Baby Food: The Good, The Bad, and The Homemade
July 25, 2021What an exciting time it is when your little one is ready for solid foods! Sitting pretty in the highchair, little fingers grabbing for the spoon, eyes wide with anticipation of that first solid bite. Though there are no rules for what to include in baby’s milestone menu, new moms might feel a little unsure, especially with the never-ending selection of baby food options at the store and online. The one rule of thumb is to try a variety of foods to get baby used to different tastes. Here’s what to look for and avoid, as well as a few tips on making your own food.
Foods You Can’t Go Wrong With
When baby first starts eating solids, typically between 4 months old and 6 months old, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)1, soft textures are important. Start with a single grain (non-rice) cereal that’s fortified with iron. Mix 4 teaspoons to 5 teaspoons of breast milk or formula to 1 teaspoon of single-grain cereal. Pureed vegetables and fruits such as carrots, peas, and applesauce and pureed meats and poultry are also great first foods for infants in this age group. As baby progresses with chewing and motor skills, introduce single-ingredient finger foods that are soft and easy to pick up, such as avocado slices.
Ingredients to Avoid
On-going investigations and reports from Consumer Reports and the federal government2 found that many popular baby food products contain surprisingly high amounts of dangerous heavy metals – including arsenic, cadmium, and lead – that can endanger infant neurological development and long-term brain function. They recommend limiting baby’s intake of these highest-risk foods:
- Sweet potatoes
- Apple juice
- Grape juice
In addition to the above recommendations, parents should try to avoid these additives:
- BPA and phthalates, which are often found in plastic and squeezable baby food packaging. These chemicals may leach from the plastic into the food. Look for products labeled “BPA-free” or “phthalate-free.”
- Synthetic artificial food coloring. Look for foods that use natural food coloring from fruit and vegetable extracts.
- Nitrates and nitrites. Both occur naturally in some vegetables, but there is little to no risk of nitrate poisoning from commercially prepared infant foods in the United States. However, homemade infant foods prepared with well water can be a high risk for nitrate poisoning.3
Watch for Signs of Food Allergies
The rule for delaying the introduction of eggs, dairy, soy, peanuts, and fish in baby’s diet for fear of developing allergies to those foods is a thing of the past. According to the AAP, there is no evidence to suggest that a delay will prevent food allergies.4
Because food allergies are a real concern when switching babies to solid foods, moms want to take extra precautions when introducing new foods and to be on the lookout for signs of an allergic reaction, such as hives, breathing difficulties, and swelling, that can happen within minutes to a few hours after eating. Delayed allergic reactions such as eczema, diarrhea, and constipation can also occur. Moms should wait two to four days between introducing new foods, which should make it easier to pinpoint which food triggered an allergic reaction. Also, keeping a food journal can help quickly identify food patterns.
Store Bought Versus Homemade
Preparing your own delicious and nutritious baby meals from scratch is another option. You have more control over the ingredients, plus it can be less expensive. Purees are relatively easy to make with a few fresh or frozen ingredients and a blender or food processor. You can also use a spoon and fork to mash bananas, peas, or avocados!
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