Making Baby Food healthy, easy and convenient

beech-nut coldpureeYour baby’s transition from breastmilk or formula to baby food is an exciting step. There are so many options available for parents. They range from mashing and blending your own vegetables or fruit to a variety of ready-made baby food on the market. One of my key mantras is eating close to the source. I think it’s important to do it from an early age. When we feed our babies preservative-free, nutritious and delicious food, we are giving them a good foundation. Beech-Nut is one of the well known baby food brands out there. I love their Coldpurée baby food pouches, the idea of pureeing fruits and vegetables cold to help protect the nutrients and flavors. I understand the method is key, helpful in preserving the vitamins in the food offered to babies, so they are eating close to the source. Not only are there unique flavors and delicious combinations but they are so convenient for moms on the go. They are light and easy to carry, stand on their own but don’t take much room. They don’t break like the glass jars might and are not messy. I spoke with a Pediatric nutrition expert, Nicole Silber, RD, CSP, CLC, about the advantages of using this particular baby food for your little ones.

What are the advantages of blending the ingredients before cooking? How does this affect nutrition and flavor?

Baby food is processed many different ways. Beech-Nut uses a unique method, called Coldpurée, which blends the fruit and veggies cold. After that, the air is removed to maintain the natural colors of the ingredients without having to add any artificial preservatives. Finally, Beech-Nut gently cooks the purée. This method helps protect the nutrients (vitamins) in the food as well as vibrant flavors and colors.

Have other companies [besides Beech-Nut] approached this process the same way?

While other baby food companies are certainly working to meet parents’ demands for more wholesome baby food, only Beech-Nut offers the Coldpurée method, which is as close as possible to what moms and dads would make at home.

Can babies eat straight from the pouch or does the food need to be transferred to another container?

beech-nut coldpureeBabies can absolutely eat straight from the pouch, eliminating the need for spoon, which can save time and mess at meals. That’s why I, along with so many other parents, love pouches when traveling or pressed for time. However, pouches should not replace spoon eating altogether. For mealtimes, I recommend pouring the purées from the pouches into a bowl so the purée can be eaten with a spoon. Spoon feeding teaches little ones an important eating and oral motor skill set that sucking from a pouch does not.

What makes a pouch better than glass containers?

The pouches have a major advantage for traveling – both because they are lighter and less breakable than glass. The pouches’ easy-to-eat spouts make them easier for a baby to self-feed. While this has time-saving advantages, it should not regularly replace spoon feeding (see previous answer for more details).

What should parents look at when deciding on baby food? What are the priorities from the nutritional point of view?

beech-nut coldpureeThere are so many options for buying baby food! The first thing I look for is transparency of the ingredients. What you see on the front of the label should be what is on the back, in the ingredient list, listed in the same order. I like to look for nutritious blends that will also excite a baby’s palate. We wouldn’t want to eat bland food, so why would we teach our babies to prefer bland flavors? Look for varieties with vibrant colors from foods like beets, nutritious ingredients from foods like beans and avocado, and exciting flavors from spices like cumin. I also caution parents not to overdo the fruit blends, and to pick some veggie-only varieties so those tiny taste buds don’t get hooked exclusively on sweet flavors!

Should parents look for baby food made of organic ingredients even for those ingredients that are not on the “dirty dozen”?

The dirty dozen list is a great resource, but it is a fluid list and changes depending on the season and the Environmental Working Group’s testing. Choosing organic ensures there are no synthetic fertilizer residues in the ingredients. More important than choosing organic is choosing baby food that is made with natural, wholesome ingredients, which are not diluted with water or loaded with fillers and added sweeteners.

Which preservatives are OK and which are ones parents should avoid?

The preservatives I see most commonly added to baby food are ascorbic acid and citric acid, usually to maintain the color of ingredients. Both of these preservatives are recognized as safe additives. However, I always like to go back to the basics and buy the most wholesome baby food that’s closest to homemade and doesn’t use preservatives and other additives. These are not preservatives, but I also steer clear of baby food that is made with juice concentrate, added sweeteners (maple syrup counts as a sweetener) and/or baby food with water or broth listed as the top ingredients.

Are there any known consequences of using citric or ascorbic acid?

The FDA considers both citric acid and ascorbic acid safe preservatives. There has been suspicion that excessive citric acid intake may cause some mild GI upset and tooth decay in children, but the jury is still out. That is why, when possible, it is best to pick products that are made using only ingredients that you would use at home, and that are free of any artificial preservatives.

Why are natural sweeteners – assuming this would include both honey and maple syrup among the few – not favorable?

Honey is not safe in children under 12 months due to the risk of botulism. When it comes to other added natural sweeteners, such as maple syrup, there are two factors to be aware of: blood sugar regulation and taste development. Adding sweeteners, even if natural, will unnecessarily raise a child’s blood sugar levels. And when it comes to forming those taste buds, it is important for babies to learn to accept (and enjoy) savory flavors like most vegetables and proteins that are not masked with any natural or other sweeteners.

Are there any advantages to mixing fruits and vegetables rather than going with one only?

9415 W Higgins Rd, Rosemont, IL 60018Mixing fruit and veggies allows for some unique and fun flavor combinations, which is important for expanding baby’s palate early on. Again, I caution not to overdo the sweetness from fruit and to choose some veggie-only blends. Even if a little one isn’t receptive to the veggie blends right away, I always tell parents to try and try again.

How can parents select baby pouches that kids will actually eat?

Another perk of the pouches is that they have more eye appeal to a toddler or even an older child. Pouches are a great way to get pickier eaters, who currently refuse to eat whole vegetables, to eat their veggies. Look for flavors that would be interesting to a child. For example, Beech-Nut’s organic Coldpurée mango pouch could easily replace applesauce in a child’s lunch box.

Is there anything different about the pouch that Beechnut is using?

Beech-Nut’s Coldpurée pouches are different, in a couple of ways, to other squeezable baby food available at the grocery store. First, you can see that Beech-Nut designed the pouches to look like the iconic glass jars that parents love from the Naturals™ and Organic™ lines. Second, Beech-Nut made the decision to have the colors of the pouches reflect exactly what’s inside – very vibrant, flavorful purees that look like the fruits and veggies from which they’re made. While Beech-Nut considered using transparent pouches, and there are some out on the market, transparent materials cause nutrients to leach out of the purées. This issue means that additives like ascorbic acid are required to maintain nutrient, color and freshness levels, which is why Beech-Nut decided against a clear pouch.

Why are you passionate about this subject?

As a registered dietitian and pediatric nutritionist I see firsthand that what and how babies eat affects their future relationship with food. With obesity, chronic diseases and picky eating on the rise, we have an opportunity to make a big impact on our kids’ eating habits for the better. Plus, now that I have my own baby, this professional passion has turned into a more personal mission to ensuring my little one has only the best!

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