What to Give Your Toddler Instead of Cheerios

by Ann Marie Michaels on September 27, 2008

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Raisins and Crispy Pine Nuts

Here’s a great snack for toddlers instead of Cheerios (which is terrible thing to feed to a child): raw pine nuts and organic raisins.

These pine nuts are raw, and have been soaked overnight in salt water, then dried in a dehydrator. This way they are chock-full of enzymes and don’t have the phytates that regular nuts have.

When your baby is a little older and staying up longer between naps, and you’re spending more time at playgrounds, it’s important to have portable foods that you can stick in your diaper bag. Which is why Cheerios are the perfect thing for Snack Traps (Snack Traps, de rigueur for traveling toddlers, are plastic cups with handles with a top that keeps the food in but lets toddler fingers reach in and grab it).

But there are better choices. Like the above nuts or seeds with raisins or other dried fruit (diced so not to cause choking). Sometimes I put diced raw cheese into her Snack Trap. Or leftover roast duck or chicken (cut up into small bits). Or leftover egg frittata or smoked salmon or bits of bacon. Sure, meats and cheeses are a bit messier than Cheerios — just bring a pack of wipes or some napkins. I also bring a pouch bib when we are on the go.

So, what’s wrong with Cheerios, you ask?

Here’s what Sally Fallon has to say about cereal:

Dry breakfast cereals are produced by a process called extrusion. Cereal makers first create a slurry of the grains and then put them in a machine called an extruder. The grains are forced out of a little hole at high temperature and pressure. Depending on the shape of the hole, the grains are made into little o’s, flakes, animal shapes, or shreds (as in Shredded Wheat or Triscuits), or they are puffed (as in puffed rice). A blade slices off each little flake or shape, which is then carried past a nozzle and sprayed with a coating of oil and sugar to seal off the cereal from the ravages of milk and to give it crunch.

In his book Fighting the Food Giants, Paul Stitt has tells us that the extrusion process used for these cereals destroys most of the nutrients in the grains. It destroys the fatty acids; it even destroys the chemical vitamins that are added at the end. The amino acids are rendered very toxic by this process. The amino acid lysine, a crucial nutrient, is especially denatured by extrusion. This is how all the boxed cereals are made, even the ones sold in the health food stores. They are all made in the same way and mostly in the same factories. All dry cereals that come in boxes are extruded cereals.

She goes on to describe a few studies done on rats:

Let me tell you about two studies which were not published. The first was described by Paul Stitt who wrote about an experiment conducted by a cereal company in which four sets of rats were given special diets. One group received plain whole wheat, water and synthetic vitamins and minerals. A second group received puffed wheat (an extruded cereal), water and the same nutrient solution. A third set was given only water. A fourth set was given nothing but water and chemical nutrients. The rats that received the whole wheat lived over a year on this diet. The rats that got nothing but water and vitamins lived about two months. The animals on water alone lived about a month. But the company’s own laboratory study showed that the rats given the vitamins, water and all the puffed wheat they wanted died within two weeks — they died before the rats that got no food at all. It wasn’t a matter of the rats dying of malnutrition. Autopsy revealed dysfunction of the pancreas, liver and kidneys and degeneration of the nerves of the spine, all signs of insulin shock.

Results like these suggested that there was something actually very toxic in the puffed wheat itself! Proteins are very similar to certain toxins in molecular structure, and the pressure of the puffing process may produce chemical changes, which turn a nutritious grain into a poisonous substance.

Another unpublished experiment was carried out in the 1960s. Researchers at University of Michigan were given 18 laboratory rats. They were divided into three groups: one group received corn flakes and water; a second group was given the cardboard box that the corn flakes came in and water; the control group received rat chow and water. The rats in the control group remained in good health throughout the experiment. The rats eating the box became lethargic and eventually died of malnutrition. But the rats receiving the corn flakes and water died before the rats that were eating the box! (The last corn flake rat died the day the first box rat died.) But before death, the corn flake rats developed schizophrenic behavior, threw fits, bit each other and finally went into convulsions. The startling conclusion of this study is that there was more nourishment in the box than there was in the corn flakes. Source: Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry

That may be enough to make you swear off dry cereal for the rest of your life… but there’s another problem with cereal and toddlers. Apparently children don’t produce the enzymes to digest grains until they get their molars.

Jen Allbritton, CN, writes about when and how to introduce grains, nuts and seeds to toddlers:

These foods make up the last foods that should be introduced into baby’s diet, since they are most likely to cause digestive woes. Production of digestive enzymes gradually increases as babies grow. The last enzymes to be fully functional, which can take up to 36 months, are those that break down carbohydrates. Therefore, cereals, grains, and breads are still challenging for toddlers to digest. However, with proper preparation through soaking and sour leavening, your toddler can start to enjoy a range of grains. It is a common traditional practice to soak grains in water and a little yogurt or buttermilk for up to 24 hours, which jump starts the enzymatic activity in the food and begins breaking down some of the harder-to-digest components. This slow-cooked, slightly sour porridge can initially be eaten with butter and egg yolks mixed in or combined with other foods. Growing Wise Kids: Foods to Tantalize Toddlers and Preschoolers

Read the whole article by Jenn Allbritton for more ideas and recipes for toddlers.

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