In the hands of toddlers and diaper bags, food pouches are becoming an increasingly popular option for hungry children. Those convenient foil packets filled with a variety of fruits and vegetables, and sometimes whole grains, offer an easy way to sneak in valuable nutrients that children often refuse otherwise.
Still, they’re far from perfect, and could make feeding more difficult for children in the long run (think “picky eaters”). Here are some concerns from a pediatric dietitian that parents should be aware of before reaching for the next food pouch.
Infants have transitions or “windows” of time when they move from one type of food to another. There are several of these windows during the first few years of life. If a child misses a window of opportunity, the chance of having feeding difficulties increases.
Food selectivity or “pickiness” is the most common feeding problem in young children and this can be influenced by how solid foods are introduced. Overuse of food pouches during the window when children should be experiencing textures and individual flavors may contribute to feeding difficulties and “pickiness” later on.
Reasons to Use Food Pouches with Caution
Below are some of the nutrition concerns regarding the overuse of food pouches:
Can interfere with the senses: Children should explore food. Using all five senses to explore foods individually offers many benefits and can help kids develop healthy eating habits. A few examples:
Taste: creamy avocado
Smells: fresh citrus orange
Sounds: crisp apple
Touch: the bumpy texture of broccoli
Sight: bold red tomatoes
Disrupts appetite: Calories in a pureed or blended form are easy and quick to consume, but this may interfere with appetite and result in excessive calorie intake and over-consumption of sugar.
Takes away from family meal times: Food pouches are a “fast food” approach to eating. If a pouch is necessary at a meal time, continue to offer it at the table and consider emptying the pouch first into a bowl and use a spoon to serve.
May cause pickiness: Pouches are often given for convenience so mom and dad can get errands done. This leads to grazing, which is a leading cause of picky behaviors.
Food pouches can offer convenience and sometimes are appropriate for children with feeding difficulties, but should be limited. Exposing children to individual foods through all their senses is a healthier approach to encourage good nutrition.
This article was written by Tara Finnerty, RDN, CSP, CD. Tara is a pediatric dietitian at Primary Children’s Hospital.
Primary Children’s Hospital ranks among the best children's hospitals. Located in scenic Utah, everything in our hospital is focused on providing the best care for children. For more than 90 years, we have been committed to helping children, families, and communities across the western United States.