My Paleo Toddler has never eaten any grains. That means no rice cereal, bread, pizza, oatmeal or even macaroni and cheese. One of the main reasons behind the strictness of this choice, is that the digestive tract is not fully developed until at least 36 months of age. When foods that are harder to digest are eaten it can cause damage to the already delicate intestines. Gluten is one of the largest proteins we have to digest and this increases the likelihood of it poking big holes in the gut lining.
There will come a time in her life when my Paleo Toddler either chooses to eat grain or eats it accidentally. In order to give her immune system a chance to recognize grains in an environment I can control, I am going to slowly offer her one bite (literally as few as three pieces) of higher quality, properly prepared, minimally processed grains over the next few months. This is a decision I have struggled with, as I am committed to raising her as Paleo as I can. Ultimately, I feel it is in the best long term interest of her health to introduce grains in this way.
What do I consider higher quality, properly prepared, minimally processed grains? In my book, higher quality grains are those that are the least hybridized, like a wild rice and minimally processed, like whole oat groats (those are what oatmeal is made from). Properly prepared grains have been either soaked and/or sprouted prior to being eaten. Soaking and sprouting help improve the digestibility of grains, as well as nuts and seeds, therefore making them friendlier to the gut lining. I am going to introduce the grass grains like rice before the gluten containing grains like wheat.
I am hoping this exposure helps prepare her for any grain containing foods she happens across as she begins preschool this year. As I mentioned in a previous post, we have control over what our kids are offered in the home, but as soon as they are out in the world the non Paleo food choices are abundant. For those of you with Paleo Kids who have never eaten any grains before, I’d love to hear from you.