Ask the Pediatrician | Nutrition | Preschool

Food pouches have pros and cons

Food pouches with pureed veggies and fruits in them for toddlers to suck food out of. Really? Are we astronauts? Are real fruits and vegetables so scarce or hard to tote around that we have to resort to pureed mush to suck on?

I guess you can see my basic opinion about the rise of “pouch food” as I call it. I have heard the arguments in favor of them and see how well-meaning parents can choose to use them. I get it. Kids don’t love eating regular veggies and this gets some in. Other snack foods are junk, full of starchy carbs. This doesn’t make a mess in the car when your child is snacking on the go.

I agree with all of these points but still have a real beef with “pouch food.”
Despite its convenience and nutritious content, food pouches don’t encourage healthy eating habits in the long run. Young children who eat veggies from pouches (or continue to received pureed veggies from jars beyond a year of age) don’t appear to be more receptive to real veggies when presented on a plate and as such it doesn’t encourage a healthy approach to veggie consumption. This is in part due to the fact that because the food is sucked into the mouth it quickly goes to the back of the tongue where it is swallowed before the taste buds are bathed in the flavor.

In addition, because the method of eating from the pouch is sucking, young children will consume more than they would if they were eating hand-held real food. The absence of fiber and chewing changes the experience of eating the food and as a result you don’t stop as soon as you might otherwise.

¬†Another example to demonstrate this point is that when toddlers drink milk from a bottle, they tend to drink nearly 8 ounces each time. When they give up the bottle and drink from a cup, they will drink 2-6 ounces at a time. By over consuming even veggies, children don’t learn how to listen to their sense of feeling full because they can eat things they suck so fast that they have overfilled their stomachs before they realize they should stop.

Using pureed food from a pouch can be convenient and easy and is certainly healthier than eating crackers or cookies or even the toddler puffs, but I hope parents understand that the healthiest approach is to offer the real deal. Steaming green beans, asparagus, or pea pods so they remain crisp is easy as well and allows your child to self feed, chew and swallow. They’re pretty portable too and are good warm or cold. These items make great snacks and if your child isn’t hungry enough to want to eat them, they probably don’t need a snack at all.

Dr. Molly O'Shea
Dr. Molly O'Shea is a board-certified pediatrician who cares for families in her practice Birmingham Pediatrics + Wellness Center. She will answer your questions on babies, children, adolescents and families and address common concerns.