(CNN)Ask any mom or dad to name their baby’s first food. The likely answer? Rice cereal. What’s a common go-to “healthy” snack for toddlers and kiddos? Rice cakes.
Yet a growing amount of scientific evidence is pointing to an alarming connection between inorganic arsenic in brown and white rice and harm to children’s immune systems and intellectual development.
“Best first foods for infants are avocado, pureed veggies, peanut-butter oatmeal and salmon,” Altmann said. “They all provide important nutrients that babies need, help develop their taste buds to prefer healthy food and may decrease food allergies.”
She believes meats are a better source of iron and zinc for babies than rice cereal, “so I haven’t been recommending rice cereal as a first food for several years.”
And if parents insist on rice cereal, Altmann said, “I always recommend brown rice over white rice. I personally prefer whole-grain oatmeal mixed with peanut butter to decrease risk of peanut allergies later in life, and quinoa cereal mixed with vegetables.”
What about snack foods?
“There’s no reason that snack food has to be packaged and processed,” Altmann said. “I recommend parents offer real, single-ingredient foods as much as possible for both meals and snacks.”
Altmann recommends “berries, steamed or cooked veggies, peanut puffs, Greek yogurt, string cheese, a thin layer of nut butter on whole-grain bread, hard-boiled or scrambled egg, whole-grain O-shaped cereal and pieces of lean chicken (or whatever is left over from lunch or dinner).”
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