Reasons to Make Homemade Baby Food – And Why to Ditch the Store-Bought
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Is your baby about to hit the 6-month mark? Are you considering your options for healthy foods to start your little guy or girl on? Should you go organic? Are you deciding between buying commercially bought foods or making it yourself?
The first year is the most important years in your child’s development. It is at this time that many of the development foundations are built. Everything you can think of starts here. The sounds they learn in the first year are the ones that will stay with them in their native language(s) for the rest of their lives. Likewise, what foods you feed them in this timespan will form the eating habits that they keep for years to come. If the first foods you feed them are sweet and fatty, they will develop a strong preference and even an addiction to sweets and fatty foods (1).
If you are considering your options for your budding connoisseur, here are some reasons to make homemade baby food instead of buying.
Why Make Your Own Baby Food?
There are a great many reasons to make your own baby food at home. The first and most important reason for me was having total control over the ingredients. I have been on a mission to keep sugar away from my daughter as long as I can. Now, I know it is a losing battle in the end. But the first year is mine to choose what she eats. Whether she likes it is another story entirely. But besides sugar, I wanted to keep all the preservatives away from her too.
The second reason is that baby food is expensive. Even stating that seems like an understatement especially organic baby food. On average, a 4 oz. pouch of organic baby food costs about $1.75 on average at the grocery store. On Amazon or someplace like Costco, you can buy it in larger amounts for a little less (around $1.36 on average) which is much better. The jars, of course, are a little cheaper but much harder to travel with. The jars usually cost about $1 at the store and $0.75 online. Although that might not seem like much, it really adds up over time especially since your hungry little one will go through at 3 of those a day if not more depending on what stage they’re at and whether or not you are doing any kind of baby-led weaning or whole foods. Of course, you could buy non-organic food and it’ll be cheaper but I would highly advise against it. Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables contain a scary amount of poisons (herbicides, pesticides, etc.) and young children are especially susceptible to these toxins. If you can’t afford to go completely organic, at least consider buying organic with the “dirty dozen” types.
A third reason to make your own baby food is that homemade baby food is more nutritious. The process by which baby food can keep on the shelf is the same as canning food: sterilization. That means the food gets cooked at very high temperatures. In that process, most of the nutrients get cooked out of the food. Research has shown over and over again how nutrient-deficient commercial bought baby food is and children raised only on store-bought baby food (2). Many of the store-bought brands have higher amounts of sugar, salt, and fats than foods prepared at home and with half of those having food claims to the contrary.
The fourth reason is that homemade baby food is more flavorful than the pre-made stuff. Have you ever tasted commercially bought baby food? It is pretty gross at worst, bland at best. You really think your kid is going to like that any better than you do? I try out every one of my daughter’s baby foods before I give it to her and they taste great. In fact, I occasionally throw some of her leftover fruit purees in my yogurt or oatmeal. You can also get creative with your mixes and add spices for a little extra flare. I’ve put in cinnamon, cardamom, oregano, basil, cumin, garlic, and many others to give her variety and she loves them all. Check which spices are safe for your baby’s age and have fun with it!
The fifth reason is making food at home is better for the environment. Just think of all those packages that get thrown away. And that doesn’t include the packaging and gas it took to get those products to the grocery store, the distribution warehouse, and so on all the way back to the manufacturer.
But the last one is the most disturbing of all.
Heavy Metals Found In Commercial Baby Food
I wasn’t planning on sharing baby food recipes here for a little while longer but then I was informed about a frightening discovery that was published just last month.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
A few days ago I was at a playdate with a new friend and her little boy. We were sitting in the grass on a beach towel giving our kids snacks. As I was giving my daughter some of her puffs, my friend asked me if I had heard about the report that came out recently on high levels of heavy metals found in baby food. I told her that these were the organic HappyBaby puffs as though that would exclude them from what she was talking about. Isn’t that why we buy organic foods for our families and ourselves? To mitigate the pesticides and other poisons that can leave residue in and on our food.
She told me that those puffs were on the list. And in fact, a large number of organic baby foods were on it for that matter. Part of me was shocked that this was even an issue and part of me wasn’t. Part of me that was surprised thought there must be strict regulations or at least some governing over baby food. There isn’t I find out later.
The part of me that wasn’t is the reason why I’ve tried to minimize commercially made food for my little girl to begin with. But there are only so many hours in your day and we can’t do everything. So I thought a few snacks to save me some time was a minimal sacrifice to make and I even made sure they had no added sugar in them for good measure.
After I left my friend I immediately looked up that article she was talking about and I was very upset at what I found (and still am as I write this). The organic HappyBaby puffs were on the list and in fact, was one of the highest in containing heavy metals. Ironically, the non-organic Gerber Lil’Crunchies were completely safe. If that isn’t a lesson in life, I don’t know what is.
If you’d like to read the entire Consumer’s Report for yourself, go here.
Paving the Way For a Healthier Future
The foods we eat are so important. With the numbers on children and adolescents with obesity and other health issues constantly rising, it is becoming more clear how important these first foods are in our children’s lives. My daughter was started on spinach, broccoli, and other vegetables for a few months before I started any fruits and it has made a difference I think. She loves to eat her veggies and there is rarely a food war at mealtimes. In fact, the first time she ate a banana she didn’t like it or anything else similarly sweet. That has changed since then, of course, but she doesn’t prefer sweets at the exclusion of all else.
I’ve discussed with you the “why’s” to making homemade baby food. But what about the “how”? Fear not! I won’t leave you hanging for long. In my next post, I will go over how to make organic baby food at home. The only thing you need is a blender.
I hope you found this post helpful. If you have any questions or information I didn’t address that you’d like to add, please leave a comment below and I will get back to you soon. I look forward to hearing from you!