We all want to provide wholesome homemade snacks for our kids, but let’s face it, sometimes we just need to throw something in the diaper bag and get a move on! In an effort to save you time at the grocery store, I’ve put together a few tips to help you sort through the amazing variety of snack foods marketed towards babies that are on the market.
Portable and available everywhere, pouches are purees of fruits and vegetables that kiddos love. They are a lighter, more convenient version of jarred baby food, and include a spout that kids can suck the puree out of independently.
Many pouches are sweet, and made with fruit as the primary ingredient. To get more veggie servings from pouches read the ingredients list to see what is inside and choose one where vegetables are the first ingredient.
Avoid relying on pouches as a primary form of nutrition, as they limit exposure to a variety of food textures and colors. This can make it difficult to introduce solid foods as babies grow older. Instead, save them for occasional snacks or keep as an emergency stash when your child is hungry on the go.
These tiny bites easily melt in the mouth, making them easy for babies who are using their “pincer” grasp, and are sitting up without support (usually around 9 months) to eat. However, most puffs are highly processed, made primarily of rice flour, lacking in fiber and nutrients, and sweetened with sugar.
As with pouches, puffs are better as an occasional snack. Old-school Cheerios that are made with whole grains and fortified with iron are a better option and just as easy to carry as puffs.
While some bars can be healthy, a majority are candy bars in disguise. All of the kids’ bars I have reviewed are made with added sugar, and most are low in fiber and protein. The American Heart Association recommends children consume no more than 25 grams (or 6 teaspoons) of sugar per day, and avoid added sugars under 2 years old.
Since your child may be getting sugar from other sources throughout the day, choose a bar that has less than 10 grams of sugar to stay within the recommendations. Also look for products that have whole grains as the first ingredient on a short list of ingredients.
Fruit leathers and bites have been popular since I was a kid and won’t be going out of style anytime soon. The only change seems to be the abundance of fruit snacks claiming to be healthy. Look past the “organic” label and see these snacks for what they really are – candy!
If you want to find a healthy fruit snack for your child, try freeze-dried fruit pieces that are becoming more widely available in stores. Commonly thought of as “space food” they are easier and safer for young children to chew than dried fruit, and are natural, whole foods that still have all their nutritious value.
Whole fruits and cut veggies
Of course, if you want to select the healthiest option, keep a stash of ready-to-eat vegetables and fruits at your fingertips! A ripe banana, apple slices, or heads of broccoli are easy to keep around the house and carry with you on the go. Keep an eye on your children while they eat any food, and choose appropriately sized and textured foods to minimize risk of choking.
About the author: Jennifer is a dietitian passionate about connecting good nutrition with tasty food. She runs a private practice, Nourish for Life, where she works with new moms and parents of young children to help them eat well and have a healthy relationship with food. She is a mom of one tiny human and two fur-babies, and loves creating yummy new recipes in her free time.
- Vos MB, et al. “Added Sugars and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Children, A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association.” Circulation. 2017 May 9;135(19):e1017-e1034. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27550974.