Recently, I’ve had many people ask me what Aveline eats (I suppose the questions are fueled by Facebook status updates like “Aveline is eating copious amounts of ratatouille for lunch!”) I have a lot of thoughts on this subject, so I’ll break it up into a series of blog posts. I’ll start out by talking about what she doesn’t eat: store-bought baby food. There are several reasons I don’t buy prepared baby food. (UPDATE: Sylvia of Artsy Ants brings up a good point; these reasons are specific to the US).
1. PRICE: This should be obvious, right? There is a very, very high markup on prepared, packaged baby food. I can’t bring myself to spend that much on just a couple of ounces of food, especially when most of it is going to end up rubbed into Aveline’s hair or stuck to her eyelashes anyway. ;-)
2. IT’S BRILLIANTLY OVER-MARKETED: The baby food industry uses clever marketing, people. Remember this. Last time I checked, farms aren’t growing any separate specialty crops called baby oats, baby rice, or baby sweet potatoes.
3. ADDITIVES / EXTRA INGREDIENTS: This is a huge issue. I’m not comfortable with my daughter consuming additives at such a young age. I want her to eat foods made from real, whole ingredients.
You wouldn’t think baby food contains extra things, but it does. Let’s look at a few examples. (I didn’t go out to try and find the most shocking examples of added ingredients, I just clicked around at random on the Gerber site.)
For instance, one would assume Gerber Oatmeal and Banana contains oats and banana, right? Well, it does. Sort of. But the oats are in the form of oat flour, to which Gerber has added wheat, and there’s soy lecithin and soybean oil in the ingredients list, too. Oh, and tocopherals (a preservative) and added vitamins.
I’m a big proponent of eating organic (we personally follow the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen when buying produce), but use common sense when it comes to prepared food that’s labeled organic. It might be called Gerber 2nd Foods Organic Green Beans, but that doesn’t mean it contains only green beans. This particular product also contains tuna oil and gelatin.
Most pediatricians recommend that when feeding your baby new foods, you should introduce them one at a time, and wait three days for any adverse reaction before introducing another new food. If the food you’re introducing is on the Top 8 Allergens list, you need to be even more careful. Ok, you’re probably thinking…how does this relate to packaged baby food? Well, oatmeal and bananas aren’t on the Top 8 list, but the packaged oatmeal-banana cereal contains wheat and soy, which are both on the list. And green beans aren’t a common allergen, but fish, one of the ingredients in the prepared green bean baby food, is on the Top 8 list.
So, read labels. Don’t fall prey to clever marketing. And mostly — you don’t have to spend a ton of money to feed your baby!
In future blog posts, I’ll share how to easily make your own baby food (it’s so much easier — and cheaper – than you think!). I’ll also list suggestions for easy baby meals and talk specifically about what Aveline eats.