Store-bought baby food is quick, easy and can be nutritious. But just like any other area of the grocery store, some options are not as healthy as others. Follow these tips to make sure you’re choosing the best baby foods for your little one.
Your baby needs iron for his developing body and brain, so be sure to offer iron-rich sources every day.
Meat: Look for single meats with no additional ingredients (added water is OK).
Cereal: Look for plain, single-grain, iron-fortified baby cereal. If arsenic in rice cereal is a concern, use infant oatmeal cereal. Skip flavored cereals; they’re filled with sugar and other ingredients baby doesn’t need. Instead, combine baby’s cereal with a little bit of veggies or fruits for flavor.
It’s important to expose your baby to the taste of plain veggies while he is young. This food parenting strategy will help him enjoy whole veggies when he’s older.
Your baby doesn’t need added sugar or preservatives, so look for veggie baby food that includes veggies only (added water is OK). And skip the veggie/fruit combos; they teach baby that veggies only taste good if they’ve been sweetened with fruit.
Juice can irritate young tummies, cause diarrhea and diaper rash, and lead to tooth decay. Don’t be fooled…baby juice is no different than any other juice. Your baby can get all the vitamins and minerals he needs from real veggies and fruits. If he learns to like them as a baby, he’s forming healthy eating habits early!
Read the label to avoid these added ingredients:
- Extra sugar. You’ll find it on the label, listed as fruit juice or syrups, or sold as “baby desserts.”
- Salt. Salt is a learned taste, so exposing baby to it now means he’ll want more later on, which isn’t healthy for him.
- Thickening agents, like flours and starches. Not only are they tough on young tummies, but they also replace the actual, healthy food you’re trying to buy.
Like other foods in the grocery store, many baby foods are labeled “all natural” or “organic.” And some boast trendy health foods, like kale and pomegranate. But don’t be fooled…their claims don’t necessarily mean they’re the best choices.
In fact, some of those pouches and jars are nothing more than regular baby food with a few added ingredients. A good tip is to look at the first three ingredients on the label because that will tell you what the item is mostly made of.
Glass baby jars are more convenient and often less expensive than pouches. You can pop off the top, heat jars in the microwave, stir and serve, then reuse or recycle. Just be sure you toss any food your baby doesn’t eat if you fed him straight out of the jar because the bacteria from his mouth will spoil the food.
Plus, slurping food from a plastic pouch doesn’t teach your baby the important process of eating. It also doesn’t allow you to see the condition of the food inside the pouch, because it is squeezed directly into baby’s mouth.