The Paleo cookbook that’s being criticized for falling short when it comes to infant nutrition. Photo by Pan Macmillan Australia.
A new book by celebrity chef Pete Evans, aimed at helping parents follow the popular Paleo diet when feeding their babies and toddlers, has had its publication delayed. That’s due to outcry over the recipe’s nutritional merits, with one official going so far as to say, “In my view, there’s a very real possibility that a baby may die if this book goes ahead.”
The opinion came from Heather Yeatman, president of the Public Health Association of Australia, where the book, “Bubba Yum Yum: The Paleo Way for New Mums, Babies and Toddlers,” was scheduled for a Friday release. But on Thursday, a spokesperson for the publisher, Pan Macmillan Australia, announced its delay in a public statement. “Pan Macmillan Australia advises the publication of ‘Bubba Yum Yum: The Paleo Way’ has been delayed and not recalled, as incorrectly stated by Australian Women’s Weekly. The publisher will be making no further comment at this time.”
Yeatman made her comments to Women’s Weekly regarding a particular recipe in the book: for homemade baby formula created from liver and bone broth, which reportedly contains more than ten times the safe level of vitamin A for babies, and is lacking in other nutritional requirements. “Especially if [the homemade formula] was the only food a parent was feeding their infant, [death] a very real risk,” she said. “And the baby’s growth and development could be impaired.”
Evans after cooking with Australian school kids in a photo he posted to his Facebook page this week. Photo by Facebook.
Australia’s federal Health Department has also weighed in on the controversy, with a spokesperson noting it is “concerned about the inadequate nutritional values of some of the foods, in particular for infants, and is investigating further.”
The book, coauthored by blogger Charlotte Carr and naturopath Helen Padarin, is marketed as “a treasure trove of nutritional information and nourishing paleo recipes that are guaranteed to put you and your little one on the path to optimum health.” But the face of the on-hold publication is Evans, a nationally known author and TV host as well as a husband and father. He’s no stranger to controversy, and in recent years has faced ridicule for noting that he likes to eat “activated almonds,” as well as for blaming autism on diets of processed foods.
Evans is a huge proponent of the trendy Paleo diet, which he explains this way on his website: “Paleo is all about balance — taking the best from our ancestors and mixing it with the best of the 21st Century. Paleo lays the foundations for a healthy diet — whole unprocessed foods, leafy greens, fresh pesticide-free vegetables, nuts, fruits on occasion, grass-fed meat, pastured free-range poultry and wild-caught fish — and lifestyle — moving your body every day and being mindful; a holistic approach to achieving a healthier and happier life and becoming the best version of you.” The diet prohibits refined sugars, vegetable oils, dairy, grain flours, gluten, alcohol, and caffeine.
Evans, who is being criticized for promoting the paleo diet for babies, in 2010. Photo by Getty Images.
And according to a range of nutrition experts, paleo eating is not advisable for young children because of their particular requirements. “I’ve been an expert in pediatric nutrition for over 20 years and I know quite a bit about Paleo, and I’ll tell you this: The two don’t mix,” Jill Castle, a childhood-nutrition expert based in Connecticut, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Babies have really unique nutritional needs, particularly in their first year of life. And the paleo diet is inadequate in covering protein needs, and particularly fat needs, as babies need half of their calories to come from fat in order to properly nourish and develop their brains. It’s different than with adults.”
Although Castle has not seen the book in question, she agrees that a recipe for formula that has a high vitamin-A content could be dangerous. “A is one of those vitamins that is fat soluble, and you can get to toxic levels,” she says. “So that is a concern, obviously.” In addition, she says, “Formulas fall short when they don’t mimic breast milk, which are also sterile. When you start talking about raw milk and bone broth, you start to eliminate the safety component.”
Generally speaking, Castle advises using caution when it comes to young children and any kind of extreme proscribed eating. “A lot of these fad diets take out specific food groups, and to me that’s a red flag,” she notes. “Kids need all kind of food — their whole job is to grow and develop and they need calories and nutrients on a much different level than adults. When you remove one food group, you have to be very careful to make up for the nutrients you’ve pulled out.” It’s also important to expose children to a variety of foods so that, in case they’re picky, there’s still plenty left to choose from. “They’ll eat what they want to in the end,” she says.”