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Buying Commercial Baby Food

Most of us today were fed the standard baby food in a jar when we were babies and well, we turned out fine. These products are popularly known today as “commercial” baby food. Many modern-day mums are in favor of making their own baby food due to the concerns on the freshness of the commercial varieties and so on and so forth, but all that cooking, cooling, mashing and pureeing can sometimes be a little time-consuming and labor-intense for busy parents. So, the question here is, can parents today safely give in to commercial baby food without worrying too much?

When you really sit down and think about it, any food is ‘better’ in terms of nutrition and quality when you make your own, and this includes baby food. However, not every household has the resources to pull off only home-made baby food all the time. Furthermore, when a second (and third, etc..) child comes along, it might get almost impossible to do so as making homemade baby food takes up quite a bit of time on the whole. At times like these, it’s good to know that with the right knowledge of what to look for, commercial baby food can be used sans the guilt.

The ingredient list

Walking along the baby food isle at the grocery store or supermarket can be a bit daunting for a first-timer. In bigger stores, there may be a ridiculous number of varieties and brand names that line the shelf! So what should you look for on the ingredient labels of these jars and pouches? Also, is there anything that should be avoided when it comes to baby food?

Firstly, look for very basic ingredients. In regards to this, the smaller number of ingredients, the better. The tricky part however, is comprehending the fact that some types of infant cereals (boxed and jarred) are fortified with extra vitamins for a child’s overall health and to lend support to growth and development. So, some of these labels will have more ingredients listed that are actually fine for a baby’s food. However, Elizabeth Ward, a registered dietitian and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Feeding Your Baby and Toddler (Alpha, 2005), warns parents to keep an eye out for sodium on ingredient labels. This is because as babies can do without increased sodium in their diet at this point.

Are organic varieties better?

Smaller, more labor-intense organic farmers eliminate the use of pesticides while others are allowed to use pesticides that occur naturally in the environment such as sulphur, nicotine and copper and in some instances, nitrogen. Common sense will tell us that it’s healthier to eat produce grown with compost fertilizers and natural pesticides than it is to eat produce that has been grown using chemical pesticides or fertilizers. The advantage to certified organic foods is that chemical and synthetic pesticide contamination is eliminated. Hence, buying organic baby food will be the best choice if you are able to obtain and afford them. Keep in mind too, that with organic baby food made from meat you’ll also avoid the results of growth methods that use daily supplemental hormones and antibiotics, which have been linked to increased antibacterial resistance in humans.

A very likely scenario!

Like every other loving new mummy, Sarah Anne had the best intentions with her first baby and was determined to serve him only home-made baby purees.

She was also totally convinced that her 6 month-old son Aaron will prefer her homemade version of baby food that she went out and bought a jar of sweet potato baby food and made a batch of the same thing herself.

Her husband and her tasted both versions and agreed that Sarah’s was much better in so many ways, but their son left them bewildered when he rejected his mum’s version while taking to the bought baby food instead, a few times in a row, no less! Many mums like Sarah have inevitably come to terms with the fact that we can’t always win with baby food.

Indicators to look for in organic baby food:

100% Organic

If the baby food you purchase is labeled “100 percent organic” it means that, by law, there are no synthetic ingredients. Also, production processes must meet federal organic standards and must have been independently verified by accredited inspectors.


If the label on the jar or pouch of baby food simply indicates “organic,” no less than 95 percent of the ingredients must have been organically produced.

Made with Organic Ingredients

If a product is labeled “Made with Organic Ingredients,” you can be sure that at least 70 percent of its makeup is organic. The remaining ingredients must come from the Department of Agriculture’s approved list.

All Natural – Natural

Labels that specify “natural” or “all natural” do not mean organic. I merely means that the product does not contain any artificial flavoring, colors or synthetic ingredients.

Microwaving baby’s food safely

When heating baby food in a microwave, heat it in the jar it came in if the package directions allow you to (and if your baby will eat the entire portion). Otherwise, use a microwave-safe dish. Avoid heating baby food in plastic bowls or containers, even if they are labeled microwave safe. Even if they can withstand heat, some bowls might be a source of chemicals that can affect a baby’s development and reproductive system. There are concerns about plastic materials, especially bisphenol A, and their potential to leach chemicals into food, causing health risks. In addition, some studies suggest that washing plastic in a dishwasher can also degrade it over time, further increasing the possibility of leaching.

Remember too that microwave heating can be uneven, and hot spots can burn your baby’s mouth. Be sure to stir the food and cool it thoroughly before feeding it to your little one!

Drinks and juices

The baby food in the supermarket might share shelf space with juices marketed for babies six months and older. Remember, it’s not advisable to offer juices or any other drink other than milk and water to babies younger than one year.

In addition to basic juices, such as apple juice, you’ll also see combinations that contain yogurt or fruit-vegetable blends. All juices made for babies’ consumption have added vitamin C. Some varieties also have added calcium for building strong bones and teeth.

Too much juice in a little tummy can cause diarrhea and gas, resulting in a fussy, cranky baby! The sugars in juices can also contribute to tooth decay. Remember too, that when babies drink juice, they might take in less breast milk or formula, which contain the nutrients they really need.

If you do decide to give some to your little one, limit it to no more than 4 to 6 ounces a day, and make it part of a meal, not a snack. Be aware that fruit drinks aren’t nutritionally equal to fruit juice. Check labels to be sure you’re giving your child 100 percent juice. Any juice your child drinks should be pasteurized (heated to kill pathogens).


Once your baby graduates to cow’s milk at about the 1-year mark, keep in mind that juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D isn’t an equivalent substitute. Milk has a whole package of nutrients, including riboflavin, phosphorus, zinc, and essential amino acids that help form strong bones; fortified juice doesn’t.

Oral-care tip: Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle of juice or milk because it can lead to tooth decay.

Mind the expiry dates

Pay close attention to expiration dates on baby food. Don’t feed your baby anything that has expired, and throw out jars with chipped glass or rusty lids, or those that are leaking or missing a label.

Tip: Listen for the pop of vacuum seals of foods in jars.

Advantages of buying baby food


Buying baby food from the supermarket or grocery store saves you time compared to making your own, where you will have to go shopping for all the ingredients, prepare, cook, cool it down, mash or blend before serving it to your little one. You will also have to come up with ways to safely store any remaining food.


Baby food in jars or pouches are pre-measured for a serving, so you do not have to divide, keep or store any leftovers.

No storage dilemma:

Homemade baby foods require refrigeration if you’re going to store it for later use. This will take up room in your fridge or freezer if you make a lot of servings ahead of time. Prepackaged baby foods don’t need refrigerator storage until they’re opened.


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