'Baby' Snacks Are Junk Food in Disguise

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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.

solid food, natural parenting

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Madel... MadelynMc

On the contrary, I like Earth's Best snacks for my daughter. They are made with whole grains and are low in sugar (often sweetened with fruit purée or fruit juice). But I totally get what you're saying. The first time I picked up Gerber snacks in the baby aisle and read the ingredients and nutrition facts, I was appalled. Don't even get me started with their Graduates meals, haha.

gaamom gaamom

I feed my toddler snacks that I can understand and pronounce their ingredients...the fewer, the better. Trader Joe's has great freeze dried fruits. I go to these in the winter when tastier fruit is sometimes hard to find. For us, fresh and raw is best. He's loving snap peas lately. I just remove the stringy edge for him.

Tara Dukaczewicz

I don't buy those things because I boycott gerber and nestle. It doesn't surprise me that they are chock full o' poison. we aren't a very snacky family though. we do string cheese and baby carrots,  but most of our eating is done at home so we don't need an arsenal of diaper bag snacks. I would love a food dehydrator though.

Cerid... CeridwynRose

The problem is that the unhealthy stuff has a lot more marketing than the healthy stuff. I never heard of Just Blueberries or Just Peaches or any of that. Just as a side note: I don't buy that baby stuff for my youngest, he didn't like it, also it is too expensive.

Adriel Dunysha Quick

I have baby marketed foods for my 11 month old, BUT it is not the bulk of his diet. We usually only get the puffs and yogurt drop as they are his favorite. They are rationed out to him in much the same way candy is rationed out to my 4 year old. and i to also own a dehydrator ^.^  you can even make your own fruit leather or roll ups in a dehydrator with fruit purees. and i know as a kid, i abolutely LOVED fruit leathers =D but all in all im not going to food nazi my kids when i dont do it to myself

MTNes... MTNester1

The biggest thing is to remember to read the ingredients label, like Chirstie says.  If you can't pronounce it, don't put it in your baby's mouth...or yours.  And remember, ingredients are listed according to the amount in the food.  If the first ingredient is sugar, that is what it contains the most of. 

Jennifer Erickson Crowley

The only 'baby' snacks that I ever really bought, and baby food, was Earth's Best...Pretty much everything by Gerber and anyone else is just nasty.  I do agree though, it is SO much better to make your own snacks and to buy stuff that is natural, and where you can actually read-and pronounce the ingredients!

KTMOM KTMOM

When my son was a baby I just did baby food because that is what my mom did and I didn't have any mom friends or CM at the time.  My son did get fruits and veggies that I cooked as well as cereal and stuff,  but he also got regular baby food.  I agree that now that I know better I would have done things very differently and not bought into a lot of the gimmicks.

Ursul... Ursula187

I LOVE freeze-dried fruits as snacks.  They don't crush as easily as, say, cheerios, and they're so easy to dish out in the store, or at a restaurant when you're waiting your food.  Those freeze-dried fruits and vegetables were my daughter's first finger foods.  I haven't bought any "baby" food though.  I made a few purees early on, but for the most part, my daughter eats what we eat.

meatb... meatball77

It is not safe to feed babies dried fruit (freeze dried is safe) it's a choking hazard.


http://www.babycenter.com/0_foods-that-can-be-unsafe-for-your-baby_9195.bc


I always perfered fresh fruit and cheese.  However those could not be fed in the car because they are a higher choking risk than a disolvable food like cheerios or puffs.

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