Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Is store bought baby food better than home cooked?

2 Comments

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When I saw this article in the Daily Mail (yeah, I know) last week I knew that I had to read the original research to see what it said. As a dietitian I’m always trying to encourage people to cook their own meals. When I talk to mums about introducing their babies to solid foods I suggest that they see it as an opportunity to enjoy balanced meals as a family. Just what I need is headlines and articles proclaiming that pre-made store bought baby food is healthier than what ever they might be preparing at home.

I was frustrated to be unable to see the list of cookbooks the authors used in this study. The link just takes me to Amazon, and the list of the most popular baby food cookbooks they used was complied in 2013 so any results I might find could be considerably different today. Naturally, I worry about the use of baby food cookbooks as a comparison to ready-meals as they tend to be written by people with limited (or no) nutrition credentials (*cough* Pete Evans *cough*. Cookbooks are also quite unlikely to provide a true picture of what parents are feeding their children.

The obvious conclusion to draw from the study is that home cooked meals are superior (from both a cost and nutritional standpoint) to ready meals (at all ages) provided parents are preparing foods without added salt and sauces. The authors didn’t seem to reach this conclusion though. Perhaps the disingenuous comparison between cookbook recipes and ready meals, and the conclusion that ready meals may be better for babies, had something to do with the funding they received from Interface Food and Drink, an organization aimed at connecting the food and drink industry with researchers.

So, we know that home cooked meals can be healthy if parents don’t waste their money on special baby cookbooks. I think that it’s also important to note that the researchers were comparing quantities based on recipe yields and packages, not what babies are actually eating. Even if babies were eating recipes prepared from these cookbooks, they may not be eating every bite. Babies are much better than us adults at knowing when they’re full. If parents are respecting their babies cues and only feeding them as much as they show a desire to eat then it shouldn’t matter how much a recipe makes, or how much is in a package.

The true message from this study should be that you don’t need to waste your money on baby food cookbooks. Nor do you need to waste your money on packaged baby foods. Most babies will thrive on, and enjoy, a variety of simply prepared “normal” foods.

If you’re looking for more information on starting your baby on solids, I recommend visiting Best Start as well as watching this video from Toronto Public Health. If possible, sign-up for an infant feeding class through your local public health office.

 

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

2 thoughts on “Is store bought baby food better than home cooked?

  1. Hi Diana,

    Greetings from the States (Boston, MA to be exact)!

    I enjoy your posts! I forget now how I found your site but no matter; I’m thinking of starting my own site/blog soon so am happy to observe good ones like yours. :)

    Because I’m in “observe” mode, figured you’d appreciate being advised that your posts now come from very non-personalized “WordPress.com” in email…before, the emails used to come from the naming convention “Bite My Words” (great title, btw). You might just have to update a setting in your email account or something. Figured you’d want to know from a branding / recipient perspective. It’s been happening for a bit now; just haven’t had the time to comment.

    Keep up the good work!

    Thanks, Kristen

    >

    Like

    • Hi Kristen,

      Thanks for reading and for letting me know about it. Unfortunately, the email feature is managed by WordPress so I’m unable to change how emails appear when they’re sent out.

      Good luck with your blog!

      Di

      Like

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