Feeding babies is quite fun! Food goes everywhere, baby is exploring new tastes and it’s a time for parent’s to really experiment. It can be an enjoyable time for both parents and baby…that is, until baby starts refusing every meal you put in front of them and you end up throwing half the meal away…3 times a day, every day! This article on reducing food waste during weaning gives you some tips and advice on what you can do to try and avoid this!
Food waste during weaning is a bit of an issue…
The food waste issue
Did you know that globally 1/3 of all of our food is lost or wasted? In developed countries half of the food waste that occurs happens in the home. That is equivalent to around £700 of food per year. Add the trials and tribulations of offering solid foods to an infant to the mix, and you have a recipe for a large batch of food waste on your hands.
Food waste is a huge problem – it makes up around 20% of landfill contents – which is the greatest proportion of any other types of waste sent to landfill. When food products biodegrade, they emit methane gas. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, around 20 times more potent, than carbon dioxide. This means that methane traps more heat in the atmosphere, causing more rapid global warming.
Challenges of weaning
The introduction of solid foods (weaning) means gradually moving a baby from a milk-based diet to an adult diet. This means a multitude of new foods with seemingly weird and wonderful textures and tastes – all of which will be scrutinised by your infant for the first time. Understandably, this can be a hit and miss process.
Especially if, as advice suggests, you focus on offering your little one a wide and varied diet from the very start. Potentially the more foods you introduce, the more rejection you might see initially, as it’s familiarisation that leads to acceptance when it comes to children’s foods.
Research shows us that it can take up to 10 times before an infant will accept certain foods – this can clearly result in a lot of food waste. But is there any way of ensuring damage control, so that you can feed your baby or child a varied diet, at the same time as avoiding food waste and taking care of the planet?
Ideas on Reducing Food Waste During Weaning – 6 top tips from us
Focus baby’s meals on family foods
Ultimately weaning is about moving baby onto FAMILY FOODS and so if a rice pudding or a date puree isn’t to everyone in the household’s liking, then maybe don’t offer it too often, if you think it might go to waste. Try offering foods that the whole family eats more often to get baby used to the tastes and flavours of your family meals. This also means that you can simply offer baby foods that are part of everyone else’s dinner, rather than making up something completely separate that might just go to waste. For example after the first few weeks of weaning, offering some mashed potato with sweetcorn, smashed avocado with toast fingers, or chicken strips that were part of the family’s meal might be easier to offer to baby or easier to pass along to someone else if, initially, it’s unwanted.
Ideally, baby should be eating similar foods to the rest of the family anyway, just in a different form if needed e.g. chopped up or mashed, smaller portions and with no added salt and sugar.
2. Offer small portions
Don’t cook up a huge saucepan of something for your infant if there’s a risk that they won’t like it. Cooking in bulk of course saves time in the long run, but whilst you’re still trying things out, try and cook baby-sized batches to avoid having to throw away an entire wok’s worth of food. This also works if you’re just taking a small amount from your own meal too. So if baby is having broccoli puree (first tastes) then just take a floret or two from your own meal and mash that up for their first foods.
3. Freeze leftovers and try again
That being said…cooking and prepping meals in bulk can save time and if you do cook up a big batch, and your infant doesn’t take a liking to what you made, don’t be disheartened – as a mentioned previously it can take quite a few times to get an infant to like something new or unfamiliar. If it isn’t successful the first time, freeze it and bring it back out in a few weeks’ time and your infant’s taste-buds may feel differently. Remember you can always add frozen purees to other foods such as pastas, potatoes and couscous when your baby has moved onto thicker textures.
4. Introduce foods gradually
In line with NHS guidelines, take the weaning journey slowly and move through meals, foods and textures nice a steadily. It’s a good idea to go at baby’s own pace when it comes to portion sizes and how much they want to eat – they are the best guides to this. So remember you may need to change portions as baby becomes more confident with foods and this is often trial and error – so get little pots, freezer trays and even recipes (such as soups) which can incorporate any uneaten foods.
Also make sure you’re offering appropriate foods to baby so that they are more likely to get gobbled up. Make sure you move through textures gradually and offer soft finger foods initially so baby can become confident with the foods they are eating and to reduce the number of foods that baby might refuse.
5. Composting spillage
It is no secret that infants who are learning how to use cutlery, speak, and walk at the same time, can sometimes have a bit of sensory overload! To avoid food getting plastered all over the floor and the table, you can buy practical bibs that catch food that didn’t quite hit the target. After the meal, you can compost anything that is caught there (or scraped off the floor), which prevents food wastage in the bin.
6. Trust your instincts with food labels
It can seem daunting and slightly terrifying when you’re raising a child. You want to do your best to keep them healthy and happy, so you might err on the side of caution when it comes to best before and use by dates. Unfortunately, a lot of food is discarded before it is actually unsafe to eat, as food labels have to remain within a certain degree of error to prevent complaints and disputes from consumers. But you can usually tell if something is still okay to eat or not by doing a sniff test or looking at the texture. Even if you’re not prepared to feed it to your child, you can always keep it for yourself! That being said, do be cautious and don’t expose yourself or your infant to risk unnecessarily.
Reducing Food Waste During Weaning Article written by Farihah Choudhury Prospective MSc Nutrition for Global Health student at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – with support from SR Nutrition.