Choosing homemade or commercial solid foods

Should I make solids for my baby?

Homemade solid foods, safely prepared, can be healthy, cheap, fresh, and tasty. Compared with commercial solid foods, they offer a wider variety of types and tastes for babies. Food preferences are established early, so offering a variety of healthy foods to babies may help them continue to make healthy choices in the long term. Commercial solid foods, on the other hand, are processed, so they tend to contain less fibre, protein, and other nutrients. They are expensive and may contain unhealthy ingredients like sugar and excess salt. Besides, they may not taste as good. Busy families may consider freezing homemade solid foods for use when they are rushed.

A) Choosing homemade or commercial solid foods for your baby

Preparing homemade solid foods can take a bit of effort but there are many benefits to choosing these over commercial solid foods.

Our lives are busy, so commercial solid foods may have a place. One alternative is to freeze homemade solid foods and use them when you are rushed.

B) Benefits of homemade solid foods

Prepared safely, homemade food can be healthy, cheap, fresh, and tasty. So yes, absolutely, make your baby solid foods.

Homemade foods offer a wider range of types and tastes to the baby. Babies’ food preferences are established early, so exposing babies to healthy foods can help them continue to make healthy choices in the long term (De Cosmi 2017).

C) Risks of commercial solid foods

1) Commercial solid foods

Commercial solid foods:

  • Are expensive (Crawley 2017).
  • May contain (Crawley 2017):
    • Unhealthy items like sugar and excess salt (Koletzko 2019).
    • Starch-based thickeners that offer only calories with no nutritional value (CSPI 2015).
    • Preservatives.
  • Are processed, so that they (Crawley 2017):
    • Tend to contain less fibre, protein, and other nutrients compared with fresh food.
    • May have an inferior taste to fresh food.
    • Have a relatively soft and uniform consistency.
  • May have misleading advertising (Crawley 2017; Ferrante 2021).
  • Expose the baby to a limited range of tastes and flavours.
  • Are packaged in relatively large servings, which may encourage families to overfeed their babies (USDA 2009).
  • May increase the risk of obesity (Mok 2017).
  • May be contaminated with glass, bacteria, or have improper seals (CFIA 2017).

Commercial solid foods tend to contain higher amounts of sweet vegetables such as carrots and sweet potato and smaller amounts of bitter ones. This can lead to decreased vegetable intake in older children (Foterek 2016).

Commercial solid foods have been found to contain too much sugar. A 2019 study by the World Health Organization (WHO 2019) found that in half of the foods they examined, at least 30% of the calories came from sugar and one-third of the products contained added sugar or other sweetening agents. Examples of sugars include brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, and sucrose.

Very high levels of salt have also been found in commercial solid foods such as “dinners” aimed at children 12 to 24  months old. Many contain added sugars (Cogswell 2015; Maalouf 2017).

Snacks aimed at babies and children, such as biscuits and finger foods, may have added sugar and very high levels of salt (Cogswell 2015; Maalouf 2017).

Highly processed foods can have negative effects on a child’s health (Elizabeth 2020).

2) Commercial pouches

Recently, food pouches have been promoted for use by babies. These are single-serving packages and in order to consume their contents, babies suck on straws or spouts.

In addition to concerns about their ingredients and processing, they may slow or interfere with the development of normal eating skills (Koletzko 2019). Babies are unable to explore foods with various texture with their lips, mouth, tongue, and teeth. Delaying textured solids can result in increased feeding difficulties later on and in fruit and vegetable refusal (Coulthard 2009). 

Similar concerns have been raised about feeding bags which allow babies to suck solid foods through a nipple or to strain them through a mesh.

References

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Infant Foods [Internet]. Washington: Center for Science in the Public Interest; 2015 May 11
 
Cogswell ME, Gunn JP, Yuan K, et al. Sodium and sugar in complementary infant and toddler foods sold in the United States. Pediatrics. 2015 Mar;135(3):416-23
 
Coulthard H, Harris G, Emmett P. Delayed introduction of lumpy foods to children during the complementary feeding period affects child's food acceptance and feeding at 7 years of age. Matern Child Nutr. 2009;5(1):75–85
 
Crawley H, Westland S. Baby Foods in the UK. A review of commercial produced jars and pouches of baby foods marketed in the UK. London: First Steps Nutrition Trust; 2017
 
De Cosmi V, Scaglioni S, Agostoni C. Early Taste Experiences and Later Food Choices. Nutrients. 2017 Feb 4;9(2). pii: E107

Elizabeth L, Machado P, Zinöcker M, et al. Ultra-Processed Foods and Health Outcomes: A Narrative Review. Nutrients. 2020 Jun 30;12(7):E1955

Ferrante MJ, Moding KJ, Bellows LL, et al. Examining Front-of-Package Product Names and Ingredient Lists of Infant and Toddler Food Containing Vegetables. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2021 Feb;53(2):96-102

Foterek K, Buyken AE, Bolzenius K, et al. Commercial complementary food consumption is prospectively associated with added sugar intake in childhood. Br J Nutr. 2016 Jun;115(11):2067-74
 
Government of Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Food Recall Warnings – High Risk. [Internet]. Ottawa: Government of Canada; 2017 [cited 2017 Oct 7]
 
Koletzko B, Bührer C, Ensenauer R, et al. Complementary foods in baby food pouches: position statement from the Nutrition Commission of the German Society for Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (DGKJ, e.V.). Mol Cell Pediatr. 2019 Mar 6;6(1):2
 
Maalouf J, Cogswell ME, Bates M, et al. Sodium, sugar, and fat content of complementary infant and toddler foods sold in the United States, 2015. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Jun;105(6):1443-1452
 
Mok E, Vanstone CA, Gallo S, et al. Diet diversity, growth and adiposity in healthy breastfed infants fed homemade complementary foods. Int J Obes (Lond). 2017 May;41(5):776-782
 
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Infant nutrition and feeding: a guide for use in the WIC and CSF programs. 2009. Special supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Food and Nutrition Service: Washington
 
World Health Organization (WHO). Commercial foods for infants and young children in the WHO European Region; A study of the availability, composition and marketing of baby foods in four European countries. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2019