The Bottom LineBecause most parents will choose their babies’ diets based on what is sold on the baby food shelves, it is no wonder that children are starting out on very poor diets, with foods made as cheaply and quickly as possible by companies trying to make a buck- or millions of bucks. The first thing you need to know about jarred baby foods is that they are made by companies who are more worried about their bottom line than your baby’s health and nutrition. Even though organic jarred baby food is an improvement over the traditional, it is still not even close to foods that you can make at home.
Jarred Baby Food is “Convenient”I would never suggest to anyone to serve jarred foods in their homes, but I can see why it happens. It’s “easier,” “faster,” and “more convenient.” After all, I did it myself, because I didn’t know that there was an alternative. These qualities are great- if you weren’t sacrificing the health of your child. Doing things easier, faster, and more conveniently is not a good trade off for the number of times you will be sitting in the doctor’s office because your child is getting illness after illness because she is not getting enough nutrients from her foods.
Where to Begin with Homemade Baby FoodYou will need to arm yourself with some basic information about how to make baby food, foods to try and when, and things to look out for. The absolute best source of information regarding these is Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. It contains almost 600 pages of information, and provides updates at the website www.superbabyfood.com. This book is vegetarian, which is actually good. It talks about foods that you may never have thought about, and if you are a meat eater (I am, too) then you can introduce solid meats as appropriate at your dinner table. (Would YOU want to eat pureed meat?)
If You Want to Get Started Nowand add water until it is a consistency appropriate for your baby. It has good fats in it that are great for brain development. Bananas are also easy to prepare. Mash, add water, and serve. (Always use distilled water). Egg yolk is a great source of iron, and some people even feed their babies raw liver for iron. The book suggests an iron supplement, but I have never given my babies iron supplements and they have done very well. If you are breastfeeding, it is important that you are getting the proper nutrition, including iron, so that your baby is getting this from you.
What is so Bad About Jarred Baby Food?
- Jarred baby food was once filled up with “junk” to help fill up the jar. Once parents caught on to this and demanded change, many of these fillers were removed. The main concern I have is that the foods in the jars are over processed. This means that most of the nutrients are no longer there because they have been cooked out. Jarred baby food has a completely different taste from homemade food, so when the label says, “Sweet potatoes, water,” and the list stops there, something’s not right.
- Depending on jars of food limits your baby’s experience with food. Not only does it taste bad, there is a limited variety that you find yourself alternating, and probably getting bored with it yourself! Making your food at home, and realizing all of the options out there (depending on the season) opens your baby’s world up to a very wide selection of foods to experience, improving his concept of “food.”
- You aren't supposed to feed straight from the jar, and the servings in jars are bigger than what your baby will eat at one sitting. This forces parents to either throw away unused food, or some parents even feed their baby only one food during a meal so that they finish it. This is not good!
- You don't get to see what the food was made from. Do you think that they select their best fruits and vegetables to make their baby food? Food manufacturers are always going to select the worst looking fruits and vegetables to make baby foods, just as they pick the worst oranges to make orange juice.
What About Organic Foods?Organic jarred baby food is just as processed as the traditional foods, but at least it's pesticide-free. This is a big deal, but you can make your own organic foods at home that are not over-cooked. Even more important than organic fruits and vegetables, you should look for organic dairy and meat products as well. Dairy and meat contain more residual pesticides and growth hormones by far. Some fruits and vegetables contain more pesticide residuals than others and you can see a list of these fruits and vegetables to help you decide which are “okay” if they are not available organically grown. For the times when you do have to use inorganically grown fruits and vegetables, use a veggie wash to remove as much pesticides as possible.
Freezing and Thawing Baby FoodIf you are like most moms, you will probably freeze your baby's food in ice trays or little bowls. It is much easier to freeze large batches and thaw as needed (keeping the food as fresh as possible). Homemade baby food shouldn't sit longer than a day or two in the refrigerator. Plan your baby's foods the night before, and move them from the freezer to the refrigerator. If you can find a way to heat the food without using your microwave, I highly suggest this. Food does not have to be warm, but your baby will probably prefer food at room temperature. If you can collect baby food jars from friends, store the food in them, and then place the jar in hot water when you are preparing your baby's meal.
Any Tips on Making Homemade Baby Food Easier?
- Make the food in batches and store in the freezer. Pull out the amount you need for the next day and thaw in the fridge. Servings should be in one ounce portions until baby is eating bigger servings. Ice trays work nice. Freeze them in ice trays, then put the cubes into little baggies.
- Select foods that are age appropriate that are also in season. The Super Baby Food book will tell you this, but you will also know when you go the store and see what is available.
- Tell yourself if you ever “don’t have time” or “think it’s a pain,” that it’s only temporary! Before you know it your baby will be eating food right off your plate, which reminds me…
- Change YOUR eating habits NOW! Once baby is eating solids, he is getting closer and closer to taking on your dietary habits. If you eat too much junk, recognize that and change it. You will feel much better planning for this rather than changing it once you realize how badly your toddler is eating. Children get into food ruts because we have limited their repertoire of foods. Always offer fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt, nuts (when applicable), cheese, meat, hummus and other healthy foods before you resort to what’s easy and on hand- like cookies, chips, muffins, doughnuts, etc. Once you have moved on from preparing baby food, it is essential to make sure you have just as healthy foods available for munching!