While a baby’s pediatrician may give some cursory food recommendations on how to begin feeding solids, this is still an area that always seems to overwhelm and confuse parents. I often hear comments like “even though this is my fourth kid, I still don’t know what I’m doing! Parents have questions such as of whether baby food needs to be organic, whether rice cereal is the actually the best first food, what to do about allergenic foods, what key nutrients babies need most and more!
Because of all these questions, it’s easy to think that those baby food jars are the solution to all of our feeding questions. Cue the adorably healthy blue- eyed baby with puréed carrots on his face- and there’s Mom and Dad looking on and smiling without any sign of fear or anxiety. Baby food ads are created to convince us that buying their jars is doing what’s best for our baby. They may be organic, contain green veggies and have all sorts of natural claims in big letters on their front label.
So why am I opting out?
1. I believe that I can make my own safe food choices for my baby.
Jarred baby food is yet another scam perpetuated by Big Food (the few multinational companies that supply most of the world’s food), in an effort to make parents question their own knowledge and abilities. Big Food is always trying to tell us that THEY know better how to create a healthy child. Just look at this 1960s ad for Gerber baby food, which utilized the word “safely” to imply the superiority of jarred food.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has also stated that “commercially prepared vegetables are safer” than home-cooked ones because they aren’t as likely to be contaminated with dangerous plant-based chemicals called nitrates. Learn more about the flip side of the nitrates argument here .
The sad truth is that a quick Google News Search with the words “baby food recall” and lead in baby food will showcase that factory- created baby foods carry worse safety concerns than homemade. There has been recalls for lead in baby feeding products such as formulas, trace amounts of lead found in purées and juices as well as bacteria in jars and pouches. In one case, baby food was recalled because the packaging of the food was defective, which could cause spoilage and ultimately, illness to baby. Safely preparing and storing baby food at home is certainly possible. Here are some government guidelines at safely making baby food at home.
2. I believe that home cooked foods are not only safe but also healthier than their jarred counterparts.
The labels on jarred baby food products like rice cereal often displays the words “no preservatives” “100% natural” and “enriched.” Parents may think that even if they were to make the same baby food as the jars, they could not get all those vital extra vitamins and minerals! But once again, this may be misleading. Synthetic additives like vitamins are often not absorbed by the body efficiently and even may contain compounds not fit for human consumption.
It is also important to note that even though some jarred baby food only consists of one ingredient, it may be inferior nutritionally to homemade versions of the same purée. Baby food is a highly processed food as it is often made from concentrate. After all, the processing must turn a refrigerated item into a shelf stable one! In general, when a food is highly processed, key nutrients are lost in the process. See this article on all the ways home cooked food is nutritionally superior as well as how jarred baby food is actually created!
3. I want to introduce Baby to our families’ heritage and traditions.
My Grandpa was a cook in the Mexican army. My grandmother was born in Alleppo Syria before migrating to America. My family has many relatives who live in Israel. My heritage is a big part of my own life and food has an amazing way to connect us to our past. It’s typical to find cumin, coriander, allspice, Aleppo pepper, turmeric, zaatar and paprika in my dishes, so why would I ever serve plain boring puréed carrots to my baby?? I hope to broaden her palette and excite her senses from a young age. My hope is that by cooking for her with my family’s flavors, she will one day gain a sense of pride over where she came from.
Want to learn more?
Since I don’t plan on testing out any jarred baby food, I cannot personally comment on my favorites, but check out this post by Kid Mommy which may help you choose the best jarred options for your baby if this is the route you choose! Also, I never recommend pouches for babies. See more on this here - also, check out this post , which lists some of my own baby’s favorite first foods!