Mom’s who are hip to good nutrition generally know that juice is a general no-no. We suggest no juice birth to six months, and if it is given, limited to 4-6 ounces after age 6-12 months; and up to 6 ounces 1-6 years and 7 years and up, up to 12 ounces.
Some well meaning parents wouldn’t think of giving their kids Coca-cola, but might give them apple juice or Sprite, particularly in a restaurant as a treat. But 8 ounces of Coca-Cola contains 27 grams of sugar, as does 8 ounces of Sprite or apple juice. Better to turn to milk or water.
In my practice, I see kids who have a beverage preferences based on limits set by parents at young age. If they never had soda, they tend to not like it; same with juice. Water drinkers learned to drink water as young children, and so it goes.
Too much fruit juice, or soda can contribute to excess calories. But more importantly, it can lead to a limited palette.
But just when moms got the message about avoiding sweetened beverages, a new line of products cleverly sold in convenient pouches is on the market, tricking even the most well-intentioned, nutrition-conscious mom. These products are often labeled organic, with a promo that reads “love your veggies”. Unfortunately, they often have the opposite effect. The convenience factor cannot be denied, and we all know that parents might like to rely on anything that makes life easier at this busy stage of child rearing.
But while these pouches might be OK for an emergency, they should not be relied upon every day, and certainly not every meal. Here’s why:
- Purees from pouches are often sweet and rob the baby of the opportunity to develop a taste for the actual vegetable. From 4-7 months, it seems there is a window when humans are extraordinarily receptive to flavor. This is a good time to augment breast or bottle with vegetables. Babies are open -minded and it takes fewer exposures to persuade them to like a new flavor. The effects are long lasting.
- Better to start the challenging like cauliflower, zucchini, spinach and broccoli WITHOUT added apple or other sweet puree to mask the flavor. Then add the naturally sweet vegetables like carrot, butternut squash and sweet potato.
- Labels may be misleading. Even though the labels promote spinach and brown rice, it’s impossible to know what provides the bulk of the pouch’s contents. Most likely it’s a less expensive of the two, which is likely apple, pear or carrot puree in most cases. (Beechnut lists percentages on their website and is considering adding them to the label.)
- Sucking purees from pouches does not promote the healthy development of feeding skills. Pouches encourage sucking, and the baby already does that very well. Don’t let baby get stuck in the puree phase. Let them learn to negotiate lumps and textures.
Purees in pouches may not be a bad thing, but we need to make sure parents rely on them minimally. Here are some tips to make sure baby stays on track:
- Buy pouches with vegetables as single-ingredient purees rather than mixed with sweet purees to your baby learns to like their flavor. Look for kale, spinach or broccoli only rather then vegetables sweetened with apple, sweet potato or pineapple.
- Instead of letting babies and children suck on puree pouches, empty the puree into a bowl and feed it with a spoon.
- Do not let older babies and toddlers walk around while sucking on these pouches. Teach kids to sit down at a table for meals and snacks, and model the behavior yourself. This will make them mindful eaters who learn to self regulate – eating when they are hungry and stopping when they are full.
- In addition to pureed food, expose the baby to finger foods from early on. If introducing finger foods from 6 months, serve long pieces of mango, avocado, or tofu, long strips of well0cooked chicken or meat, steamed or roasted carrots or potato, or long pieces of toast. When babies develop finger grasp close to 8-9 months, its time to offer small bites of well cooked vegetables, soft fruits, eggs, meats, beans and shredded cheese. This will ensure a variety of textures in baby’s diet.
Weaning children onto solid food should be done in a way to set them up for healthy food likes for life. When children actually enjoy vegetables, plus a range of whole foods from all the other food groups, they are much less likely to become picky eaters.