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Prepackaged foods for babies and toddlers can definitely making feeding time more convenient, especially when you’re on the go. However, not all brands are created equal, which is why it’s important to know how to shop for the best prepackaged foods to keep your baby on a balanced diet.

What to Look For
There are many types of prepackaged foods for babies and toddlers. From jarred baby food to snacks for older babies, it can be hard to tell which are the best for your child’s nutrition. If you find yourself in the baby food section of the grocery store scratching your head, here are some things to look for on the label:

  • Sugar Content — It’s true, babies love sweet foods, but they don’t need any added sugar, especially in foods like fruit that are naturally sweet. Added fruit juices will also up the sugar content.
  • Artificial Ingredients — Avoiding artificial colors, flavors and preservatives is always best.
  • Organic — Look for foods that are as close to whole as possible and will be free of chemicals like pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones and GMOs (genetically modified organisms).
  • Natural — When reading the label, make sure you recognize everything in the food. Aim for plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Nutrients — Read the nutrition label to check the vitamin and mineral content. Prepackaged baby foods may be fortified with additional nutrients as well.
  • Grains — Whole grains are a wonderful source of protein and fiber, so look for them in the ingredients.

A good rule of thumb: the fewer ingredients the better. Single ingredients jars are best in the early stages.

Balancing Prepackaged Foods
So, how many prepackaged foods should your baby eat? While making your own baby food and snacks [See our previous articles 10 tips for making your own baby food   and Transitioning your child to solid foods ] is preferred, it’s not always feasible with a busy schedule and possibly more than one child in the house. As long as you’re paying attention to the ingredients contained within the food and balancing out their diet with homemade options when you can, you have no cause for concern. There are a wealth of natural options available that have changed the standards for prepackaged baby and toddler food.

Fresh Snack Ideas
Once your baby reaches the toddler stage and can consume more solid foods, preparing healthy snacks ahead of time can help you stay on top of their nutrition to balance out how many processed and prepackaged foods they consume. Here are some suggestions for quick and nutritious snacks:

  1. Fruit smoothie
  2. Apples with nut butter
  3. Yogurt
  4. Rice cakes
  5. Hummus and vegetables
  6. Popcorn with salt not sugar
  7. Cheese and crackers
  8. Ham and cheese rolled up in a whole-wheat tortilla
  9. Freeze-dried fruits and vegetables
  10. Baked sweet potato “fries”

As long as you make sure your baby is eating a balanced diet with plenty of essential nutrients, using prepackaged products isn’t harmful. Shop smart and you can make mealtimes less stressful and more fun for you and your child.

 

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