In my field of nutrition, I see a lot of parents giving their children convenience foods. Let’s face it, we all like to push the easy button when we are busy. I know a lot of children who eat pouch foods regularly, and some upwards of 4 or more per day! If you purchase pouches regularly, this post may offend you. I’m prepared for that, but my heart is in the right place. If you give your child pouches regularly, I want to encourage you to give your child more variety from whole foods (versus pouches), and please read this post with an open mind.
I know that we can do better than pureed food in a pouch. There is always more to do as a parent. From spending more time reading to our children, to preparing foods for our children, there is always more we can do. It’s just one of those inevitable themes of parenting: there is always more we can do for our children.
I am so passionate about this subject that I vowed not to purchase or give my (now) 3.5 year old any pouch foods. She was on pureed foods for 2-3 weeks at 6 months of age, and then I followed my own advice with her and advanced her texture and she adapted. Her palate is amazing. I work with 10-20 kids per week in a clinic, and see all kinds of kids. They each have unique needs. This is a general post offering tips, not medical advice. Ask your pediatrician if you are concerned, or comment below if you have questions for me.
Here are some of my answers to parent’s questions regarding pouch foods:
Why are pouch foods so bad? My kid is eating foods that they wouldn’t normally eat like kale, carrots, and quinoa! And it’s organic. So now you’re telling me that organic foods are bad? Yeah right. The main problem with pouch foods is that they do not require that a child interact properly with a food. For normal development, children need to be able to get messy, figure out how to lick their lips, and master feeding themselves. A pouch takes the effort out as the pureed food slides down the throat. There is some sucking involved but sucking is for nipples and not kale. Kale is for chewing.
Why not use this food? It will stay good in my pantry and car and purse and does not need refrigeration. Pouch foods are shelf stable for a long time. This is just weird. Organic or not, fillers or additives or not, this food is meant to last a really long time in your home. How does that promote fresh eating, and high nutrition? Don’t believe me? Check the date. It will be at least 12 months out. Nuts and seeds are also shelf stable but still can go rancid around 6 months. Fresh fruit does not last long, the nutrition is highest when fresh harvested or frozen after harvest.
I feel it is a better choice than fast food, and being organic it is good for the Earth, right?
I don’t even hear organic. I hear plastic caps, spout, and pouch bag. I do not think any parts are recyclable nor reusable. Please educate me if they are. Even one per day is a lot if you think of the sheer waste of it. In addition to diapers that is a lot of waste that sweet little year old is contributing to the planet.
Ok, ok, so now I can see that pouch foods are not the best choice. But my kid is 3 and would never eat any green vegetable. So how do I get them off pouch foods? I see kids of all ages being fed pouches. The word organic and the convenience of a pouch pretty much fools parents to continue their purchasing habits as they feel good about these foods that their kid is eating that they wouldn’t eat in the whole food form. But… When do they transition from pureed to solid vegetables? This sets the child up to continue to eat the pureed form and never eat actual kale because it is not being offered, (because why offer kale when they ate a kale pouch for a snack?) or the pouch is seen as a backup health food. In the normal developing infant, pureed food should be offered first, then the texture quickly advanced to ground, and thicker foods as the baby shows advancing skills. A typical developing 1 year old does not need to eat pureed foods, regardless of how many teeth they have. Continuing to offer many purees at this age will hasten development, expansion of food preferences, as well as narrow their texture preferences for months to come. Please remember this. These are my words, my advice, not copied and pasted from another website. If you’d like to read more on textures and infant development, please comment below.
How can organic pureed spinach, quinoa, and veggies really be bad? Spinach, quinoa, and some veggies and fruits contain components called oxalates. Some people have problems processing these, especially when eating regular amounts of foods high in oxalates, like spinach. Kids eating 2+ pouches per day are consuming a consistent amount of oxalates. Variety is key in nutrition, so eating the same food daily (even a seemingly “healthy” food like spinach) is more likely to cause issues. That being said not everyone needs to or should avoid spinach, quinoa, or oxalates, but I wouldn’t recommend a huge spinach salad daily to any of my clients, let alone 1-2 cups of sauteed and pureed spinach that is in the pouch. To a 18 month old.
I’m seeing what you’re saying now, but the convenience is stellar. What else can I feed my kid that is just as convenient? This is a habit that you’ve set up as a parent. We all have feeding habits. Some are great, some are not. If you want to keep a pouch around for when you’re out of fresh and frozen fruit, or in your purse for an emergency snack, then so be it. But here are some other convenient foods that offer high nutrition and also support variety, development, and a wide spectrum of texture. Olives, jicama, avocado, oranges, pumpkin seeds (ground or whole depending on chewing ability), sunflower seeds (ground or whole depending on chewing ability), cheese, thinly sliced or minced jerky, frozen fruit, scrambled eggs, avocado, plantain chips, and of course the world’s most portable food- the banana. These are some go-to’s in our home, and I hope one or two struck a chord with you.
But how do I stop my pouch obsession? You just have to stop buying them. You purchase fresh fruits and vegetables and prep them for the developmental stage your child is in. This does require some food prep and time. It will be worth it, I promise! Here is an idea of the progression: Beginning eater- purees are best. Advancing eater- somewhere between pureed and ground. Starting to feed self with some accuracy- ground with small soft cooked or minced pieces, even grated or minced soft fruits or raw vegetables. Self feeding- soft pea sized chunks of foods. Mastery- can chew or gum harder items as well as feed self accurately from the previous stage. They will stop progressing or begin to prefer that easier to maneuver texture if we do not advance their textures as they show that they can handle that stage. I’ve seen it. It’s real. This is independent of number of teeth that a child has. Some can totally handle pea sized foods with 2-4 teeth. Please take your kids off purees sooner than later.
I really want to know how old is too old for occasional pouch foods? I do not recommend them ever. But from a development standpoint around 7-8 months is when purees are not appropriate for the majority of an infant’s intake. Feel free to puree food that is harder to chew (like kale) and mix in with other foods that are softer (like chopped tomatoes, cottage cheese, or soft beans/lentils).
The natural progression of development is to increase texture, tongue coordination and chewing ability. Please remember that all children are different. Please feel good about what you are feeding your child, be safe, and advance the textures as they show you they can handle them. I do not recommend starting solids prior to 6 months. Again, the main goal of this post is to support your choices of whole foods versus processed foods, and the normal development of your beautiful child.
This photo was taken at the local grocery store. I was blown away at the variety of brands, the selection! The pouch section measures over 10 feet long. That’s much longer than the apple section!