Thinking About Feeding Your Baby Food From A Jar? Read This First

A new study looks at the health implications of processed baby food.

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baby food. Vstock LLC/Getty Images

Now that my daughter is six months old, I am faced with the age-old (ok, not really age-old) dilemma of starting her on her first solid foods.

Until this point, I haven't had to put much thought into what her diet consists of. As a breastfeeding mother, feeding my daughter has been as simple as settling down in our favorite nursing chair and hoping that the rest of the kids won't destroy the house while she eats.

But now, it's time to expand her palate a little and I have to admit that the process of starting baby food seems daunting. 

With my other children, I followed the old-time advice of starting my baby on rice cereal first--much to disappointing results. From the baby that is. None of my kids were fans of baby cereal and as it turns out, the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't really recommend rice cereal as a first food for babies anymore anyways. 

So on to other baby food and the question: should I make my own baby food or is the stuff in a jar on the grocery store shelf good enough?

A new study in Pediatrics studied some of the most popular baby and toddler food and found both good and bad news. 

The good news? "...little sugar and sodium is added to foods intended for infants," the study concluded. 

However, any food that you are going to buy that is safe to be sitting on a grocery store shelf is obviously going to be processed so that it doesn't spoil and put simply, that processing does add more salt and sugar than homemade baby food.

One parent did a little investigating and found that even the all-natural, organic version of a baby food jar of pureed bananas contained 20 times more sodium than a simple mashed banana at home. 

So should parents assume that making baby food at home is the best choice? Not necessarily, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

The organization cautions parents to understand that some vegetables contain high levels of nitrates when cooked and serve to babies at home. So they recommend canned vegetable baby food for foods high in nitrates and sticking to cooking vegetables like peas, corn, and sweet potatoes at home for your baby. 

Look, I'm all about making good choices as a parent and I'm realistic--there will be times that I'll have the time and energy to to make my baby's homemade food, but when I can't, it's nice to know that in general, manufactures are trying to keep the salt and sugar out of food meant for babies. It only make sense. I say we use common sense, choosing simple no-cook food we can make for our babies at home (like avocados and bananas, for example) and holding companies accountable for selling healthier versions of canned fruits and veggies at the store too. 

And as a final note, be sure to be on the lookout for food choices as your baby grows too. While commercial infant food may be low in sugar and added salt, the health benefits end with toddler snacks, so be on the lookout for choosing more fresh, less-processed foods as your baby grows.

Convenience food items, such as yogurt and snack bars, are often common culprits for added sugars. 

Sources:

Susan S. Baker, MD, PhD, Robert D. Baker, MD, PhD. "Early Exposure to Dietary Sugar and Salt." Pediatrics Journal. Accessed online February 3, 2015: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2015/01/28/peds.2014-4028.full.pdf+html. 

Switching to solid food. HealthyChildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics. Accessed online February 3, 2015: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Switching-To-Solid-Foods.aspx

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