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, such as meats and iron-fortified infant cereals.
- Meat: Look for single meats (such as beef, turkey, chicken and pork) with no additional ingredients. Added water is OK.
- Cereal: Look for plain, single-grain, iron-fortified baby cereal. Skip flavored cereals; they’re filled with sugar and other ingredients your baby doesn’t need. Instead, combine your baby’s cereal with a little bit of real veggies or fruits for flavor.
If arsenic in rice cereal is a concern, use infant oatmeal cereal.
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 your baby that veggies only taste good if they’ve been sweetened with fruit.
By exposing your baby to the taste of plain veggies while he is young, you are setting him up to enjoy whole veggies when he's older.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no juice until after a baby's first birthday, and even then she doesn't need it. According to the AAP, juice consumption in babies can lead to:
- Poor nutrition
- Increased risk of tooth decay
- Increased risk of diarrhea, gas and bloating
- Increased risk of exposure to bacteria in unpasteurized juices
Don’t be fooled…baby juice is no different from any other juice. Your baby can get all the vitamins and minerals she needs from real veggies and fruits. If she learns to like them as a baby, she’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 sugar, cane sugar, fruit juice or syrups, or sold as “baby desserts.”
- Salt. Salt is a learned taste, so exposing your baby to it now means he’ll want more later on, which isn’t healthy for him. Plus, his kidneys are still developing and can't handle too much salt.
- 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 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.
Tip: Look at the first three ingredients listed on the nutrition label because that’s what the product is mostly made of. Are they the same as what’s marketed on the front?
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 her straight out of the jar because the bacteria from her mouth will spoil the food.
Another reason pouches are less desirable is because slurping food from a plastic pouch doesn’t teach your baby the important process of eating. Plus, it also doesn’t allow you to see the condition of the food inside the pouch (is it moldy?), because it is squeezed directly into your baby’s mouth. If you do opt for a pouch, we recommend squirting the food onto a spoon to serve to your baby.