baby food and kids toys

This week on Friday Night Feast, Jamie and Jimmy lift the lid on baby food and look more closely at what’s in these important products. Here, Laura Matthews, Jamie’s Head of Nutrition, explains what to look out for, and how to give your baby a really varied diet.

Supermarket baby food aisles are full of pre-prepared products in jars and pouches. There’s no denying that these can play a useful part in your baby’s weaning, especially if you’re out and about, as they’re convenient and can be stored ambiently until opened. But relying on them too much can also mean kids could miss out on essential food education, such as chewing and discovering non-sweet flavours.

How to introduce lots of flavours

All babies are born with a preference for sweet tastes and need to be taught to like the more bitter flavours found in vegetables. However, at seven months and under, children will accept these unfamiliar flavours more readily than when they’re older. Pre-mixed pouches are often a blend of lots of different flavours but, as the boys find out on Friday Night Feast, the main ingredient can often be sweet apple.

Although vegetables are commonly rejected by older children, young infants are particularly accepting of novel tastes. So early, repeated exposure to a variety of vegetables can help establish healthy food habits for life. Broccoli, cauliflower and spinach are good flavours to introduce in the first two weeks of complementary feeding due to the particularly bitter notes they have.

Make your own baby food

Commercial baby food can be quite expensive compared to making your own from scratch. There is nothing in commercial baby food that we can’t make at home. Jamie has plenty of recipe inspiration for feeding little ones in their early years, with easy recipes for family meals that you can all enjoy together, too.

An added benefit of homemade purées is that you can control the texture and consistency, depending on the age of your child. This means you can slowly introduce your child to foods that will help with their chewing skills as they get older. Plus, you can make up a batch and freeze individual portions ready to whip out when you need them.

It’s good to be mindful that really smooth food is only necessary for a short period of time, and babies are ready for more textured, and finger foods, quite early on. We’d also recommend not letting your child eat directly from a pouch as it can impede their chewing and motor skills, and they don’t get to see or smell the food.

Watch this week’s Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast to see the boys cook up some super-tasty baby food. Catch the show every Friday at 8pm on Channel 4.

About the author

Laura Matthews

Laura is head of nutrition at Jamie Oliver. Her passion for food comes from having cooking lessons at a local college from the age of 10, and the nutrition side from a fascination for how the right foods can fuel the body.

Laura Matthews