The grocery store is probably the last place you want to take baby. Between prepping him to go outside, loading him in the car (and let’s face it: the car seat struggle is real) and hoping to avoid a meltdown while shopping for the essential items, it’s easy to see why so many parents are opting for DIY baby food recipes. Plus, it’s easy to feel good about food when you know exactly where all the ingredients are coming from.
New research published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, however, suggests that a trip to the grocery store is better for baby’s health than your favorite homemade recipe. Although homemade baby food is often better for your budget, the recipes often exceed the recommendations for energy density (calories) and dietary fat.
Baby’s first solid foods, introduced right around the six-month mark, should be well-rounded, providing a broad range of nutrients. Those nutrients include more calories and fat than you may expect.
“Unlike adult recommendations, which encourage reducing energy density and fats, it is important in infants that food is suitably energy-dense in appropriately sized meals to aid growth and development,” says researcher Debbi Marais, principal teaching fellow at Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick. While adults require 25 to 30 calories per kilogram of body weight, infants 4 to 6 months old need 100 calories per kilogram, totalling to about 430 calories per day.
To compare the nutritional standards of homemade and pre-made baby foods, researchers evaluated the nutrient content, price and food group variety of 686 meals. Of those 686 meals, 278 were pre-made and 408 were homemade. Results showed that homemade meals contained 26 percent more energy and 44 percent more protein and total fat than store-bought products. Additionally, 65 percent of store-bought baby foods aligned with dietary recommendations for energy density, or calories, compared to a third of home-cooked baby foods.
Study authors say more research is needed, so don’t give up your Top Chef skills just yet. But next time you’re at the grocery store, add these mom-favorite packaged baby foods to your cart.