At 4-6 months, babies start needing more calories than breast milk provides, which means it's time to switch to more solid food. If you have the time, you can prepare your own, but as busy parents, it can be a challenge balancing your baby's nutrition with convenience. We hit the grocery store to source out the tastiest and most nutritious convenience options.
Start slow with single ingredient foods like carrots or sweet potatoes. Ensure there’s no added sugar, salt or starch. By 9 or 10 months, introduce mixed foods in manageable bites for toothless babies.
Certified organic baby food ensures no harmful pesticides in the mix. It costs a little more due to high standards: most regular baby foods are tested and re-tested for pesticides.
Choose single rather than “mixed” meals for your baby. A jar of strained carrots plus a jar of strained chicken offers better nutrition than a jar of chicken vegetable dinner. Combos offer less food value for your dollar and many contain mainly vegetables and starch, with very little meat.
Read the labels of different brands and compare nutrition percentages. When buying a single fruit, vegetable or meat product, select the brand with the most calories – hence the most food – per unit weight.
Observe the best before date. Once opened, keep the unused portion in the fridge and use within three days.
There are certain foods an infant should never have:
Honey can contain spores that cause botulism, which is fatal. The cases of botulism from honey are extremely rare, but babies under 12 months should not be given honey.
Cow and coat’s milk is not for children under 12 months. Very different composition human milk or formula, these milks have more protein and different amounts of fatty acids and minerals that an infant’s digestive system cannot process. Giving cow’s milk too early can cause abdominal bleeding and the baby could become anemic.
Small, hard or round pieces of food are choking hazards. Avoid things like nuts, raw peas, raw carrots, kernel corn, popcorn, whole berries and small candies. Grapes and wieners should also be avoided unless cut in half to break the round edge.
Avoid “toddler foods”. Companies continually seek ways to expand their sales base and now have foods specifically for toddlers. Toddlers can easily chew and swallow small portions of most adult foods.
Avoid foods with added sugars, modified starches, wheat, rice or other flours.
For our series The Shopping Bags, we put four baby foods under the microscope and into the baby bowl to see which one wins in the taste and nutrition department.
- Beech Nut: 52¢
- Heinz: 79¢
- Earth’s Best Organic: 89¢
- Gerber (2 resealable containers): $1.15
Our tests and results include:
Our food scientist first determined how much salt and/or sugar was added to each brand.
Beech Nut, Earth’s Best and Gerber actually had lower amounts than indicated on the label
Heinz had almost double the sodium levels than indicated on the label.
Then he determined pesticide levels:
- All brands had low pesticide levels.
Since the various brands were all on the same nutritional playing field, the test came down to taste.
Our baby testers, though unable to speak, seemed to get most excited over the Gerber, which also happened to be our palette pleaser as well.
Earth’s Best lacked in the flavour department.
OUR TOP PICK
Baby and adult testers chose Gerber unanimously based on taste.