Baby food most often comes from a caring mother’s breast. This is the clearly the most “natural” source of food for infants, and is often cited as the most healthy source as well. However, some mothers cannot breast feed due to health reasons, and others simply choose not to. For these mothers, formulas in the first 1-3 months and solid baby food mixtures after are the go-to answer. It is common to begin feeding a baby solids between 4-6 months of age. This is when Gerber and its counterparts come into play, and also where discerning parents begin the quest for the perfect baby food source. While most adults are aware that a diet high in fruit and vegetables is good for themselves, it seems that this knowledge falls by the wayside when it comes to feeding their babies. Research from 2008 found that mean consumption of vegetables in German toddlers was 70% of the recommended amounts. Even worse was consumption for adolescents, recorded at merely 6-7% of recommended amounts at 6-11 years old and 18-29% at 12-17 years old.
Recent research conducted in Germany investigated the food variety in commercial and homemade meals for babies. The researchers surveyed the market and dietary practices in order to determine whether or not babies were getting a proper amount and variety of fruit and vegetables. The researchers’ conclusions were as follows:
Both commercial and homemade complementary meals contained low amounts of vegetable variety
The presence or amount of vegetables is often confused with the same positive health effects as vegetable variety. Complementary baby food given around the 4-6 month period is important for determining the baby’s diet as they grow into a toddler, developing their own unique taste, flavor, and texture palates. Introducing baby food that contains a wide variety of vegetables, as well as fruit, is deceptively important for their long term dietary health.
A different vegetable for each serving of baby food
The researchers suggest that, while vegetable variety is extremely important for early baby food, each serving should contain only one vegetable. This concept relates to acclimating babies to vegetables so that they enjoy them as they grow older. If many vegetables are mixed into one serving of baby food the textures and tastes may be inseparable. In order to maximize your baby’s chances of tolerating a variety of fruits and vegetables (especially the more bitter dark leafy greens) then they should be eat each separately.
Baby food needs more fish
The researchers also noticed a trend of low fish meat in both homemade and commercially produced baby food. In fact, the commercial baby food actually contained more fish than homemade baby food. The researchers conclude that fish plays an important role in a healthy diet, and that a variety of fish should be included in baby food.
Recommendations for better baby food
To sum of the conclusions of the article, here are some tips to ensure that your baby gets the best nutrition in their infancy and how to minimize their chances of becoming picky eaters: Buy and/or make a great variety of baby food. Don’t just feed them from the same jar or type for a week, or even for a day. If you’re making homemade baby food, this can make for a bit of extra work. To supplement commercial baby food, make individual jars of one pure vegetable or fruit. Have a jar of just spinach, one of just kale, and so on. You can add these to commercial foods that don’t contain vegetables or fruit, or just have them snack from the jar itself. Also, make sure that they’re getting their protein from a variety of meat sources. Look for wild caught fish sources as a high-impact protein source. Ensuring that your baby food regimen contains a healthy variety of vegetables, fruits, and meat sources is essential your child’s health in their infancy and beyond.
The research team is affiliated with the Research Institute of Child Nutrition (FKE) in Dortmund, Germany
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Study Design: The researchers analyzed 3-day weighed dietary records from the German DOrtmund Nutritional and Anthropometric Longitudinally Designed (DONALD). These records were used to evaluate fish and meat variety and to compare vegetable variety in commercial and homemade meals. The researchers evaluated food variety on the market by analyzing data found in the ‘Nutrichild’ online database.