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Best practices for homemade baby food

(Photo provided)

Parents of infants have been feeding me lots of questions about whether it is better to buy infant food, or make their own homemade baby food. This question starts popping up when babies begin to eat solids around 6 months of age. Well, let me take a bite into those questions and provide some information on this topic.

The ingredients in both

First, both store-bought and homemade baby foods share the same ingredients. They are simply fruits, vegetables and other foods cooked and pureed into a smooth consistency.

Benefits of homemade baby food

So are there benefits to making your own baby food? There can be. Making your own baby food is less expensive than buying ready-made. Additionally, you can control all the ingredients and flavors without adding preservatives, salts, sugars or ingredients that a young child might become allergic to. You can also make purees for your baby consisting of the same food enjoyed by the rest of the family.

Downside of homemade baby food

The downside of making homemade baby food is that it can take extra time and care to prepare and safely store baby foods you puree yourself. Homemade foods are not usually pasteurized, so they may spoil faster, requiring you to make smaller amounts more frequently. If you are going to make your own baby food, keep your hands clean before and during the process. To store this food, use airtight containers.

Benefits of store-bought baby food

What are the advantages of store-bought baby foods? These adhere to strict safety guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Store-bought baby foods are pasteurized, so they can say at room temperature longer without spoiling. Nowadays, there are many choices available at the grocery store, and some now have no added sugar or salt. Or, oftentimes, the only preservative used is vitamin C. The down side, as I already alluded to, is that they are more expensive. Additionally, some may not be as environmentally friendly as others.

My recommendation

What do I recommend, you ask? That really depends on your lifestyle. For example, do you like to go out to eat or cook for yourself? Perhaps the best solution is a mix of both — using store-bought for those busy days or when you go out to eat as a family, and making homemade baby food when you have the time to do so.

The bottom line: Healthy food is best

The bottom line is, no matter what you choose for your baby to eat, it should be healthy and free of sugar, extra salt and saturated fats. Hopefully tips like these will be food for thought and provide some solid advice when it comes to realizing the pros and cons of store-bought versus homemade baby foods.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.