In the last few years, parents have seen yet another convenient baby food trend hit the big time in the children’s food revolution: baby food pouches.
Yes, we have evolved from canned food to jarred food, and now food in pouches. Like pretty much anything to do with parenting, there are those that absolutely love the food pouches and those that think they’re evil incarnate, on equal standing with junk food. However, the fact is that for many parents, the pouches simply fit into their busy lives, making it simple and straightforward to feed small children just about anywhere.
The manufacturers of the food pouches are pushing the healthy goodness angle of these as far as they can, so it’s no surprise that most parents think they’re ok to feed their kids. In fact, there are a number of good things about the food pouches, and we’re going to outline a few of these.
The pouches are usually almost entirely natural, with a blend of fruits and vegetables (fruits are favoured because they are sweeter), and many are even organic. They’re pretty nutritious thanks to their ingredients, and the preparation of them is very regulated and hygienic, maybe even better than what you could put together in your own home.
Another reason the pouches are great for parents is that kids often really enjoy them. This explains their popularity and their widespread reach. You can buy them in almost any supermarket, and often at a very competitive price. Because they don’t require any preparation, they’re a really easy option for busy parents, cutting down both shopping and cooking time. Not to mention, they’re also easily transported, and can be stashed just about anywhere as a simple fix for a hungry kiddo.
Parents also like the pouches because they’re not particularly messy, and cleanup after eating is very quick. They’re also a great way to keep a child distracted, and they promote self-feeding and independence anywhere from the car seat to the pram. For kids who are fussy eaters, the pouches allow parents to monitor more clearly how much they’re eating, as well as allowing kids who aren’t that keen on food to do something else while they eat, thereby distracting them from the task.
That’s a pretty big list of good stuff when it comes to food pouches, but it’s important not to focus solely on that good stuff and make blanket assumptions about the pouches. You should also be informed about what isn’t so great about the food pouches, and it might be more than you think.
Pouch foods aren’t great because they prolong the period of ‘sucking’ instead of shifting kids into eating solids. The pureed, semi-liquid nature of the foods in the pouches means kids aren’t learning to bite, chew and swallow, and in some cases, entire oral skills are delayed or missed. Parents have also noticed that, when they rely on pouches all the time, their kids are more likely to develop an aversion to foods with more texture. The pouches stop a baby’s progression from purees to mash, to lumpy foods and finger foods, which can make children into very fussy eaters.
There are developmental aspects of the pouch foods as well. For one, they don’t allow kids to pick up and play with their food, which is an important part of how we as humans learn about food and how to eat it. Also, as kids can’t see the food in the pouch, they aren’t learning to make smart food choices because they don’t really know what they’re eating. As the foods are combinations, there isn’t an opportunity for kids to learn what foods taste like on their own, and they also don’t like what real foods look like. Instead, they’re just seeing food in pouch form, as a screw cap instead of a banana.
Nutritionally, there’s nothing seriously wrong with pouch foods on the surface, but when you dig deeper, problems do arise. The pouches are often very sugar-rich, and because they’re pureed, there isn’t as much fibre, which is what makes you feel full. Also, the pureed foods often sit on the teeth, leading to an increased risk of tooth decay in heavy pouch food users.
For parents, there are other things to consider as well. The food pouches might be convenient but when you look at the costs, they don’t always make sense. Most of the cost of producing the pouches goes into the containers, not the actual food inside, so it ends up being expensive for what it is. Along with that, the pouches are a massive weight on our already strained landfills, making the choice to use them one that doesn’t benefit your children’s future.
A Right Time For Everything
At the end of the day, nobody can deny that the food pouches are super convenient, but for all the bad reasons we’ve listed, they shouldn’t be making up the majority of your child’s diet. Instead, make them a part of a varied diet that is balanced and full of different tastes, textures and goods. They should be seen as an addition to their diet, not as a main form of nutrition.