Dried fruit – which can be found in any grocery store but most abundantly, perhaps, in health stores – has a reputation for being…er…healthy! But is dried fruit actually as healthy as fresh fruit for your baby?
Whilst dried fruit does have SOME advantages over fresh, truly fresh fruit will almost always be the healthiest option.
And even though more and more dried fruit snacks are being marketed for children, even some of the manufacturers of these snacks will concede that – whilst they may be a healthier snack than candy or potato chips (crisps) – they are no substitute for fresh fruit!
The problem with dried fruit is that its water content has, of course, been removed.
On the plus side, this means that some of the nutrients it contains are then more concentrated – your baby would need to eat far less raisins than grapes, for example, to receive the equivalent amount of iron. And for the same reason, dried fruit also tends to be very rich in fibre. The UK’s Food Standards Agency advises that a ‘portion’ of dried fruit (in terms of aiming for 5 portions a day) is only one heaped tablespoon – less, of course, than a ‘portion’ of fresh fruit.
On the negative side, the sugar content of dried fruit is more concentrated too, meaning that dried fruit can be harmful to your baby’s emerging teeth. What’s more, the drying process contributes to a loss of some nutrients, most notably water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C.
Of course, in areas where certain fruits are not available fresh, then the dried variety can be the next best thing. Here in the Bahamas, for example, fruits like fresh apricots are virtually impossible to find, but dried apricots are available everywhere! When we buy them for our baby, however, we are mindful of their higher sugar contest and tend not to use them TOO often.
If you DO choose to use dried fruit in your homemade baby food recipes…
- Rehydrate the fruit first to make it easer to puree and easier for your baby to manage. You can do this by soaking – or gently simmering – the fruit in water or unsweetened apple juice until soft.
- Remember that dried fruits – in addition to being high in sugar – present a choking hazard and are not an ideal finger food for younger babies.
- Look for organic, unsulfured fruit – sulfured fruits can trigger reactions in sensitive individuals.