What’s in Our Baby Food?
With my son’s 4 month birthday having come and gone, we’re learning what to look for as he will likely soon start displaying cues that introducing real food in addition to breast milk is just around the corner (1):
- Good head and neck control
- Ability to sit upright when supported
- Showing an interest in food on my plate
- Opening his mouth when food is offered
My gut feeling is that the first foods I’d like to give him will include avocado, liverwurst and egg yolk and fortunately, we have a holistic pediatrician with whom we will be able to bounce ideas around to make sure we introduce foods in the right order and quantity.
I knew she was on the same page as us when she confirmed there’s no need to add foods we don’t even eat, such as rice cereal, to his repertoire!
Having worked with many moms as one of my main client demographics over the past two decades, I’ve been able to see the range of moms who like to cook and make all their baby’s own food to moms who prefer to buy it, and everything in between.
But now that we’re in the thick of it, I thought I’d do a little investigating just to see what options currently exist out there for moms who do opt to purchase ready made food for their little ones.
While there are companies out there that are paving the way with real, unadulterated food for our little ones, such as Serenity Baby Food (2) and Tummy Thyme (3) the bulk of what’s out there is still highly processed, lacking in nutrient density… and very high in sugar, even those that look great on the shelves and tout the infamous organic label.
Last year, Gerber was the leading baby food and snack brand in the United States with sales amounting to approximately $235.6 million (4).
And while statements about their “quality ingredients, grown from strict soil standards, made with natural fruit and held to FDA standards” are all well and good, there’s still an issue at hand and it’s a big one: sugar content and overall macro nutrient balance in what we’re being sold to give our babies.
The American Heart Association recommends that kids 2-18 should have less than 25 grams or 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily for a healthy heart (5) while the USDA suggests that Americans limit their sugar consumption to 10 percent of daily calories, which is equivalent to 12 teaspoons or about 200 calories in a 2,000-calorie diet (6).
How about those under 2?
Considering an average newborn needs to consume 120 calories per kilogram of weight each day to grow into a healthy child, a 10 pound infant would need 546 calories per day (7).
Combining the two directives above leaves you with 10% of 546 calories from sugar, 55 calories or roughly 1 Tablespoon, about 14.79 grams.
So how is it that many of the baby foods on the market for infants not only have 2-3 times that much, they also have no fat and very little protein?
Not surprisingly, the information we are presented with in terms of what should be giving our children to eat is just as confusing as we are told we need as fully grown humans.
It doesn’t take a scientist; if we think outside the box and consider whether it really makes sense to feed our babies a high carbohydrate diet versus one which is more balanced, we can begin to make heads or tails of this.
When we look at an authentic, ancestral diet for humans, the foods we would eat would include those which grow in the areas we live, seasonally, as well as animals that ran across our lands or swam in our local waters.
There wouldn’t have been refined carbohydrates, packaged and processed foods, ‘diet’ anything or food so refined they’d been literally stripped of all nutrient density.
We speak and read about this often now in common conversation as it pertains to adults, and the growing number of inflammatory related dis ease conditions plaguing our society today.
So how about the youngest of us?
Why would we feed our own children anything less the most optimal foods we can get our hands on?
The breastfeeding conversation is a hot topic; I’ve already experienced how important it is for me as a blogger and an educator in the nutrition space to chose my words wisely so as to ensure that my goal is merely to share information I’ve learned on my journey as a new mom, in order to help other moms and to be clear it’s not coming from a place of judgement if someone chooses to use formula, for example.
Similarly, the goal of this post is to point out that we’ve got to look beyond a commercially prepared baby food in a glass jar labeled as organic as the only standards we apply as filters when it comes to what we give our babies.
If we can make our baby’s food at home out of the very same foods we’re feeding ourselves – local, in season veggies in abundance, fruits low in sugar, ample natural fats and moderate portions of mindfully sourced proteins – fantastic!
Not only a time saver, it’s far more cost effective to take the very same yams you’ve baked, mix them with some ground bison you’ve sauteed and blend them with some steamed broccoli, drizzled with olive oil, the very same meal you served yourself and the rest of your family.
Even if you are someone who’s not that comfortable in the kitchen, being in the role of a new parent might just be the impetus you need to start learning.
What a gift to be able to teach your kids from a very early age how to source and cook their own healthy foods! Studies show that getting kids involved in the kitchen, through cooking classes or at home, makes them more likely to choose healthy foods (8).
Feeling like you’re not as healthy as you need to be yourself, in order to set a great example on the eating and moving front?
It’s never too late to start; having the blessing of a new baby in your life, for whom you have the opportunity to create optimal gut health from the very beginning may just be that impetus you need to get the whole family started on their path to greater health!