The cookbook Organically Raised: Conscious Cooking for Babies and Toddlers is a great solution for the growing number of parents today concerned about what to feed their children—especially young children, who can be even more susceptible to food allergies. The book’s author, Anni Daulter, is a former social worker and social consciousness professor, a mother, a professional cook, and the founder of Bohemian Baby Food—at the time of its founding, the only organic, fresh baby food available on the market.
Organically Raised is the result of Anni’s considerable experience in the healthy raising of four children as well as her research into creating the safest and most nutritious children’s food possible. The book has received some high-powered endorsements—from actress Gwyneth Paltrow, musician Gwen Stefani, and producers of The Business of Being Born Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, among others.
“If you’ve got an untouched system like a brand-new baby’s and you’re putting food into him or her for the very first time, it’s just vital that we keep the baby’s system as pure as possible,” Anni told Natural Vitality Kids. “We still don’t know the effects of what pesticides do to people, the true facts. Our environment is breaking down, and we’ve got toxic chemicals everywhere. The more we can do in our own homes to reduce that, the healthier our families are going to be. We’re all trying to keep kids healthy, keep our planet strong, and trying to do a little healing from the damage we’ve done already. But it’s all connected, so organic foods are connected to living more simply and sustainably.”
Anni takes issue with conventional baby food. “If you’ve ever seen a jar of baby food from the grocery store and opened it, first of all that food has been heat treated so that it can maintain a shelf life of up to two years,” she said. “That means that if you buy it and give it to your child, it could have been there longer than your child has been alive. They heat it up to somewhere around 500 degrees; yes, you kill the pathogens, but you also kill nutritional value, you kill flavor, you kill the life of it and really almost any reason to eat it.”
Anni has discovered through her own children that, despite what parents might think, a child’s tastes for healthy, natural food can develop—if you let them. “Anyone who has children knows that there can be battles around food, especially with toddlers. But those battles tend to diminish if children develop an expanded culinary palate right from the beginning. American food tends to be very salty, so if you start there, it really kind of gears them away from natural flavors. I encourage people to give their kids no sweeteners or heavy seasonings—let the kids experience what food really tastes like.
“Just take something like pears; compare a jar of baby-food pears with steaming and puréeing them yourself. The difference is just phenomenal. You wouldn’t think that there would be much of a difference, but there is: the color is different, it’s fresh and tasty, and the other ones are very bland and dark and don’t have the same life force to them. And babies love it.”
As an example of her practical recommendations, Anni advises keeping color and seasons in mind when transitioning babies to solid food. “A simple way to offer enough variety and nutritional balance is to make sure your baby is eating the rainbow! Give your baby fruits and veggies that range in color from white, yellow and orange to purple, green and brown. Eating with the seasons energizes the body with essential nutrients that it needs at different times throughout the year.”
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One of Anni’s prime motivations for writing Organically Raised was the trials she went through herself—and she knows that other parents are constantly going through them too. “When I first started doing it, I was like ‘Oh, I can’t do this. It’s very overwhelming.’ When my son was born and it was time to start feeding him food, however, I realized I did not want to feed him baby food from the grocery store. I wasn’t a cook and I really didn’t have very many skills in the kitchen at that point, and so I decided to learn how to cook and feed him all fresh organic food that I needed myself.”
Anni learned to cook at Tassajara, a Zen Buddhist retreat in Carmel Valley. “That’s kind of my roots,” she explained. “I spent a lot of time in the Zen kitchen and learned a great deal from the professional chefs that cook there.
“I found that I really loved cooking and seeing my child eat so well and grow so healthy from what I was doing. Organically Raised came about because of a desire to help empower moms and dads in this same way. I don’t want this book to touch only the lives of people who are already kind of health conscious and know about organic; I want it to be approachable to people who are just learning about the benefits of eating fresh and organic food. My food is very simple; it’s easy and tasty and kids love it; it’s fresh and seasonal and it’s not hard to do. I just want it to feel approachable to people.
“Parents will see the difference in what their children eat. I’ve seen it in my children. I’ve got four kids—two great eaters, a picky eater and a brand-new baby—so I’ve seen the gamut of what’s out there.”
Organically Raised is available from the Natural Vitality Kids bookstore.
For more information, additional recipes and plentiful resources for parents, visit Anni’s website at www.annidaulter.com.