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July 1st, 2008
12:09 PM ET

Developing a baby's palate

By Shahreen Abedin
CNN Medical Producer

I went to the New Jersey State Fair this weekend and for the first time ever, I had a deep-fried Twinkie.  Honestly, it was AMAZING.  Then when we got home, I gave my 7-month old a bath, and sat him down to dinner: A jar of organic pureed chicken and sweet potatoes (ingredients: chicken, sweet potatoes, water, apricot puree, no salt, no sugar, all organic).  It was supposed to be as healthy possible, aside from making it fresh yourself.  So I felt like a good mommy, giving my baby the best (no Twinkies here!).  He seemed to be fine with it too.  Then I tasted it when I licked my hand.  YUCK!!  So flavorless that it actually had an aftertaste – how can something that tastes like nothing have an aftertaste?

Anyway, I started to think about how we parents are told how careful we need to be about introducing the right foods to our babies, so they grow to form healthy habits. Feed them bland foods, we're told, so they don't start to prefer the salty, savory, sweeter foods over their milk, which is still supposed to be their staple source of nutrition until closer to the end of the first year (that's according to Heidi Murkoff, author of "What To Expect the First Year," but also supported by most how-to parenting feeding guidelines I've read). 

In contrast, my mother tells me that I was crawling around gnawing on a spicy curried chicken drumstick when I was my son's age, and my eating habits as a young person were quite healthy – I even liked broccoli and brussels sprouts!   I've always wanted my baby to eventually become an adventurous eater with a dynamic palate (mussels in white wine sauce, anyone?), so I asked my pediatrician, and he said added spices and seasonings aren't necessarily a bad thing, as long as baby is OK with it.  Meanwhile, other friends of ours joke about sticking pepperoni pizza in the blender so that Baby could partake in the occasional indulgence.

So I just wanted to check in with other parents out there.  How cautious do you need to be about developing healthy habits when Junior is still a wee one?  When did you know it was OK to start giving your baby food that tastes/looks more like grown up food?  And do you agree that bland is the way to go for the first year at least, or do you think it's not such a big risk to introduce herbs and spices early on, to develop your baby's palate for a variety of healthy foods in the future?

Editor's note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


June 9th, 2008
10:43 AM ET

Taking 'The Body Project' to campuses

By Shahreen Abedin
CNN Medical Producer

While researching "The Body Project," an eating disorders prevention program that's seeing remarkable progress so far in an area that has seen few if any truly effective programs at all, I interviewed Carolyn Becker, a psychologist at Trinity University in San Antonio who specializes in eating disorders. 

Becker adapted the program's curriculum specifically to be administered to college-age women by their own peers in sorority houses.  Studies show a reduction of eating disorder risks by 61 percent through The Body Project.  

All the sororities at Trinity have been using the body program since 2001, and Becker says the college adaptation has had results comparable to the original model, which was focused on both high school and college-age women and administered by teachers and counselors. 

The program works by making women recognize how "the thin ideal" - the notion that you need to be skinny to be beautiful – is thrust upon us through media and marketing images.  Then, through acts of "body activism," like leaving "you are beautiful" notes in dieting books and posting similar messages in public restrooms, participants begin to reject the thin ideal for themselves and their own bodies.

According to Becker, we're about to see this project implemented on college campuses on a grand scale, mainly because of the role of Delta Delta Delta (a.k.a. Tri Delta), the national sorority that has rolled out the program in eleven of its chapters so far.  Tri Delta funded the publication of the college-based curriculum, which will be available to any college that wants to use it, and although Becker doesn't have definite numbers, she tells me she conservatively estimates that we'll see the program implemented in at least 20 to 25 college campuses in the 2008-2009 academic year.   

It makes me think about my college days, when I was finally on my own and could make a 2 A.M. fast food run or eat cookie dough for dinner, without having to answer to the parentals.  Now that I think about it, it was one of those first steps of adulthood:  having complete autonomy over my own eating habits. 

How did your college experience shape how you eat as an adult?  Did you basically stick to what you were already doing at home?  Did you put on the 'freshmen fifteen, or was that just a myth for you?  Did you end up losing weight in an effort to conform to aesthetic ideals instilled in us on campus?  Did you feel like you were under a lot more pressure to conform than you were in high school? 

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation

 


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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