggs, organ meats, fatty fish, sweet potatoes, squash, sea vegetables, green vegetables, and full-fat grass-fed dairy, when tolerated #5 It’s versatile Meat can be served as a smooth puree, a chunky puree, in large strips for baby to gnaw on, or as softer smaller pieces (like meatballs or braised meat) for baby to gum down.  Meat can also be seasoned in a variety of ways to enhance its flavor or to introduce new flavors through spices and herbs. Seasonings can help to further develop the palate while also adding some bonus nutritional value.    Shop New Meat & Herb Pouches    But there’s a big caveat Quality matters. Meat is an ideal first food for infants, but not all meat is created equal. The healthiest meats come from animals that eat their optimal diet, such as grass for cows or foraged plants for pigs. For example, compared to conventional beef, grass-fed beef contains significantly higher omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA), which are good for the brain, and CLA, a fatty acid that reduces inflammation and is a major component of breast milk.  On the other hand, animals fed mostly grain (this is the meat available in most grocery stores) tend to produce meats with lower levels of important nutrients (for example, approximately one fifth the amount of vitamin E compared to grass-fed) have less healthy fats (much higher Omega-6 fats and very little Omega-3s).  The bottom line High-quality meat is full of the nutrients your baby needs for optimal growth and development. It is versatile and can be seasoned and served in a variety of ways. And it’s also savory, making it an ideal way to expand your baby’s palate. Short on time or can’t find quality sources of meat? Our meat-based pouched purees make it super convenient for you to get meat into the belly of your baby!    Shop All Meat Purees    References Long-term Brain and Behavioral Consequences of Early Iron Deficiency Zinc and infant nutrition Effect of vitamin B12 deficiency on neurodevelopment in infants: current knowledge and possible mechanisms   Early Influences on the Development of Food Preferences  Savoring Sweet: Sugars in Infant and Toddler Feeding Flavor Perception and Preference Development in Human Infants Early Taste Experiences and Later Food Choices Serenity Kids Baby Nutrition Quick Start Guide   
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