There are a wide range of foods designed for infants between the ages of 6 and 12 months old on the shelf today. In a time pressured world, where Moms are running a household, managing a career and raising young children, these products become very attractive as convenient feeding solutions. But are they suitable alternatives to the foods they aim to be a substitute to? Let’s take a look at some of the infant food pouches*…
*Note that the products have been reviewed based on the nutritional information provided on their labels at the time of review. The products should not be compared against one another as one is a vegetable puree, the other a fruit puree and the third a mixed meal puree. Product images have been sourced online.
|These products come in a variety of different flavours and include fruit and vegetable purees. They are marketed to be convenient on-the-go forms of the foods they contain. They contain purees of the ingredients listed on the ingredients list only. They are preservative, colourant and flavouring free and contain no added starches.|
|If we look at the ‘Mixed Vegetable’ variant, it lists the following ingredients: Mixed vegetables (51%)( sweet potato puree, carrot puree, pea puree), apple puree. From this list it is clear that the product contains a mixture of starch (sweet potato), vegetables (carrots and peas) and fruit (apple). Images of the whole versions of these ingredients are shown on the front of the pouch and the product is described as a ‘100% fruit and vegetable puree’ and so it should be clear that the product does not only contain a mixture of vegetables as the name ‘Mixed Vegetable’ suggests. In fact, just over half (51%) of the product is made up of sweet potato, carrot and pea (in that order) and the rest is made up of apple. Although the product does not contain any modified starches, sweet potato is considered a starch and so the claim ‘no added starches’ could be misinterpreted. When looking at the nutritional table, the product is largely made up of carbohydrate, as one would expect given that all the ingredients are a form of carbohydrate. However, what one would probably not expect is that most of the carbohydrate is in the form of sugar, which in this case is due to the form that the carbohydrate is in, as well as the large percentage of fruit in the product.|
This would not be considered a suitable alternative to a home-made mixed vegetable puree due to the following reasons: The product contains a large percentage of fruit and sugar due to the fruit content and the product format. Not only does this result in a higher blood glucose response, it makes the product taste sweet. Consumption of sweet foods makes it even more challenging for young children to accept less sweet foods. It is unclear as to how much of the product is actually made of carrots and peas, it could be largely sweet potato and apple.
Purity Infant Food Pouches
Purity has launched a comprehensive range of meals, vegetables, yoghurts, breakfast, fruit and desserts in a pouch. The range has ten pouches and the ingredients include oats, yoghurt, fresh fruit and vegetables and meat. They are free from preservatives, artificial flavours and cololurants. They are marketed as being on-the- go breakfast, snacking and meal options which can be used to feed a baby over the age of 6 months or to encourage their little ones to self-feed.
|If we look at the ‘Mixed Berries’ variant, it lists the following ingredients: Mixed berries (minimum 81%)(strawberry, raspberry preparation (cane sugar, raspberry, water, stabiliser, acidity regulator, flavouring)), modified maize starch, cane sugar, water (necessary for preparation). From this list it is clear that the product contains a mixture of strawberry, raspberry preparation (including sugar, raspberry, additives and flavouring), maize starch and sugar. Images of the whole versions of the two fruits are shown on the front of the pouch and the product is described as a ‘fruit puree’. Again, when looking at the nutritional table, the product is largely made up of carbohydrate, as one would expect given that all the ingredients contributing to its nutritional value are a form of carbohydrate. It should also be expected that most of the carbohydrate is in the form of sugar, given that the product is fruit-based and contains added sugar.|
This would not be considered a suitable alternative to a home-made mixed fruit puree due to the following reasons: The product contains added sugar and other additives which, although safe for use in these foods and governed by regulation in South Africa, would not be necessary if the product was home-made and either eaten within a short period after preparation or frozen and enjoyed later. Again, not only does the addition of sugar result in a higher blood glucose response, it makes the product taste sweet which increases an infant’s preference for sweet foods. Providing food in a pouch format may not be the best way to teach an infant to self-feed purees or fruit that can be used as finger foods either.
Woolies Babes On-the-go Pouches
Woolworths also have a range of meals, fruit, vegetables and breakfast in convenient on-the-go pouches for the 6-12 month age group. They are preservative, colourant, flavouring, modified starch and additive free.
|If we look at the ‘Free Range Chicken and Veg Sunday Lunch’ variant, it lists the following ingredients: Water, Chicken (Free range) (12%), Rice, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Butternut, Carrots, Marrows, Tomatoes, Canola oil, Onions, Parsley. From this list it is clear that the product contains a mixture of chicken, starch (rice, potato, sweet potato), vegetables (butternut, carrots, marrows, tomatoes, onions), fat (canola oil) and a herb (parlsey). Images of the whole versions of some of the ingredients are shown on the front of the pouch but the prominent image is of the pureed food. When looking at the nutritional table, the product is made up of a combination of protein, carbohydrate and fat in suitable proportions for this age group. It should however be noted that this would provide a complete meal and there would be no need to add additional starch in the form of rice and potatoes, even though the product name could imply that it contains ‘Chicken and Veg’.|
This could be considered a suitable alternative to a home-made lunch meal due to the following reasons: The product contains a mixture of protein, carbohydrate and fat in suitable proportions for this age group. It does not contain any additional additives, salt or sugar, contains a variety of starches and vegetables and a healthy source of monounsaturated fat. Whilst this is a suitable alternative for now and again, it is important to note that there is benefit in taking a healthy home-cooked meal and providing it in a format that your little one can enjoy. One of the key benefits is that you introduce your little ones to foods that you as a family eat, teaching him or her to eat what you eat which is important in the long run.
A word on Purees
Food provided in the pureed format is suitable for when solids are initially introduced. Beware of providing foods in this format for too long, as you run the risk of delaying the introduction of textured foods and finger foods. This can lead to your little one not accepting foods that have any texture, lumps or bumps in them, which is not only important for progressing on to foods the family eats but can also affect oral development.