Just like in the case of baby formula, many people mistakenly think that commercial baby food is nutritious, fortified with all the vitamins and minerals, better than home cooked food, and good for the baby. Just like in the case of baby formula, this is completely untrue. Nothing beats homemade baby food.
And no thanks to aggressive marketing efforts by baby food manufacturers, more and more parents (wrongly) believe that babies must start with commercial baby cereal before they can go on to ‘real’ food like porridge. Nothing can be further from the truth. Your baby does not need commercial baby food at all.
A substantial portion of a jar of commercial baby food is actually water and modified starch. Hence, what you get is a really watered down version with little nutritional value (compared to the same amount of the homemade version). Yet you are charged a high price for nothing. What you pay is many, many times more than if you were to buy the raw ingredients and cook from scratch. Even the more ‘healthy’ organic types use fillers like starch and water.
Do not be fooled by commercial baby food makers when they tell you that their baby food has nutrition specially formulated to meet your baby’s needs. You will be able to meet your baby’s nutritional needs by simply making your own baby food too. (The same goes for follow-on milk. They are just monetary rip-offs.)
Even baby fruit juices are rip-offs. I did a quick survey once when buying prune juice for Dominic. Commercial baby prune juice is basically a very watered down version of the normal adult ones. Yet the price is many times higher. For example, comparing Heinz Apple and Prune juice with Del Monte prune juice, the Heinz version is about 50% watered down. Hence, if your original intention was to buy Heinz baby juice and dilute by half, what you can do is simply buy the adult version, dilute by 50% to get the baby version, and then dilute by 50% again to get what you want. It is much cheaper.
Besides having little benefits (other than the convenience), there are other potential dangers such as additives, pesticides, excessive amount of sugar, etc. In my opinion, commercial baby food is fine if eaten once in a while, especially when the convenience is needed. However, if you do buy those little jars, always read the labels and avoid those with additives, salt or MSG, and added sugar in various forms.
These days, baby food has so much fanciful stuff added they sound more like space food than real food.
Taste & Texture
To be honest with you, I have not tasted commercial baby food myself. I was fed a lot of commercial baby food when I was a baby but of course, I can’t remember what they tasted like . Those were the days when commercial baby food just came into the market and parents giving their babies commercial baby food were perceived to be well-to-do and modern.
What I can tell you is what others have told me – that commercial baby food are usually bland and do not taste good. One of these days, I would want to taste it for myself but until now, I just cannot bring myself to pay the money for it.
As for texture, unlike real food, regardless of what food type you buy, commercial baby food has the same textures. You only get different texture when you buy food for different age group of babies, ie. baby food for younger babies are more pureed than those for older babies.
If you give your baby real food that you cooked, your baby would really experience the different textures for different food and learn to eat them. If you start your baby on commercial baby food, chances are, you may have a problem getting your baby to eat normal food later on because your baby is so used to one type of texture and consistency.
Making Your Own
It is not difficult to make your own baby food. I shared some tips in Making Homemade Baby Food. If you need ideas for variety, there are plenty of books on baby food recipes as well as plenty of websites on the internet for you to draw ideas from. Making your own will definitely be more troublesome than to feed commercial baby food. However, the benefits far out-weighs the little inconvenience. Not only is it more nutritious, it is so much cheaper.
E.g. I spent about $3 dollars on apples and pears and made about 4 jam jars of pear & apple sauce. I estimated it to be about (conservatively) the same amount as 10 jars of baby food version. 1 jar of baby food costs about S$1.32. This means that to get the same amount of food, you will need to pay S$13.20. For a small fraction of this amount, you get fresh, completely natural homemade version with no additives and more nutritional value.
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