This is a bit of a ‘der’ moment. Professor Charlotte Wright of Glasgow University has been interviewed all over the place today regarding her findings when her team took a range of pre-made baby food from brands such as Heinz, Ella’s Kitchen, Boots, Cow & Gate, Hipp Organic and Organix and found that they were high in sugar and lower in nutrients than homemade.
Two things come to mind here:
1. These foods are not meant to be the only source of nutrition for weaning your child. They are there as emergency fall back or for when you are out and something like a pouch is way easier than dragging a chiller bag with you and fretting as to whether there will be microwave where you are going. Or that you can keep the food chilled at the correct temperature to prevent bacteria breeding to a dangerous level. They are there to complement the food you cook at home to feed your child most of the time.
2. Choose your prepared baby food carefully, ie watch out for fillers such as ‘apple juice’ or ‘apple puree’. Some brands, yes even the organic ones – apples are organic, use apples as the main bulking agent within the food. Apples are sweet and so is apple juice so steer clear when you see an ingredients list that starts with ‘apple’, unless you’re buying apple puree (der!).
Last year I worked closely with Plum Baby (note, they are not one of the baby food companies who were named and shamed here) to develop the Plum Cookery School and film five videos. The reason for this is that Plum recognises that the pouches are there as a convenience food. I spent a lot of time recreating the food in the pouches and serving it to Mums, I also tried the food and could actually ‘get’ the whole baby food diet, the stage 3 food is really yummy although I’d add more chilli. One item that Plum Baby don’t use is apple puree to bulk out the food.
At the end of the day the message has got to be “cook from scratch” that way you know exactly what is going into your baby’s body, use recipes that can be adapted for the whole family. Weaning can be daunting anyway, you’re just starting to get some sleep, have mastered breastfeeding and then, like being hit by a steam train, you’re suddenly in the deep, dark realms of ‘weaning’. There are some great books on the market, shameless plug here, I have one 500 Baby and Toddler Foods, published by Quintet, these recipes are adaptable so that everyone can eat the same food. No making food look like animals or faces, life is too short. Good, honest recipes to share that your children can grow up with. Check it out and the Plum Cookery School videos and if you really need help I run Baby Weaning Courses at my Cookery School, 35 mins from Central London, just off the M40.
Do a big cook once or twice a week, freeze loads and have pouches ready for emergencies.