Fruits and Veggies: All Forms Fit
2 min read • By: Gerber Medical Hub
Complementary foods are vital for infants when transitioning to solid foods at around 6 months of age, providing essential nutrients. Caregivers decide between homemade and commercial purees based on cultural, convenience, and cost factors. Research suggests that both options offer similar nutritional quality, highlighting the importance of variety in an infant's diet.
Table of contents
Test Your Knowledge
Which of the following are benefits of fruit and vegetable baby food purees (commercially prepared and home prepared)?
- Developmental appropriateness
- Wide variety available
- Nutrient density
- All the above (and more)
D. All of the above. Commercially prepared and home prepared baby food purees (from fresh, frozen, or canned) are considered developmentally appropriate forms of the fruits and vegetables food groups [1,2]. Commercially prepared purees provide year-round shelf-stable options for fruit and vegetable intake whereas home prepared purees allow caregivers to customize ingredients. Eating fruits and vegetables in different forms (cooked and fresh) may provide a variety of micronutrients. Data suggest that both home prepared and commercially prepared purees have similar nutrient density .
Why are complementary foods important?
Complementary foods are foods or drinks other than breast milk or infant formula e.g., infant cereals, fruits, vegetables, water (4). Complementary foods play an important role in the infant diet as nutrient needs increase and infants transition from breast milk and/or infant formula as a sole source of nutrition to starting solid foods around the age of 6 months [5-12]. A variety of fruits and vegetables are recommended especially those that provide potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C (13). Many commercially prepared baby food fruits have added Vitamin C as well. Beans, peas, and lentils are a vegetable subgroup and can also be part of baby’s diet starting around 6 months.
What factors influence caregivers’ decisions?
What factors influence caregivers’ decisions in making home prepared fruit and vegetable purees versus buying commercially prepared fruit and vegetable purees?
Many factors influence the decision to make home prepared purees, buy commercial purees, or a combination of both. These factors may include cultural practices and beliefs, attitudes, education, experience, peer group influence, convenience, availability, accessibility, and cost [14–16]. There is disagreement on whether home prepared or commercially prepared purees are less expensive . Carstairs et al.  concluded that home prepared recipes provide a cheaper meal option, however most commercial recipes provided an energy-dense meal with greater vegetable variety per meal in comparison to their home prepared counterparts. Regardless of cost, there is large variability in ingredient selection and preparation methods of home prepared purees, and limited data on their nutritional quality [16–19].
What does the scientific literature suggest?
The nutritional quality is mentioned above, what does the scientific literature suggest?
Research supports the fact that all forms of produce are nutritious and baby food puree is a great nutritious choice. A recent study  found that:
- There is similar nutrient content between select commercially prepared baby food purees (apples, bananas, mangoes, peaches, and pears; butternut squash, carrots green beans, green peas, and sweet potatoes) and home prepared versions.
- Fruits and vegetables prepared in different ways allows for intake of different nutrient profiles from fresh and cooked fruits and vegetables.
- Nutrients vary widely by the kinds of fruits and vegetables, more so than how they are prepared, so dietary guidance for nutrient intake from fruits and vegetables is to have a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in the diet. Commercially prepared and home prepared purees are nutritious choices that make it easy to focus on variety in the diet.
- Start for Life. Available online: http://www.nhs.uk/start4life (accessed on 6 April 2020).
- Romero-Velarde, E.; Villalpando-Carrión, S.; Pérez-Lizaur, A.B.; de la Luz Iracheta-Gerez, M.; Alonso-Rivera, C.G.; LópezNavarrete, G.E.; García-Contreras, A.; Ochoa-Ortiz, E.; Zarate-Mondragón, F.; López-Pérez, G.T.; et al. Consenso para las practicas de alimentacion complementaria en lactentes sanos. Bol. Med. Hosp. Infant. Mex. 2016, 73, 338–356. https://www.scielo.org.mx/pdf/bmim/v73n5/1665-1146-bmim-73-05-00338.pdf
- Huss LR, Dean J, Lamothe LM, Hamaker B, Reuhs B, Goran MI, Lê KA. Micronutrient Profile and Carbohydrate Microstructure of Commercially Prepared and Home Prepared Infant Fruit and Vegetable Purees. Nutrients. 2022 Dec 22;15(1):45. doi: 10.3390/nu15010045. PMID: 36615703; PMCID: PMC9823441. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9823441/
- CDC. Infant and Toddler Nutrition Definitions. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/definitions.html Accessed July 18th, 2023.
- WHO. Guiding Principles for Complementary Feeding of the Breastfed Child. 2003. Available online: https://iris.paho.org/handle/10665.2/752. (accessed on 6 April 2020).
- Fewtrell, M.; Bronsky, J.; Campoy, C.; Domellof, M.; Fidler Mis, N.; Hojsak, I.; Hulst, J.; Indrio, F. Complementary feeding: A position paper by the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology. J. Pediatr. Gastroenterol. 2017, 64, 119–132. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28027215/
- EFSA. EFSA panel on dietetic products, nutrition, and allergies. Scientiﬁc Opinion on nutrient requirements and dietary intakes. EFSA J. 2003, 11, 3408.
- Schwartz, C.; Chabanet, C.; Lange, C.; Issanchou, S.; Nicklaus, S. The role of taste in food acceptance at the beginning of complementary feeding. Physiol. Behav. 2011, 104, 646–652. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21554893/
- EFSA. Scientiﬁc Opinion on the appropriate age for introduction of complementary feeding of infants. EFSA J. 2019, 17, 5780.
- WHO. Guiding Principles for Feeding Non-Breastfed Children 6–24 Months of Age; WHO: Geneva, Switzerland, 2005.
- WHO. Infant and young child nutrition: Global strategy on infant and young children feeding. In Proceedings of the Fifty Fifth World Health Assembly, Geneva, Switzerland, 13–18 May 2022.
- Langley-Evans, S. Nutrition in early life and the programming of adult disease: A review. J. Hum. Nutr. Diet. 2015, 28, 1–14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24479490/
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.
- Synnott, K.; Bogue, J.; Edwards, C.; Scott, J.A.; Higgins, S.; Norin, E.; Frias, D.; Amarri, S.; Adam, R. Parental perceptions of feeding practices in ﬁve European countries: An exploratory study. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 2007, 61, 946–956. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17228346/
- Maslin, K.; Galvin, A.; Shepherd, S.; Dean, T.; Dewey, A.; Venter, C. A qualitative study of mothers’ perceptions of weaning and the use of commercial infant food in the United Kingdom. Matern. Pediatr. Nutr. 2015, 1, 2–8. https://openresearch.lsbu.ac.uk/item/8x8x5
- Maslin, K.; Venter, C. Nutritional aspects of commercially prepared infant foods in developed countries: A narrative review. Nutr. Res. Rev. 2017, 30, 138–148. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28462729/
- Carstairs, S.; Craig, L.; Marais, D.; Bora, O.E.; Kiezebrink, K. A comparison of preprepared commercial infant feeding meals with home-cooked recipes. Arch. Dis. Child. 2016, 101, 1037–1042. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27435891/
- Bernal, M.; Roman, S.; Klerks, M.; Haro-Vicente, J.F.; Sanchez-Siles, L.M. Are homemade and commercial infant foods different? A nutritional proﬁle and food variety analysis in Spain. Nutrients 2021, 13, 777. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33673542/
- Randhawa, S.; Kakuda, Y.; Wong, C.; L Yeung, D. Microbial safety, nutritive value, and residual pesticide levels are comparable among commercial, laboratory and homemade baby food samples–a pilot study. The Open Nutr. J. 2012, 6, 89–96. https://benthamopen.com/ABSTRACT/TONUTRJ-6-89