September 10, 2019
Serenity Carr, my recent guest on the podcast, “Why You Shouldn’t Let Modern Baby Food Anywhere Near Your Baby (& What To Use Instead To Make Your Baby Stronger & Smarter).“, created (along with her husband, Joe) the only packaged baby food I would ever recommend a parent feed to their precious child.
If you're expecting, are a new parent, or just have a baby in your life that you care about, this episode is a must-listen.
When their first child was on the way three years ago, Serenity and Joe took matters into their own hands—after being disappointed by the virtual absence of baby food that met their dietary standards—and created Serenity Kids. I actually found out about this company because I do a lot of investing in the health and the nutrition sector. Not only did I wind up investing in them, but I tried some of the baby food myself and it’s so dangerously tasty that I suspect that you as a parent might start stealing it from your baby if you get some. (Despite being dressed up as a “big baby” in the photo, I'm actually not kidding. I really have been eating this stuff every day alongside my ribeye steak and salmon—it's addictively good and digests incredibly clean.)
In this guest post by Serenity, you'll discover what set her and her husband on the path to starting their own baby food company, the problems with most baby foods out there, and what exactly makes Serenity Kids baby food so special. Enjoy!
Heartburn, Anxiety, & Insomnia—The Story Of My Life!
My well-meaning mother was a vegetarian while pregnant with me.
Born early, I got my first of many ear infections and subsequent rounds of antibiotics when I was two weeks old.
I had colic and cried for most of that first year; and growing up, I had constant stomach problems. I was (and still am) a total sugar addict. Now I know that I’m intolerant of most of the foods I grew up eating: dairy, wheat, and even certain vegetables, and though I love sugar, it hates me.
Eight years ago, over-the-counter antacids stopped working for me. Acid reflux was becoming unmanageable, and I was plagued with pain daily. When a doctor told me the only solution to my pain was to take a proton pump inhibitor pill every day for the rest of my life, I began desperately looking for other answers.
Note from Ben: it is interesting to note that the latest research on plant-based diets for women who are expecting reveals that “a design of pregestational nutrition intervention is required in order to avoid maternal undernutrition and consequent impaired fetal growth.” You can read the full write-up here. In short, Amino Acids, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Calcium, DHA, and Iron, at minimum, are crucial to avoid risk of fetal impairment for mothers who are not consuming compounds such as meat and fish.
An Ancestral Approach To Diet
Eventually, my dad sent me copies of The Primal Blueprint and The Paleo Solution, and I never looked back. Since finding the Paleo diet, my stomach feels great, my anxiety is gone, and I sleep much better. I became such a believer that I left my corporate job to start a Paleo coaching business and became a member of the Paleo f(x) conference team.
I was really moved by Paleo’s “ancestral approach,” which is based upon a theory that humans have lived on this planet in our current genetic form for more than 500,000 years, and we’ve only had agriculture for about 15,000 years. So, for 95% of human history, we lived in nomadic tribes, hunting and gathering our food, subsisting on plant matter we foraged and animals we hunted. Grains, legumes, dairy, industrial seed oils, sugars, and processed foods are all products of agriculture and therefore not an inherent part of our genetically determined diet.
Essentially, the Paleo Diet seeks to mimic our ancestral diet by cutting out foods that require agriculture and actively include the most nutrient-dense foods such as pasture-raised meats, eggs, organic vegetables, offal, cultured foods, and healthy fats.
The new research on inflammation and the gut biome is consistent with this approach and has determined that non-ancestral foods create inflammation and leaky gut, and most ancestral foods do not. So, when facing my health problems, it made sense to me to start with diet changes, and it worked!
In fact, it's often the diet Ben recommends when somebody comes to him seeking advice on everything from skin issues like acne or eczema, to gut pain, brain fog, food allergies or intolerances, constipation, or any other signs of immune system or inflammation issues.
My husband, Joe, and I met through the Paleo community. Joe is autistic, and living a Paleo lifestyle has drastically reduced his anxiety, improved his attention and focus, and stopped his excessive burping. Research has demonstrated links between diet and symptoms of autism. He teaches Paleo principles to other autistic people and parents of autistic kids.
Note from Ben: I'm not Paleo “per se,” since my family consumes foods such as raw goat's milk, slow-fermented, non-GMO sourdough wheat bread, soaked and sprouted legumes, etc. but as a dietary approach for healing the type of issues Serenity had, it is a very good solution.
Shocked, I Couldn’t Believe It
Joe and I were planning to have a child, so at Paleo f(x) 2016, we got excited about looking for baby food that met our dietary standards. But, we couldn’t even find a single booth devoted to kids. We asked Michelle Norris, Paleo f(x) CEO, where the baby booths were and she said, “I ask myself that every year.” I searched in grocery stores, baby stores, online – nothing!
So I got to work.
When we started to consider making our own baby food brand, we compiled ingredients lists and nutrition facts of the top 256 leading organic baby food pouches. What we found was that even the organic brands were ridiculously high in sugar and consistently lacked a good amount of fat.
Infants need at least 30 grams of fat a day, according to the USDA Guide to Infant Nutrition & Feeding, and yet high-fat baby foods were virtually non-existent (less than 1% had more than 2 grams of fat).
The USDA also warns against sugar, recommending parents limit the amount of sugar and sweet foods they give to babies, but leading organic baby food pouches had an average of 9 grams of sugar. That’s a lot for a tiny little body. Feeding a 15-pound baby 9 grams of sugar equates to an adult having more than two cans of Coke!
And last, meat is recommended as a quality first food for babies, but less than 4% of organic baby foods contained meat, not to mention the fact that none of it was grass-fed or pasture-raised. Early on we were introduced to the co-founders of EPIC Bar, Taylor Collins and Katie Forest, who were 6-months pregnant at the time. They were thrilled to help us follow in EPIC's footsteps to transform the baby food industry and introduce a Paleo baby food product to the mainstream.
We already knew we wanted to use grass-fed and pastured meats for the nutrition they provide, but they taught us how raising animals on pasture in the right way can actually regenerate the land – a big step up from sustainability. So using regeneratively farmed meat in our baby foods is not only better for infant health, but for the health of the animals, the farmers and the planet.
For Joe, it totally clicked. As an avid animal lover, environmentalist and one whose mother grew up on a family farm, Joe realized that our company could be even more aligned with his values by both improving infant nutrition and supporting small family regenerative farmers.
Compassion in World Farming published a comprehensive report compiling the various studies done on conventionally raised meat versus pasture-raised meat. Here’s one snippet of what they found:
“Choosing pasture-reared beef over intensely-raised beef would make a significant contribution to meeting nutritional requirements for long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Pasture-reared beef contains more vitamin E… and also contains more beta-carotene… pig meat from free-range systems has a higher proportion of omega-3 fatty acids, and a more favorable (lower) ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids… contains more vitamin E… and also contains more iron.”
In short, they discovered pasture-raised pigs and poultry were similarly nutritionally superior.
Focusing On Quality Over Profit Margin
Baby foods made from cheap fruit purees bring in an enormous profit margin. Babies get hooked on them and they provide little nutritional value making the baby need to eat more and more.
So it should come as no surprise that recent studies are now linking childhood obesity to infant diets.
It’s crazy that babies are being diagnosed obese as young as 18 months old! Infants begin forming palate preferences in their first year of life. During the crucial flavor window, if they are only introduced sweet flavors, they develop a preference for sweet things which discourages healthy eating later. Plus, sugar, even from fruit, can lead to inflammation, fussiness from sugar crashes, and sugar addiction (like I suffered from). Whereas introducing a variety of flavors early will set them up for a diverse healthy diet as they get older.
The calories from breastmilk (nature’s perfect baby food) are about half fat, half carbs, with a little bit of protein. So, we set off to make a baby food that matched these macros with as much nutrient-density as possible. We got to work in our kitchen cooking up Paleo baby food recipes and passing them out to our friends with babies (and eventually our baby).
We landed on eight different flavor combinations of pasture-raised meats, organic vegetables, and healthy fats which also provide heme iron, potassium, and calcium, which are often lacking in conventional baby foods and are a key building block in a baby’s development. We even created a wild-caught salmon variety, which provides a strong source of DHA and EPA, omega-3 fatty acids necessary for brain, nerve and eye development, which are essential for babies switching from breastmilk or formula to solids.
Some of our most popular flavors include our Grass Fed Beef with Organic Sweet Potato and Kale, Free Range Chicken with Organic Peas and Carrots, and Wild Caught Salmon with Organic Butternut Squash and Beet. Sounds yummy right? They are!
See for yourself in this video we captured of one of our biggest fans…
Plus, these meats contain easily digestible protein and essential fatty acids, and the vegetables are a great source of slow-burning carbs, fiber, and vitamins – without excessive sugar.
Our Unique Packaging Process
We chose the pouch because it has become the primary format for packaged baby food, and we wanted to make it easy for parents to switch to more nutritious ingredients.
Parents like pouches over jars because they’re lightweight and easy to carry around, they aren’t breakable when dropped, and a baby can easily feed themselves.
Because they’re made with a combination of plastics, standard city programs won’t recycle them, so we have partnered with Terracycle who will send parents a pre-paid envelope they can use to mail in their used pouches to be turned into things like flower pots and park benches.
Additionally, it turns out that thin, flexible packaging has a MUCH smaller carbon footprint than glass jars. The pouch’s smaller size and weight require way less fuel to transport – it actually takes nine times more fossil fuel to transport a glass jar versus a pouch! Also, only a third of recyclable materials actually get recycled, so the vast majority of those jars get thrown away, taking up 26 times more space in landfills than pouches. So while we recommend limiting the use of disposable packaging, we felt better knowing that baby food pouches are a lesser evil.
We also use a heat/pressure canning process to make the product shelf-stable, which protects nutrients and eliminates the need for preservatives or stabilizers.
One year after we launched our first products, we are growing fast! In addition to our website and on Thrive Market, you can find us at Whole Foods nationwide and in many regional grocery chains. Eventually, we plan to be everywhere baby food is sold, and to continue expanding our product line to include toddler and children’s foods.
We say we have many missions. It’s because it’s true. We take them all very seriously, for our health, the health of our baby, and yours! Because every bite counts.
Ben here again. As a special offer just for my audience, Serenity has arranged a sweet deal on Serenity Kids' most popular variety packs. Just click here to save up to 20%. Your little one will thank you! You can also click here to hear me, Serenity and Joe take a much deeper dive into baby food and the story behind Serenity.
For more tips beyond nutrition, here are some of my top resources for raising strong, healthy, supersmart tiny superhumans:
- 10 Tips For Raising Healthy, Smart and Successful Kids.
- How A Steady Diet Of Standard Education Is Choking The Creativity, Health & Fitness Out Of Our Kids And What You Can Do About It.
- Should You Or Your Kids Get Vaccinated? One Doctor’s Surprising Answer To Making The Big Decision On Vaccines.
- 5 Ways That Workout Nutrition Should be Different For Young People and Children
- 10 Ways To Grow Tiny Superhumans – Ben Greenfield’s Top Tips For Raising Strong, Resilient, Happy Kids
Leave your questions, thoughts, or feedback about childhood nutrition and healthy baby food below, and Serenity, Joe or I will respond ASAP.