Is Home Cooked Baby Food Really The Healthiest Option?

28 Jul

Copyright, Katie Williams

Becoming a parent can sometimes feel like entering a battlefield.  There are disagreements with your family, friends, other mums and perhaps even spouse about controversial issues – disposable or cloth nappies, breast or bottle feeding, sleeping bags or blankets, to co-sleep or not…

By the time your baby is ready for weaning, you’ll often have gained more of an idea of the type of parent you are, but the decision to use jar baby food or home cook purees and then solids can still get disapproving glances or eye rolls from people who believe the alternative is the better option.

For some time, there has generally been the belief that, naturally, home cooked produce is best for your little one.  That way you can control the ingredients that go into the food, and usually save money over buying supermarket jars.  And so baby food jars have often been seen as a necessary evil, often for working mothers who can’t  find the time to cook, blitz and freeze batches of food.

However, the Government’s Pesticide Residues Committee has shown that residues are rising in common weaning foods such as apples, pears and bananas. “Cooking at home might control ingredients but it can increase exposure to pesticides,” says Anna Rosier, managing director of the baby food company Organix, which supports independent research into food quality and child health through the Organix Foundation. “Unlike the raw foods you buy in shops, there are strict limits on the levels of pesticides allowed in manufactured baby foods, so they contain low levels of residues.”

Up-to-date figures indicate that 46 per cent of foods tested last year had pesticides present, compared with 25 per cent in 2003. To put this in perspective, the committee points out that the scope of the testing programme has increased. “We can now look for more pesticides at much lower levels,” says Dr Ian Brown, the committee chairman. And the committee did conclude that “the vast majority of food available to UK consumers . . . is not likely to pose a risk to health”.

Nevertheless, Nick Mole, a policy officer at Pesticide Action Network, says: “Parents are right to be worried about children’s exposure to pesticides. They are a vulnerable group, their bodies are still developing.”

In particular, children below the age of 7 have lower levels of paraoxonase, an enzyme that protects against the toxic effects of pesticides through neutralising and elimination.

While this may sound like a good reason to throw away the blender and hit the supermarket, overall home-made baby food is still the best option.  The key, however, is to be aware of which foods have high residues – here’s a handy list to print and refer to – and to buy organic wherever possible, even if only for your baby’s food.

If you feel that using jars of baby food is the best, or perhaps, only option for your family it is worth remembering that the heat processing of these foods does strip food of some nutrients, so try to at least offer organic fruits and vegetables in addition to these meals.

Do you have a favourite baby food recipe, or comments about this post generally?  Share your thoughts below:

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