Puree pouches are super convenient, they contain fruits & vegetables, and most importantly kids love them, but are they really a healthy option for your baby? They may seem just as wholesome as homemade, but unfortunately that’s not the case… even with ‘organic’ on the label.
How they’re made
The first step in making store-bought puree happens at a mass producer where fruits and vegetables are boiled down using ultra-high heat processing to create a shelf-stable pulp. This pulp is then shipped to various baby food manufacturers who combine them in their own way, and then boil them again with a second round of ultra-high heat processing.
Fruits and vegetables contain water-soluble vitamins and enzymes that are sensitive to heat. So while the high temperature ensures that it remains shelf-stable by killing all of the “bad stuff”, sadly it also destroys most of the nutritional value. The result is a syrup that’s high in sugar, low in nutrients, and no longer resembles an actual fruit or vegetable. Store-bought puree also doesn’t contain the fiber, fat or protein necessary to help slow the blood sugar spike that these little pouches inevitably cause. Unfortunately, what goes up must come down and when blood sugar eventually drops after the sugar-rush, meltdowns and tantrums are more likely to ensue.
A baby’s first food experiences build their preferences for the future. Children who eat sweet processed baby food have an increased chance of developing a lifelong preference for sweet processed food. Even pouches boasting flavors that normally aren’t considered sweet, like kale & quinoa, are primarily filled with an overpowering and addictively sweet fruit reduction.
A warning masked as a comfort
Even though strawberries are a common food for babies to react to (often with a rash), they’re still commonly added to store-bought purees. However, the manufacturers of baby food ‘reassure’ parents not to worry, saying they use such high temperatures to process their pureed strawberries that it ‘destroys’ the protein responsible for the allergic response. As if to brag, they go on to say that temperatures used to cook strawberries at home could not reach a high enough heat to effectively destroy these same proteins.
Am I the only one that sees this as a terrible red flag?
What about homemade puree in reusable pouches?
While the ingredients inside will be much more nutritious, there are still several reasons to limit your little one’s use of pouches.
Puree pouches don’t prepare your baby for variation in color, texture & flavor.
Children who consume pureed foods for a longer period of time have been shown to be increasingly resistant to different textures and flavors later (read = picky).
While squash & pea may taste different than banana & apple, all store-bought purees are made to taste sweet, and therefore lack the diversity to truly cultivate a well-rounded, adventurous palate.
I often hear parents say that their baby or toddler prefers pouches over other foods. To me that’s a very clear indicator that the reliance on puree pouches is having a negative impact on them. Continuing to offer these pouches may feel easier in the short term, but if that’s all picky eaters want to eat, I can firmly guarantee that giving them more pouches will only breed more pickiness.
Puree pouches don’t allow baby to interact with food.
Seeing, touching and smelling food are all critical components necessary for feeling satiated, and the lack of these key factors while eating could significantly disrupt the body’s internal cues of fullness.
Interacting with food is also important for babies learning how to self-regulate appropriate portions, rather than mindlessly slurping back a pouch until it’s finished.
Puree pouches don’t teach baby about real food.
Real, fresh foods allow babies to begin developing an appreciation for what individual foods taste like. Then even if they go through that age appropriate picky phase during toddlerhood, those who started with a solid foundation will likely return to being an adventurous eater much more quickly, rather than letting pickiness carry well into their school-aged years.
I know that parents love their convenience, but the reality is that puree pouches certainly aren’t the nutritious meal that they’re marketed to be. When I’m on the go with my babies and I don’t have time to make a proper meal, we’ll bring easy travel foods like an avocado, no-salt added canned salmon, nut butter, or freeze-dried fruit.
Are puree pouches the most horrible thing you can give to your child? Certainly not, but our culture’s current reliance on pouches is most definitely doing our children a disservice.