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How to Tell if Baby Puree is Made from Real Food?
It’s essential to distinguish real baby food from the crowd of processed options. So, we made a guide to help. Let’s dive into how to tell if baby puree is made from real food!
How To Tell If Baby Puree is Made from Real Food?
There’s a list of things you check when looking for baby food. Does this puree have enough nutrients? Does it contain any added sugars? Is this puree organic or all-natural? Are there any added ingredients? As you ask yourself these questions, it can get overwhelming. Of course, you want what’s best for your little one, but baby food companies don’t always have the same goal in mind.
Luckily, we’re different! There are plenty of tools to help you pick out real food from the crowd and distinguish what’s processed from what’s not. This guide goes over the characteristics of real food, how to tell if your baby’s puree is made from real produce and all the science-based reasons why real is just better.
What Does Real Food Mean?
To talk about what real food is, let’s define processed food first. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines processed food as any food that has had its natural state altered or modified. This includes milling, heating, blanching, canning, dehydrating, or other processes that change the food’s natural state.
The USDA makes an important note here that there is a variety of food processing. Some processes such as cleaning and cutting food alter the natural state of raw produce, but they are not harmful to the body, nor do they change the nutrient content of food.
So, real food is the opposite of this. It’s any food that has not been changed, altered, or modified in any way that substantially changes the nutrient content of food. Real foods are known as “unprocessed,” “minimally processed,” or “whole foods” and include things like fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, meats, and milk.
Let’s dig a little deeper into what real food is!
Real Food is Free of Additives
Additives are an ingredient used to preserve, enhance, package, or modify the taste, texture, color, or appearance of food. The FDA approves 10,000 different additives, and unfortunately, these can interfere with critical bodily processes. Especially when consumed by the little ones in our lives.
Think of it this way. Your baby’s body is like a small tank. What goes into that tank is used as fuel for the multitude of important processes that go on. These processes include brain development, physical growth, immune system development, metabolism, digestion, hormonal balance and regulation, and so much more.
Your little one’s growth is fueled by what they eat, but what if instead of putting real, nutrient-dense food into this small tank, you only put empty calories. This is what it’s like for your little one to eat heavily processed baby puree.
Here are some of the most common additives in baby purees:
- BPA (bisphenol A): This additive hardens plastic and prevents rust on cans. This chemical acts like estrogen and can alter important hormonal changes such as puberty, weight gain, and development.
- Phthalates: This additive makes plastic flexible without breaking and is used in many aspects of food production. It can affect sexual development, obesity, metabolism, and heart health.
- Perfluoroalkyl: This chemical prevents the cardboard from absorbing grease, but it can weaken the immune system, lead to weight gain, and alter fertility.
- Perchlorate: This chemical controls static electricity in food packages, but it can lead to thyroid hormone and cognitive function issues.
- Synthetic Artificial Food Colors: Artificial food coloring is a common additive used in baby foods to modify the appearance of baby food and change the color. They are often used as replacements for nutritious ingredients and can serve as empty calories.
- Nitrates: Nitrates are meant to preserve and enhance color and have been linked to tumors, digestive issues, impairment of the nervous system, and more.
These are just the most common additives used to process and modify baby foods, but there are many others to be aware of.
Real Food is Unrefined and Unprocessed
One process food goes through when being modified is known as refining. Carbohydrates and sugars are often refined in processed foods to make sweets, breads, and things like pizza and fries. In this process, nutrients are often replaced for empty calories. Real food, on the other hand, is not refined and not processed.
Why Real Food is Better for Your Baby
Choosing real food over artificial food is an easy choice when it comes to your little one, but here are some science-based reasons why real food is better for your baby.
Real Food is Rich in Nutrients
Real food is rich in nutrients. Unfortunately, the nutrient content of food processed is much lower than the nutrient content of food picked directly from the garden and cooked for your plate. This is because processed foods with additives, preservatives, chemicals, and modifiers can alter the chemical structure of nutrients in food and remove them.
Many baby food companies blast their foods at extreme temperatures, as this can help them have a longer shelf life and kill microorganisms. However, the benefits of a prolonged expiration date are short-lived when the nutrient content of these foods is lower.
While cooking foods at normal temperatures is fine, cooking them at extreme temperatures to prolong the shelf life causes baby food to lose nutrients and swap them for empty calories instead.
In addition, most processed carbohydrates are known as “stripped carbohydrates” because the most nourishing ingredients in these foods have been removed while being processed. For white flour, bran and germ are stripped out, and white rice, corn starch, and sugar are processed similarly. These foods contain empty calories that don’t hold the same amount of nutrients as whole or real foods.
Real Food is Low in Sugar
The sugar content of real food isn’t zero, but it is much lower than the sugar content of processed foods. The sugar in real food is natural as well, like what you find in fruit, instead of refined foods and added sugars. Sugars can be detrimental to your baby’s health, so it’s important to avoid them.
Learn more about why you should never give your baby foods or drinks with sugar.
Real Food Has Fiber
Babies need fiber. Fiber is the fuel that keeps food moving through the digestive system. If your baby is ever constipated, fiber is a great way to relieve it. Unprocessed, whole foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, peas, and whole grains are packed full of fiber.
Real Food Offers Variety
Processed foods typically rely on the same main ingredients in baby purees and only change some of the ingredients for flavors. Real foods should offer a variety of ingredients and flavors. This helps your little one get a balanced, nutritious diet while also experiencing a wide range of flavors and tastes to develop their palette.
Real Food has Antioxidants
Another quality of real food is that it’s packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants are essential parts of our bodies that combat free radicals and oxidative stress. Free radicals are unstable compounds that arise from digestion and even pollution. So, antioxidants protect our bodies from cell damage and have been connected to disease prevention.
Some examples of antioxidants are Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and selenium. Whole, real foods are great sources of antioxidants, especially fruits and vegetables. Especially as your little one’s body is more susceptible to damage, it’s vital to give them baby purees rich in antioxidants!
How To Find Real Food Baby Purees
Real foods are better for your baby, but how can you find them? Here are some tips!
Look for Organic
Organic foods are free of additives, pesticides, artificial ingredients, enhancers, modifiers, and chemicals that preserve or alter the state of food. Organic produce is also under strict regulation by the FDA and USDA to be free of pesticides. As opposed to “all-natural” or “100% natural” foods, organic foods must adhere to certain regulations to be considered organic and labeled that way.
If you want to find baby food puree that’s made with real food, go organic!
Check the Ingredients
You can also check the ingredients to make sure the food you’re purchasing is real! If it’s not real, you’ll likely see a long list of ingredients, some of which may be hard to read. The longer the ingredient list, the more processing your baby food has likely undergone.
Make Homemade Baby Food
Making homemade baby food is a great way to ensure that your little one is only consuming real, fresh, organic ingredients. However, we also know not everyone’s lifestyle has space for this. Making baby food homemade is a big task, especially if you’re a working parent and have other kids.
That’s why we made Yumi. We offer all the benefits of homemade baby food and all the benefits of subscription service you can change with the press of a button. Our in-house nutritionists and culinary experts have over 60 unique flavors of real—yes, really real—foods that your little bean will love!
Learn more about our menu here!