Tanty Knows Best!
by Janelle Zakour RD
Let's talk baby food.
It is not that difficult to make simple observations when it comes to infant nutrition and the obvious lack of fresh foods for babies who are beginning to eat solids. You walk into a grocery store and all baby food is either jarred or powdered. It often crosses my mind if anyone ever stops to think about what is really in these products. Everything on the shelf is shelf-stable... i.e. it can sit on the shelf for years. I know that if I had to choose between a fresh meal and one that is roughly 2 years from production date... I'm pretty sure that I would choose the fresh meal.
Now why would we feed our babies anything different?
I'm almost certain that most people are unaware of the dangers posed by these processed baby food items. The Clean Label Project recently completed a study of 500 infant formulas and baby food products from 60 brands. Products were screened for over 130 toxins including heavy metals, BPA, pesticides and other contaminants with links to cancer and other health conditions in both humans and animals.
The group looked at top-selling formulas and baby food using Nielsen data. After about 530 baby food products were tested, researchers found 65% of products tested positive for arsenic, 36% for lead, 58% for cadmium and 10% for acrylamide. 80% of infant formulas tested positive for arsenic.
These findings were not published in a peer-reviewed journal. But it does call for some concern as to what infants are being fed.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), arsenic is associated with developmental defects, skin lesions, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, diabetes and even cancer. WHO has set a safe level of arsenic... and 70% of arsenic is excreted through biological processes. But that does not make it any less worrying.
In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance on lead in children. The CDC considers a level of 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to be high in children, but no level of lead is considered safe because of its potential detrimental effects on child development. The CDC concluded that "even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. And effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected."
All of these chemicals pose potential dangers to developing infants... but there is some comforting news.
Research has proved that diets high in iron, calcium and Vitamin C can limit the absorption of lead. Therefore, children and weaning infants should eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to help minimize the risk from a single food.
So now that we've acknowledged a big problem faced, here's a very notable solution.
Tanty Knows Best is a baby food business located in Trinidad and Tobago that caters to the nutritional needs of weaning infants as well as the sanity of busy moms and caretakers who may not have the time nor resources to prepare nutritious meals for their baby. It is spearheaded by mom, Tennille Clarke (fun fact: we were swimming coaches together back in the day) who recognized the urgent need for nutritious baby food in her country.
From the Facebook Page: 'Tanty Knows Best is pure puree food for your baby. All natural food that is pureed and packaged in 6 oz BPA-free containers, labelled, and frozen for your little one. All natural means no dyes, sugars, additives, tins or canned food.'
This is her seasonal menu that can be tailored based on personal choice or per paediatrician recommendation.
(once in season)
Veggies: pumpkin, carrots, spinach, kale, peas, lentils, beans, avocados, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, beets, ochre, squash, sweet peppers, plantain, zucchini, tomato, mushrooms
Starches: cassava, eddoes, yams, sweet potato, brown rice, black rice
Fruits: banana, apples, pears, grapes, watermelon, paw paw, mangoes, pineapple, coconut jelly, strawberries, blueberries, prunes
Meats: chicken and salmon
(Meats come as a meal chicken and apples, chicken and rice, salmon and sweet potato etc.)
Chicken soup puree
Veggie soup puree
Request a mix! Oats can be included in the fruit if you wish.
What I love about this business is that she uses the freshest ingredients possible. As a mom herself, she knows the importance of choosing high quality foods and places emphasis on balancing the meals to ensure that babies get the maximum amount of nutrients in each sitting.
Meals are available in 5-day packages. Tennille calls them 'deals' and they have the cutest names. Pricing is available on her page.
The Granny Deal includes 3 x 6 oz pureed food per day for 5 days (total 15 meals per week).
The Mommy Deal includes 2 x 6 oz pureed food per day for 5 days (total 10 meals per week).
The Baby Deal includes 1 x 6 oz pureed food per day for 5 days (total 5 meals per week).
More solid foods are also available for baby-led weaning.
The containers used are microwave safe but it is advised to thaw the pureed food in warm water. The more solid foods can also be heated in a pan and kept warm in a Thermos. The best part is, you get discounts for returning the containers to reuse!
Meals are available for delivery and pick-up in the north and west Trinidad. Pick-up is also available in the Couva area.
I'm putting on my breastfeeding counsellor hat now. My advice to parents is to wait until their babies are at least 6 months of age before starting solid foods to maximize the time that they exclusively breastfeed and to ensure that their digestive systems are mature enough to handle solid foods. However, it is safe to introduce solids a little bit earlier than 6 months as long as their baby can hold themselves upright, has shown an increased interest in food and does not push food out of their mouths with their tongue.
Overall, I was quite impressed when I came across this very necessary (and environmentally friendly) baby food service and I recommend it to all mothers and caregivers who may not have the time to individually prepare meals for their babies.
Tanty Knows Best definitely gets this dietitian's stamp of approval!!