The Baby Food Diet has taken Hollywood by storm but as more Americans who want to lose weight are jumping on the jarred, pureed food bandwagon, nutrition experts and parents are questioning whether the diet is safe and effective.
“Meeting adequate nutritional needs while following a diet that promotes eating small portions of low calorie pureed foods isn’t so easy,” said Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, nutrition expert for FoodNetwork.com and mother of three. “Jars of baby food vary from 15 to 100 calories so it can really be up to the dieter to mix and match various food groups to meet dietary needs.”
While eating baby food alone can put a person at risk for certain vitamin and nutritional deficiencies, there are variations to the diet that can make it healthier, more accessible and more sustainable.
Supplement Your Diet with Baby Food
“I would not recommend the baby food diet because you will fall short on nutrients, and most especially, you won’t have the satisfying pleasure that comes from chewing a variety of foods with all their fabulous textures,” said EA Stewart, MBA, RD, of EA Stewart specializing in weight management, wellness nutrition and Celiac disease/gluten intolerance.
Replace your snacks with baby food
“I suppose if someone really wants to try the baby food diet, they could use it as an adjunct to a regular, healthy, balanced diet,” said Stewart. “For instance, someone could have pureed baby food snacks in between meals as a method of controlling snack portion size.”
Some people on the baby food diet opt for one “adult” meal per day while others say to opt for three balanced “adult” meals and replace higher fat snacks with much lower calorie baby food. “The second option would be a better choice, nutritionally,” said Amidor. “It allows you to ensure adequate intake of all your essential nutrients and to also be able to enjoy regular food. Diet should not be about deprivation, food should be enjoyed.”
Additionally, most nutrition experts hesitate to recommend taking a nutritional supplement to make up for nutrients missed while on the diet.
“If you are replacing all but one meal per day with baby food, you probably will not meet your fiber needs for the day,” said Amidor. “I would not want to recommend a fiber supplement when there are so many healthy fruits and vegetables out there with plenty of fiber.”
Make your own baby food
Some people assume that baby food is a healthy option because it has fewer calories, but nutrition experts caution that some types of baby food are highly processed and not that much better for you than the food you might already be eating.
“If you purchase and eat only pre-made baby food you very likely will be falling short on certain nutrients as calcium and Vitamin D,” said Stewart. “If you make your own baby food by just pureeing your regular food, conceivably you could meet your nutritional needs, assuming your regular diet is well balanced and contains all the nutrients you need.”
Some parents, however, think that the diet is more time consuming than it needs to be. Sarah Caron, food writer at Sarah’s Cucina Bella and mother of two, has made homemade baby food for her own children and said that the process, while not necessarily fast or easy, can be quite rewarding.
“Making homemade baby food is really easy,” said Caron. “It’s a matter of steaming or boiling fruits and vegetables until they are soft enough to puree. Some, like bananas and pears, don’t even need to be cooked. While it’s easy, it’s also time-consuming. It’s worthwhile as a mom for a baby, because it ends up being fresher and tastier than jarred foods. But for an adult to eat, it seems easier to eat whole fruits and vegetables.”
Like Amidor and Stewart, Caron also stressed the importance of eating a balanced diet when consuming baby food.
“When babies eat baby food, they also drink a lot of milk, which provides calcium. They usually eat cereal like rice cereal or oatmeal, which provides fiber. Even a baby’s diet is more complex than strained peas. You’d really need to supplement the baby food to make it a healthy diet.”
The bottom line
Anyone interested in the Baby Food Diet should talk to their doctor or nutrition professional to review their diet and ensure that all of their nutritional needs are being met.
“In my opinion, the only way this diet is a healthy way to lose weight is if it’s used in conjunction with a regular, healthy, well-balanced diet,” said Stewart. “[The Baby Food Diet] is not something I would recommend to my clients, as it really is only a quick fix and does nothing to help teach people how to shop, cook, and prepare healthy meals which will be the best be in the long run.”
June 16th, 2011