A friend of mine witnessed a woman in the grocery store picking up her baby food essentials -- "baby" juice, "baby" snacks like yogurt drops and puffs, "baby" crackers, and "baby" fruit snacks. Call me crazy, but isn't a grocery food store full of ... well ... food? Why did this mom feel she could only feed her baby things with the label of "baby" in front of it?

I know a lot of people love baby-marketed snacks because they're easy, there is less mess, and they can last almost indefinitely in a diaper bag.

Unfortunately, they're also really unhealthy.

Take "puffs" for example. Out of three brands of puffs I've looked at, the sugar varies between 0.5 to 2 grams of sugar per serving, with very little nutritional value. In babies (over 6 months at least) who have limited tummy room, every single thing that goes in their mouth needs to be packed with nutrition, especially since anything other than their formula or breast milk (which is still the bulk of their diet) displaces the nutritionally-packed liquid food. Hence, nutrition? Super important.

I know they've got some nutritional value listed on the package, but as Christina Le Beau put it: Stop reading labels and start reading ingredients.

The CVS Whole Grain Puffs in Blueberry contain:

Rice Flour, Whole Wheat Flour, Wheat Starch, Sugar, Whole Oat Flour, Natural Blueberry Flavor, Less than 2%: Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Blueberry Puree Powder, Calcium Carbonate, Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3), Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12), Di- and Tricalcium Phosphate, Electrolytic Iron, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Mixed Tocopherols, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Soy Lecithin, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Zinc Sulfate.

Yikes. That's a whole lotta vitamins with no promise that they're even bio-available (i.e., usable by the body). Also note that there is more sugar than blueberry flavor (from what?) and the actual blueberry ingredient is less than 2% of the final product. Ick.

Yes, I know, you can't easily carry around real blueberries -- they'd go bad, get smushed, and make a huge mess. However, you could carry around dried blueberries.

My favorite go-to is Just Tomatoes, Etc. brand dried fruit (and veggies!). At a price almost the same per ounce as the puffs, you get this as an ingredient list instead:

Just Blueberries contain:

Blueberries.

That's it, and that's all. Since they're dried, they've got all the benefits of puffs with none of the downsides, and yet still count as real food rather than "baby snacks." I add them to my Greek yogurt and am in heaven. I feed that to my daughter when she's struggling with yeast and have no problem getting her to eat enough for the live cultures to help kill the yeast. The "Just Peaches" have to be rationed in my house because my two kids will eat a whole bag in a sitting (and when we're home, I generally aim them towards the real version of the fruit anyway).

But aside from that, you can get raisins, dried cherries, and other dried fruits. The best thing my family has ever purchased was our own food dehydrator. Slice fruit in thin, even pieces, soak in pineapple juice to help prevent browning, and pop in the dehydrator. Instant dried fruit with AMAZING taste. That crap they call dried banana slices in most stores? NASTY compared to homemade! And best of all, your own dried fruit is diaper-bag-friendly, and at only a fraction of the cost of "baby" snacks, but with absolutely none of the unhealthy ingredients. Plus, you never have to worry about recalls or random bugs getting in the food.

If you can remember to take food in and out that can go bad, and use hard-containers, there's no reason you can't take slices of meat, bananas, apples, grapes, or other real food as well. Remember, babies can and should eat real food. She doesn't even need purees!

We live in a culture that has us convinced that babies need special foods, when really, they honestly don't, and often the things geared towards them are just as unhealthy or worse than things marketed towards the bigger crowd.

Do you get caught up in buying baby marketed food? What do you feed your baby?

 

Image via Just Tomatoes, Etc.