When I was pregnant for the first time, I enthusiastically bought an expensive baby-food maker and daydreamed of my future where I’d be pureeing kale and sweet potatoes while wearing my baby in a sling.

Fast forward to one year after I bought that expensive baby-food maker: it sat gathering dust next to the baby sling, and you could find me pushing my son in a stroller while he sucked contentedly on a plastic pouch of pureed mango.

If you become a parent in 2019, you’ll inevitably end up buying these ubiquitous pouches of baby food—they are simply so much easier to handle than homemade or even store-bought jarred food, especially on the go. Even toddlers and preschoolers enjoy them, so you’ll probably be buying them for years.

But if you’re a parent in 2019, you’re also probably overwhelmed by the unrelenting pressure of ensuring that your child eats only the most healthful foods on the planet. I hope that the information below will help you choose the most nutritious pouches of baby foods, and that you’ll feel less guilty if your own baby-food maker is gathering dust in a shelf somewhere!

The Problem with Baby Food Pouches

Baby food pouches are less healthful than homemade or fresh food, of course, but on the whole, they are a reasonably nutritious choice for your child.

The biggest issue is that every pouch is made of plastic, typically a combination of BPA-free polypropylene and foil.

Fortunately, polypropylene is the safest type of plastic, and is probably non-toxic, but I have yet to find a pouch that’s recyclable. (On the other hand, a pouch is roughly ten times lighter than a glass jar, so pouched food requires less energy to produce and ship, mitigating the environmental impact somewhat.)

What to Look for in Baby Food Pouches

The contents of most pouches are relatively healthful. I always tell my clients to look for brands that:

  • Are 100% organic. Most baby food companies now use organic ingredients, so if your budget allows, you should avoid brands that contain conventionally-grown produce.
  • Avoid fillers, starches, and water. The best ingredient lists will be just a handful of pureed whole food items, from fruits and veggies to legumes and meats.
  • Contain no sugar. You rarely will find this any more, but obviously any brand that puts cane sugar in a pouch of baby food is a brand to avoid.
  • Don’t list “juice concentrate” on their label. The best pouches will contain only pureed fruits, rather than juice.
  • Use actual whole grains instead of flours. I.e., you’ll see “cooked quinoa” on the label instead of “quinoa flour.”

Two Brands That Are Better Than The Rest

You can check out this Healthiest Baby Food Pouches Guide for a comprehensive list of the best brands, plus some to avoid. My two favorite baby food pouches—neither of which existed when I had babies of my own—are:

  1. Once Upon a Farm. These purees are unique because they are cold pressed, and therefore you’ll find them in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.
  2. White Leaf Provisions. These pouches contain biodynamic ingredients, which is basically organic-plus. (A biodynamic farm aims to produce everything on the premises, including seeds, fertilizers, natural pest control, and livestock feed.)

Maia James is the founder of Gimme the Good Stuff – helping busy, conscientious parents easily avoid toxic products in their homes.

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