Sugar Content in Baby Food

So far, we’ve been buying baby food since it’s hard to find time to make our own.  We get the various jars and pouches that you find at the typical online and store retailers.  I’ve found that even then, it can be a time-consuming process to scour the various websites for which food to buy.  Of course I want to find the ones that are less expensive.  I want to find different varieties, to give WZW exposure to different foods.  And get a variety of ones with meat versus veggies.

In general, I’ve found Babies R Us to be disappointing, because even though we got a bunch of their gift cards at our baby shower, their prices are often higher than what you’d find on Amazon or the like.  And since we have Amazon Prime, we already get free 2-day shipping on most things, whereas with Babies R Us you have to pay for shipping, and it takes longer.  Now with the baby food, I find it annoying that they don’t have pictures of the nutrition labels, so even if I found something on sale, I’d have to cross-reference on other sites to check the labels.

Initially, I wasn’t checking labels too much, thinking that they would only have a few ingredients that were already listed on the front of the package.  But I quickly realized that there are all kinds of added ingredients.  Even with the baby foods that are pure fruit, the sugar content can often be quite high.  I don’t mind if he gets the sweeter all-fruit foods sometimes, but they often add apple or other fruit to make savory-sounding flavors taste better.  So if I’m not careful, even getting the ones that seem to have kale and spinach as the main ingredients end up also having sweet fruit added.

Once I started looking at labels, I realized that even with the baby foods that have no added sugar and are all fruit, you can still end up with 10 grams of sugar in a 4 oz pouch.  I know some of the fiber content helps, so it’s not like downing a cookie.  But still, I want to be mindful of what I give my son.  I was shocked when one yogurt and fruit-based baby food had a whopping 21 grams of sugar per 4 oz pouch!  Turns out they add concentrated fruit juice to it.  You might as well give your kid half a can of soda.

One of the brands I’ve found that has less sweet fillers is Earth’s Best.  They have pouches, but also have glass jars.  They do add starchy fillers like brown rice and whole wheat, but we’re not being THAT strictly Paleo for our son.  From what I hear from friends, different babies have different preferences, and some insist on feeding themselves from earlier on.  My guy still doesn’t mind getting fed from a spoon, and also does the pouches easily- which is nice for me, since they’re less messy.

I also bought a canister of puffs.  Again, they tend to have a lot of sweet varieties, but I found one that has a savory flavor.  I only give him a handful- like 5 to 10 in one sitting, and he can practice feeding them to himself.  And they don’t get messy.

Even in the recent TIME parenting newsletter, there was an article referring to a study done in the UK that showed that store-bought baby food was healthier and provided more veggies than homemade food:

But now that he’s getting older, I’m realizing that I’m going to have to deal with the messiness and have him start eating more regular food.  I had thought to myself that even if I prolong the pouch feeding, it’s not like he’s going to show up to kindergarten only eating pureed food.  Well, one friend said that her niece got spoiled by her family always feeding her.  So even at 3 years old, when a bowl of food was placed in front of her, she wouldn’t know what to do with it.  She would give my friend a look- wait, aren’t you going to feed me?

Part of the challenge is that it’s easy to revert to giving him starches- bread, rice, and noodles are so easy to feed babies.  So the thought of extra effort and time to figure out what healthier options to feed my son is a downer.  But after hearing the story above, I decided I needed to figure out options.  To start, plain scrambled eggs were quick and I already had the eggs in my fridge.  I figured they would be less messy than the yolk I tried before, and they are Paleo.  Well, turns out he had an allergic reaction.  Apparently it’s the egg white that has the protein that tends to cause allergies.

At first, I thought he was just bothered by the bib, which is not uncommon.  But then I realized he was breaking out in a rash around his mouth and under the jawline, above the neck.  I stopped feeding him, applied some hydrocortisone cream, and it rapidly faded.  It freaked me out a little seeing that for the first time.  Even though I figured it was probably just the rash, I was thinking to myself- please don’t go into anaphylaxis (an allergic reaction so severe, it affects breathing).

The baby books we have around the house said food allergies are common, and that most babies grow out of them.  These days, they recommend early exposure.  So I guess we should start exposing him to more of the common allergens, like peanuts, seafood, etc.  My pediatrician friend said I could try reintroducing the eggs in 3 months and see how it goes, but it can often take until kindergarten age to grow out of allergies.


5 thoughts on “Sugar Content in Baby Food

  1. Jamie Bee July 28, 2016 / 10:33 pm

    Sorry to hear WZW is (for the time being) allergic to eggs! That must have been a scary experience, though thankfully it wasn’t a bad reaction. I have to wonder about that study cited in the Guardian – what kind of nutritional guidelines were they using as a base of comparison? I find so many pre-made baby foods are advertised as “low fat” or use sunflower or palm oil as a fat, and my understanding is that babies need a lot of fat in their diets (breast milk is something like 50% fat). That’s one reason I like doing easy “real” foods for our daughter as much as possible – she likes well-steamed veggies with lots of butter, full fat plain yogurt and cheese, tuna/salmon, avocado, shredded coconut, bone broth, etc. (We also do a lot of eggs and peanut butter, but obviously that’s something that you may be leery of for a while yet!) She started showing an interest in feeding herself around 8-9 mos, and now that she’s 13 mos she’s pretty much eating what we eat for meals (with her fingers, from a tray – yes, messy!), albeit very well-shredded (meat) and softened (veg) versions of it. Our biggest problem is that we eat a lot of spicy food that she can’t tolerate, and are constantly trying to remember to set aside some ‘non-spicy’ food for her!

    I must admit, though, dealing with weaning to solid foods has been my least favorite part of parenting so far! Between what she would or wouldn’t eat, fears of allergies, and fears of choking (!), I just dreaded every meal at the start. It’s much better now, though, and obviously kids have to learn to eat, so as parents we have no choice but to persevere. Good luck!


    • Paleo OB July 30, 2016 / 11:22 am

      I think it was a British study, so the nutritional content was based on whatever baby food recipe books they studied. Ultimately, if you’re being mindful to include a variety of healthy foods in your homemade baby food, it’s fine. I was thinking maybe the recipes used a lot of the same basic foods- potatoes, carrots, apples- and left out the varieties of veggies and fruits that can be easier to buy in premade food and harder to find in certain geographic areas.

      Intuitively, it doesn’t make sense that if you’re being mindful to choose healthy foods for homemade baby food that it would be less healthy than premade baby food, which obviously has more hidden ingredients. So one probably has to take this particular study with a grain of salt.

      It’s too bad that our little guy is allergic to eggs for the time being, but I’ve been working on feeding him more real foods. Just last night he enjoyed some shredded chicken from a curry chicken dish. Not spicy, but did have a lot of big flavors. He’s not usually too picky, but alas he isn’t a huge fan of avocado. You’re right- ultimately this is one of the pains of parenting. I’m learning to let go of my annoyance with the mess and just go with it!


  2. Meg August 17, 2016 / 7:23 pm

    Hey POB,

    The egg allergy sounds so scary! We tried J on all the common allergens quite early (except sesame) and luckily he’s not allergic to any of them. Being scientists hubby and I were quite interested in this area and were keen to introduce allergens early. I think this is not what the official recommendation is, but there is growing research suggesting that there may be benefits to very early introduction.

    We have tried many of the store bought baby foods but other than the sweet fruity ones J doesn’t like any of them! It hasn’t been too much of a problem so far as he eats natural unsweetened yoghurt with fruit for breakfast and mashed vegetables (various mashed together) for dinner. We also spoon feed J so your story about the 3 year old who can’t feed herself scared me a little bit. We’ve been encouraging J to feed himself lately. He doesn’t mind if it’s dry food – he in fact seems to really like picking things up and feeding himself. If it’s wet however, like steamed vege sticks etc he seems a bit yucked out! I was just saying to another mum recently that you read all these books that tell you what you should do and what should happen at what age with babies, but none of them emphasize enough how much variation you could get because of the child’s inherent personality! Every child is indeed different and likes and dislikes things you or the books think they shouldn’t.

    I was just wondering how weaning is going for you. Did you have trouble with engorgement? Has WZW wanted to/ tried to feed from you? We’ve started to slowly wean. J is now weaned during the day but still drinks at night. We’re going to start to cut down on that from next month but I’m expecting a lot of trouble – he seems really dependent on it for comfort. No engorgement issues so far, seems like my supply has just tapered down.


    • Paleo OB August 17, 2016 / 8:26 pm

      Hi Meg,

      Always great to hear updates on how your and J are doing. That is interesting how different babies can be. So yes, it’s good to keep in mind that as long as your child is within the range of normal, no need to get all worried if your kid isn’t doing exactly what the books say. Inevitably, some kids are going to be fussier eaters than others. And who knows? Maybe now WZW will eat most things, but in a couple of years, it’ll be a nightmare.

      So far, he is feeding himself pretty well. So we are doing half and half with the self-feeding and baby food. We’ll give him a little cut up food, and then have him eat some baby food out of a pouch or jar to get more in him. Since he doesn’t eat exactly what we eat, it’s hard to prepare appropriate food for him for several meals for the nanny. So he ends up eating a piece of leftover chicken, or whatever fruit we have around, etc.

      Thankfully, the weaning was fine. My supply was already pretty pitiful by the time I decided to really stop. I would only pump like 1-2 oz per pumping session. So over a week or so, as I spaced out the pumping and feeding, I thankfully didn’t have any engorgement. Once I stopped completely, I still noticed a little milk leaking even a couple weeks after. But no clogged ducts or engorgement or any of the other stuff I’d dealt with earlier.

      I think since I was only feeding him about once a day on workdays, at 10 months he wasn’t that attached. He had started to get some comfort, but it was never to the point that after I stopped, that he got upset, or reached for the boob or anything. At some point, out of curiosity I flashed him my boob, but he didn’t try to feed off of it or anything. Since he has gotten more vocal with his displeasure recently, I can see how older babies would get much more upset when their comforting boob is taken away.


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