A Glasgow team have tested 479 shop bought baby foods and found that most of them had fewer nutrients than homemade versions. They also found that the majority of the foods (65%) were sweet in taste, sweetened with fruit sugar rather than sugar itself. Finger foods expecially were found to be sweet.
A quote from the researchers “UK infant mainly supplies sweet, soft, spoonable foods targeted from age 4 months”
Babies have an innate preference for sweet foods and breast milk itself has a sweet taste to it, however when it comes to weaning we want to be encouraging our small ones to extend their palate. Offering a range of tastes, textures and flavours will do this, by sticking to sweeter tastes babies will be more likely to want sweet foods later in life which could lead to less healthy choices.
The nutritional composition of the baby foods was looked at and the researchers found that babies would need to eat twice as much shop bought foods to get the same energy and protein as a homecooked meal. This makes it pretty hard work for a baby to meet their nutritional needs.
So is there a role for shop bought baby foods and should manufacturers be changing their meals?
I would say there still is a role for these foods. We all need a balance of foods in our diets and being a mum I know full well that there are occasions when a pouch or jar of baby food can be so much easier. Try to stick to homemade meals as often as you can and keep the bought versions for those emergency occasions. I’ve certainly used bought baby meals when abroad on holiday for example and when out and about with no other options.
My top tip would be to aim for 80% of the diet to be homemade, be realistic about your time, plan meals, cook in bulk and freeze and don’t beat yourself up if you resort to shop bought food now and again.
Read the abstract of the study here.