Babies who get homemade food may learn to like a wider variety of food types and be leaner than infants who eat store-bought products.
In a current study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers examined whether the source of food – homemade or commercial – influences variety, infant growth and weight. They found babies who only ate homemade foods had more diverse diets earlier in life and lower body fat mass when they were 1 year and 3 years old.
The impotence of this study is that it highlights the importance of incorporating variety into a child’s diet. Homemade food is not as consistent as processed foods, that are made to a consistent standard. Food preferences begin early in life, are likely to persist and are difficult to change in adulthood. Providing appropriate food choices during the complementary feeding period is of importance to facilitate food acceptance and ensure healthy growth and development.
Previous research suggests that commercially produced baby food can contain high amounts of sodium and sugar and be of a consistent texture and appearance that may limit children’s acceptance of new foods with different textures. Homemade foods, by contrast, can provide a broader range of flavours and textures that might encourage children to eat a wider variety of things as they get older.
For the current study, researchers examined dietary data on 65 infants and assessments of body fat from exams when infants were 6, 9, 12 and 36 months old.
By 9 months of age, 14 babies, or 22 percent, had exclusively received homemade food and another 14 infants ate only commercially produced food. Most babies got a combination of both types of food. There weren’t any differences in the babies’ lengths or how much they weighed for their age based on what the infants ate. Calorie and nutrient intakes also didn’t differ by group over time.
However, when researchers scored babies’ diets based on how many of seven different food groups they consumed, the infants getting only homemade food achieved scores almost a full point higher than babies getting only commercially produced foods.
At one year of age, babies who ate only homemade food had a lower percentage of body fat than the other infants in the study.
The study authors concluded “”Although the observed association cannot confirm a cause and effect relationship, parents should be informed about the provision of home-prepared meat, fruit and vegetables during a baby’s transition to solid food is linked with increased diet diversity in the first year of life.”