Is processed food good for babies?
Babies need to be strictly kept off processed food till the age of one. After that, we need to be very careful about the quantity and quality of food being fed. Needless to say, home cooked meals are best for children and adults alike. Here are the potential problems with feeding processed food :
- Sugar :
this is the risky part of any food you feed the baby. I have noticed babies being given glucose biscuits at the age of 6 months. This is not only harmful but also dangerous. Any form of sugar given to the baby before the age of one is a total no-no. Even after one year of age, its best to give sweeteners in the form of fruits whether fresh or dry. You can use fruit purees or date purees to sweeten the food. This should also be in limited quantity.
Certain baby foods contain added sugar! This is shocking as well as true. Please read the label to know what percentage of carbohydrates present is actually sugar.
I came across something called graduate puffs which contain no dietary fiber, no protein or saturated fat but it does contain 1g of sugar for every 7g of the snack. The label said its perfect for babies who have started crawling (that young!). I really think its very important to read the nutritional value of every single processed food we want to give the baby. We basically want to keep the baby off sweets, chocolates, biscuits, cakes and even packaged fruit juices. All these things give an immediate and unwanted sugar rush in the body. Please avoid feeding packed juices which say “no sugar added” or worse still, made out of “sugar-free” additives.
- Salt :
Babies don’t need more than 1g of salt per day, up to the age of one. After that till 3 years, they can do with less than 2g of salt per day. Anything more than that leads to the risk of kidney damage. Please read the sodium content on the label before serving biscuits, savories or any snacks to the baby. Salt and sodium are different things. 1 g of salt contains approximately 0.4 g of sodium in it.
Most of the baby's sodium requirement is met by breast milk, fruits and vegetables. Processed foods contain a high amount of sodium. This can be in the form of sodium chloride (salt), sodium benzoate (preservative), mono sodium glutamate (msg), sodium saccharin (artificial sweetener), etc.
- Refined carbohydrates
get directly broken down to glucose by the body. All snacks such as cakes, biscuits, potato chips, pasta, noodles, etc. are pure carbohydrates which result in empty, nutrition-free calories.
- Vanaspathi or any form of hydrogenated fat
is harmful as it contains trans fats. This tends to increase the bad cholesterol in the body and reduce the good cholesterol. Trans fats can be found in almost all cream biscuits, cream wafers and choco-pies. I have also noticed certain brands of bread and ice cream having trans fats in them.
Read labels. Always check what % of sugar, carbohydrates and fat is present in the food that you are buying. This is an important step not only for the baby but also for yourself. When multiple types of fat are used please try to pick something which has more saturated fat and less unsaturated one. Hydrogenated or even partially hydrogenated fats should be completely avoided.
Although convenient, it's best to keep the baby away from any kind of processed food at least till the age of 1.5 years. This includes ready-to-serve juices, savories, biscuits, crackers, fries, cakes and sweets. Once the baby is older you can feed these snacks in very limited quantities. Following this kind of grooming towards nutritious food early on will also make the baby develop a taste for the right kind of food in the years to come.