Many new mothers, after weaning their babies from breast feeding chose to feed their newborns home cooked meals; soft, mushy foods made using a combination of proteins, carbohydrates and vegetables. However, contrary to popular belief a recent study has found that pre packed baby foods may actually be healthier for an infant.
Researchers from the University of Aberdeen in Britain compared the nutrient content, price and food group variety of 278 ready made meals and 408 home cooked meals which were made using recipes from bestselling cookbooks for diets of young children.
They found that two thirds of the store-bought meals fulfilled the energy density requirements for an infant while just over one third of the home cooked meals met the same requirement – over half of the home cooked meals exceeded the maximum limit of energy density. Additionally, home cooked meals had a higher sugar content and a smaller variety of vegetables per meal.
“Unlike adult recommendations, which encourage reducing energy density and fats, it is important in infants that food is suitably energy dense in appropriately sized meals to aid growth and development,” the researchers said. They added; “Dietary fats contribute essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins together with energy and sensory qualities, thus are vital for the growing child, however excessive intakes may impact on childhood obesity and health.”
Sixteen per cent of the home cooked meals were poultry based and nineteen per cent were seafood based. Meanwhile, readymade meals had 27 per cent of poultry and seven per cent of seafood. “The high proportion of red meat-based meals and recipes and low seafood meals are of concern when dietary recommendations encourage an increase in oil-rich fish consumption and limitation of red and processed meats.” the researchers said.
The researchers also added that store bought meals tend to be significantly more expensive than homemade meals.
The study identified both the pros and cons of store bought versus homemade meals – while store bough meals meet energy density requirements and have a variety of vegetables (which is universally recommended for infants), homemade meals contain a wider range of vegetables, meats and fish, but tend to have a larger than acceptable energy density.
The researchers concluded the study write up by stressing the need for a varied diet and stated that a store bought diet can be an appropriate alternative to homemade foods. It also implied that parents should be aware of their infants’ nutritional needs and select and prepare recipes accordingly.
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