Baby pouch foods are basically a parent’s dream – no prep, low/no mess, and often in flavours that you may not have the ability to make at home. However, what I’m noticing is that when my 9-month-old has access to these, she prefers them to whole food options like for example pieces of steamed broccoli or cauliflower and some rice.
This is probably because they’re physically easier for her to eat. She slurps them down more quickly than food that she has to hold and chew for twenty minutes.
One of the big down-sides of store-bought pouch baby foods is that the labels and packaging can be deceiving. Something I do think is important for parents to know is that the ingredients are designed to make babies and children WANT to eat them.
So why do babies and kids LOVE store-bought pouches and squeezies so much?
- They’re super easy to eat, hence the spout which makes for fast slurping up. No biting, chewing or munching. Pouch foods usually only require an easy immature suck/swallow pattern of eating – not developmentally appropriate for many babies and kids who are capable of more than this. If you have a look, in very small print they suggest using a spoon with these foods but because they have the spout then parents and kids automatically assume that that is how they are meant to be eaten!
- They’re ultra-palatable. Even the most savoury of flavours (e.g. Beef lasagna) are often actually mostly pureed apple, pear or pumpkin which although beneficial when eaten whole, are really just a way of making the food taste sweet which of course is more desirable for little bubs.
- They’re really predictable. Packaged, commercially-prepared foods taste the same every time, so babies and kids get really used to food tasting same-same. If kids eat a lot of pouches, they can then find eating other foods more difficult as the flavour and texture of home-cooked foods varies quite a bit.
When kids have the opportunity to play with and eat real food (preferably the same things as you are enjoying and eating), you give them the opportunity to learn to eat family foods much sooner (and easier!) than if they are mostly given pureed, easy-to-eat and very palatable foods like pouches and squeezies.
How to make the most of convenient, store-bought pouch foods:
Slow down, use a spoon – decant the pouch food into a bowl, sit with children to eat and feed them or help them feed themselves using a spoon. Let them see and smell the food they are eating. Parent-led mealtime learning is priceless, no matter what is on the menu.
Use pouches only when needed – save using store-bought pouches and squeezies for times when you really need them.
What are your thoughts?
Do you notice your baby/children gravitating towards pouch foods when they’re made available?
Do you notice a relationship between the availability of these foods and your baby’s acceptance of other, family foods that you eat?
Jessi Bruns, Accredited Practising Dietitian
(co-edited by Deb Blakley, Accredited Practising Dietitian)