Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Homemade Baby Food vs Baby Food in a Jar?

Cow&Gate, baby food
Image from Cow&Gate website

Since young I have been told that we were fed baby food from a jar. I never thought that it was wrong, nor do I ever wondered why I wasn't fed with homemade food for all my meals. In fact, I thought it was quite cute, the food smelled nice and the sound of the spoon clinking against the jar really bring back some flashbacks. So when it was my turn to become a mummy, my mind was set to buying baby food in jars.

But I was bombarded with opinions from other mums. 'Why don't you cook your own? It's very easy and you just need to freeze the rest' 'I only give homemade food to my baby' 'There are lots of additives in the jars aren't there? Best to cook your own' etc etc. 

Although annoyed, they have never changed my mind about feeding baby food in jars. If I grew up with these, why can't I feed my baby with them too? If I have cooked my own it would be plain mash of one or maximum two types of vegetables. With these jars, there is a huge variety and each with interesting ingredients, eg Shepherd's Pie or Banana Custard.

My first one was happy with the potted food I gave her. If it wasn't because my second one didn't like pureed food but went straight from milk to whole grain rice, I would have given him the same food. (Wasted all the jars I've bought, must pass them on soon)

On Monday Fiona Wilcock, an independent public health nutritionist and food writer, published a report called Lifting the Lid on Baby Foods. She investigated food practices by Cow & Gate, from the source, farmers, to processing and when the food reached the babies. After reading the report (it's very interesting, you should read it!) I'm tempted to make both my children go back to eating baby food in jars! (By Cow&Gate at least)

Not only does Cow & Gate stick to strict guidelines for making baby food, they have added their own additional guidelines to ensure that their baby food are of best quality and perfectly safe to eat for babies.

They made sure that their ingredients came from farmers who has "food for babies" in mind and works with specialists in growing baby grade food, in a location that has the least contamination with the perfect growing condition and still close to the processing plant to ensure freshness. Food are grown and reared for quality and safety, but not how they look, which means minimal pesticides, much lower than the legalised amount of 10 parts per billion (equivalent to a drop of water in two Olympic sized swimming pools) in baby food, although you won't be able to source them from a supermarket because of the looks (wonky apples, bananas that might be too straight, blemished skin on fruits, etc)

They do not use organic ingredients, as they are more focused on creating their own baby grade ingredients, which are even better. Did you know that there are no legal control on nitrates, mycotoxins or heavy metals in supermarket organic ingredients? And how safe do you think it is to eat free range chicken and egg, when they are free to roam and eat whatever is on the ground, which could be covered with contaminated soil?

Cow & Gate rear their chicken in a large barn that has plenty of room for the chicken to stretch and roam, which means that they have a life that is almost as good as a free range chicken, but no contaminated meat.

They also use no salt at all in their baby food, and there are no sugar in their savoury food. Sugar in desserts are minimal, but majority of their dessert recipes has excluded sugar already, while they are working on the rest to exclude sugar entirely from their range. There is no need for preservative because of the high heat (maximum of 125 degree Celsius) cooking after the food are jarred, ensuring longer shelf life.

Nutrients such as Vitamin C might be lost during the heating process, but they have preserved as much nutrients as they can at each stage, while nutrients lost weren't prevented as much from store bought ingredients we keep around in the room or fridge until we cook them.

I don't know about you, but after reading the report, and looking at our own lifestyle, I really do think that the baby food from a jar sounded much better than what we eat (salt, sugar, sauces...)

Disclosure: I was not paid in any way to write this post. I wrote it out of personal interest and a feel for redemption; all opinions are honest and my own