What’s in that Pet Food Anyway?

By Margaret Meier Jones, Animal Wellness Center of Buffalo County

If you’ve watched TV lately, you’ve likely seen a commercial advertising a dog food that is “New or Improved.” Or perhaps you’ve seen a blog or a news report through social media that states a particular food was the demise of a friend of a friend’s dog. The latest and greatest today seems to be that every manufacturer seems to have a “grain-free” food that you should rush out and buy. Is this really important or just the latest, greatest marketing strategy?
Dogs, like people, are omnivores, which means their metabolism is based on meat, fruits, and vegetables; whereas cats are truly carnivores and need a diet based primarily on meat. So those commercials showing how your cat is dreaming of carrots and tomatoes aren’t actually based on biological facts. And, perhaps your cat actually does love tomatoes, but your sister’s cat only wants sardines. Why is that, exactly? One of the best answers may come from the Chinese “archetypes” of personalities and metabolisms based on the five seasons, a system that can be applied to our pets as well as ourselves. The Web That Has No Weaver, by Ted J. Kaptchuk, O.M.D., is a great book to read if you’d like more detailed information on diet and the Chinese theory of the five seasons.

So, does my pet actually need to eat “grain free”? Like many questions, the answer to this one is it depends. In general, however, grains are not typically the villains they are made out to be. The quality of the food and how much it is processed should always play a major role in determining if we should feed it to our pets rather than whether or not it contains any grain. Unfortunately the pet food industry is not as regulated as it is for humans, and pet foods aren’t even required to be balanced and nutritious to be sold to the consumer.
So, how do I navigate the world of pet foods? I strongly recommend that you compare the food you are feeding your dog to others on the market at dogfoodadvisor.com. This website uses the familiar “5 star” rating system to rank foods based on the following seven criteria according to their website:

1. No controversial chemical preservatives
2. No anonymous meat ingredients
3. No artificial coloring agents
4. No generic animal fats
5. Substantial amounts of meat-based protein
6. Fat to protein ratio of 75 percent or lower
7. Modest carbohydrate content

Notice that they refer to it as carbohydrate content, not grain free. The most common misconception I hear from my clients is that grain free equals carbohydrate free, which is far from true. Unfortunately, sometimes the grain-free version of a food can be much higher in carbohydrates than any other ingredient, which leads to weight gain and health issues related to obesity. So, check dogfoodadvisor.com, and while you’re there, be certain to register for the free food recall alerts. This way you’ll know what food you feed your pets is not only the best, but also the safest out there!

Baby Food 101

By: Emily Schwartz, Festival Foods

Food introduced in the first year of life can impact future nutrition habits. For the first six months of life, breastfeeding is widely recommended. However, between six to eight months of age, most infants are developmentally ready to try pureed, mashed, or “lumpy” foods to compliment breast milk (or iron-enriched formula). These new foods and textures may take multiple offerings before acceptance. So to start, it is important to gradually offer a variety of foods one-at-a-time to help the infant’s palate and digestive system to adjust.

Jarred baby food is a quick and convenient way to help growing infants get the nutrition they need. It offers a consistent texture and flavor that may be better received by “picky eaters,” and they are produced under strict food safety guidelines.

Homemade baby food is another option. Compared to commercial baby food, homemade baby food may be a more affordable option and may offer a wider variety of flavors. Whether looking to supplement or replace commercially produced baby food products, one of the easiest ways to start is to simply mash foods that may already be on your grocery list, like bananas or avocados. Or, try incorporating nutrition-packed foods that wouldn’t necessarily be found in jarred varieties, like pureed eggs, broccoli, kiwifruit, or no-salt-added canned beans.

Regardless of the food served, infants and young children are very impressionable. The actions and behaviors of those around can impact the development of food preferences and eating behaviors. Whenever possible try eating (and enjoying!) the same food your baby is eating.

Steps for Making Baby Food

  1. Start with clean hands, cooking surfaces, and equipment.
    1. Even though infants and children are more susceptible to food-borne illness, it is always a good practice to wash hands with warm, soapy water and sanitize any surfaces or equipment before food preparation.
  2. Prepare food; washing, peeling, and trimming, as needed.
    1. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Peel and trim, if necessary. If preparing meat or fish, remove all skin, bones, gristle, and excess fat.
  3. Cook and/or process food.
    1. Cook food, if necessary, until very tender. Boiling, steaming, or microwaving food with water is often ideal. When preparing meat or fish, cook to well done. Allow cooked food to cool slightly before pureeing or mashing to reach desired consistency. Adding a small amount of water may be necessary to achieve an appropriate texture.
  4. Serve or store.
    1. If food is not going to be eaten right away, store it in the refrigerator for up to two days, or freeze for use within a month. Freezing baby food in ice cube trays can help provide baby-sized portions when they’re needed. Small portion sizes are important because any leftover food, regardless if it is homemade or commercially prepared, should be thrown away due to exposure to bacteria.

Some combinations to try after introducing individual foods:

  • No-salt-added canned black beans (drained and rinsed) and avocado
  • Kiwifruit and banana
  • Baby cereal and berries
  • Sweet potato and applesauce

Emily Schwartz is a nationally accredited, registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) serving the Eau Claire and La Crosse communities as Festival Foods’ Western Wisconsin Regional Dietitian.

WIC Helps Keep Families Healthy

By Susan Krahn, MS, RDN, CD, CLC – Public Health Nutritionist, Eau Claire City-County Health Department

What does healthy eating mean to you? To the WIC Program, healthy eating means healthier moms and babies, happier families, and brighter futures. The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program is a public health nutrition program that provides wholesome foods, nutrition and breastfeeding education, and community support for low- and moderate-income women and children up to the age of five years.

There are more women in our community who benefit from WIC than you may think. In fact, over half of the babies born in the United States use the WIC program. WIC is the nation’s most successful and cost-effective public health nutrition program. Nationally, we know that when eligible families use WIC:

  • Moms are less likely to have premature or low birth-weight babies;
  • Moms are more likely to start breastfeeding after delivery;
  • Infants and children are twice as likely to see doctors for well-child care;
  • Moms, children, and infants are less likely to have anemia.

If you think your family may be eligible, contact your local WIC office. A visit to WIC means you will walk away with an EBT card to buy more healthy food for your family. But, did you know that WIC means much more than food? At a WIC appointment, parents are connected with people who truly care about the health and well-being of their children. Parents walk away with the feeling of support, connections to healthcare resources, and inspiration to make healthy changes in their home.

WIC gives you healthy food and teaches you how to use it. Good nutrition during pregnancy and in the first few years of life has long-term positive impacts on health. WIC teaches you about the benefits of breastfeeding and guides you through the process. WIC gives you free healthy food and teaches you how to shop for it, how to prepare it, and ways to help your child enjoy eating it.

We provide a community of support. At WIC you’ll find dietitians, a breastfeeding peer counselor, and others ready to listen, share information, and give guidance and support. WIC is a network built for moms. We connect them, we educate them, and we learn from them.

We connect you to care beyond WIC. Food and nutrition are only one piece of a healthy lifestyle. Through referrals we can connect you with resources outside of WIC, including public health nurses, doctors, dental services, immunization services, and social services. Referrals put you in touch with the care or resources you need to be healthy in every part of your life.

For more information, go to www.ci.eau-claire.wi.us/departments/health-department/wic/how-where-to-use-wic, visit the program office at 720 2nd Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54703, or call (715) 839-5051.

Breastfeeding Benefits for Mom and Baby

By Erin Kaspar-Frett, CPM, LM, MSM – Earth Mother Midwife

Finding Good Support
Sometimes a woman decides she wants to breastfeed and is met with opposition from her family or friends. Or, just as often, she wants to breastfeed and doesn’t find it as “natural” as others say it should be. Some struggle to latch correctly or are dealing with issues such as; thrush, lip or tongue tie, flat or inverted nipples. All of these can be worked around with proper support. A mother can contact a lactation consultant, a La Leche League (LLL) leader, a midwife, a pediatrician, or a friend that is experienced in breastfeeding.

Improvements in breastfeeding support continue. WIC offices and care providers are promoting and encouraging breastfeeding, lactation consultants are readily available to assist mothers that are having difficulties, many work places are providing pumping stations for their breastfeeding employees, and most areas have strong, supportive La Leche League groups available for moms to attend meetings and gain support.

I encourage all pregnant and breastfeeding moms to consider attending at least one LLL meeting to obtain or give support. Many LLL groups have lending libraries, speakers, play groups, and a great deal of information that benefits the breastfeeding mother. For more information on LLL contact LLL international at 1-800-LALECHE (US) or (847) 519-7730 or visit their website detailing how to find leaders in your area at www.lalecheleague.org/leaderinfo.html.

Getting Off to a Good Start
Studies have shown that breastfeeding progresses most smoothly when the mother is allowed full access to her newborn directly from birth, allowing her to pick up the baby herself when she is ready. When this happens, babies will typically begin breastfeeding within the first hour of their birth. That “golden hour” is the height of colostrum. Babies have a built-in instinctual ability to know how to nurse. Mothers that have prepared themselves can be relaxed and ready to nurse when they meet their new baby. The first few latches may be a bit awkward for both, but in time, both mom and baby will be pros! However, mothers who are separated from their newborns often feel anxiety during the separation. Babies who are separated from their mothers often cry and appear anxious. When the two are together they can bond and get to know one another, enjoying the creation of a lasting love. Safe-guarding the first hours after birth for freedom of nursing, and delaying all newborn procedures (if both mom and baby are healthy and proceeding normally!), will go a long way in maternal and infant health and security.

Nursing on demand is the ideal way to feed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding on demand at newborn cue’s, before beginning to cry.* A baby who is fed on demand grows confident in his mother’s ability to meet his needs when he requests them to be met. Feeding on demand also provides the cue that the mother’s brain needs to make the ideal amount of breast milk for her baby. Breastmilk is supply and demand in reverse: the baby demands, the mother’s body supplies. For a healthy mother/baby team, there is never too little milk when the baby is permitted to tell the mother’s body how much is needed, although it might take a day or two to catch up. Following the cues of the newborn will solidify this nursing relationship.

Nutrition during Breastfeeding
What goes into a mother’s body while she is breastfeeding her baby is what becomes the nutrition her baby receives. Whole foods, a well-rounded diet, and plenty of liquids will benefit both the mother and the baby. Avoiding caffeine, cigarette smoke, and recreational drugs is recommended during breastfeeding.

Remembering to take the time to eat is sometimes difficult for busy mothers. Frequent small meals are often recommended to the breastfeeding mother. Nursing mothers need at least 2,700 calories and 65 grams of protein a day. Having an easy healthy snack and fluids available at all times is helpful for mothers who are busy or on the go.

Some babies will be sensitive to certain foods, becoming fussy or spitting up after the mother eats them. As the mother pays attention to what she had to eat or drink prior to a fussing episode, she will often realize what is causing the baby’s discomfort.

What about the Other Parent?
The other parents sometimes wonder how they can participate in the child’s life if they can’t provide sustaining nourishment. For some families, it works to have the other parent bottle feed expressed breast milk. For some, however, this feels awkward or the baby doesn’t relax in the same way. And yet, for some families, bottle feeding isn’t an options due to baby’s unwillingness. And yet there are so many important roles a non-breastfeeding parent plays in the life of the child. Non-breastfeeding parents can hold, rock, bathe, feed solids when it is time, dress, and play with their children, creating a special time with their babies that provides a similar bond as the one breastfeeding mothers have during breastfeeding. Non-nutritive parents play an important role in the development of their child’s life. These special times together will aid in developing a lasting relationship between that parent and child.

Relax and Enjoy Breastfeeding

Above all I remind mothers that the breastfeeding period is a special time, a time like no other in the mother’s or baby’s life. The baby will have the opportunity to get to know the mother during the time they spend nursing. The mother and baby will discover how important they are to one another during this time. The housework will still be there when the baby is done nursing. Work will still be there when the mother is ready to return. Friends and family members will gladly resume closeness when the mother feels ready to invest in these relationships again. The mother can simply relax and enjoy this special time between herself and her baby.

*Documentation recorded in the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement, Pediatrics Vol. 100, No. 6, December 1997, pp. 1035–1039. www.aap.org/policy/re9729.html.

For a list of resources on the topic, please contact Erin Kaspar-Frett, erin@earthmothermidwife.com.