When preparing homemade baby food, we parents are always careful to ensure that the foods we choose are healthy and appropriate for our babies. Something that many of us overlook, however, is the suitability of the pots we're cooking in – yet the fact is that cookware made from certain materials may not be ideal for the preparation of baby food.
- Unlined or uninsulated copper pots should not be used to cook your baby's food. This is because copper destroys both vitamins C and E and also the folic acid in the food. In addition, acidic foods cooked in copper pots can contain toxic levels of copper.
- Aluminum pots are also believed to be unsafe for cooking your baby's food. Acidic foods cooked in aluminum pots can dissolve very small quantities of aluminum, which may then be absorbed into the food. Anodized aluminum cookware is a safer alternative, because the the anodizing process "locks" the aluminum into the cookware.
- Stainless steel cookware is made up of a mixture of different metals. It is generally considered to be very safe – but you shouldn't use it to cook your baby's food if it is particularly pitted or dented. You should also avoid scrubbing your stainless steel cookware with an abrasive substance, because this can cause small quantities of nickel and chromium to be released into food.
- You should avoid cooking your baby's food in non-stick pans because the non-stick coating may chip off and end up in the food. It is also believed that toxic fumes can be released by heating a non-stick pan to a very high temperature.
No one knows exactly how hazardous these types of cookware are to health and research has yet to come up with any conclusive evidence. Some experts think that the risk is very low, or that only people who are sensitive to certain materials will react unfavourably.
But what would be considered a small risk to an adult may be significantly greater to a baby, so it's probably a good idea to look to safer cookware alternatives when cooking for your little one.
- Cooking with iron cookware is actually beneficial to health. When you cook acidic foods (like tomatoes) in iron pots, the foods actually "pull" the iron from the pot. This boosts the important dietary iron in your baby's food.
- The FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition consider ceramic, glass and enameled cookware to be safe. You should avoid using older enameled cookware, though, because it may contain cadmium. Cadmium is a toxic substance which is no longer used in the manufacture of cookware in the US. You should also be careful of glazed ceramic cookware from overseas, where the regulations for the inclusion of cadmium and lead in cookware may not be as stringent.
For the sake of your baby's health AND your own, always make sure that your cookware is kept in very good condition – and don't use pots that are cracked, peeling, chipped or pitted.