Infant weaning starts at the age of 6 months. This is when the baby is slowly started on semi- solid food and then to completely solid food while reducing breastfeeding. Along with home prepared food, we like to invest in Baby Food which provides satiety and nutrients for the baby. Here are a few pointers one should look into to choose Organic Baby Food:
- Products used in the making of Baby Food
- Reading the Food label
- Origin of the Baby Food
- Nutritional value
Ingredients Used in the Preparation of Baby Food
The infant is initially started on very soft food like pureed lentils, fruits and very soft cooked vegetables. Around this time, we also introduce Baby Food. Baby food comes in a lot of varieties and is formulated based on their age and acceptance.
Initial formulation includes easy to digest fruits and vegetables along with whole grains like oats, ragi and rice which is easily digestible and are good sources of nutrition for the baby. Similarly, formulations change for infants starting from one or two ingredients to a combination of 3-4 ingredients.
A lot of baby foods today are available online. They have varied varieties and are available at your doorstep. Be sure to check how they are prepared and packaged as it may directly affect your child’s health.
Reading a Food Label
Reading the food label before buying anything is the first thing we should look into, weather the products are brought online or from the store. All websites now have pictures of the products they sell with all the details, which helps us to choose what we want to buy for our baby just as we would do in a supermarket. But how do we read it? Here are some pointers we should look for:
- Serving size
- Amount of nutrients provided per serving
- Ingredients used in preparation of the formula
- % DV (% Daily Value) and Foot notes
- Allergy advice
Understanding the Nutrition Label
The food label (1) is marked with the number of portions to be consumed per serving and the number of portions present in the packing. Consuming more or less can alter the amount of nutrient it provides to the body. Consuming less might lead to improper nutrition intake, but consuming more than required portion can result in overweight/ obesity.
The food label (2, 3 & 4) shows the calories and nutrients that the formula provides in one serving. Understanding Nutrition Label Sometimes the label also shows the calories and nutrients provided in 100gms/ 100ml of serving alongside the actual serving size.
Nutrients that should be limited include sugar, sodium and fat. High sugars and sodium content are harmful and can cause obesity and hypertension if these are higher than required. Fat is another nutrient that should not be high. High fat can cause high cholesterol problems in future for adults as well as babies. Nutrients that can be availed in good amounts include proteins, vitamins and minerals.
Salts and sugar in baby foods cannot be digested by the developing kidneys and hence should be avoided.
Baby food is prepared with a lot of recipes and different ingredients. Some use conventional produce, some natural and some use organic products. Organic products are much safer to use as compared to conventional products as they are certified.
Apart from the source of ingredients, it is very important to know what we are feeding the baby. Baby foods come in a large variety of flavors and textures and is introduced to the baby depending on their age and acceptance.
A list of ingredients is mentioned on all packings and are mentioned in decreasing order of their weight present in the formula. The ingredient with maximum weight is mentioned first and the least is mentioned last.
The first 2 or 3 ingredients on the ingredient list signifies how healthy the product is. If the first ingredient is a concentrate or refined form of food, it will only provide unnecessary calories with no health benefits.
Ingredient list also shows the source of the ingredient whether it is organic or not and how it is processed. For example, if the product shows whole grain (wheat, rice, oats, etc), it means that the complete grain is used. But if only flour/ refined grain is mentioned, it may be heavily processed where the bran and germ is removed and only the endosperm maybe used which decreases its nutritional value.
The ingredient list also includes the preservatives or additives that have been used in packaging. Most of the times, salt and sugar are used as natural preservatives but these do not contribute towards a healthy development. Chemical preservatives like benzoate, nitrites and sulphites are dangerous for the body and cause serious physical and mental damage.
% Daily Value and Footnotes:
%DV or Daily Value of nutrients are mentioned on the boxes and are calculated based on the daily requirement of a nutrients per day and how much each serving provides. These are provided in the footnotes mentioned at the base of the nutrient facts and calculated based on the standard of 2000 kcal diet.
All other nutrients are based on 100% of the daily intake (based on 2000 kcal). This helps show us the amount of nutrient being consumed.
New foods should be introduced to the infant one at a time with a gap of atleast a few days in between. While introducing any new food, one must look for any signs of allergy (rash, itching or throwing up). Some infants are allergic to gluten (like in wheat, rye), nuts (groundnuts) or lactose (milk).
Origin of Baby Food
Along with the food label, it is very important to see the origin of the baby food. Baby foods can be prepared using conventional, natural or organic food produce.
Baby food prepared with conventional produce although is prepared with lots of care can still possess a risk of carrying foreign agents in the baby’s body. On the other hand, if Organic Baby food is certified and free from any harmful ingredients, it becomes much safer for consumption.
But how do we know if the baby food we are buying is actually organic or not?
Organic foods are usually certified by USDA and in India it is done by Indian Organics. The USDA seal of approval signifies that the products used in the preparation are certified organic and has passed all quality screening. The grading of organic food is done and the labels are placed as mentioned in the table given below:
Apart from taste, nutritional value of food is also very important. The nutritional value of food is determined by calculating the amount of nutrients one needs to consume per day. It is also subdivided into the amount of food that should be consumed in a single serving.
When we choose Organic Baby food, it is important to look at the food label and see for the ingredients, serving size and the nutrients it is providing to the baby per feeding. Some baby foods are iron rich, some calcium rich along with vitamins, minerals and calories for the baby. A combination of different foods will provide the baby sufficient nutrients along with home cooked meals.