What you feed your kids can be a pretty emotive – and divisive subject. As an example, lots of you took to task the Masterchef mum who said that what you feed your kids shows how much you love them.
But, sadly, according to a survey by My First Savse, well over 2 thirds of parents feel judged for feeding their little ones ready made food rather than making it from scratch – even though, as a study out last year showed, it’s simply not right to say homemade food is necessarily always healthier than shop bought.
What the study says
Researchers at the University of Warwick and the University of Aberdeen put their heads together to compare 278 ready-made savoury meals (this is important) aimed at children 5 or under with 409 home-cooked meals.
The 408 homemade options came from recipes in cookbooks for children’s meals.
The report, published in the journal Archive of Disease in Childhood revealed that homemade meals were better for wallets – but not for waistlines.
They might be cheaper – but homemade meals were higher in dietary fat, contained 51% more energy than meals found in the shops and 50% of the recipes tested contained more energy than recommended.
They also “contained higher carbohydrate, salt, protein, total fat and saturated fat compared with their commercial counterparts providing 7%-200% more nutrients,” the study authors wrote.
Many of the commercial options also had a “greater vegetable variety per meal, compared to their home-cooked counterparts” but some failed to meet the certain energy recommendations.
Are shop-bought children’s meals healthier, then?
It’s hard to say for certain – the study’s pretty complicated to untangle – but it is clear that they are healthier than many of us originally thought.
Previous studies have suggested shop-bought food for weaning babies contained more sugar and were ‘less nutritious’ than homemade – however, perhaps the main difference between those studies and this one is the age of child the food was aimed at.
All that said, there is less variety in shop-bought meals overall – something the study acknowledges.
“If the parent relied solely on the commercial market then it is likely that the child would be exposed to a lower overall range of food types in terms of vegetables, meats and fish options,” the authors made a point of saying.
So… does this mean I shouldn’t make homemade baby food?
No – not at all! You don’t need to stop making homemade food for your little ones.
The study compared recipes from children’s meals cookbooks – and there’s no evidence to say that every homemade meal is ‘unhealthier’ at all.
So the jury’s still out on whether your own health-conscious kitchen concoctions are the most nutritious option for your little one.
It’s also worth remembering that the study looked at savoury options and not shop-bought and homemade sweet stuff like pureed fruit.
The key to a balanced diet, as most parents know, is watching portion sizes and being aware of the salt, sugar and fat you’re adding to dishes you make yourself.
Though it is pretty handy to know that if you’re pressed for time or don’t fancy cooking – the products available in stores are a bit more nutritious than we might’ve originally thought!
What our mums said
We asked our mums whether they bought or made food for their little ones – here’s what they said:
“I use baby jars. And don’t care what anyone thinks. I’ve two kids and I work 5 nights a week. I ain’t got time to cook and prep all that food number 2.
“I’m a sh*t cook and I’d prob poison them and number 3. I’d rather spend any spare time making memories instead of in the kitchen.”
And Katherine M said: “We baby led weaned – so much easier and cheaper! What’s good for some might not be for others, we are all doing a good job!”
Hear, hear ✊