Baby Food Pouches-Yay or Nay?
Early childhood is a critical time for establishing food preferences, and the tastes infants are exposed to at an early age have long-lasting effects on their liking of specific tastes.
First Steps Nutrition Trust
Colourful. Convenient. Confusing. Head into any major supermarket, and you’ll find at least one full aisle of baby food pouches, snacks, ready meals, boxed food and drinks. But how are you meant to make an informed choice with every brand trying hard to get their mitts on your money? No added sugar. Organic. No nasties. What does it all mean? Let me walk you through the facts so you can make an informed decision about whether you’d like to include food pouches as part of your baby’s diet and how to make a wise choice.
The good, the bad and the ugly
- Easy to store
- Handy when travelling or out and about
- Long shelf life
- Inauthentic colour, taste and texture
- Sweeter with more ‘free sugar.’
- Few single vegetable flavours available
- Few bitter tasting ‘greens’ vegetable flavours available
- More expensive than homemade
- Misleading labels
- Some nutrients may be destroyed during processing.
These things are rarely ‘black and white.’
A close-up look
I’m using Ella’s Kitchen to make a point but there are many brands of baby pouches on the market with good and bad options within each product range. Sorry Ella’s Kitchen, I choose you because it’s the brand that most parents mention using. Good for them, I guess!
This picture captures many of the downsides of pouches. Are you surprised that broccoli is listed first? Listing broccoli first fools us into thinking our baby is eating broccoli. But it makes up only a tiny proportion of the total content so unlikely to instil a future love of this green veggie!
If you flip the label over to the other side (sorry I forgot to save that photo!), you’ll see the ‘No Added Sugar’ claim on the back. But, no added sugar is a fairly meaningless term. Fruit and vegetable purees contain ‘free sugars’ no different from sugars such as table sugar, maple syrup and honey. Here’s the science bit. These ‘free sugars’ are formed during processing when the sugar is released from the cell wall of the fruit or vegetable. And unbelievably this pouch contains two teaspoons of ‘free sugar’. Although there are pouches with even double this, I’m looking at you ‘banana, blueberry and yoghurt’!
If you were to puree this combination at home would also release the sugar but because it’s difficult to get homemade purees this smooth then possibly not to the same extent. However, steaming some broccoli and mashing it or offering it as a finger food would expose your baby to the authentic bitter taste of broccoli without the sugar. Offer pear alongside it and learn to like both in their own right.
It’s not all bad. There are better options within each brand. While this pouch may still lack the authentic taste and texture of the homemade version, it is undoubtedly a better option containing far less sugar and double the amount of broccoli. But bizarrely this time broccoli is listed as the second ingredient. Go figure!
Take home message
You don’t need to use pouches. There are many ways to feed your baby when out and about or on holidays that don’t involve pouches. And for everyday feeding, it’s much better to offer your baby modified versions of your family foods. However, there’s nothing wrong with using them from time to time. I’ve put together a short checklist to guide you. Lastly, I’m not sharing this information to make any parent feel guilty about using baby pouches. Every family is unique, and every family makes the best decision for their situation. Please no mammy guilt!