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TIPS-tested Ella's Kitchen baby food - 2008

This is the first TIPS trial involving food. It is a good opportunity for parents to find out more about the principles of weaning, especially baby-led weaning. An article on this topic was included in TIPS e-newsletter 12.
Food is only one aspect of the feeding process. Comfort, security, closeness, bonding, sociability and self-confidence all develop through appropriate feeding practices (Trotter 2006). After all, eating is a highly social experience that should always be shared. It is possible to prevent children becoming ‘faddy eaters’ by encouraging good eating habits from the start and involving the whole family. Mealtimes don’t need to turn into a battleground.
TIPS Testers were so impressed that we have decided to award Ella’s Kitchen Stage 1 and Stage 2 baby foods a TIPS innovative award.

Read more about this trial by clicking on the links below:




Review

Ella’s Kitchen Organic baby food stage 1
120g pouch RRP £0.89 each (8 kinds)

Ella’s Kitchen Organic baby food stage 2

140g pouch RRP £1.29 each (5 kinds)

Manufactured by Ella’s Kitchen (Brands) Ltd
Website: www.ellaskitchen.co.uk

With growing concerns about additives and preservatives in baby food, parents have become understandably keen to find the healthiest food for their baby.

Ella’s Kitchen baby foods contain only organic ingredients, complete with Soil Association accreditation. They offer an excellent choice of tasty flavours and make eating a fun experience for babies and toddlers.

Testers particularly like the fact that Ella’s Kitchen products are minimally processed, provide excellent nutritional value (see guidelines for full details) and are very safe. The design of the foil resealable pouches was overwhelmingly praised making the food easy to transport, heat (if needed), dispense and store. Some Testers were concerned that the packaging is not currently recyclable, but Ella’s Kitchen are looking into this issue.

We only tested on Stage 1 and 2 baby foods for this trial, but Ella’s Kitchen also provide Stage 3, Baby Brekkie (suitable for Stage 1, 2 and 3 weaning) and Smoothie Fruits. Testers found the Smoothie Fruits useful as a healthy snack for older children while out and about. [back to top]

Stage 1
This range is suitable for babies when they start to wean from six months old. Stage 1 is very smooth in texture and comes in a wide selection of exciting flavour combinations (eight in all) helping your baby to discover new tastes from the start. One parent even found this baby food worked well as a dipping sauce and sandwich filler. Though aimed at very young babies, Stage 1 foods can also be useful for older infants who may need to continue eating purees or find it difficult to eat lumpy food.

Stage 2
Aimed at babies from seven months of age, Stage 2 varieties are still fairly smooth in texture. Each variety has been carefully designed, in association with a dietician and nutritionist, to provide a perfectly balanced meal. Beef stew was a clear favourite with Testers - the feedback we received clearly indicates that there was no need to reseal this as the whole meal was usually eaten in one sitting! At the time of going to press we believe that a Stage 3 variety will be hitting the shelves so keep an eye out for some more interesting meal combinations to tempt your toddler’s taste buds!

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Here are some of the Testers’ comments:
  • I really liked the visual ingredient list on the packaging
  • Portable and convenient plus resealable if only part used
  • The website in particular is very informative
  • I want to give my children the best food without any additives, it also tastes better
  • Great for travelling due to non-breakable packaging
  • He finished the pouches every time and at no stage refused to eat/open his mouth!
  • Much easier than food from a jar and no need for a bowl
  • She loved it; I have never seen her so excited or eat so much food!
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Overview

Our aim at TIPS is to source the best products currently available. Where a product is quite unique, we will set up a one-off trial. We decided to test Ella’s Kitchen baby food because as well as being excellent organic foods for babies, Ella’s Kitchen products can be incorporated into the family diet in a wide variety of ways – this is quite unusual for baby food. The founder of Ella’s Kitchen, Paul Lindley built on his experience of working in children’s television to develop a range of food products that have the ability to stimulate children’s senses. Paul aims to provide children with the best nutrition possible, but he is equally determined to make mealtimes fun.
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Methodology

This trial was carried out by ten Parent Testers with babies aged 6 to 7 months (for the Stage 1 baby food) and ten Parent Testers with babies aged 8 to 9 months (for the Stage 2 baby food). Each tester was sent three flavours of either Stage one or Stage two baby food to test plus detailed guidelines to read before completing the questionnaire.
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Guidelines

Baby-led weaning
The importance of baby-led weaning for your baby

Baby-led weaning is simply that: letting your baby decide what he wants to eat by letting him join the family at mealtimes. The theory is that if you offer your baby the same food as his siblings, but cut in shapes he can pick up, hold and put to his mouth, he will soon eat the same foods as them. No need to start with purees or cereals just normal food in bite-size pieces.
Apparently there is a ‘window of opportunity’ regarding baby-led weaning and I have to admit here that I missed it!

Baby-led weaning is based on the way babies develop in their first year - this information is taken from the website www.baby-led.com

  • The Department of Health and the World Health Organization recommend that babies should have nothing but breastmilk (or formula) until they are six months old because their immune and digestive systems aren’t ready for other foods before that.
  • A normal, healthy six-month-old baby is able to sit upright, pick up pieces of food, take them to his mouth and chew them.
  • Babies will start to take food to their mouths when they are developmentally ready – when their immune and digestive systems are mature enough to cope with other foods and when they are physically able to get foods to their mouth. This is usually from six months onwards.
  • Although the current Department of Health weaning leaflet concentrates on mashed foods for babies, it also advises parents to allow their babies to feed themselves, using their fingers, as soon as they show an interest and to offer finger foods from the beginning. The difference with baby-led weaning is that they do it all themselves, with no need for spoon feeding (Rapley & Murkett 2008). [back to top]



Baby-led weaning isn’t new

  • Many parents with more than one child have discovered baby-led weaning by accident when their babies simply helped themselves to food from someone else’s plate.
  • Parents have for many years been encouraged to give babies finger foods from six months to encourage them to develop chewing skills. However, most people assumed babies needed purees before they could move on to finger foods. But babies don’t prepare for chewing food by sucking puree from a spoon – the best way to develop chewing skills is to practise them.

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Spoon feeding is simply unnecessary

  • There is no research to support spoon feeding as the best way to introduce solids for the majority of babies. It’s a practice left over from the days when everyone believed that babies needed more than breastmilk or formula at three or four months. At that age babies aren’t capable of taking food to their mouths themselves.
  • At six months most babies will begin to feed themselves finger foods if they are given the opportunity – there’s no need to spoon feed.

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Don’t babies choke?

  • There is no more risk of choking with baby-lead weaning than with any other method of introducing solids. A normal, healthy six-month-old baby is able to sit upright, pick up pieces of food, take them to his mouth and chew them.
  • Adults and children are more likely to choke if someone else is feeding them and they can’t control what goes into their mouth – with baby-led weaning the baby is in control.


Basic safety principles apply to baby-led weaning and other methods of feeding babies solid foods:

  • baby must be sitting upright
  • nuts and fruit that contain stones (such as cherries or olives) shouldn’t be given to babies
  • no-one other than the baby should put anything into his mouth (with babyled weaning)
  • baby should never be left alone while handling food

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So why test Ella’s Kitchen baby food if there is no need to spoon feed?

When I first heard about Ella’s Kitchen baby foods I was not sure why people would need them at all. Having looked at their website and spoken to Founder Paul Lindley I understand how this quality product could be useful for busy parents who might need to have a small stock of readymade organic food at their fingertips. This can be combined with finger foods in delicious home-made recipes (available from the website) as part of baby-led weaning or when out and about. What is important about Ella’s Kitchen products is the quality of the food, the quality of the information (both on pack and online) and access to expert advice from a nutritionist and a pediatrician which is also provided.
Ella’s Kitchen products include four ranges: smoothie fruits, pasta sauces, stage 1 and stage 2 readymade meals. All products come in preservative free pouches. To heat the food, just cover the pouch in hot water. The screw-off caps (phthalate and Bisphenol A free) can be resealed and when stored in a fridge, the food stays fresh for up to 48 hours once opened. Partly used pouches can also be frozen for up to three months unless the food has been heated - in which case it must not be reused.
Parents would benefit from more detailed information on baby-led weaning from the nutritionist. She does however provide excellent information on many aspects of nutrition for babies and children. [back to top]

Food safety

With babies and children food safety is a priority. Ella’s Kitchen has developed a unique four-point system to ensure their products, which have a shelf life of 12 months, are safe:

  1. use carefully balanced recipes sufficiently naturally acidic to be hostile to bugs but safe for kids
  2. flash pasteurize food at 93 degrees for just 10 seconds, then pop into individual pouches while still hot and hold at 85 degrees for another 2 and a half minutes - so that it is safe and tasty in a natural way without the use of artificial preservatives. This kills any existing or dormant bugs
  3. fill the pouches hot so that the pouches themselves are free from bugs
  4. draw a vacuum and add an inert gas into the top of the pouch before we screw the caps on tightly. This means that there is no oxygen in the pouch to feed anything in there. [back to top]


Ella’s Kitchen pouches can be:

  • squeezed into a small bowl and spoon fed to your baby
  • squeezed directly onto a spoon
  • sucked straight from the pouch for older babies (remember to keep small twist off cap away from children under three)
  • even taken on a plane (if security let you through!)

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Ella’s Kitchen products are handy because:

  • leftover food (if pouch has not been sucked) can be squeezed into ice-cube trays and frozen for up to three months.
  • leftover food (if pouch has not been sucked) can also be placed in the fridge and used within 48 hours
  • food can be eaten at room temperature or heated by placing the pouch in a bowl of hot water - remember to check temperature before feeding to your baby

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Ella’s Kitchen foods are safer because:

  • organic ingredients are accredited by the Soil Association Organic Standard
  • Ella’s Kitchen foods are all nut and nut-oil free which is excellent if your child has a problem with nut allergies
  • the pouches are made from two kinds of plastic which 'sandwich' the aluminium foil in the middle. The aluminium forms an impermeable barrier between what's inside the pouch and the outside world; one of the effects of which means we can naturally preserve our products without adding additives, preservatives etc.
  • the processing used is much less than jarred baby foods or sauces which will go up to over 120 degrees –often with the subsequent degradation of taste, colour and nutritional content
  • they do not contain sugar, salt, concentrates, E numbers, GM, additives or thickeners.

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Completing the questionnaire

There are four sections in the questionnaire:

The product: in this section, we ask about the design of the product and quality of information provided online and on pack.

Use of product: this includes questions about ease of use; implications for enjoyment; comparison with more conventional baby foods; and questions about its potential to give your child extra confidence during the weaning process.

Feedback: in this section, you will be asked to comment on your favourite features, suggest improvements, and whether you believe it provides good value.

Awards: in this section, you can suggest an award for the product you have tested.

As you can see, there are many aspects to assess when testing this seemingly simple product. A good readymade baby food should:

  • ideally be organic and free from any artificial additives or preservatives
  • be a rich source of safe nutrition
  • taste good
  • be easy to incorporate into a well balanced diet (for all the family)
  • be easy to heat and easy to dispense, especially when out and about
  • provide information and advice on nutrition
  • be reasonably priced, and
  • above all provide fun and stimulation for your baby as they learn to feed themselves.
This can only be achieved when manufacturers use top quality ingredients and pay close attention to detail in all aspects of the manufacturing process.
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Useful resources and references

Baby led weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett
Published by Vermillion (6 Nov 2008) ISBN: 0091923808 RRP: £10.99

Starting Solids DVD (includes booklet Starting solid food) Distributed by la Leche League GB RRP: £18.99 - The book and DVD were reviewed in TIPS e-newsletter 12.

References:

La Leche League GB (2007). Starting Solids DVD (includes booklet Starting solid food). Nottingham UK ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Rapley G & Murkett T (2008). Baby led weaning. London. Vermillion

Trotter S (2006). Cup feeding revisited. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, vol 16, no 3, p397-402

www.baby-led.com


Please note that products tested by TIPS are not free or promotional products, but samples for the sole purpose of independent testing. All Testers must agree and sign a copy of the TIPS Award Scheme terms and conditions before taking part in a TIPS trial.



Disclaimer. TIPS Ltd is not responsible or liable for any failings of products that have been submitted for the testing programme. The responsibility remains with the individual manufacturer. Research is constantly changing and whilst every effort is made by TIPS Ltd to ensure the information contained in the guidelines is accurate and up-to-date, parent testers must still be encouraged to seek the advice of their midwife, health visitor, lactation consultant or GP if they have any concerns.

TIPS Ltd© 2009

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Ella’s Kitchen Organic stage 1 and stage 2 baby food
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