Overhauling Baby Food: A Mom’s Perspective

by Saskia Sorrosa

TO MAKE, TO BUY, OR BOTH?

When it was time for my daughter’s first foods, my mother saw only one option: make the baby food ourselves. It sounded like a good plan to me so we embarked on a cooking frenzy. We started with many of the green veggies like asparagus and Swiss chard. We used garlic, yellow onions, and rosemary to season each flavor. Beets and rutabaga made frequent appearances in our kitchen, along with fennel, kale and even bell peppers. I scoured farmer’s markets for the most adventurous veggies and incorporated every single one into our daughter’s meals. She loved it and her curiosity grew with every new flavor and color we served. By the time my daughter was six and a half months old she had pretty much tried every vegetable available to us.

Then it hit me. This all worked while I had time to buy and prepare foods, but how was I going to keep up with these beautiful home cooked meals once I went back to work? Panic.

REALITY SETS IN

I went back to work full time. I dragged myself home every evening, straight into the kitchen to make my daughter’s meals for the next few days. It was like having a second full time job. Cooking those fantastic meals became a dreaded chore, especially after a 12-hour workday in an office. That’s when I decided store bought baby food wasn’t so bad after all, and I embarked on a mission to find the perfect supplement for our homemade foods. I drank some wine in the process, you know, to calm my nerves.

EXPLORING THE BABY FOOD AISLE

What I found was an overwhelming amount of organic baby food brands. This was a good thing in my opinion. It meant cleaner food for babies. I stared in amazement at shelf after shelf of colorful pouches and a few jars over in the corner looking lonely. I read every single label meticulously: pears, spinach, and grapes! Apples, strawberries, kale!  Every single “vegetable” flavor was composed of mostly sweet fruit with the star vegetable appearing as an afterthought.

I thought to myself, how are babies supposed to learn the real taste of kale or the real taste of spinach if it’s mixed with apples or pears? It’s like baking spinach into a brownie and expecting anyone to taste anything other than chocolate! I was looking for just veggies and, OK, maybe a little something else in there to enhance true flavor.  Say like, maybe onions? But it was useless. There was no such product in the stores.

I remember walking back from one of the many failed store visits thinking to myself, is this it? Do I really need to cook ALL of my daughter’s food to feed her savory flavors and variety? It’s OK, I thought. Wine will get me through this!

HELLO, EPIPHANY!

I realized at that very moment that I had an opportunity to develop something different. A product that would respond not only to the needs of my own girls, exposing them to new flavors, but also set the stage for new generations to be good eaters in the process. Fresh Bellies was born.

THE 411 ON FLAVOR

Though I now call New York home, I was born and raised in Ecuador. I grew up picking fruit straight from the vine and devouring home-cooked meals that packed rich and complex flavors. This exposure at a young age gave me an early appreciation for all kinds of foods. It allowed me to be an open and adventurous eater. I was determined to find a way for my daughters and other babies to have a similar experience.

I knew from my own upbringing that having baby food mimic the food we eat as adults was a good thing.  But why was there a massive disconnect in the baby food aisle and a lack of educational resources for parents on the subject?  I began digging and found an overwhelming amount of evidence that supported feeding babies savory flavors from the start.  Two books that stood out in my research were “Inventing Baby Food…” by Amy Bentley and “First Bite…” by Bee Wilson. They helped me better understand the history of the baby food industry and the impact of first foods on eating habits as we get older.

ADVENTUROUS EATING LED BY ADVENTUROUS EATERS

This strengthened my commitment to create Fresh Bellies and my resolve to redefine baby food. I took the recipes I made for my own daughters, partnered with a CIA trained Executive Chef, and worked tirelessly to turn every flavor into a product we could be proud of. One that offered savory and bold combinations, with fragrant herbs and spices, that made each cup one of a kind. This was the beginning of our journey but we have a long path ahead to creating a new generation of adventurous eaters. By focusing on babies, that very first moment when we begin to develop our relationship with food, we hope to promote healthy eating habits in future generations. The adventurous eating movement is officially here. Time to celebrate bold, savory flavors! Will you join us?

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