Few of us can argue that commercially prepared baby foods are convenient, hygienic and increasingly nutritionally sound. Nevertheless, we should be selective when choosing commercially prepared baby foods. Make sure you opt to use them occasionally and are age-appropriate, contain quality ingredients, have minimal or no additives or preservatives and contain no salt or sugar (albeit it in the form of fruit juice).
Avoid feeding your baby solely on commercially prepared foods. This can lead to problems such as:
- A reduction in variety of taste, nutrients and textures: Infants who eat home-made foods tend to get a wider variety of tastes, foods, nutrients and food textures.
- Exposure to hidden sweeteners: Fruit juice or skim milk is often used to sweeten a product (even those labelled with 'no added sugar'). That’s why some babies develop strong preferences for commercially prepared baby foods.
- Preference for softer and smoother texture: For obvious safety reasons, manufacturers of commercial baby foods generally produce foods that are softer and smoother in texture than home-prepared meals. An over-reliance on soft food for too long can slow the progression to meals. Increasingly lumpier-textured food is given at around seven months, leading to finger foods at around nine months. Lumpy food is best for normal development (including speech), growth and dentition. Also, lumpy food appears to be important in avoiding food fussiness later.
- Confusion about quantity: Quantity can be confusing even though the use of a jar may suggest that it’s the ideal serving for all babies. Some parents are left wondering if the quantity is appropriate or not.
- Choices based on adult preferences: Marketing of baby foods is sometimes aimed at us, with terms such as 'dinner' or 'dessert' reflecting our eating patterns. Mix it up as much as possible and leave the habits to form later.
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