Baby food is any soft, easily consumed food, other than breast milk or infant formula that is made specifically for infants, roughly between the ages of four to six months and two years. The food comes in multiple varieties and tastes; it may be table food that the rest of the family is eating which has been mashed or otherwise broken down, or it can be purchased ready-made from the market.
Experts advising the World Health Assembly have recommended that solids should be introduced only after six months of exclusive breast feeding. There is evidence to suggest that introducing solids earlier than six months increases babies’ chances of illness, without improving growth. Most six-month-old infants are physiologically and developmentally ready for new foods, textures and modes of feeding, however, individual babies may differ greatly from this guideline based on their unique developmental progress.
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Homemade or commercial
Homemade baby food is less expensive than commercial baby foods. Homemade food is appropriate only when the family has a sufficient and varied diet, as well as access to refrigeration and basic sanitation. It is important to follow proper sanitation methods when preparing homemade baby food such as washing and rinsing vegetables or fruit, as well as the cooking and packaging materials that will be used.
Homemade food requires more preparation time than simply opening a jar or box of ready-to-eat commercial baby food. Food may need to be minced or pureed for young babies, or cooked separately without the salt, intense spices, or sugar that the family chooses to eat. Avocados and bananas are foods that can be easily mashed and are high in vitamins and nutrients, making them ideal starter foods for an infant 6 months in age or older.
Single and multigrain cereals have been popular in the baby food sphere for a long time. Now, they are being replaced with grains that carry even higher nutritional value: ancient grains. Also known as heritage grains, popular varieties include quinoa, teff, millet, spelt, chia and buckwheat. Ancient grains are high in protein, fiber and several vitamins and minerals, promoting heart, gut, and immune health – among other benefits.
Real Food Nutrition
Whole food. Real food. Natural food. Whatever you want to call it. Parents don’t want to feed their babies food that was synthetically developed in a lab or genetically engineered. The return to real food nutrition ranks high on the list of priorities for parents. The concept that we should nourish our bodies with nutrients from real, whole foods ties in closely with the clean label movement. Clean label consumers don’t want added, artificial or synthetic ingredients in their food.
Eat Your Colors
More than simply eating whole foods, emphasize the importance of gleaning nutrition from a wide variety of whole foods – a colorful variety. In most fruits and vegetables, color corresponds to specific nutritional benefits. Varying the colors children eat ultimately varies the nutrition they receive. As a side benefit, colorful packaging inspired by the colorful food it contains helps brands stand out in aisles crowded with rows of baby food. Bright colors and images imply a natural association with children, making this trend even more ideally suited for baby food.
Research indicates a “generational loss” of the critical gut bacteria B. infantis in infants, possibly caused by an overuse of antibiotics in the western world, among other factors. Failure to receive this bacterium – either from the mother at birth or through diet – may lead to other health conditions throughout a child’s lifetime. A child’s digestive system develops throughout the first six months of life. Adding probiotics and prebiotics to baby food products can negate these effects and establish good immune health.
There’s hardly a segment of the food industry that hasn’t been impacted by organics, and baby food is no exception. More than ever, parents find value in feeding their children food grown naturally and chemical-free. An organic, farm-to-fork story establishes trust and transparency.
Preparing Baby Food because infants are at a higher risk of getting a foodborne illness than older children or healthy adults, it’s particularly important to follow these guidelines carefully: 24 Safe Baby Food
- Wash your hands and any equipment used to prepare the food.
- Use separate cutting boards for meat, poultry and fish and for non-meat foods to avoid cross-contamination.
- Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly under clean, running water. Even if you plan to peel a fruit or vegetable, such as cantaloupe or squash, be sure to wash it first.
- Store raw meats, poultry, fish, and dairy products in the coldest part of the refrigerator immediately after purchase.
- Cook meat, poultry, and fish thoroughly to kill any bacteria that might be present. Be sure to use a meat thermometer and cook all meats to an internal temperature of at least 160 ºF, fish to at least 145 ºF, and all white meat poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165 ºF.
It is a child’s birthright to be provided with healthy and wholesome food to aid optimum growth and development. Yet parents who assume that the food industry share this view are naive wishful thinkers. Jarred baby foods exploit parents’ trust in terms of cost, value, nutrition, quality and safety. Pouched, potted and boxed baby foods are not immune either. Reliance on baby food manufacturers to show social responsibility is ineffective because companies are legally obliged to act in the best interest of their shareholders, not consumers. Asking baby food manufacturers to change merely serve as a distraction from perusing more effective initiatives. For instance, there is an urgent need for adequate Government regulation of the baby food industry. One cannot rely on manufacturers’ goodwill and there is a need for the Government to enforce effective regulation.