As the owners of a fresh baby food business and a reusable food pouch company, we have the pleasure of meeting with many parents and discussing healthy foods for babies and young children. “How is fresh (or homemade) baby food different than the organic baby food in jars or pouches” is a question we get asked a lot. It’s a good question and we always enjoy the opportunity to discuss the difference. We believe knowledge is a very powerful tool and our goal is to share what we know and then let parents decide what makes the most sense for their family given their individual circumstances and nutritional beliefs.
Before we begin, let us first define “shelf stable”. Shelf stable is a term we use to describe foods that have been prepared or processed in such a way that allows for long-term storage without the need for refrigeration. The processing of pouched or jarred baby food involves the use of extremely high temperatures in an effort to kill bacteria and other harmful pathogens. The food is then sealed to create an oxygen free environment that makes it impossible for bacteria to grow (with the exception of Clostridium botulinum, a bacterial strain with the ability to cultivate without the presence of oxygen). These extreme temperatures are believed to have a negative impact on the concentration of certain heat sensitive vitamins and minerals.
Fresh on the other hand refers to foods that are either uncooked or cooked using conventional methods. Freshly prepared foods, such as baby food, must be stored cold and consumed within a shorter time frame.
When purchasing from local fresh baby food companies or making homemade baby food, you have the ability to take advantage of local produce. Using local ingredients affects the nutritional content of fruits and veggies, which naturally decreases between the time they are harvested and the time they are consumed. Since local produce does not have to be transported as far, it can also be picked closer to peak ripeness when nutrients are most dense. In most cases it is not clear where mass-produced organic baby food companies source their ingredients. We don’t know how long the fruits and vegetables have been stored or how far they have travelled. Many certified organic fruits and vegetables grown outside of the U.S. are actually sprayed with pesticides post-harvest before they enter the United States. However, this does not change their organic certification. Further, foreign countries are still using chemicals that are currently banned in the United States.
Supporting local farmers is better for our environment and local economy. Many local farmers have strong connections to their land and minimize their impact on the environment by using sustainable practices, such as no-till agriculture and composting. Minimal travel distances and packaging for their farm products also contribute to the well being of our environment. Food grown locally, processed locally, and distributed locally generates jobs and subsequently helps stimulate local economies. For these reasons, there are many organizations popping up today to help foster and support local food systems, such as Good Eggs and Slow Money.
In addition to using local ingredients, some fresh baby food businesses use compostable packaging. Their foods as well as homemade baby food can also be packed in a reusable food pouch such as the Little Green Pouch. While store bought disposable pouches may be a convenient choice, the pouches are not recyclable and create a lot of waste. In addition to being an eco-friendly pouch solution, the Little Green Pouch is ideal for on-the-go freshness.
Finally, we can’t ignore the fact that locally made fresh purees and homemade purees contain a wider variety of flavors and textures than shelf stable pouches and jars. Fresh herbs and spices can be used to entice developing palettes and foster more adventurous eaters. It is well known that babies need fat for optimal brain development. Therefore, fats such as butter, olive oil, coconut milk and coconut oil can also be incorporated. Meats providing protein and easily absorbed sources of iron are also great additions as well as the use of fresh vegetable stock and even bone broth instead of water for additional flavor and a nutritional boost.
Based on the information presented, we realize you still need to find a balance that makes sense for you and your family. For some, homemade baby food may not be an option for one reason or another. For others, they may find that their baby only wants to eat out of a pouch. Well, we are happy to tell you that you have options. As mentioned several times, many fresh baby food businesses are popping up all over the country these days. There are even three right here in the Bay Area. And, if you need the convenience of a pouch, we strongly suggest you give the Little Green Pouch a try. This reusable squeeze pouch is perfect for homemade baby food, smoothies or yogurt as well as fresh purees from local baby food companies.
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