Nutrition in Jarred Baby Food

As parents, we expect that our baby foods to be as nutritious as possible. It turns out that jarred baby food isn’t as nutritious as once thought. In fact, some baby foods are diluted with non-nutritive substances. The only reason they don’t result in harm to the baby is because they still receive much of their nutrition from breast milk or formula. 

Both Heinz and Gerber replace real food your baby would eat with water and thick- ening agents. This makes jarred baby food nutritionally inferior to food you’d make yourself for your baby. The single ingredient foods made by baby food companies differ slightly because of the amount of water and thickener added to the foods. Gerber and Heinz add the most. The thickening agents are usually flour-based or are chemically modified starches and are added to more than half of their twenty five most popular fruits, mixed vegetables, desserts and dinners for babies over six months of age

As parents, you’re paying for fillers as well as real food and you’re getting an infe- rior product that doesn’t contain all the nutrients homemade foods have in them. On the good side, most of the products by Beech-Nut and Earth’s best contain fewer fillers. Baby foods are expensive per ounce when compared to the same foods designed for adults. You often pay more than double per ounce for some- thing like carrots that can be easily boiled or steamed and mashed for baby. Baby fruit juices are double the price of regular juices and things like canned diced car- rots are much more expensive if you buy them as a “baby product”. 

Makers of baby foods create a mystique about their products to confuse parents into thinking it’s something they couldn’t duplicate at home. Parents are victims of advertising campaigns indicating that baby food companies have the best in nutri- tion; these are falsehoods that parents need to recognize and learn how to give baby truly healthy foods. A food processor, blender, or even forks are all that is necessary to give baby the texture he needs and the nutrition he needs. 

Recent research indicates that parents should do their best to prepare baby food at home with well cooked foods (except bananas) that are of a texture that fits with baby’s needs at the age the baby is at. If you buy baby food, read the ingredients. Avoid baby food that has added sugar, modified food starch, rice, wheat or other flours. Single foods should contain just the food and water as ingredients. Choose the brand that has the most calories because this has the least amount of added water. The brand “Growing Healthy” is one of the most expensive but it has more nutrition in the single foods when compared to other brands. Gerber and Heinz  meat and vegetable or meat and fruit combos don’t contain any fillers so they’re more nutritious than similar foods with fillers. Earth’s Best is organic but that can’t be proven. Other brands may be just as “organic” as Earth’s Best. 

Avoid giving your baby infant desserts. Choose plain fruit baby food instead or buy unsweetened apple sauces or similar fruit sauces to avoid giving the baby the idea that sweet is best. Just know that there is nothing magical about jarred baby foods that warrant the high prices you pay for them. They aren’t even very nutritious. As parents, we need to hold the baby food industry accountable and let them know we want them to replace starches with real food and remove added sugar and salt. They need to stop making baby desserts and lower the prices to comparable adult foods. Supermarkets could help by making and marketing their own brands of cheaper baby foods. 

As for the government, the US Food and Drug Administration should propose legislation to require truth in advertising when it comes to baby foods. All fillers and added products in baby food should be on the label. Deceptive advertising such as saying a baby food is “tapioca” should be changed to say “contains chemi- cally modified food starch”. The labeling as to what’s in the baby food should be easily readable and not in tiny print no one can read.