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Baby food pouches

Baby food pouches: gateway to bad habits?

Pouches of puréed baby food can seem like a godsend to busy parents, but some experts say that babies and toddlers who use them too much can miss out on the developmental skills that will contribute to healthy eating habits.

The popular pouches, introduced about a decade ago, now account for 25 percent of baby food sales in the US, according to Nielsen’s Total Food View.

They seem to offer the perfect combination of healthfulness — containing mostly puréed fruits and vegetables, often organic ones with no added sugar — and convenience, with a seemingly endless variety of flavour combinations ready at the twist of a cap. You can hand one to your cranky toddler in the supermarket and she can suck down the food herself, without the need to pause and dirty a bowl and spoon.

The features that make pouches so convenient, though — the smooth texture and squeeze packaging — have some experts concerned. They caution against relying on them too much, saying that they can be a gateway to bad long-term snacking habits and routine overeating (not to mention the environmental impacts of the single-use packages).

With particularly excessive use, pouches may also fail to challenge children at a crucial stage of feeding and oral development — when they are learning to chew and swallow soft foods, which helps with speech, and when they need varied and multi-sensory experiences, which helps develop a palate for a wide range of foods later on.


Related reading: Goo-Goo-Ga-Ga on the Go: Convenience drives baby food and formula growth


“Parents are feeling reassured that their kids are getting the fruits and vegetables because they’re having the pouches that have all these vegetables mixed in,” said Dr Natalie Muth, a pediatrician and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

But “when it’s all mixed up in a pouch — or when it’s mixed up in a green smoothie, because that comes up all the time too — it’s good, the kids are getting the nutrients, but it’s less good in the long run,” she said. “Kids need the taste of what the actual food is to come to like it later.”

With particularly excessive use, pouches may also fail to challenge children at a crucial stage of feeding and oral development — when they are learning to chew and swallow soft foods, which helps with speech, and when they need varied and multi-sensory experiences, which helps develop a palate for a wide range of foods later on.

The primary ingredient in most pouches is a sweet food like apples or pears. That masks the taste of the other ingredients, so while children may ingest spinach or kale through pouches, they do not necessarily learn to like those foods.

If given these pouches when irritable, children also run the risk of learning to associate sweet snacks with calming down, and to think of snacking in general as an activity to satisfy emotional rather than physiological needs.

“Kids are probably getting these things a lot when they’re not actually hungry,” Muth said. Using pouches to stop whining, she said, “sets up snacking as being a habit that happens frequently throughout the day or for reasons other than hunger. Kids thrive and respond well to routines, whether they’re good routines or not.”

That can snowball when mealtime comes around and parents are anxious about children not eating their dinner. “Then the child’s actually overriding their body’s own cues for hunger and fullness,” Muth said…..

New York Times: Read the full article

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