It’s a question asked by many new parents. Jade from Bellota Baby, argues the case for handmade baby food.
As a new parent, the weaning process can be intimidating. It’s new and scary and all you want to do is make sure your child has everything they need. It can be tempting to rely on familiar named brands, assuming they will deliver the healthiest option for the small person in your life.
However, new research suggests this isn’t quite true. In fact, mass produced baby foods often don’t provide weaning babies with all the nutrients they need.
The department of Human Nutrition at Glasgow University found many commercial baby weaning foods ‘would not serve the intended purpose of giving a baby adequate nutrients or help them develop a range of tastes and textures’. That’s a bit alarming, right?
If we take a closer look and compare handmade versus supermarket baby food, we can see some obvious differences:
Handmade baby food is usually served in a bowl or a plate encouraging children to develop their motor skills. This enables them to explore food and eat independently.
Bigger brands are often packaged in foil or plastic pouches which you squeeze food out of, sometimes directly into an infant’s mouth. This tends to encourage sucking which unfortunately does not promote healthy development and feeding skills.
Studies have even shown that the late introduction of lumpy food (due to babies being stuck in the puree phase) has been associated with feeding problems in the future.
Handmade baby food is normally prepared using fresh ingredients, probably taken straight from the fridge and made into a meal or snack to be eaten right away.
In comparison, shelf stable pouches found in supermarkets often have a two and a half year shelf life. The ingredients may have left the ground, farm or sea three whole years ago. If you then feed it to a six month old, the food will be five times older than the child!
As with a lot of packaged food, labels can be misleading. Manufacturers regularly bulk out products with the cheapest component to increase their profits. In the EU, for example, a ‘meat based’ spaghetti bolognese dish can contain as little as 8% meat.
The purees from pouches are also often sweetened with fruit. While this is a natural ingredient, it doesn’t really help expand children’s palates. Babies already love sweet things! Experiment with flavours you might not find on the shelves. In doing so you’ll encourage little ones to develop a taste for new savoury flavours.
In order to appeal to babies and toddlers and to gain the right mushy consistency, baby food is often heated as part of the manufacturing process. However, unlike at home, it doesn’t stop there. Manufactured baby food is then pasteurised at high temperatures to prevent spoilage, killing bacteria (both good and bad) and giving it its long shelf life.
Ever wondered why the vibrant colour and taste of your fresh handmade purees is so different to those you squeeze from a pouch bought in a supermarket? It’s as if the food is no longer living. That’s because many of the original nutrients, antioxidants and enzymes can’t survive high temperatures.
Pasteurisation can reduce levels of Vitamin C in food by 50% and other water soluble vitamins by as much as 80%. It also alters the mineral components within the food – calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulphur all become less available for their tiny bodies to absorb.
All those lost nutrients mean that our little ones require more commercial baby food in order to gain a similar amount of essential nutrients than from handmade baby food – which doesn’t help your wallet either.
Have a Go!
Which is all well and good, you may be thinking, so long as you have bags of time, cash and imagination. It doesn’t have to be complicated though – it can be as simple as mashing a sweet potato into a bowl.