As we have established in my article on Homemade vs. Store-Bought baby food, homemade means nutritionally superior. Having said that, it all comes down to the quality of the ingredients you have used and how you have gone about preparing your baby or toddler’s food.
Basically if you haven’t taken the necessary steps to ensure that the food is as fresh and packed with as many nutrients as possible, then you may be better off using good old jarred options (which have been frozen or processed soon after the fruit or veggies have been picked to maximise the nutritional value).
When it comes to retaining vitamins, remember that the fresher, the better! Here are some tips for ensuring you get the best out of the ingredients you select:
- Although not always easy to do (especially when you need to do your grocery shopping for the entire week in one go), aim to buy your fresh ingredients no earlier than the day before you plan on using them.
- The longer the time between cutting and consuming means the more antioxidants are lost, so rather save the cutting and peeling until you are good and ready to use your produce, with skins and rinds kept in tact to reduce oxidisation. Studies have proven that key antioxidants including vitamin C and carotenoids are lost when peeling and cutting fruit and vegetables. This is because antioxidants become oxidised when exposed to air.
- In a 2015 study where a number of pre-prepared fruit and vegetables were tested, for a range of high-end supermarkets in the UK, it was found that vitamin C levels were up to 90% lower than the textbook level for whole and fresh equivalents.
- The larger the pieces that are cut, of either fruit or veggies, the more nutrients are preserved (this is because the larger the surface area means less oxygen exposure = less damage). In addition to nutrient loss, smaller pieces of fruit and veggies are also more susceptible to dehydration and texture loss than larger pieces. That is not to mean that tiny and shredded pieces should not be used at all but they should be used in a quicker timeframe.
- Try and avoid washing or chopping fruit or vegetables unless you plan on using them straight away.
- Any pre-chopped fruits and veggies should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge to prevent any unwanted bacteria or chemicals from the refrigerator spoiling them. They should also be consumed within three days.
- Keep soft fruits like avocados, bananas, paw-paw and tomatoes at room temperature (until they reach peak ripeness).
- Throw fruit or vegetables away that appear brown, dried or shrivelled in any way.
When you walk through the fresh aisle of your go-to supermarket, it is extremely enticing to go for ready-to-use fruit and veggies that have been (oh so conveniently) chopped, peeled, sliced and de-shelled to make our lives a little easier. That’s totally OK from time to time (we are busy moms after all!) but extensive studies have been done to prove that fresh and whole is the way to go to maximise the nutrients you pass on to your little eater.