As adults, we put a lot of thought into what we eat. Most of us generally prefer home cooked food over store-bought readymade meals, not only because it tastes better but as consumers we are realizing that we are exposing ourselves to less additives, high fat, salt as well as sugar contents by rather making the food at home from scratch.
All too often however, we forget to apply the same caution when it comes to choosing store-bought over home made baby purees.
‘Not Creditable Infant Food’..
American babies consume an average of 600 jars of baby food by the time they are a year old (Chasing Green 2011). Four out of five British babies rely on tinned and jarred food (Rees 2007). Yet, the U.S. Government lists the vast majority of commercial baby food as “not creditable infant foods” on its WIC program (2011), and the U.K. Government maintains that, “Home cooking should always be encouraged over using commercial baby foods” (Infant and Child Feeding Guidelines 2010).
The effects of added preservatives and lack of nutrients of many pre-bottled baby food can have on babies are not to be overlooked… especially when compared to the potential goodness that can be found in food that has been made at home from scratch.
Healthy eating should not just be limited to adults and older children. The early stages of development are crucial to the health and well-being of infants, and the move towards solid food presents the perfect opportunity to introduce little ones to foods that are rich in natural goodness to help with this.
Simplifying The Process With Good Tools
There are also plenty of great tools on the market to simplify the process of making baby food at home – from baby food freezer trays to blenders, food thermometers, small individual glass containers and other helpful gadgets that make food preparation quicker and easier.
Why then are mothers all over the world continuing to purchase baby food in the supermarket? Are store brands really that bad, and could organic brands be any better?
Keep reading to find out why home made is always better (and why even organic baby foods might not be what they claim to be).
Home Made Baby Food versus Regular Baby Food
One of the biggest problems with food that is designed to be stored on shelves in grocery stores and supermarkets is that this food has a long shelf life of about 2 years. To make food stay ‘fresher’ for longer on the shelves, food has to be preserved and sterilized; organic as well as non-organic brands. This means that even when no additional preservatives are added, the food needs to be heated to maximum temperatures to ensure that it is not contaminated after months on the shelf. Along with this heating process all vitamins and nutrients are killed off too.
Non-organic foods also have any number of additives and preservatives added to enhance shelf life and when the food’s natural flavoring has been killed off during the heating process, artificial flavorings are often added as well to enhance the taste. Unhealthy fats are added instead of natural oils, to further extend the shelf life, while exposure to plastic containers increase the risk of toxins such as BPA.
To cut costs the food is also often replaced with water or thickening agents/starches like refined rice, refined corn and refined wheat. These substances are devoid of the outer layers of the grain, with preservatives and bleach commonly added during processing and the refining of any grain reduces its vitamins, proteins and roughage (Spock 2004).
The end result? Baby food that is as far from natural as it gets… even with an ‘organic’ label.
When it comes to homemade baby food however, all of the above can be avoided. Food is either steamed, baked, cooked or blended raw, then frozen within a matter of hours. All of the natural nutrients found in fruit, vegetables and meats are kept intact, along with the tastes, color, texture and aroma. As many fruits and some veggies can be prepared without cooking, babies can benefit from completely raw foods as well, without losing any nutrients during preparation.
Here are some good reasons to consider changing over from store bought to home-cooked baby food…
1. It’s More Nutritious
Fruit and vegetables are amazing in their ability to deliver nutrition. From the antioxidant rich goodness of brightly colored vegetables, to the good source of fiber found in root vegetables and fruit, the vitamins, protein and minerals found in each type of fruit, vegetable, seed, legume and nut, these nutrients are essential to your child’s development. Children that have all of the nutrients they need learn faster, grow stronger and have far less risk of common illnesses. Preparing simple but healthy meals in advance will ensure that your baby gets the goodness he or she deserves, without all the extras that are so often found inside pre-made food from the shops.
2. You Decide and Know What Goes Inside the Food
If you are concerned about feeding your baby additives that you can hardly pronounce, you will likely take comfort in knowing that you have full control over what goes into your baby’s food. Other than healthy spices and herbs (which add variety to meals as well as an added dose of goodness), you do not have to worry about added sugars, salt, flavorings, thickeners, colorants and other scary ingredients that have no place in infant food. Instead, you will have food that is 100% pure at all times.
3. It Saves You Money
Think about the cost of a single serving of a store-bought jar of baby food. Then, multiply that by the number of meals in a day, and the number of meals in a month. It soon starts to add up. Buying bottled food in addition to buying food for the rest of the family often ends of costing a lot in the long run. With food that is made from scratch, you only need to buy the food that the rest of the family will eat. You may choose to invest in some helpful tools to make preparation easier, but even a once-off purchase of a the few tools that are needed will not cost as much as endless bottles of store-bought food.
4. It Saves You Time
Believe it or not, making your own baby food can end up saving you time as well. Shopping trips will be reduced without the need to read labels, decide on flavors and compare products. Feeding times will get much easier, because baby will enjoy the food far more when it is made fresh with tasty, various wholesome ingredients. You can prepare a full week of meals in a single afternoon, store in your freezer and simply pop out a perfectly sized portion to warm up in no time at all. You will feel less stressed, baby will feel less stressed and feeding times will become a lot more fun.
5. Baby Gets Exposed to More Flavors
Last, but certainly not least, another major benefit of making baby food at home is that it allows you to introduce flavors that are natural and tasty. Many store-bought baby foods are bland and unappetizing, with limited variety in combinations and flavors. Herbs and spices are seldom (if ever) used in bottled food either, resulting in food that is less than exciting for your baby. Keeping the ‘4 day wait rule’ in mind and exploring with some gentle herbs and spices, will allow you to add flavors that expand your baby’s taste buds. From sweet spices to aromatic herbs, natural sweetness and tasty combinations that blend fruit, vegetables and other foods, your baby will discover a world of taste sensations as new foods and flavors are sampled.
The introduction to solid foods need not be traumatic and difficult – for baby and parents. Experimenting with the delicious goodness powered by nature will turn feeding time into something that everyone will enjoy. And for this reason especially, there are few things that can match home made baby food.