McClatchy Tribune Newspapers
July 29, 2010
Just like fashion trends, diets go in and out of style.
Remember the grapefruit diet? The cabbage soup diet? How about the Atkins diet, which banned white bread but allowed fatty cheese and pork rinds?
That was so 2004. In 2010, dieters are going gaga over one of the most peculiar fad diets yet — the baby food diet. To follow it, all you need to do is, say, down 14 jars of Gerber a day and eat a healthy, adult dinner.
Before your gag reflex kicks in, consider this: Baby food is made mostly from vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, with few additives. It's low in calories — an average jar contains 50 to 100 — plus it's cheap, simple to prepare and highly portable.
But is it good for you? We'll get to that later.
For now, all you need to know is eating it could give you actress Jennifer Aniston's body. That's according to Marie Claire UK, which published an article in May about Aniston's 7-pound weight loss. In the article, Aniston's trainer, Tracy Anderson, described her "baby food cleanse," which incorporated easy-to-digest mini-meals such as smoothies, oatmeal and soup.
But some took "baby food" literally. Blogs buzzed. Rumors swirled. More celebrities — including actresses Reese Witherspoon and Marcia Cross — were said to be on the diet. Even though Aniston and Cross denied those rumors (and Witherspoon didn't address them at all), people began talking about and even trying the diet.
There is no word yet on whether the fad has had any impact on baby food sales.
Calls to Earth's Best, Beech-Nut and Nestle, Gerber's parent company, were not returned. But at dietsinreview.com, a website where users review diets, the baby food diet has an 86 percent positive rating. A user named Melissa wrote on the site's message board the diet worked for busy people who did not have time to cook.
"You can grab a baby food jar [and] throw it into your purse quicker than you can make a stop at McDonald's," she wrote.
It's easy to see how adults could get into eating baby food, even without the Aniston association. It comes in gourmet flavors such as chicken mango risotto and peach pear barley, yet rarely costs more than $1. And more parents are making it at home, thanks to the arrival of baby cookbooks and food processors such as the Beaba Babycook, which retails for $150.
Sally Berry Brown, a registered dietitian in Overland Park, Kan., said the baby food diet would yield weight loss if it reduced your caloric intake.
"But it's going to be a temporary fix," Berry Brown said, because you're not going to want to eat baby food forever.
What if you're in a business meeting? When the Atkins diet was all the rage, it became socially acceptable to turn away the bread basket at a restaurant. But eating baby food? That's a tough sell.
"What are you going to do?" Berry Brown said. "Say, 'Excuse me while I get my baby food peas?' "
Berry Brown said she was not surprised at the buzz surrounding the baby food diet because people love looking to gorgeous celebrities such as Aniston for advice. Just look at how many people copied her "Friends" haircut. We want to have those legs, those abs, that butt … even if it means slurping goo.
But the baby food diet has big nutritional drawbacks, according to Mitzi Dulan, a registered dietitian who works with the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs. The biggest: Baby food is made for babies, not adults.
"We need more protein than a 10-pound baby needs," said Dulan, who added protein provides energy, strengthens the immune system and helps maintain muscle mass.
People who don't get enough become weak, tired and cranky. In other words, eating like a toddler can make you behave like one. Particularly if you don't like what you're eating.
Some varieties contain liquefied chicken, which smells a bit like cat food. Fruity flavors are better for beginners because they are naturally sweet. Earth's Best makes an apples and blueberries flavor that tastes like fine applesauce, with a punchy tartness from the berries. It's tasty, if you can get past the unappetizing color, which falls somewhere on the wheel between purple and brown.
Other varieties aren't as easy to stomach. The summer vegetable variety is chillingly bland, despite its happy mustard-yellow color and impressive short list of ingredients, which includes organic corn, zucchini, green beans and brown rice.
Surely there has got to be a middle ground between eating baby food all day and incorporating pureed fruits and veggies into your diet.
Jackie Kincaid Habiger may have found it. She is a Kansas City mom who cooks up her own line of natural baby food called Bebe Appetit.
"I would never do the baby food diet," said Kincaid Habiger, who explained she would not feel satisfied without chewing her food. Plus, she hates the taste of conventional baby food.
Kincaid Habiger's version comes in flavors such as "beet risotto" or "happy chicken with green beans and summer squash" from scratch, using fresh, seasonal ingredients and free-range chicken.
Kincaid Habiger cooks big batches of baby food once a month, and typically has lots of leftover puree.
"We'll have baby food for dinner a couple of nights in a row," she said.
Even Dulan said there was nothing wrong with eating baby food on occasion.
"If somebody really wants to have it now and again, that would be fine," Dulan said. "But it's a snack — not a meal replacement."
Unless, of course, you are a baby. And if you still think eating like an infant will give you Jennifer Aniston's body — well, it might just be time to grow up.
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