Make Your Own Homemade Baby Food to Lower Sugar and Increase Nutrients
A UK study has found that commercially purchased solid foods for infants are not meeting many children’s nutritional needs. Homemade versions are a better bet for the necessary amounts of energy and protein, finds a study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow analyzed more than 450 store-bought infant products from manufacturers such as Cow & Gate, Heinz, Boots, Hipp Organic, Organix, and Ella’s Kitchen. Included were ready-made cereals, biscuits, bars, and snacks.
The researchers found that babies who ate ready-made foods got more calories but half the nutrients compared to those who ate homemade foods. The team also found that commercial infant foods contained 65% more sugar. Exposure to these sweeter foods could set the stage for poor eating habits into childhood and adulthood plus potentially be a factor in dental decay.
Parents are not recommended to start solid foods until between the ages of 4 and 6. Until then, breast milk or formula meets the baby’s nutrition needs. (Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months after birth.) Cues for initiating solid foods include:
• Head control. Your baby needs to be able to keep his head in a steady, upright position.
• Losing the "extrusion reflex." To keep solid food in his mouth and then swallow it, your baby needs to stop using his tongue to push food out of his mouth.
• Sitting well when supported. Even if he's not quite ready for a highchair, your baby needs to be able to sit upright to swallow well.
• Chewing motions. Your baby's mouth and tongue develop in sync with his digestive system. To start solids, he should be able to move food to the back of his mouth and swallow. As he learns to swallow efficiently, you may notice less drooling – though if your baby's teething, you might still see a lot of drool.
• Significant weight gain. Most babies are ready to eat solids when they've doubled their birth weight (or weigh about 15 pounds) and are at least 4 months old.
• Growing appetite. He seems hungry – even with eight to ten feedings of breast milk or formula a day.
• Curiosity about what you're eating. Your baby may begin eyeing your bowl of rice or reaching for a forkful of fettuccine as it travels from your plate to your mouth.
The weaning process is considered to be a crucial process in an infant's early life, aiming to introduce him or her to a wider range of textures, tastes and flavors, and encouraging the acceptance of a variety of foods while boosting nutrient and energy intake.
The first “solid” food introduced is usually a single-grain infant cereal such as rice cereal. These should be prepared with breast milk or formula, without any added sugar or salt. Food should be introduced slowly – only one new food at a time – to assess for signs of allergy or intolerance.
Single-ingredient fruits and vegetables often come next. The best foods to introduce first include purees of carrot, bananas, avocado, green peas or butternut squash. These are smooth, mild-flavored and slightly sweet. Remember to thin them down to liquid consistency for baby’s first meals.
Cooking Light First Foods by Carolyn Land Williams MEd RD offers recipes for homemade baby food purees, including this favorite carrot recipe:
Cut 1 pound of peeled carrots (about 6) into 1/2 –inch-thick slices. Place in a vegetable steamer, steam covered 20 minutes or until very tender. Remove carrot from steamer, reserving cooking liquid. Place carrot in a food processor and process until smooth, adding cooking liquid 1 tablespoon at a time to reach desired consistency. This recipe can be frozen for future use. Williams recommends freezing batches into ice-cube trays (each cube holds about 2 tablespoons). Defrost just one cube at a time at first until baby begins eating more.
A. L. Garcia, S. Raza, A. Parrett, C. M. Wright. Nutritional content of infant commercial weaning foods in the UK.Archives of Disease in Childhood, 2013; DOI:10.1136/archdischild-2012-303386
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