Commercial baby foods – are there any good options?

Starting your baby on solids is super exciting, but it comes with a whole new list of jobs, like cooking and pureeing baby food. Pre-packaged baby food is definitely convenient, but is it an ok option for your baby?

Here we discuss the pros and cons of packaged baby food

Is commercial baby food okay?

As a rule, pre-packaged food isn’t recommended for all the time, but there are definite moments when it can be really helpful. It’s great to take pre-packaged food when travelling with your baby. It’s easy, disposable and doesn’t need refrigeration.

But, commercial baby food at every meal is not advised for the following reasons:

  1. The texture is too consistent. That seems like a strange problem, but babies can become very reliant on the super smooth almost gelatinous texture of commercial purees. It’s virtually impossible to re-create this texture at home and babies can quickly start to prefer the easier option. In the early months of solids, babies benefit from a variety of textures (like in homemade purees) to help them to learn to bite and chew.
  2. There’s not a lot of iron content. Babies need to start on food at around 6 months to meet their increasing iron needs. Iron is found in foods like meat, legumes, lentils, chicken and fish. It’s difficult for manufacturers to include significant amounts of these foods without impacting their texture and taste standards. This means that most commercial baby foods only contain 10% or less of high iron ingredients.
  3. There’s too much fruit. Most commercial purees are more than 50% fruit. There’s nothing wrong with fruit, but we don’t want to always offer our babies sweet options at mealtime. We want them to learn to like meat and veggies without using fruit to disguise the flavour. There are a few varieties of fruit-free purees hitting our shelves at the moment.
  4. It’s expensive. Most commercial food costs at least double what it would cost you to make at home.

There are always times that you might need access to pre-packaged food options though. That might be taking a road trip, staying somewhere without a kitchen or going to someone’s house when you need an easy meal. The next tricky part is choosing a good one.

Top tips when choosing commercial baby foods:

The baby food market is BOOMING at the moment, with an influx of new products on the shelf and in the freezer section. Most parents aren’t sure whether these foods are a reasonable option and are overwhelmed by the choice on the shelves.

Most baby foods meet my criteria for sugar and salt on the nutrition panel, so you have to be smarter about what to look for.

Don’t trust the name of the product

If an ingredient is used in the name of the food (e.g. Lamb and vegetable casserole) the manufacturer must declare what percentage comes from that ingredient. Check that the key ingredient (e.g. the lamb) isn’t just a token inclusion. We want 10% or higher as a minimum.

Read the ingredient list

Ingredients are always listed in descending order. The ingredient listed first is in the greatest quantity by weight and the ingredient listed last is in the least quantity by weight. If the first ingredient is water or fruit, then you know that’s making up the majority of the product. Try to choose one with vegetables listed first.

Add a finger food

Commercial purees are very smooth. Challenge your baby with an age-appropriate finger food alongside the puree. This might be as basic as a slice of avocado or wedge of orange.

Choose frozen varieties to keep on hand

There are a range of great frozen baby purees in our supermarkets now. They’re not as convenient for on-the-go meals but are a nutritious back up to keep in your freezer.

Look out for pre-made, home delivered options in your local area

There are a number of chefs and businesses who have started producing options that they deliver to your door. These foods are convenient, and still have the benefits of home-made.

 

If your baby is struggling with solids, or not progressing with textures, then please have a look at the Baby Mealtimes membership. Baby Mealtimes is an online membership program for parents who want to take the stress out of introducing their babies to solid foods. It includes a practical guide to starting solids and includes a members-only website, a supportive Facebook community and an Instagram page which delivers regular meal inspiration.

 

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