Beyond Pablum

The San Jose Mercury News (registration required) devotes this week’s food section to the increasingly gourmet world of baby food. Light years away from your average jar of Gerber, these new brands of grub for little chubs use organic produce and mild herbs to make baby food that parents hope will influence their infants toward an intense appreciation of farmer’s markets and away from a life of Kraft mac and cheese.

‘You shape your preferences based on what you’re exposed to,’ said Dr. Elizabeth Shepard, a pediatrician and nutrition specialist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. ‘Sensory preferences basically start at birth. Everything, every flavor, a child is exposed to puts some kind of impression into their brain.’

Some of these new foods come flash-frozen for brighter colors and fresher flavors; others are delivered to you. Both options are two to three times as expensive as national brands.

Are they worth it? If you love upscale packaged food (and the popularity of stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods points to the fact that many of us do), you’ll want to share your passion with Junior. Or you can go the do-it-yourself route. The Mercury has some tips (registration required) on that, too.