It's obviously important for your baby to like and eat those mushy and colorful solid foods you feed her for the first time. But it's even more important that YOU like them. Your baby has never tasted food before. Only you know if a baby food fruit or vegetable actually tastes like a real peach or carrot and not some artificial representation with an icky aftertaste. Trust us, a lot of the baby food on the shelves tastes this way -- and that's no way to set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating habits. The moms at The Stir felt a baby food taste test done by grown-ups was long overdue and we recently took the gastric plunge. Trust us when we say DO NOT buy another jar or package of baby food again until you read our surprising -- and at times unpalatable -- results. Your baby will thank you -- and us.
We coerced invited several non-moms to join us for our baby food lunch as well. We actually gulped down spoonfuls of fruits and veggies from 7 popular baby food brands and rated each one for overall taste and texture.
Our taste test focused exclusively on Stage 1 or 2 foods, those highly pureed fruits and vegetables that moms feed babies starting at around 4 months and up who haven't learned how to chew yet. You can find all of these brands in stores or online: 3 are readily found in the grocery aisle while 4 are specialty brands that are becoming more popular recently. We tried our best to compare peaches to peaches, but not all brands offer the exact same thing, so the match wasn't always exact.
The fruit contenders were:
Beech Nut Peaches
Earth's Best Banana Mango
Ella's Kitchen Strawberries 'n' Apples
Plum Organics Mangoes
Sprout Roasted Pears
The vegetable contenders were:
Beech Nut Squash
Earth's Best Squash
Gerber Sweet Potatoes
Ella's Kitchen Butternut Squash, Carrots, Apples & Prunes
Plum Organics Sweet Potato, Corn & Apple
Sprout Baked Sweet Potatoes & White Bean
HappyBaby Sweet Potato & Apricot
We won't waste your time on the losers. Suffice it to say if they aren't on our list, they didn't make our cut, especially with comments like: "really lacking any flavor," "starts out bland and then tastes metallic," "awful! bitter!," "bad aftertaste," "I got sick," "tastes chemical and artificial," and "OMG this is yuck. I fed this to my baby all the time and she seemed to like it. I'm a bad mom."
Here are our picks for the top 3 tastiest baby foods in each category:
Winner! 1. HappyBaby Pears -- $1.39 for 3.5 oz.
Six of our 11 testers gave this brand the top score, saying it tasted closest to the real thing, just like "pear flavored applesauce." Several said it was good enough to use in adult preparations: "This is actually yummy, I wouldn't have thought it was baby food if it was served to me as a garnish on a dessert plate."
2. Ella's Kitchen Strawberries 'n' Apples -- $1.79 for 3.5 oz.
Rated consistently high, taste-testers loved the taste but felt the texture was a little too thin to feel substantial in a baby's tummy. "Great strawberry flavor, just a bit tart, but in a good way," "a little sweet for real fruit," and "I could see it in a reduction over vanilla ice cream."
3. Earth's Best Banana Mango -- $1.99 for 4 oz.
This brand fell into the middle-high range among testers. It not only tasted like banana and mango should, but they also liked the creamy, substantial texture -- one even compared it to a "smoothie" while another said they'd consider adding a dash of it to an adult smoothie.
Winner! 1. Ella's Butternut, Carrot, Apple & Prunes -- $1.79 for 3.5 oz.
Sweet fruit makes even the blandest vegetable taste better, which may be one reason this and our second-place winner beat out brands with only single-vegetable options. One taster said "YUM!," they would use it as a reduction over meat, "surprisingly good, a wee bit tart," and one tester liked the taste but thought it was a little too "thick" to deserve top honors.
2. Plum Organics Sweet Potato, Corn & Apple -- $1.49 for 4.22 oz.
The apple infusion gave this puree a boost over the straight sweet potatoes and squash. It was rated in the top three by all testers, except for two who found the texture a little thick and felt the combination of ingredients tasted "weird."
3. Earth's Best Squash -- $1.99 for 4 oz.
Testers like the flavor, though some noted an aftertaste. But the biggest complaint was the watery texture. "Sweeter than I expected but not in a bad way," "tastes like what it is," and "okay but a little weird."
Bottom line: You get what you pay for with baby food, too! The organic, specialty, multi-ingredient varieties cost only a little more than the typical grocery store brands, but far exceed them in taste and are well worth the extra money if you can afford it.
Do you taste baby food before giving it to your baby? Would you still feed a food that tastes bad to you to your child?