Pros & Cons of Homemade Baby Food

July 27, 2020

blog watch me bloom pros and cons for homemade baby food, Different healthy grocery food in paper bag, Zero waste shopping

These past few months have been an interesting time! With a forced slow-down of the economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our lives have been turned upside down; however, some might argue this is for the better! Busy lifestyles lead us to easy solutions for the short term, yet they aren’t providing the long-term outcomes we desire. The importance of eating healthy is something that we hear everyone talk about—but we need to dive deeper into how nutrition impacts our little ones and carve out the time to make infant nutrition a priority. We are just starting to understand how a poor diet starting in infancy can lead to more serious consequences later in life. When parents and caregivers begin complementary feeding, there are many important considerations, such as offering a variety of foods and different textures. These are important to ensure adequate nutrients are received, as well as the proper development of an infant's oral-motor function. Check out our previous blogs on When Should Babies Start Eating Solids and The Importance of Texture in Your Baby’s Diet for an introduction on these topics.

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Can infants get adequate nutrition from commercially-bought baby food?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued an alert on levels of sugar present in baby food, noting it is a danger. Food marketed to babies and toddlers contain higher than the recommended amount of sugar and sodium levels, and can lead to damaging health outcomes, including obesity and chronic illnesses.[i] Although hereditary factors can contribute to childhood obesity, energy intake versus energy output is the main reason. In one analysis of 1,120 commercially available food for infants and toddlers, misleading product labels, unclear feeding instructions, and an imbalance of ingredients were among many of the concerns. Some of the commercially available food marketed as 'healthy' contained 50% sugars in the content, and these are the products that trigger childhood obesity and illnesses later in life. [ii] 

In another study, infant food analyzed from eight different commercial manufacturers had lower protein and a lower proportion of seafood-based products on the market compared to meals made at home. Also, home-cooked meals had 6-77% more nutrient-rich content. [iii]

Is commercially prepared baby food healthy?

It is important to note that not all manufacturers are the same. Parents and caregivers need to be comfortable reading the labels and understanding the content of the food they are providing to their little ones. Commercially prepared meals can be a convenient alternative when you find yourself in a pinch. Finally, providing fresh meals is time-consuming and does not keep for as long (freezing fresh infant food for more than one month is not recommended). [iv]

The Benefits of Homemade Baby Food:

  1. Commercially prepared food can be more expensive.
  2. Commercial foods contain preservatives, excessive sugar, and sodium, leaving your infants at a greater risk of chronic illnesses later in life.
  3. Extreme heat required during processing to kill bacteria reduces nutrient benefits. 
  4. Extra packaging is not environmentally-friendly. [v]
  5. Infants and toddlers predisposed to sugar tend to prefer sweeter foods later in life making it difficult to enjoy a well-balanced diet. [vi]

caucasian blonde toddler enjoy tasting different seasonal fresh ripe organic berries sitting in highchair at home living room

Tidbit for Your Tiny One

When considering organic vs. regular food, evidence suggests a 30% lowered risk of organic food containing pesticides compared to non-organic options. [vii]

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Single-ingredient food options are recommended for the first year of life (avoid combining fruits and veggies so babies do not associate “good taste” as being sweet)
  • Children should have no more than 6 teaspoons of sugars per day and avoid added sugar entirely in infants less than 2 years of age
  • Choose fresh foods and produce whenever able [viii]

With summer upon us, and plenty of fresh produce in season, we’d like to share the following recipe poem from our upcoming second book: Recipes for Growing Me ~9 months:

sample page from recipes for growing me ~9 months, baby's first cookbook series, “S is for…strawberry", feed baby fresh fruits, what to feed your baby, baby recipe ideasS is for...Strawberry

This little strawberry
So cute and so nice
Is simple to prepare
Just wash and dice
I’m packed with folate
And vitamin C
A lovable treat
For both you and me

We hope we’ve contributed something beneficial to your baby’s diet, and remember…don’t hog the blog! Share with new parents today!

Have a bloomin’ summer day!
Sarah & Karen

[i] Beal, J.A., (2020). World Health Organization alert on high level of sugar in baby food. American Journal of Maternal Nursing, 45 (1), pp 60-60

[ii] The Lancet Diabetes Endocrinology. Baby foods: time to get tough on sugars. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2019;7(8):583. doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(19)30224-4.

[iii] Nichols, H., (2016). Store-bought baby food may be healthier per meal than homemade. Medical News Today.

[iv] Cleveland Clinic, (2013). From the jar or blender: which baby food is best?  Health Essentials.

[v] Cleveland Clinic, (2013). From the jar or blender: which baby food is best?  Health Essentials.

[vi] Beal, J.A., (2020). World Health Organization alert on high level of sugar in baby food. American Journal of Maternal Nursing, 45 (1), pp 60-60. 

[vii] Therapeutic Research Centre – Professional Monograph, (2020). Organic Food. Natural Medicines, last reviewed 2/6/2020. 

[viii] Beal, J.A., (2020). World Health Organization alert on high level of sugar in baby food. American Journal of Maternal Nursing, 45 (1), pp 60-60

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about Watch Me Bloom, you can buy our Recipes for Growing Me ~6 months book, say hello on Facebook or follow us on Instagram. If you liked this blog, share it with a new parent or caregiver. Reading this for the first time? Subscribe and receive a complimentary digital download of our ‘Love Me Forever’ Digital Print to frame for baby’s room.

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