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snackpBy: Rachel Colchamiro and Louisa Paine

My kids haven’t been toddlers in many years, but I am lucky to have a few nieces and nephews to enjoy watching go through that stage all over again.  As a nutritionist, I probably pay more attention to food than most, but I have noticed one big difference between when my kids were little and now…all of those fruit and veggie pouches!

Those pouches have several perks.  You get nutrient-dense food in an easy-to-use package that offers independence…and let’s face it, less mess.   Unfortunately, there is a down side to relying too heavily on the pouches for your baby or child’s fruits and vegetables.

If kids eat fruit and veggie pouches too often…especially the same brands and flavors…they don’t get a chance to get used to other food tastes and textures.  This can make them less likely to want to eat a variety of foods, and could contribute to picky eating behaviors.   Also, limiting textures that toddlers and preschoolers eat to pureed food means they won’t be using all the muscles in their tongue and jaw—crunchy and chewy foods exercise these muscles to make them stronger. Lacking strength in the tongue and jaw may cause eating problems later on.

Pouches can also make it easy to overdo snacking, which may lead to your toddler eating more food than he or she needs. Too much snacking can also make kids less hungry at mealtimes.   And, while super-convenient, offering pouches on the go all the time also means your child might not get used to sitting and eating at the table, which is an important habit to establish.  Your child may also be missing out on learning socializing and talking skills which are often practiced during meal time – and don’t for about table manners!

I remember those early years and being a mom on-the-run very clearly!  How tempting it would have been to give my kids fruit and veggie pouches all the time to reduce struggles around food and make meals and snacks easier.  For the best development and nutrition outcomes (and probably the best outcome for your wallet!), try to balance those pouches with age-appropriate spoon-fed or finger-fed fruits and veggies at meals and snacks.  After all, those messy faces make for great photo opps and great memories down the road.

Louisa Paine is a Dietetic Intern at Simmons College

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DIrector, Massachusetts WIC Program

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