Making Baby Food with Canned Vegetables and Fruits
Totally fresh fruits and vegetables will always be the best choice for your baby – they cannot be beaten in terms of texture, taste and nutritional value.
However, it is not always possible to get fresh produce for your baby’s food. Canned vegetables and fruits make perfectly acceptable alternatives – as long as you take extra care when buying and preparing.
Vegetables and fruits are at peak condition nutritionally when they have just been harvested, and canning plants are usually situated near growing areas so that fruits and veggies are as fresh as possible and processed within hours.
Produce is cleaned and machine-packed into cans, which are then topped up with liquid – water, brine, syrup or juice – and preheated before being sealed. The sealed cans are finally heated according to the type of produce and for varying lengths of time, to destroy any pathogens that could cause food poisoning and organisms that cause food to spoil. This ensures that the produce can be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration.
There are some advantages to using canned vegetables and fruit in your baby’s diet:
- Convenience – they have already been peeled, chopped and cooked.
- You can give your baby a wide range of different vegetables and fruits.
- Unless it is totally organic there may be chemical residue on fresh produce – some pesticide treatments are even given after harvesting – but processing is usually carried out so quickly that this rarely happens with canned vegetables and fruit.
- Canned fruit and vegetables often cost less than fresh.
And there are some disadvantages:
- Canned vegetables often have high levels of sodium (salt!) as this helps to preserve them and adds flavour – consumers often find unsalted vegetables flavourless. Rinsing them in clean water will only remove about 40% of the sodium and will also remove some of the important vitamin content.
- The liquid in canned fruit is often a sugar-filled syrup.
- Nutrients may leach into the canning liquid and be lost if you drain the vegetables or fruit before using them.
- The texture of canned produce does not compare with fresh so baby misses out on different texture experiences.
- There are sometimes bits of peel or core (particularly in canned tomatoes) – before giving canned foods to your baby, check them very carefully.
- Canned fruits and vegetables may not be suitable for babies with G6PD Deficiency. If your baby has this deficiency, be extra careful. If you are unsure – DON’T USE!