Baby food pouches make up about 25% of baby food sales in the United States. They’re convenient, affordable, and come in a wide range of flavors. What’s there to complain about? If you’re out shopping or running errands and worried about a hungry baby, baby food pouches seem like a great option.
However, while food pouches may seem to be healthy on-the-go snacks, experts disagree. Some have even warned these plastic pouches could be a gateway to a lifetime of bad eating habits. But what is really so wrong with baby food pouches?
Good health is not just about what you eat, but also how you eat. Sit-down meals are usually the healthiest way to eat for a variety of reasons. When we eat standing up, we more often feel hungry faster. We also tend to overeat while standing because sitting down reduces the speed you eat. Sitting down while eating also helps manage bloating.
Substituting a proper sit-down meal with an on-the-go meal can encourage kids to eat all the time. It encourages snacking, which if done improperly, can become problematic. Overeating is already a problem in the country even with children. More than half of American children snack more than 4 times a day and consume around 600 calories just from snacks.
Not as Healthy as You’d Think
Baby food pouches are often marketed as organic baby food. Some of the best baby food brands proudly claim to have the best ingredients from quinoa and chia seeds to kale and avocados. But how much of these ingredients are actually present in the food? Sometimes checking the percentages of these ingredients shows that those healthy ingredients are only a small part of what makes up the food. If the ingredient percentages aren’t listed, then you can’t tell how much is made from the good foods you want your child to be eating.
Most importantly, how long has the food been sitting on the shelf? Do you really want to feed your child something that’s older than him or her? Even the experience of eating will be reduced from these snacks. Since all the ingredients have to be processed to a pulp to be easy for the baby to suck up, there’s little or no texture in the food
Sucking Hampers Healthy Oral Development
Children who are predominantly fed through food pouches are more likely to experience delayed speech development. Chewing helps improve jaw movement and strength. Children also learn how to swallow and develop a taste for different textures when they eat regular baby foods. At birth, babies know how to move their tongue from front to back, but at six months, they learn to move their food from side to side when which helps with eating solids.
Also feeding your child from a spoon has several advantages. It helps develop oral muscles essential for speech and encourages children to appreciate various sensory properties of food like taste, texture, color, etc. They also learn to eat slowly by taking breaks between bites.
Should you ban food pouches? No, they’re good as a rare treat for older children, but they should be used sparsely.
To read more about this and other baby food-related topics, check out Little Spoon.