When it comes to grocery shopping and meal prep for your baby or toddler, you’ve probably heard or seen the words “fresh” and “processed” a lot. But what even are processed foods and does fresh baby food actually have real health benefits?
A processed food is any food item that has been intentionally altered (either chemically or mechanically) to change or preserve it. But by that definition, not all processed foods are created equally. For example, there’s a big difference between freeze-dried cherries and a can of preservative-coated maraschinos—they’re both technically processed, but one maintains a lot more nutritional value than the other.
The safest bet to serve your baby meals packed with the highest nutritional value is starting with fresh baby food, or whole ingredients that haven’t been exposed to heat or chemical additives. Here are three reasons why we’re okay with our solid foods getting fresh.
When it comes to processed food, avoiding sugar can be near impossible. Whether it sneaks in under an alias (looking at you, “corn syrup”) or hides behind marketing jargon (“all natural!”), sugar lurks in everything from soups to bread to cereal. And it’s especially prevalent in food targeted at babies. By starting with whole, fresh ingredients, parents can take back the power to regulate their tiny human’s sugar intake in a healthy way.
FRESH BABY FOOD HELPS WITH TASTE BUD TRAINING
If you’ve only ever eaten french fries, you probably have a hard time building an appreciation for russet potatoes. Early exposure to fresh foods (and thereby natural flavors) is one of the best ways to raise a tiny human with a broad palate. Plus, fresh baby food engages all the senses, whether it’s the bright color on a strawberry, the crunch of a green bean, or the scent of rosemary.
BETTER HEALTH FOR LITTLE EATERS
Not only is fresh baby food generally richer in nutrients than processed food, it can also reduce the risk of diseases now and later in life. Starting tiny humans on a lifelong journey of fresh food eating now raises the chances that they’ll continue to make healthy choices with every subsequent bite.