To make your baby food at home, or buy it in a jar…that is the question! Both options are ultimately fine choices, but there are pros and cons to both sides. Keep reading for a discussion about your options.
Jarred baby food bought at the store is not overly inferior to homemade baby food, although it is probably not quite as rich in some vitamins and minerals. This is due to the heating of jars, possible over-cooking and sitting on a shelf for some time. So, your baby may not get quite as much nutrition from the jarred food, but there isn’t a detrimental difference in homemade food and jarred. You shouldn’t feel that your baby is being deprived if you don’t have the time to cook your own food at home. If you do have time to steam fruits/veggies and puree them, which is not as time consuming as it seems, you may feel good about the fact that you are probably putting a more nutrient dense food on your child’s spoon.
Often times, making baby food is significantly cheaper than buying food in a jar. You can buy an inexpensive sweet potato and make a couple of weeks worth of baby food, freeze it, and pull it out, as you need it. When I did this, I always liked to calculate exactly how much I was saving because that always made me happy! However, I recently realized that you could also purchase baby food at very cheap prices, sometimes free! If you purchase baby food when it is on sale and use coupons, you’ll be amazed at the deals you get.
A definite con when it comes to store-bought baby food happens when you start your baby on stage 2 and 3 foods. I was really disappointed when I saw things like “Turkey and Green Beans”; however, I found something very different on the ingredient label. I would often see “sweet potatoes” as the first and most abundant ingredient. Sometimes the vegetable listed on the front of the jar, was the very last ingredient on the list! If I see the words “turkey” and “green beans” on a label, I expect those to be the prime ingredients. Instead, the mixture is sweetened so that we can continue to teach our children to only enjoy sweet foods. It is important for children to get a taste of vegetables and meat so that they can learn to enjoy those flavors as well.
On another note, while I found it very easy to turn fruits and vegetables into yummy foods for my baby, I didn’t have the same luck with meats. Whenever I made chicken, it turned into a crumb that my child wasn’t ready for. He really needed something smoother that he didn’t have to chew.
With all of these pros and cons, what should you do? It is really up to you! However, I'll tell you what I did. For my child, I served a mix of homemade baby food and some store-bought. I really enjoyed and felt good about cooking his foods fresh in my own kitchen. However, when I was able to get jarred food at a great price, I stocked up on meats that were mixed with whole grains. I typically stayed away from the meats mixed with a conglomerate of fruits and vegetables, unless I saw that the vegetable that I was looking for was at the top of the ingredient list. I found that when we were out and about, sometimes the jarred food was very convenient. However, I also put my homemade food in a little container and brought it with us on occasions.
If you’re wanting to start making your own baby food, but are unsure of where to begin, I recommend “Cooking For Baby” published by William Sonoma. It has great recipes for babies and toddlers. The toddler recipes are great for the whole family too! Just beware that you should follow your pediatrician or registered dietitian’s advice about when to introduce foods. Do not go by the advice of any cookbook or book that is not written by an appropriate health professional!