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Aren't pouches just the easiest way to feed your kiddo on the go? Just throw one in the diaper bag, pull it out when your kiddo is in a rage of hunger and voila, serving of fruit and veggies done. We've heard some buzz about whether or not baby food pouches are good for your little one so we wanted to lay the facts out.
About a third of 2-year-olds' packed lunches at day care contain at least one pouch, one University of Texas Austin study found, and some toddlers are getting more than half of their midday calories in pouch form. That could be over 500 calories a day in pouches. Yikes!
Kata Larson, a Speech Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist at Boston's Children's Hospital says "Many of us in the medical field have a love-hate relationship with pouches. They're convenient and travel well and are often a better choice than cookies or chips. But parents need to use them in moderation." Child experts like Kata say that even though pouches are okay as an occasional snack, overusing them could cause bad eating habits, stunt your child's development of feeding skills and motor coordination.
Eating is an important experience, that we know. When your child uses a spoon to move food across their bowl and put it in their mouth, their motor coordination is developing. They are also working on their hand-eye coordination when they pick up a piece of food and lift it to their mouth. In the same manner, chewing food requires your child to develop side-to-side tongue motions which is also needed for eating and speech. Who knew so much development happens when your child eats?
Pouches seem like the best option when you're trying to introduce a wide variety of flavors. When else could you get your toddler to eat quinoa, kale and other veggie blends? But experts warn that the actual taste of these beloved vegetables are being masked by sugar, which pose dental problems and create picky eaters. The 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans lists baby food products under a source of added sugar in a toddler's diet. Remember that your child is forming their lifelong taste preference in their first two years of life. Courtney Byrd-Williams, PhD, a Behavioral Scientist at UTHealth School of Public Health in Austin, Texas says "If they are used to eating overly sweet fruit or aren't exposed to plain vegetables, they are less likely to like them as adults".
We also haven't forgotten about the report that was released stating that many commercial baby food brands had high levels of heavy metals. The heavy metals found were inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. All four of these heavy metals can affect your baby's developing brain. And when you harm the brain as it develops, the damage can be permanent. There are ways to reduce your child's exposure to heavy metals.
If your jaw is hanging open and you're wondering what else you're going to feed your toddler, we aren't saying "no pouches"! We are just recommending serving a pouch on the occasion, when sitting down for a snack isn't possible. Just try not to exceed one to two pouches per day and choose options that are low sugar. Remember, never let convenience trump health. Courtney Byrd-Williams adds (and we couldn't agree more) "When we consider what convenience food has done to adult health, there are plenty of reasons to pause before passing your child another pouch".
28%: Percentage of day-care lunches for children 6 months to 3 years old that contain at least one pouch; 10% contain two or more pouches. In 4%, half of lunchtime calories came from pouches.
0: Number of packed-lunch pouches that contained purely vegetables.
12 grams: Average amount of sugar in a single pouch. (24g is the suggestion of daily sugar intake for a child 2 to 3 years old)
25%: Percentage of the total baby food market made up of pouches in 2018, according to Nielsen Total Food View.