Store-bought baby food: Convenience or ignorance?
I have recently become a new mother; I knew from the get go that when the weaning stage came along I would only give my baby homemade baby foods because 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. After getting into conversations with a few friends with babies, I realized that most parents have no clue about the dangers of store bought jarred baby foods.
For most parents, it is a convenient alternative to the popular Pap / Tombrown, or amala and ewedu especially for those who go to crèche at an early stage. But Isn’t it ironic that 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/ microwavable 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 homemade baby purees.
Although I have had some friends turn up their noses at me and say “first baby syndrome” others are interested in finding alternatives. It is so crucial that we understand what our children’s taste palette are introduced to at a tender age set the tone for years to come. So is it convenience or sheer ignorance?
One of the biggest problems with store bought jarred food is that it is designed to be able to last on the shelves in grocery stores and supermarkets for up to 2 years. Preservatives and additives are added in other to make the food stay fresher for longer on the shelves. Unhealthy fats are also added instead of natural oils, to further extend its shelf life, in addition, it also 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. To cut costs the food is also often replaced with water or thickening agents/ starches like refined rice, refined corn and refined wheat. Another problem is the exposure to plastic containers increase the risk of toxins such as BPA.
However, when it comes to homemade baby food, all listed above can be avoided. Homemade baby food is either steamed, baked, or blended raw for baby to eat immediately or store in freezer for future use. This means that all the natural nutrients found in the fruits, vegetables, meats are intact, so is the taste, colour, texture and even the aroma. Many fruits and a variety of vegetables can be consumed by baby in its raw form, babies can benefit from the raw foods without losing any nutrients during the preparation.
Here are some of the reasons to consider changing from store bought to home-cooked baby food. It is healthier and more nutritious; you know exactly what your baby is eating. Many of the store bought options also have starches, and don’t use organic ingredients, which exposes your baby to harmful pesticides.
Homemade baby food is cheaper than store bought. A medium size jar cost on average 450 Naira, so if your baby consumes two jars a day, which is a total of 27,000 naira a month, making the switch would probably cost nothing more than 5,000 Naira a month. Another advantage is it exposes babies to more flavours and varieties. By exposing your baby at an early age to all those different flavours, you increase the chances that your baby is going to be a better eater by not giving them the same foods over and over so that their taste buds become more flexible.
Millions of children have thrived on store-bought baby food, and you aren’t less of a mother if you decide not to make every bite of food from scratch. There are pros and cons to both homemade and store bought foods, and only you know what is best for you and your child.