We’re in a really fun stage right now with my nine-month-old—she’s trying all different types of solid foods. She loves pears, peas, cheese, turkey, baked beans and well, carbs (she is my daughter after all).
But a few short months ago, I found myself in the baby food aisle at Target to pick up a few purees to introduce to her developing palette.
I was overwhelmed. I swear half these items weren’t in existence when my first babe was approaching one years old. And in each product’s effort to stand out, everything had a labeling claim.
Some were commonplace like “organic.” Isn’t that what moms everywhere are pressured into buying despite organic foods being nutritionally the same and as safe as non-organic foods?
But other claims made me pause like “smart food” (did the carrots and bananas go to graduate school or something?) or “wholesome” and “raised real.” Last I checked, farmers are raising real meat, veggies and fruits.
How can a mama cut through the labeling clutter—and obvious attempts at playing upon maternal fears of child development and safety—and just feed her baby?
A friend sent me a fabulous podcast episode of SoundBites, hosted by registered dietician Melissa Joy Dobbins who discusses parent concerns on food with pediatrician and family farmer, Dr. Nicole Keller.
Dr. Keller cautions the messages moms are being fed are “unspoken.” That is, if one food is labeled as best or safe, does that mean the rest are bad and dangerous?
Food goes through rigorous testing to protect even the tiniest little humans. And family farms are committed to making sure the healthiest and best quality foods reach your local grocery store. This means providing top-notch animal care to their livestock and working with a veterinarian to prevent and treat any sickness. It also means adopting new technologies and handling practices to improve animal health and well-being.
“The labels out there are so hard to decipher in the grocery store. There’s organic, there’s all natural, there’s fresh, there’s clean. What do half these labels even mean? There’s not even a definition for some of them. I usually tell families to not look at labels; to look at the nutrition,” said Dr. Keller in the interview. “Feed your child a variety of healthy foods; that is the foundation.”
So, what should you feed your baby?
According to MyPlate, first foods should be nutrient-dense to include those rich in iron and zinc like meat and beans. And the 2020-2025 United States Dietary Guidelines put an emphasis on making “every bite count” which means serving all types of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, lean meats, poultry and eggs.
Parent to parent—don’t let the labels win. Don’t let them make you feel like you’re not a good enough mama (or dada). Because all your little one needs at mealtime is nutritious, filling options on their tray and quality family time with you at the supper table.
It’s that wonderfully simple.