My favorite reasons:
1. Early food experiences help introduce a world of flavor to the child, flavors that are part of the child's cultural heritage and that will be a part of the child's growing up years. If you are feeding babyfood, the child is less likely to be eating what you are (unless you are making your own babyfood from the food you eat, but even then, parents often skip the herbs and spices they put into their own foods...spices, for example, can seem a lot "hotter" when there isn't a textural experience).
2. The point of early food experiences isn't nutrition. Children at that age are still getting the benefits of other nutritional sources, usually breastmilk...and they don't actually *need* to be consuming a whole lot. Usually, babyfood is presented to children to get food *in* them. The focus is on getting the baby to eat. What is lost when getting food into children becomes the primary goal, rather than the whole discovery process that comes with a slower introduction of whole foods? Sensory and textural experiences that are rich in developmental meaning and value, and that pass on cultural food experiences. Texture is just as important as taste.
3. When eating non-pureed foods, a child can do things like practice eye hand coordination, the pincer grasp, dropping and picking back up and dropping and picking back up again, etc. etc....lots of good skill practice is going on.
4. When a child is eating what the family eats, it is a family experience. Through this, a child learns the value of shared family meals.
5. Children can usually learn their own limitations, and generally become quite adept at guaging what they can handle when it comes to food and other stuff going in the mouth...if they are given the opportunity. Children who aren't given the opportunity, are slower to gain the skills and thus, it is possible that they are more likely to choke.
6. Chewing is good for oral motor development and oral sensory awareness. Good oral motor development and sensory awareness are among the things needed for proper speech development (I say this because my ds has low muscle tone in his mouth due to a genetic condition, and he really struggles).http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9646449/