Recent trends in child nutrition and health have proven that breastfeeding is the best nutritional choice for newborns. But the culture of artificially feeding babies does not stop at the bottle.
Modern American marketing genius has caused most parents to think that there is some special magic in the little glass jars of baby food sold at the market. It's so ingrained it seems obvious: dogs eat dog food and babies eat baby food.
The truth is that prepackaged baby foods are expensive, nutritionally inferior, and only slightly more convenient than the do-it-your-self kind.
Quality control: When a parent opens a vacuum sealed jar, he or she is trusting that the factory workers, management and various government inspectors have all done a good job of selecting fruits and vegetables suitable for her child's consumption.
Questionable nutritional value: At a glance, the contents of the baby food jar looks fine. No hazardous chemicals, colors or dyes. But on close inspection, there are some nutritional traps.
Lastly, the closer to raw a food is, the higher the nutrient content. Raw foods are more nutritious than cooked, and fresh is more nutritious than jarred.
Bland taste: There's no doubt about it. Jarred baby food is not appetizing. Parents frequently complain about their older children's preference for bland, processed foods but we teach our children to like bland foods when we give them pre-packaged baby foods.
There's more to learning how to eat than just how to hold a spoon. The nutritional choices you make for your child now set the groundwork for the nutritional choices you child will make for the rest of her life. At this early stage of eating solids, calories count more than ever. Empty calories not only fail to give your growing baby valuable fuel, they also teach her to eat things that are bad for her.
For example, if you teach your child to end meals with pudding and cake, then you are unreasonable in expecting him or her to ever be someone who likes unsweetened, raw fruit for dessert.
It's true that most children will develop a liking for sugary foods and salty processed snacks. This does not mean that you yourself should teach them this. The longer you can hold off introducing these foods, the better your chances at instilling good eating habits that will make these foods treats, not staples.
Simple substitutions can make huge changes in your child's food preferences: wheat toast instead of crackers or cookies; water instead of sugary juices; fresh, unsweetened fruit instead of Jell-o®, candy or pie.
Quality: You select the fruits, vegetables and meats your child eats. You ensure that they are clean, blemish-free and ripe.
Nutrition: There are no hidden preservatives, sweeteners or thickeners that add empty calories and excess sugars to your child's diet.
Taste: As your child becomes comfortable with eating solids, you can introduce more interesting and complex flavors than are available in jarred foods. Your child will more easily adapt to your family's eating style and be more likely to be an adventurous eater when he or she gets older.
Cost: It's much cheaper to make your own food than to buy pre-prepared. A single serving jar of green beans goes for about sixty cents. A batch of fresh green beans costs about $2 and generates more than ten servings.