We all want to nourish our little ones with the very best foods we can, which is why it’s so important to know exactly what’s going into the baby food you buy. Infancy and toddlerhood are critical times for developing lifelong healthy food preferences, so early exposure to wholesome and nutrient dense foods is not only beneficial, but critical!
The ingredients list is one of the most informative parts of baby food packaging when trying to shop for quality food, but it can also be overwhelming if you don’t know what to look out for. We’ve put together this list of commonly found ingredients in baby food to avoid, so you can be sure you’re feeding your little one the cleanest, safest and most nutritious food possible.
Fruit Juice concentrate – This is another term for added sugar but it also works to increase shelf life. Increased consumption of concentrate, masks the ability to accept fruits and vegetables in their natural and authentic state. High exposure to foods with concentrates could also potentially impact tooth development.
Lemon Juice concentrate/ Citric Acid/Ascorbic Acid – If you’ve ever wondered how the baby food you’re buying can sit on store shelves for an extended period of time without refrigeration or freezing, it’s likely because of these three ingredients. Lemon juice concentrate, citric acid, and ascorbic acid all act as preservatives to help extend shelf stability. Ascorbic acid, a derivative of Vitamin C, is also commonly used to fortify shelf stable baby food since many nutrients, like Vitamin C, are removed during processing.
Maltodextrin – This is a type of starch that is used as a thickener. It is usually found in baby food products that contain meats or other starch/grain carbohydrates. Maltodextrin is a modified starch that has been known to be genetically modified, and is essentially broken down into glucose, aka sugar.
Fruit Purees – Fruit purees are mostly made from concentrates diluted by water, which is essentially by-products and not the actual fruit. They help extend the shelf life but they also make the food product sweeter than it needs to be.
Vegetable (produce) Purees – You may see the label as “pea puree” or other vegetable varieties. These purees are also not the authentic vegetable but rather a diluted version of a vegetable blend. These purees lack the essential vitamins and minerals that originate from actual vegetables.
Cornstarch – Corn and its by-products, namely cornstarch have found way into the ingredients of several shelf-stable foods. Not only are they genetically modified but they’re not a necessary first food. They are predominantly found in baby food blends containing meat.
Keeping a close eye on the ingredients list is key to understanding what’s really in the baby food you buy. Baby foods with whole, organic ingredients you’re familiar with (don’t let the purees fool you) are likely to be your safest choice. Be cautious of any ingredients you can’t pronounce or look like chemicals. Screenshot the list above and use your intuition as you read through the labels in store. Remember that nurturing babies’ nutrition at an early age is all about creating a strong foundation through healthy habits, so it’s imperative to set them up for success by feeding them clean, nutrient dense foods!