Paul Lindley quoto

What is better for Britain’s little ones? A shop-bought meal, or homemade meal made from scratch?

That’s what the big debate this week has been about. The discussion follows new research released from the University of Warwick and the University of Aberdeen, which found that homemade meals for babies and toddlers are not always better than shop-bought ones. According to the study, homemade meals for little ones can contain almost three times the levels of saturated fat, and three times the salt, compared with shop-bought food.

When it comes to shop-bought and homemade baby food, it’s not a question of either or. Although studies show 75% of UK baby and toddler meals are currently homemade, most parents use a combination of both. As a parent of two, I know full-well that it’s never a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to feeding your little ones and for us at Ella’s Kitchen, it’s all about variety and balance.

All shop-bought baby food brands must meet strict regulations to ensure adequate protein and essential fats are provided in meals, while setting maximum levels of carbohydrates, salt, other fats and nitrates. This give parents the comfort of knowing that what they’re giving their little ones are ‘baby grade’ and of the highest quality. At Ella’s Kitchen we also take great care to minimise the total sugar in our products and aim to balance nutrition without compromising on taste.

We recently commissioned the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) to conduct an independent literature review to identify evidence-based ways to help children develop healthy eating habits. Part of the findings highlighted that introducing a variety of vegetables during the early stages of weaning is associated with increased acceptance of these foods during the weaning period and into later childhood.

When it comes to homemade food, parents can engage their little ones’ senses as well as providing an overall balanced diet, by getting them involved in the cooking of their food, teaching them about ingredient provenance and ensuring their kids are getting the necessary nutrients required to make strong, healthy bodies, straight from the pot and pan.

The health of Britain’s children is a hotly debated topic at the moment, with the long awaited “Childhood Obesity Strategy” due out in autumn, expected to outline plans to tackle childhood obesity. It’s now more important than ever that parents have reassurance that going down the convenience route of a store-bought baby food product and taking the time to prepare a home-cooked meal for their little ones are on equal footing.

As a leader in the baby food market, Ella’s Kitchen want to provide mums and dads with products that are convenient, first-in-class for nutrition and offer a wide-variety of tastes and textures. However, we also know that when starting weaning, it’s just as important to introduce little ones to food that engages their senses – hence the introduction of our cook books, allowing parents the opportunity to involve their little ones in cooking.

It’s a balanced blend of these two supposed “enemies” – store bought and homemade – that will best help little ones develop healthy relationships with food that will last well into the future.

Paul Lindley is founder of Ella’s Kitchen