Fooducate recently presented at the Health 2.0 conference in San Diego. On stage, facilitating the discussion on food as a preventive medicine, was Alan Greene, MD, FAAP, pediatrician, author, and Stanford professor. His website, DrGreene.com, has been online since 1995!
Dr Greene, who is alarmed at the rising rate of obese babies, has spent the last few years trying to figure out how to reduce this alarming trend. He realized that the earlier in life good eating habits are formed, the better the chances are to avoid food related disease. But then he discovered that the first food most of American babies consume as a solid is white rice baby cereal, the metabolic equivalent of sugar! Oh boy…
That led to a new movement – White Out! Let every child’s first grain, be a whole grain.
We spoke with Dr. Greene about White Out, and were shocked by what we learned:
[Fooducate] What’s so bad about rice baby cereal?
[Dr. Greene] The number one ingredient in what we call rice ‘cereal’ is processed white rice flour. That’s all the rice there is. There are also some vitamins and minerals sprinkled in that babies could easily get in other ways. These don’t make this gateway junk food healthy. Babies’ long-term food preferences and metabolisms are influenced by early food exposures. At this critical window of development, ripe with opportunity, we are giving babies a concentrated, unhealthy carb. Metabolically, it’s not that different from giving babies a spoonful of sugar.
[Fooducate] What is the goal of the WhiteOut campaign?
[Dr. Greene] For more than fifty years the first food fed to most babies in the United States has been processed white rice baby food. The goal of the WhiteOut movement is to mobilize parents, grandparents, retailers, manufacturers, and pediatricians to end this practice forever and to get white rice baby food off of store shelves and out of babies’ mouths by Thanksgiving 2011.
[Fooducate] Is this a campaign against a particular baby food company, say Gerber? How did they respond when they learned about this campaign?
[Dr. Greene] Companies that make white rice baby cereal also make whole grain baby cereal. This is a campaign against white rice baby cereals. Unfortunately companies will keep selling white rice cereal as long as parents prefer to buy that for their babies.
[Fooducate] How can you say that a single food, rice cereal, is the taproot of the childhood obesity?
[Dr. Greene] Rice cereal isn’t just babies’ first food. In the US, this processed white flour is the number one carb eaten by babies from the first bite to the first birthday. On average, babies get about twice as many carbs for the entire first year from rice cereal than from any solid real food. Processed white flour is the single largest food influence on taste preferences and metabolism during the entire first year. It’s no wonder we have a snowballing obesity and diabetes epidemic.
[Fooducate] OK, so what do you recommend we feed babies as a first food?
[Dr. Greene] Let every child’s first grain be a whole grain! They won’t mind; they’ll thank you for it.
The easiest switch is just to pick up a whole grain version of baby cereal.
But the first food doesn’t need to be a cereal – try something from the produce aisle - I love avocados, sweet potatoes (cooked until soft), or bananas as a first bite — mashed with a fork with some of the breast milk or formula they’ve already been getting.
[Fooducate] How can more people get involved with WhiteOut?
[Dr. Greene] If you have a baby at home or are expecting, remember to choose whole grains as a first solid food.
If you are not at that stage you can still help – click on the WhiteOut Facebook Page and “like” it. That’s a start. Then tell two friends about the campaign and ask them to “like” the page and tell two other friends.
Every “like” makes a difference. Together we can change 50 years of tradition in just one year and change the trajectory of kids health for all future generations.