The introduction of foods to your baby is a very exciting time for everyone, not to mention a huge milestone in their development; It can also be a little stressful at times. Commercial foods are rampant in supermarkets and stores and are a popular choice of busy parents. The question remains as to how these foods compare up with homemade foods.
In the United Kingdom a very detailed study was conducted which analysed all of the nutritional content of a total of 479 ready made meals. Including, packaged ready-made baby meals, powdered meals (reconstituted with milk or water), cereals and finger foods such as teething rusks. The items that were used in this study are very similar to those found in Australia. The results.. a little alarming to say the least.
Now as a Naturopath and nutritionist I am the first one to admit, pre-packaged foods are super handy to have and use when out and about very occasionally.
This study revealed a shocking revelation, that almost 65% of the commercial foods were actually sweet-based foods. For me this raises a concern. It has been noted that encouraging too much exposure to sweet based foods in infancy, can really shape their taste preferences in flavour of sweet foods. Research suggests that a high exposure of sweet based foods before the age of 3 is linked with a greater risk of dental issues by the age of 6 years old.
The nutritional quantity of these packaged and readily available foods were compared to homemade foods. The comparison showed these foods generally had 50% of the nutrients of that of home made foods per serve. It was noted that iron was on par with homemade foods.
Another note taken from this study is the importance of texture. The majority of these 479 commercial foods were very liquid and not a variety of textures provided, which is an important part of learning to eat. It has been proposed that a lack of different textures can lead to fussy eating and poor gag reflex in adolescents.
The reason for introducing solids to infants around 6 months is to provide additional nutrients as breastmilk and or formula begin to not have enough for their requirements. This study clearly detailed that commercial foods did not serve the purpose of enhancing nutrient density, taste and texture diversity in the infants’ diets.
Now this survey, didn’t explain what homemade foods it was compared with and there were quite a few flaws in the study, but the take home note from reading this study when beginning infant weaning and introducing them to the wide world of foods, it is best to expose them to a wide variety of home-prepared foods in order of pre packaged commercial foods which are shown to have a lower nutritional value, less flavour varieties, less quality protein content and less sweet options.