Is there any harm in feeding my baby pouched food?
A: There is a time and place for everything. Children need to learn how to eat fresh food at a table, during family meals, using utensils. But with busy days, on-the-go lifestyles and travel, mealtimes for many are not as I just described. Schedules are tight, children are not eating enough vegetables and fruits, and we need a solution. The convenience of pouches makes meal-times easier.
That said, there are a few reasons pouches should supplement—not replace—teaching babies to eat from a spoon:
Babies learn a lot from spoon-eating. It’s a sensory ride from the taste, smell, sight and touch of food; an oral-motor, muscular and coordination exercise; and a social experience with conversation and interaction.
Using utensils sets an appropriate eating pace, helping to curb overeating. When the spoon is completely replaced with easy-to-use spouts found on pouches, children guzzle down their food, cutting minutes from mealtime. This may leave an unsatisfied feeling, fueling overeating.
When babies eat in the highchair or near the table, it teaches them good mealtime habits. It emphasizes that there is a time and a place for meals and that eating is important. This will lend to an easier transition to family meals.
When you do need to rely on pouches, knowing how to shop for the best options will ensure your baby is getting the nutrition he needs to start a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few quick tips:
Look for “cold puree” on the label. Gentle cooking methods retain the maximum nutrients, which is important because certain techniques that use lots of heat actually cook away the natural color, flavor and nutritional value.
Read the front and back of the pouch. Skip pouches with additives that you wouldn’t use at home.
Look for blends with vibrant colors and varied flavors to excite baby’s palate. Avoid options that have been diluted with water or fruit juice.
Choose some vegetable-only purees. The problem with feeding babies solely fruit-based purees, even though they may be more receptive to the tastes initially, is that it’s easy for them to get hooked on the sweet flavors.
—Nicole Silber, RD, CSP, CLC, pediatric nutrition expert in New York City
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