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Commercial Baby Foods Fall Short for Nutrition: Study

Most are too sweet and are advertised for infants who'd be better off with breast milk, experts say
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Products that contained meat had the highest iron content, but this was no higher than formula milk and not much higher than products that did not contain meat. Dry finger foods had much higher levels of energy and nutrients overall, but also had particularly high levels of sugar.

Overall, nearly two-thirds of the products were sweet foods. The team said repeat exposure to sweet foods during infancy can lead children to develop a preference for such foods.

The main point of weaning foods is to increase the energy content of the diet and provide richer sources of nutrients, such as iron, Wright's team said.

"While it is understandable that parents may choose to use [these products] early in the weaning process, health professionals should be aware that such food will not add to the nutrient density of a milk diet," they said.

And although the study focused on products sold in the United Kingdom, Richel said, American babies likely face the same nutritional issues.

"Offerings for infant foods [in the United States] are too sweet in general," he said. "Parents should be aware of processed foods, artificial sweeteners in fruits and 'baby-friendly' yogurts and yogurt drinks. These products seem so nice and easy, with great marketing, packaging and convenience."

The best baby foods, however, might be home-made. "In the early infant with first solids, it would be wonderful if parents took the time to prepare foods in their kitchen at home," Richel said. "For example, for fruits and veggies, one simply blanches them, blends a bit of liquid (breast milk, formula or water) and voila! A puree is made. Helpings can be stored in ice-cube trays for easy access."

Although home-made may be a bit less convenient, "the end result will be so worthwhile," he added. "What could be more important than the health of our children?"

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