Are jars of baby food healthy
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After months of breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, it can be surprising to realize that your still-tiny baby is actually ready for “real” food. This exciting (albeit messy!) transition may be a little bittersweet and can feel overwhelming, especially considering the numerous baby food options available in 2022.
We’ve rounded up some of this year’s best baby foods to help you get started on the right foot — er, spoon.
Both the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first 6 months of life. Formula-fed infants are ready to start solid foods when they start showing signs that they’re ready.
In some cases, you may start solids around 4 or 5 months, but it’s best to discuss this with your pediatrician. If your doctor doesn’t have a different recommendation, most babies are ready to start soft or pureed foods by the time they’re about 6 months old.
If you’re picking commercially prepared baby food (versus making your own), it’s wise to start with simple, one-ingredient baby food. Most commercial baby food is labeled stage 1, 2, or 3 based on the texture and number of ingredients.
For instance, stage 1 baby food has the smoothest texture and typically has one ingredient, such as pureed pears. So, for your 4- to 6-month-old, you’ll want to start with stage 1 baby food.
Starting with one food at a time helps you monitor for any adverse reactions or food allergies. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends monitoring each food for 3 to 5 days.
There isn’t really a perfect first food — the choice is yours! Some good foods to start: infant cereal (preferably oat or whole grain), meat purees such as chicken or turkey, or single-ingredient purees of fruits or veggies.
If you’re debating whether to start with fruits or veggies first, the AAP suggests that an infant’s preferences for sweets won’t budge even if veggies are introduced first. Mashed peas just don’t taste as good once you’ve had applesauce.
We chatted with pediatricians, read the research, polled real-life parents, read reviews, and used our own babies as taste testers (although we can’t say their opinions on nutritional value are very authoritative) to bring you some of the top baby food brands available. In addition:
- We looked for foods that are certified USDA organic and have non-GMO verified ingredients.
- We focused on baby food that’s free of added sugar (but have called out one or two products that contain it).
- The baby foods on our list are free of harmful preservatives.
- We called out the brands that market their products as gluten-free and allergen-free.
All products are also vetted by our medical standards team, which evaluates brand integrity and product safety.
Reducing Exposure to Toxic Elements in Baby Foods
Three brands in this article — Gerber, Beech-Nut, and Happy Baby — were mentioned in a February 2021 Congressional Report for products containing significantly high levels of toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. The FDA has since launched the Closer to Zero: Action Plan for Baby Foods to address exposure to toxic elements from eating baby foods.
- Best overall baby food: Beech-Nut Naturals Stage 1
- Best organic baby food pouches: Plum Organics Stage 1
- Best budget-friendly baby food: Gerber Organic 1st Foods
- Best baby food for constipation: Gerber Natural 1st Foods (Pear)
- Best organic jarred baby food: Happy Baby Organics Clearly Crafted Stage 1
- Best personalized subscription service: Cerebelly
- Best fresh baby food: Once Upon a Farm Cold-Pressed Organic Baby Food
- Best first baby cereal: Gerber Organic 1st Foods Single Grain Cereal
- Best, most interesting baby food blends: Little Spoon Complex Solids
- Best all-around clean baby food: Baby Gourmet
Best overall baby food
Beech-Nut Naturals Stage 1
This affordable baby food is an all-around fan favorite. Beech-Nut baby foods come in recyclable glass jars and are available in both natural and organic varieties. Blends are available in every stage, from single-ingredient foods for brand-new eaters (like butternut squash and plum) to multi-food blends with chunkier textures for older babies.
The ingredients in Beech-Nut baby foods are simple, with no artificial additives. Plus, these little glass jars are available at most grocery stores, so they’re easy to find. However, while it’s great for recycling purposes, glass can be dangerous — always supervise your little one around glass.
Beech-Nut Naturals are free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) but not certified organic (unless you shop their organics line). They contain no added sugar.
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Best organic baby food pouches
Plum Organics Stage 1
If sustainability, organic foods, and non-GMO ingredients are important to you, Plum Organics has a great line of baby food options to try.
Their BPA-free pouches are super convenient and available in a variety of fruits, veggies, and grains for each stage of eating. These foods have no added salts or sugars, so they’re nutritious and simple for baby’s maturing digestive system. They’re also widely available and can be purchased in bulk for greater savings.
And while feeding experts definitely discourage using pouches exclusively, there’s no denying that pouches are very convenient for occasional on-the-go feedings. To make sure your baby is still progressing in their journey through solid foods, try squeezing the pouch contents into a spoon. And be sure to watch out for the small plastic caps, as they’re a choking hazard.
Plum Organics is certified organic and non-GMO, and their baby food doesn’t contain added sugar.
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Best budget-friendly baby food
Gerber Organic 1st Foods
Gerber is the classic baby food brand, and they’ve made changes over the last few years to make their food more health-conscious (e. g., starting an organic line). Yet they have maintained their status as one of the most affordable prepared baby food brands on the market.
They offer benefits like glass jars, organic ingredients, and a wide variety of food choices at a lower cost than some other brands on our list.
Gerber Organic is USDA organic, non-GMO, and free of added sugar.
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Best baby food for constipation
Gerber Natural 1st Foods (Pear)
Sometimes babies get a little constipated when they’re beginning their solid food journey, especially if they’re eating a lot of dairy or iron-fortified cereal. In addition to continuing breast milk, some foods may help relieve your little one’s digestive discomfort, including all the “P” fruits.
So prunes, pears, plums, and peaches are some options to help keep tiny bowels on the move. You can find great fruit purees in any brand on our list, but one of the more cost-effective is the Gerber brand. The good news is that many babies love fruit, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get your little one to down some prunes or pears.
This product is made with non-GMO ingredients and pears grown with Clean Field Farming practices. It doesn’t contain added sugars.
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Best organic jarred baby food
Happy Baby Organics Clearly Crafted Stage 1
Another great organic baby food option, the Happy Baby company offers their organic baby food jars at most stores — although not quite as widely as Beech-Nut and Plum Organics.
Happy Baby jars offer a wide variety of foods, from kale and mango to spinach and peaches and chia seeds. You can start with their single-ingredient jars (this is important for ruling out allergies, as well as to help baby learn to like spinach even when it’s not disguised by pears). Then, you can move on to their fruit and veggie blends as your little one grows.
High quality ingredients, creative flavors, and no artificial ingredients all make Happy Baby a solid (no pun intended) choice.
Happy Baby is USDA organic and doesn’t contain added sugars.
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Best personalized subscription service
Cerebelly allows you to personalize your subscription of baby food pouches based on your child’s age, leaning on science to determine what foods will benefit them at their stage of development.
You’ll take a quiz that asks about the current development and language cues your baby is showing (responding to their name, grasping toys, using noises to show emotion, etc.). It also asks about motor, social, and visual skills.
The results will clue you in on key nutrients that may benefit your little one and customize your baby food pouches based on this.
To boot, the brand has earned the Clean Label Project Purity Award (which evaluates products for toxins and contaminants), is certified USDA organic, and contains no added sugars.
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Best fresh baby food
Once Upon a Farm Cold-Pressed Organic Baby Food
These organic, cold-pressed baby food pouches and cups are found in the refrigerated section at your grocery store (and yes, they have to be refrigerated at home). The company also has a subscription delivery option to make baby food even more convenient for your busy schedule.
Creative names like Wild Rumpus Avocado and Magic Velvet Mango will have you smiling, and the variety of flavors will (hopefully!) appeal to your little one. Once Upon a Farm offers a variety of food stages, so you can start with their purees and move on up to their finger and toddler foods as your baby grows.
Once Upon a Farm is certified organic and non-GMO. Their products contain no added sugars and are Clean Label Project certified.
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Best first baby cereal
Gerber Organic 1st Foods Single Grain Cereal
This simple cereal is a great first food for baby. You can mix this one-ingredient whole grain cereal with breast milk, formula, or water to provide your little one with some crucial nutrients (such as iron) and experience with spoons and textures.
The AAP recommends oatmeal or multigrain cereals over rice cereals, as they have a lower risk of exposure to chemicals such as arsenic (which is sometimes a concern with rice products).
As your baby gets used to other foods, you can also mix this cereal with fruit or yogurt to provide a heartier meal.
Gerber Organic is certified USDA organic and non-GMO, but this product does contain some added sugars.
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Best, most interesting baby food blends
Little Spoon Complex Solids
Once your baby is ready for more advanced blends, Little Spoon has a unique line of complex blends that contain multiple purees as well as other seeds and grains for texture.
For example, one blend contains quinoa, butternut squash, and apple. Another contains kale, white bean, pear, basil, quinoa, and avocado oil.
Little Spoon purees use certified organic and non-GMO ingredients. They’re free of added sugar.
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Best all-around clean baby food
Baby Gourmet is another Clean Label Project Purity Award winner, which means they go above and beyond to ensure their baby food is free of harmful toxins that naturally occur in the environment.
This Canadian company is also set to donate 1 million meals to vulnerable populations by 2025. It’s founded and run by moms, which can be reassuring.
Baby Gourmet is certified organic and non-GMO by both U.S. and Canadian standards. All packaging is BPA-free. Products contain no added sugar.
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As a general guideline, it’s a good idea to start with iron-fortified baby cereals or pureed meats if your infant is breastfed. Breastfed babies are more likely to need extra iron than formula-fed babies.
It’s also advisable to start with simple, single-ingredient purees of meat, vegetables, and fruits.
Choosing brands that are certified organic, use BPA-free materials, and are conscious of using whole food ingredients (e.g., they don’t add “extras” like salt, sugar, or corn syrup) helps ensure a healthy start for your little one.
According to the AAP, you shouldn’t give babies under age 1 cow’s milk, honey, unpasteurized dairy, or undercooked meat, as these can be an infection risk for a baby’s developing immune system.
You’ll also want to avoid foods that are hard or sharp or present a choking risk (for instance, chips, nuts, popcorn, raisins, raw apples, raw carrots, whole grapes, hot dogs). For a more comprehensive guide to which foods to give and what to avoid, check out our article on infant nutrition and starting solids.
While experts used to advise waiting to introduce highly allergenic foods (such as dairy, wheat, nuts, and eggs) until after the first year, the experts now say that delayed introduction of these foods may increase a child’s risk of food allergies. So, with the guidance of your pediatrician, go ahead and introduce those foods within the first year.
Seek immediate emergency medical attention if you notice swelling of the tongue and mouth, wheezing, or trouble breathing after your child eats certain foods
Some babies are raring to go when it comes to trying food, while others may take a little more convincing. Either way, definitely get your camera on video mode, as there are bound to be some hilarious faces and some impressive food spillage along the way.
Here are some pro tips to help make the process as smooth as possible:
- Wait until your baby shows signs of readiness for solid food.
- Keep trying. It can take 5 to 10 exposures for a baby to accept a new food.
- Make it fun and silly.
- Cook and eat as a family as much as possible.
- Let your baby play with the spoon and even the food! While incredibly messy, this helps them get comfortable with the textures, smells, and tastes of new foods.
- Talk with your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns. They’re a great resource and want to help you grow a happy, healthy baby.
What’s the best baby food for growth and weight gain?
If your baby is under 6 months and breastfeeding, it’s recommended that you stick to that exclusively for 6 months. When you’re ready to introduce solids after 6 months, it should be in addition to breastfeeding and formula, not as a replacement.
If your baby is formula-fed, they may begin eating solids sooner than 6 months. While no one specific food is recommended, a variety of foods and colors is best, including meats, vegetables, and fruits. One of the key foods that can help with growth and weight gain is avocados (high in healthy fats and fiber but low in sugar).
Always discuss your baby’s dietary changes with your pediatrician and attend regular checkups to monitor growth.
What’s the easiest food for babies to digest?
Just like adults, babies do best with regular bowel movements. If they’re having a hard time with this, oatmeal is one food known to be easy to digest and promote regularity, as it contains higher amounts of dietary fiber.
It may also help to focus on quantity. Try feeding your baby smaller meals more often, rather than fewer larger meals. This may be easier on their system and allow them to digest foods more easily.
What’s the best baby food to start with?
Mashed banana and avocado are some of the most popular solids to start with. Soft, ground oatmeal is also great. When it comes to fruit and vegetable purees, focus on variety, but don’t overdo it with those that are naturally high in sugar (such as berry purees).
Most importantly, at 6 months old, all foods should still be pureed and cooked. Once your baby is 9 months old and older, you can start to introduce vegetables cut into pieces. The only other no-no is honey, which they shouldn’t have until they’re over a year old.
It can feel like a lot of pressure to choose the best nutrition for your child, especially when trying to capitalize on the years before they start demanding chicken nuggets and ice cream. But there are a lot of great, healthy options available in 2022.
Whether you choose to make your own baby food, buy jars or pouches, or use a baby food subscription service, there are a number of resources to help you feed your baby.
Jarred Baby Food Isn't the Worst, but Neither Is Making Your Own
Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — By Marygrace Taylor on November 25, 2019
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Store-bought baby food isn’t poison, but these tips will prove making your own isn’t rocket science, either. Find the balance that works for you.
Is jarred baby food basically the worst thing ever? Some recent headlines might have you nodding your head yes — and then feeling like the worst parent ever for not always having time to concoct homemade purées for your baby.
The vast majority of packaged baby foods and snacks contain one or more heavy metals like arsenic or lead — with rice-based snacks and infant cereals, teething biscuits, fruit juice, and jarred carrots and sweet potatoes being the worst offenders, according to a recent report by the nonprofit Healthy Babies Bright Futures.
Which, of course, sounds terrifying. But does it really mean that you can never, ever, give your baby store-bought food again?
The answer is no, experts say. “The metal content of baby food really isn’t any more elevated than all the other food adults and older children consume every day. Parents should not be overly alarmed by this piece of news,” says Samantha Radford, PhD, a public health expert and chemist and owner of Evidence-Based Mommy.
Heavy metals are naturally present in soil, and crops like rice and vegetables that grow underground tend to take those metals up. That’s true for rice, carrots, or sweet potatoes that are used to make packaged baby food or the ingredients that you buy whole at the store, including organic ones — though rice tends to have more metals than veggies like carrots or sweet potatoes.
Still, it’s certainly worth taking steps to minimize your family’s exposure by going the homemade route when you can. “I would advise cutting back on rice-based snacks and jarred purées that contain rice,” says Nicole Avena, PhD, author of “What To Feed Your Baby and Toddler.”
Plus, Avena says, “When you opt to make purées at home, you have more control over what goes in them.”
Doing the DIY thing doesn’t have to be crazy complicated or time-consuming, either. Here, some smart tips that’ll streamline the process so making your own baby food doesn’t make you insane.
A fancy baby food maker is nice if you happen to have one. But special appliances definitely aren’t a must. All you really need to make yummy food for your little one is the following:
- Steamer basket or colander for steaming. Place a pot lid over your steamer basket for faster steaming. Try OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Steamer with Extendable Handle.
- Blender or food processor to purée ingredients. Try the Ninja Mega Kitchen System Blender/Food Processor.
- Potato masher. Use it as a low-tech alternative to a blender or food processor, or save it to make chunkier purées when your baby gets a little older. Try the KitchenAid Gourmet Stainless Steel Wire Masher.
- Ice cube trays. They’re the best for freezing individual servings of purées. Buy a bunch so you can freeze several batches of food at once. Try the OMorc Silicone Ice Cube Trays 4-Pack.
- Large baking sheet. This is useful for freezing finger foods on a flat surface so they don’t stick together in the freezer if they’re stacked up in a bag or container. Try Nordic Ware’s Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker’s Half Sheet.
- Parchment paper keeps finger foods from sticking to your baking sheets in the freezer.
- Plastic zip-top baggies can be used for storing frozen purée cubes or finger foods in the freezer.
- A permanent marker is key for labeling, so you know what’s actually in those baggies.
Sure, those mini mac and cheese cups or turkey meatloaf muffins you saw on Instagram look fun. But you don’t have to expend that kind of effort to feed your baby fresh, homemade food — especially early on.
As your little one is getting the hang of solids, focus on making basic fruit and veggie purées with single ingredients. Over time, you can start combining purées — think peas and carrots, or apple and pear — for more interesting flavor combos.
Remember the world of easy-to-prep finger foods too:
- quartered hard-boiled eggs
- sliced banana
- avocado, lightly mashed
- sliced berries
- lightly mashed chickpeas or black beans
- cubes of baked tofu or cheese
- shredded roast chicken or turkey
- cooked ground beef
- mini muffins or pancakes
- whole-grain toast strips topped with hummus, ricotta, or a thin layer of nut butter.
Your time is too precious to spend it washing and de-stemming bunches of spinach or peeling and chopping whole butternut squash. Instead, opt for frozen veggies or fruits that you can quickly microwave and pop straight into the blender or food processor with your preferred seasonings.
Save the steaming just for foods that you can’t usually find frozen — like apples, pears, or beets.
As a new parent, you’ve probably gotten pretty efficient at prepping (relatively) healthy meals and snacks for yourself. So apply the same idea for your baby’s food.
Once a week or so, dedicate an hour to prepping big batches of purées or finger foods. Nap time or after your little one has gone to bed is great for this, so you won’t be distracted or interrupted 30 times.
But if you’d rather use your baby’s snooze time to get some extra rest yourself, have your partner or another caregiver take your baby for an hour when they’re awake so you can cook in peace.
Scoop tablespoons of purées into ice cube trays and freeze them, then pop the cubes out and store them in plastic baggies for quick, easy meals.
Making finger foods like muffins or pancakes? Lay them flat on a baking sheet so they don’t get stuck together while they freeze, then bag them up.
And be sure to label each bag so you know exactly what’s inside. Within a few weeks, you’ll have built up a decent freezer stash of food options for your little one. And chances are, without labels you won’t be able to tell those peas from the green beans.
Marygrace Taylor is a health and parenting writer, former KIWI magazine editor, and mom to Eli. Visit her at marygracetaylor.com.
Baby food from a jar: harm or benefit for the baby?Articles
With the slogan “All the best for children”, baby food manufacturers annually produce thousands of jars of fruits and vegetables, constantly fantasizing over the assortment. However, good intentions to feed the younger generation with something tasty and healthy, while saving mom's time, stumble upon parental criticism and skepticism.
Food from a jar appeared in the post-Soviet space relatively recently, but has already managed to acquire myths, mistrust and get a portion of accusations from grandmothers. Is canned food really so harmful and do children need it?
The main answer lies in a simple truth: food in a jar is needed not by the child, but by the mother. Children need a complete and balanced diet, nutrients and vitamins. A modern mother complains about the lack of time and difficult life. A compromise between the needs of adults and children has become ready-made, while brought to the desired consistency, fruits and vegetables. They allow you to save parental time on everyday cooking, washing dishes, going to markets and shops in search of quality broccoli or zucchini. Also, jars with ready-made delicacies help out perfectly during travels, walks and trips to visit. Each family has the right to choose food for their child based on their financial situation and free time.
The opinion that canned food is devoid of nutrients is erroneous. In the process of cooking, vegetables and fruits are subjected to gentle types of processing, at the end enriching the puree with beta-carotene, iron, potassium and vitamin C in doses approaching the daily requirement of children of the corresponding age.
Fans of buying products for the children's table on the market should take into account that many fruits and vegetables are grown along highways, in ecologically polluted areas, with the use of chemical fertilizers. Such "gifts of nature" may contain lead, radionuclides and nitrates, which is guaranteed to hit your baby's plate. When choosing products for children, purchase them from places of proven quality or from villagers.
Manufacturers of baby canned food, regularly undergoing safety checks, are required to grow products in compliance with a number of norms and requirements. This, in turn, is a guarantee of quality and increases the chances of parents to feed their child with a healthy dessert.
The long shelf life of food jars does not indicate the presence of chemical preservatives in the composition (note: their use is strictly prohibited), but the use of modern technologies for the heat treatment of products and vacuum packaging that protects against the ingress and reproduction of bacteria. Colors, flavors, spices or flavorings are also absent in quality baby purees. In some cases, manufacturers add rice or corn flour to obtain a uniform consistency and reduce the cost of the finished product, but this is not a required ingredient in the composition.
Some parents notice that after a can of mashed potatoes, the child has difficulty moving to an adult table. This happens if you feed the baby with a product that is not age appropriate. For six-month-old babies, manufacturers produce homogenized purees, for eight-month-olds - puree treats, for children older than 10 months - coarsely ground products. Products should be selected taking into account the degree of their grinding, depending on the age of the child and the development of the baby's ability to chew. Age-appropriate food from a jar gradually prepares the child's gastrointestinal tract for "adult" food. In the case when parents prepare a treat for the crumbs at home, the consistency of food must also be changed depending on age.
When choosing ready-made puree in jars, pay attention to the composition: it should contain only natural ingredients and no salt. Sugar is an undesirable component of children's food, try to avoid foods containing it. Fruit and vegetable treats should also not be expired, have signs of opening and deformation of the packaging. Items with an illegible or missing production date should be discarded. After opening the treat, a characteristic dull pop should sound, which indicates the suitability of the product and the correct production and storage conditions.
Motherhood should not turn into a feat, but remain a pleasure. A happy mother will always be more useful for a child than a mother exhausted by everyday life. When choosing canned food or cooking at home, consider your own free time, confidence in the quality of market products, and financial opportunities. Remember that canned food is not a replacement for normal plated food, but a way to optimize it and make life easier for mom.
Happy parenthood and delicious treats for your little one!
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Harm of baby food in jars
Jars with ready-made puree surprise not only with high demand, but also with an assortment. Fruit, berry, vegetable, with meat, cereals, cream - under each brand there are dozens of items. In a previous publication, we talked in detail about 5 reasons for the popularity of baby puree in jars, and today we will consider the likely harm that such food can cause to a child's body.
Nutritionists, pediatricians and parents disagree on this issue. There are three strong arguments against portioned canned food.
Taste different from homemade food.
Difficulty in weaning a child from a homogeneous consistency.
How does baby food taste in jars?
Even if a characteristic pop is heard when opening the container, parents are still obliged to taste the food that they offer their child. Many are surprised at how strange the content is. It is clear that most purees do not contain salt, sugar, flavoring additives. But they often turn out to be not just bland, but unnatural, too different from those that mothers cook on their own.
The reason for this is the merciless grinding and intense heat treatment that precedes vacuum packaging. However, it is very difficult to transfer a child from such refined food to a common family table. What will be the taste specificity of food in the first months of complementary foods will determine future preferences and the ability to organize healthy baby food at school age.
The child is too lazy to chew
Baby purees under different brands also differ in consistency. For example, it is convenient to scoop up meat and fish with a spoon, but some even at room temperature remain monolithic, as if fastened with starch. It is not easy to mix such a substance with potatoes or green vegetables. You just have to cut it into pieces with a spoon. But in any case, the food in jars is crushed as much as possible and is a homogeneous mass.
It is good when feeding a baby up to one year old. But later, when enough teeth have erupted, the food should become coarser. Reasonable exercise is very important for the health of the gums and teeth. Ready-made vegetable puree in jars is easier for everyone: parents save time on cooking, and children save energy on chewing. As a result, it turns out that upon reaching the age of two, some kids refuse salads, normal soups, vegetable stews. They still demand to puree dishes, recognizing only the usual consistency.
Adults have many problems. There is not enough time and energy for endless persuasion, you won’t leave your beloved child hungry either, no tricks (decorating dishes, disguise) help. Whims at the table are dangerous. Even if the baby gives in under parental pressure, he has a great chance of choking, swallowing tears along with food.
Another difficulty is that a "homogeneous" diet will be limited. If you pass buckwheat with meat or baked potatoes with chicken through a blender, at the output we get a very viscous, thick mass - completely unappetizing. The habit of normal food sometimes comes only with admission to kindergarten.
You can switch from canned puree to homemade puree from 8-9 months. At first, mix, say, a “canned” zucchini with boiled, grated on a fine grater. Then increase your portion by decreasing the canned portion. This will take about a week. Then, according to the same principle, we grind part of the product on a medium-sized grater, closer to a year - on a large one, or simply knead it with a fork.
Are baby canned foods subject to high quality control?
They say that buckwheat is the only crop that has not yet been disfigured by genetic modification. Vegetables abound in various additives for rapid growth and disease resistance, and livestock that will become meat are laced with antibiotics and hormones.
It can be assumed that huge fields or modern farms are set aside especially for our babies, where they grow ingredients for safe baby food. Those who have their own vegetable gardens know how high the price of a natural product really is, because time and effort are taken into account.