By Dr. Nicole Avena
Providing proper nourishment for your baby is an important part of kickstarting their development. The number of options for baby food these days can seem dizzying, but with a bit of research and thoughtful consideration, choosing how to feed your baby can be a relatively straightforward decision. Here are some factors to consider:
The biggest pro to store-bought baby food is its convenience. For parents short on time, pre-made foods can be a life-saver. What’s more, homemade baby food, even more so than other homemade meals, requires adherence to strict food preparation guidelines. According to the Federal Food Safety website, infants are more likely to get food poisoning from spoiled foods than adults because they have less developed immune systems. Cutting up foods, checking for seeds and pits, and constantly refreshing ingredients also add to the time-consuming nature of making homemade baby food. Nevertheless, parents who enjoy cooking in general may not find this process a burden at all. Homemade baby food can also be prepared in bulk and frozen for longer periods of time, which can still save time for parents in the long run.
Depending on personal choices, cost can vary greatly for homemade food and store-bought food, but homemade food is typically more cost-effective than store-bought baby food. A typical jar of pre-made baby food costs between $1-$2. A 10 oz bag of frozen peas costs about the same, and will make multiple baby meals while its store-bought counterpart is only one serving. Of course, using fresh fruits and vegetables to make homemade baby food will be slightly more expensive than this, but buying foods in season and in bulk can keep costs relatively low.
Most reputable baby food companies are extremely careful in their ingredient choices, and a quick scan at the ingredients list will put many parents’ minds at ease. However, there is always room for skepticism when a parent isn’t present for every step of the preparation process. While most reputable brands keep their ingredient lists minimal, they do sometimes supplement their baby foods with vitamins and minerals. This may be un-welcome to some parents who prefer to control which supplements their baby is given, or who are giving supplementation in their babies diet differently. More commonly, it can be difficult to find the sources of the ingredients that baby food brands use, so parents worried about pesticides and GMOs will need to be extra diligent when choosing a brand. Pesticides and other chemicals can also be an issue when making homemade baby food, as well. Many of these chemicals, including BPA and phthalates, are part of food packaging, and can be avoided by removing food from packaging before heating and consuming. Some additives, however, like nitrates and synthetic food coloring, are found in foods and can potentially have adverse effects on a baby’s development. These additives are found often in highly processed foods, and can be avoided by buying fresh, whole, and organic foods to make the baby’s food.
Ultimately, there is no one correct choice when it comes to choosing your baby’s food. Some parents may prefer to prepare foods from scratch while others may enjoy the convenience and reputability of store-bought baby food. Still others will use a combination of the two. Both homemade and store-bought baby foods can give your baby all the nutrition he or she needs in order to grow healthy and happy.
Nicole Avena, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Visiting Professor of Health Psychology at Princeton University. She is the author of several books, including What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler, and What to Eat When You’re Pregnant. The post was adapted from What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler.
- “Food Safety by Food Type”. Foodsafety.gov, 1 Apr. 2019. https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep-food-safe/food-safety-by-type-food
- Buchanan, Jennifer. “Your Baby’s Food: Homemade or Store Bought?”. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. https://www.chla.org/blog/rn-remedies/your-baby-s-food-homemade-or-store-bought. Accessed 21 June 2020.
- “Food Additives” What Parents Should Know.” American Academy of Pediatrics. 23 July 2018. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Food-Additives.aspx