Wednesday, February 16, 2011

You are What you Eat... When you are 3.

I twittered upon this article today talking about the association between processed food in early childhood and IQ. I find these kinds of articles particularly interesting because I see the difference between the diet my boys have in Brazil vs the US.

Now, I know we all have a "choice" in what we feed our kids. It's obvious that the 2 year olds aren't going to the fridge, popping a pizza in the microwave, and cracking open a cold Bud.  We need to feed our kids good old fruits and veggies, salads (Bwahaha! Get that in my toddler), and such.

The article said:

"The results showed that a predominantly processed food diet at the age of 3 was associated with a lower IQ at the age of 8.5, but that a healthy diet — high in salad, fruit, vegetables, rice and pasta — was associated with a higher IQ at the age of 8.5. Dietary patterns between the ages of 4 and 7 had no impact on IQ."

Personally, my kids can consume an alarming amount of rice and pasta. It goes down like my red wine on a cold and stressful day.  I like to top them with homemade black beans and BAM, you've got yourself something healthy-ish to eat.

The thing is, my options of convenient and affordable foods differ greatly from those in the states.  Nothing microwaveable is affordable, not by my definition at least. And don't even get me started on the cardboard they call overpriced frozen veggies around here. Hell, the only reasonably priced canned food I can get is corn and peas.

And that is different enough.

Of course, I should mention how the normal Brazilian kid drinks Coke (and many other sodas) from a very early age.  Everything, EVERYTHING, is available fried (in the amount of oil I use in 1 months time).  But surprisingly, the obesity didn't really seem to jump until the "convinience" food arrived. Plus McDs and such.

Yet regardless of the fact that my kiddos are friends with the snacks that the Brazilians do love, they jump decently in weight after a visit to Grandma's house in the USA.  Obviously, they get to snack more, as Grandma is a sucker when it comes to whines of kiddos, but overall they eat less.

At my house, my kids are little meal eaters in addition to 3 or so decent snacks. Of course, we have our good days and bad days and plenty of non-optimal sugars and fats are consumed.  But in the US, they eat very little of their meals in comparison to here and still put on weight.

Since my children are lean but healthy boys, I enjoy the jump in weight. A little wiggle room for my active little wannabe crack babies. But it makes one ponder, what is it in the food there that is filling in their tiny tummies?

Of course, according to the studies, I don't have to worry about my 4 year old. He's as smart as he's going to get from food. We can just forgo the healthy items and lay on the sausage.

And that is what I love the most about these kinds of things. Of course it's great to know more about how our body works. It's awesome to reach out to parents and teach them a better way to feed their kids.  But really, I doubt the woman using lard in her lasagna and serving it with boxed chicken nuggets is reading this and stressing that little Jr's IQ may be a couple of points lower than the annoying Hippies down the road.

I can't give any suggestions on how to do it, nor how to feed your kids. The only thing I can control is what I put down in front of mine.  My philosophy on that is balance. Good food, fun snacks, healthy options, and a little McDonalds when Mommy is over being a cook for the day.


  1. Great post. I am like you, I try to feed my son (or at least present him) with a variety of healthy and colorful homemade food, and sometimes it is a little lacking on the meat end, though I try to make up for it with fish and high protein things like feijao/homus/bean soups and cheese too. I stopped buying frozen nuggets 3 years ago and mostly buy the hormone free chicken breasts(even though they're 4x's more expensive). It gets more difficult as he gets older. I have to hide things far out of reach, mostly sweet things. That's really our issue these days, I buy very little of it because he's smart enough now to search the whole kitchen, he can smell the chocolate from a room away. Anyhow, he's well beyond 3, and I think living here, up to 3 years, he really consumed a lot of good, whole foods, and breastmilk until 2 years...while far from perfect, I'm happy!

  2. I am not a complete food nazi, but I have a few basic rules: no trans fats, no high fructose corn syrup, and as little packaged food as possible. That's just for inside the home though. With both sets of grandparents in town and a birthday party every weekend, there's enough junk to satisfy any sweet tooth. I think kids learn more from the example set at home than anywhere else. Great post Rachel! I always love your balanced take on things.

  3. I'm a believer in what we are feeding our kids is affecting them later on in life. Look at the outbreak in learning disabilities, autism aspergurs, behavioral disorders? I'm probably going to stir the pot but I'm really curious what the diet of the mom during the gestational period and how that effects the childs development and all. I'm going back to school for OT and actualy want to do my masters on this topic.

  4. I was very balanced when I was preggers. That plus a lot of junk on the side. But I was sure to have all the good stuff first. I think it makes a huge difference. My Vegan/Vegetarian friends (the ones that do it right) have had the biggest babies...

    You can't be a nazi. You can't. My friends who are have these kids that will eat an entire container of junk if available. My boys eat a couple bites and are over it. It's like Europeans and alcohol, if it's not restricted it's not a big deal

  5. First off I say great post! I think you might have hit the nail on the head though with the reasoning behind it all. The mom who is feeding her kid the lard lasagna with chicken nuggets isn't worried about kids IQ or probably her own nutrition.

    When the child hits two, that when the whole autonomy vs doubt kicks in and the child wants to make decisions. If you have been feeding your child right and you have been making great decisions then he/she may make the smarter choices.

    I hate to say this but low socio-economical status is linked to congenital disorders in babies and health problems after birth. The reasoning is due to poor nutrition. I wonder if the what I wrote above is linked as well?

    Just a thought. Of course I am open for disagreement!


  6. Thanks Sara! I also agree that low socio-economical status can make a huge difference in nutrition and such. Education is very important when it comes to these things. Of course the study said they compensated for that, although I'm curious how well you really can do that...

  7. Oh Yeah lovely and colorful its food . Greta idea and nice posting in the blog. i loved your this post. thanks for nice sharing