Some Dark Musings on the “Food Pouch”

by Bettina Elias Siegel on June 21, 2012

Many of you read an article in today’s New York Times on the growing ubiquity of “food pouches,” i.e., fruit, vegetable and grain purees for young children, packaged like this:

I’d certainly noticed the recent proliferation of these squeezable foods in my own market, but with a 10- and 12- year-old at home, they didn’t make much of an impression on me.  But today’s article describes how parents are relying on these pouches not just as snacks but as meal substitutes for young children too over-scheduled — or just too distracted — to sit down for a family meal.

For example, the Times reporter describes how enthusiastically his 22-month-old daughter has taken to the squeezable meal:

After gymnastics class one Saturday morning, when she’d had little breakfast, she slurped down a mash-up of blueberry, pear and purple carrot. The next afternoon, on the way to a party, after a skipped lunch, it was a mixture of zucchini, banana and amaranth.

One night, when his daughter wouldn’t eat dinner in her high chair, he discovered:

moments later, my wife had given the freed girl a Yogurt Mish Mash pouch with berries, bananas and beets. She ate it while jumping around the living room, playing trampoline.

Now, I really try not to get judgmental here on The Lunch Tray when it comes to parents’ struggles to feed their children well.  My attitude is that we’re all in the trenches together and whatever works for you and your family, more power to you.

And yet . . . and yet  . . .

Maybe it’s because I just finished reading Karen LeBillon’s French Kids Eat Everything,* which describes, among other things, how deeply the French abhor between-meal snacking, eating food anywhere but at the table, and letting kids dictate their own menu.  Or maybe it’s my (shaken but still continuing) support for the basic theories of Ellyn Satter, the childhood food expert, whose central thesis is that parents, not children, should decide what, when and how food should be eaten.  Or maybe it’s because my own kids were trained from an early age to sit at a table, dine at regular meal times, and generally eat whatever I and Mr. TLT were eating (with minor modifications as needed).

Whatever the reason, I just could not read this father’s account without my inner voice screaming, “No, no, no!”  (Or maybe, due to Karen LeBillon’s influence, it was “Non, non, non!”)

Now, I have nothing against packaged snacks, which I certainly rely on when we’re pressed for time.  But when slurp-able pouches morph into actual meal substitutes, we need to step back and ask what is getting lost in the process:

Instead of being trained to sit at the table and eat with others (a slow and admittedly painful journey for all concerned), this author’s toddler is learning that squirming and complaining in her high chair will be rewarded not just with free play, but also a sweet and filling treat.  For that reason, she doesn’t ever get to experience the logical consequence of demanding to be let down from her high chair at a meal, i.e., feeling hunger pangs until the next scheduled meal or snack time.  So when the author mentions in passing that his daughter skipped breakfast one day and lunch on another, I think we can fairly draw the inference that she’s already figured out there will always be a tasty puree at the ready.

And what about this idea of purees, anyway?  While I have nothing against the occasional breakfast or snack-time smoothie, I have to believe that an over-reliance on “drinkable foods” could seriously impede a child’s acceptance of those same foods in non-pureed form, especially in these early years when expanding a child’s palate is critical.  Put another way, for the same reason I’m no fan of food “sneaking” (a la Jessica Seinfeld), getting beets into your kid via a pink, berry-flavored puree is no victory if your child won’t go near a roasted beet (or even stay at the table long enough to have the chance.)

But whatever my concerns, it looks like I’m in the clear minority.  The Times reports that:

Plum Organics conservatively estimates that its sales of pouches for babies, toddlers and children will be $53 million in 2012, up from around $4,800 when it put out its first pouches in 2008.

And the trend isn’t just confined to the toddler market.  Remember last year when I told you about PepsiCo’s forecast that the future of snack food is the “snackified” beverage?  That led to their introduction of Tropolis, drinkable fruit for older kids and adults (skewered here by Stephen Colbert).  At the time, one beverage industry commentator said:

If you are in this business, you want to get something into a consumer’s hand and get them put it down as fast as possible. And these products, it’s a whole lot easier if you have something that is, say, a combination of drink and a beverage where you don’t have to peel the banana or literally chew the apple. So you get the same kind of satisfaction from getting fruit or a dairy sort of product in a form that’s sort of between a food and a beverage. It’s convenience. The American consumer’s too lazy to chew, so you have find something where they can have their apple or their pear in a semi-liquid form.

With sweet liquid calories linked to obesity, do we really want to set very young children on a path of “lazy eating” via “drinkable” food?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.

* Review and giveaway of French Kids Eat Everything next week!

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris June 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Geez, I buy these as I can get organic and my children won’t eat applesauce without a spoon at school (they’ve been called gross by classmates) but continually lose spoons.. never would I consider it as anything other than a fruit addition to a healthy lunch though.. they are really easy to carry out at recess at eat right before playing- perfect!!

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Nina June 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I agree with you in terms of a meal replacement, yes, but given what I’ve seen most people give their kids for a drink or for snack, I think we could do much worse. I admit to being a regular buyer of these. They are a COMPONENT of ONE MEAL a day of my son’s healthy, packed lunches and breakfast (either/or, not both). This morning, he had 2 mini homemade banana muffins, a piece of applegate farms chicken apple sausage, blueberries and a smoothie. I’d much rather he have that than milk (not necessary, thank you), a juice box, etc. And with my son’s school REQUIRING us to conform to specific guidelines of the USDA’s lunch for packing or else they will make your kid eat the Frankenlunch, sometimes this is a component of his lunch when we are running low on veg or fruit. We have to send 2 veg/fruit with every lunch, and as we eat a LOT of local food, there’s often very little fresh fruit, and we don’t buy canned or dole plastic bottles filled with fruit from China, so that leaves frozen/rethawed or a smoothie as the 2nd fruit/veg component. My son has a wide and continually expanding palatte (last night he raved over our homemade pickled radishes) and I consider this just one part of his meal. Adults can have ONE glass of juice a day as a serving of fruit, and while it’s not ideal, I’m glad they have these so I can grab one in a pinch when we need other fruit/veg.

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Laura J June 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I agree with all the points you made here.
We eat our meals at the table, not in the car, and definitely not bouncing on the trampoline. Snacks on a bench after school and before art class – sure, but not while swinging from the monkey bars. I am horrified at the thought that people are getting too lazy to chew. Do we really need such instant gratification now that we can’t eaven be bothered to chew our food? And are we that busy? I don’t want my life or my child’s life to be like that.
I also have an issue with the amount of trash “eating” from pouches and other single serving containers generates. Where is it all supposed to go?

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egriff June 21, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I must admit to using these pouches as a snack for my child when he was 12-18 months. They were convenient when you were out and about and offered a serving of fruit/veggie. However, I can’t imagine using them as a meal replacement for an active toddler. Besides the fact that only offering these foods in “pureed” form possibly hinders the acceptance of these foods in “whole” form; I don’t think they have enough calories to constitute as a meal.

As I read about Pepsico’s “drinkable” fruit and the quote from the beverage industry commentator there was only one thing that came to mind: the movie Idiocracy.

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Amy H June 25, 2012 at 11:34 am

The movie “Wall-E” came to mind for me – the hugely obese people on the spaceship drank all their meals in a big gulp-sized cup!

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Gia June 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more! I find them disgusting and refuse to give them to my kids (ages 3 1/2 and 1). My kids never had a jar of baby food and they are required to sit at the table for their meals. They eat what we eat and if they don’t like it, they get nothing. Painful process, yes. But they both have good palates for their age – love beets, tomatoes, broccoli, etc. – and are learning appropriate behavior at the table. My sister-in-law gives these to her son (1 1/2 yrs old) all the time as a meal. She left one at my house last weekend and my daughter (the 3 1/2 year old) begged for it. So I gave it to her, she took one sip and spit it out! It tasted nothing like the peas/beans/pear she is used to eating. I then tried it. Gross. It’s a shame that organic companies are all over this trend. Tricks moms into thinking this is good for their kids.

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Lora June 21, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I seriously love those pouches. We have a son that had allergies to soy, dairy and nuts as a toddler/preschooler. Those pouches gave us the freedom to go out to eat spontaneously and feed my son. Yes they were a meal replacement in those type situations only – other kids were eating happy meals/mac n cheese and my son had spinach peas and pear or banana and sweet potato. The combination of soy/dairy and peanuts leaves you with almost nothing that a kid can easily eat that doesn’t require planning and cooking – I could wander a grocery store and not come up with anything that we could feed my son on the road. As he grew older and out of the soy allergy, we no longer have anything more than a treat. We still always have what we call “Squeezy Fruits” in stock in our pantry. It really is all about how you use them, for me they are a treat that I don’t feel too guilty about. My kids get them once or twice a week. When we pack a lunch for a picnic they are an addition – If your kid is hungry after they’ve eaten everything, you have a shelf stable ‘treat’ that you can save for later or use as a reward for good behavior. The problem isn’t with the pouches, but with some of the parenting that the pouches seem to be enabling.

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Kate June 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I agree with you completely. I was horrified by this article. If kids’ schedules are so jam packed that they don’t have time to sit down for a proper meal, maybe it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate things. Sitting down and eating a meal with others is an important part of socialization, and if kids don’t learn to do this at a young age, I don’t know when they ever will.

And don’t even get me started on all the unnecessary trash these things generate! If your kid needs a snack for the car ride, how about a piece of fruit? Now there’s a novel idea.

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Christie June 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm

I couldn’t agree more, Bettina. While I admit to giving these to my two girls (ages 3 and 5) once a month or so when I’ve no fresh fruit or veggies to offer for a snack instead, I generally believe this country is going south when it comes to our eating habits and this is yet another reason. Drinkable food pouches just put us one step further away from our natural food sources. Convenience is such a big motivator for most parents when feeding their children – and I get that our world has changed and become faster paced, perhaps justifying some convenience-based feeding decisions – but I can’t help but think it is one of the main reasons we have become such an unhealthy nation.

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Louise June 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Forgive me if this was mentioned in a previous comment or in the NYT article as I didn’t get to read it-but the nutrition in these pouches doesn’t bother me quite as much as the developmental delay issues of continuing to provide food using oral/throat muscles for sucking vs. chewing and swallowing–beyond when it is age appropriate. One of the signals we know a child is ready to move on to solid food is if they move their jaw around like beginning ‘chewing’. It preps the muscles for new ways to eat food. While this may not seem like a big deal for the parents who usually feed their child using fingers, spoons and forks and only *occasionally* give their kid a pouch, I see plenty of parents who are using these to substitute 100% for solid food at meals, and forgoing the oral training their child needs to progress to the next stage of food.

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Andrea June 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I agree. My kids are 7 and 9, so I haven’t bought these, although one of my kids did have an applesauce pouch once and told me how fabulous it was.

I object first because of the wasteful, difficult to recycle packaging and the expense. Second, as someone who has fought weight battles her whole life, I find it’s important to see, smell, taste and chew one’s food. For me, it doesn’t really “count” psychologically as food if it’s just slurped down from an opaque pouch, and doing that would lead me to eat too much.

I do see where these products are appealing as a convenient, healthier snack option than many things you could buy, and useful for days when there’s nothing else to put in the lunchbox…but with more planning, surely there could be something else for the lunchbox?

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Lenée June 21, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Laura J–I couldn’t agree with you and Bettina more. These little pouches are being looked upon as a necessity, and a needed convenience. I never needed something like this when I was growing up to get my nutrition, and my kids never did either. I refused to give in to these types of franken foods when I was raising my kids and instead fed them the way my mom fed me. Now I’m confident that my kids will do the same with their kids.

Real food, cooking, and gourmand behavior are all becoming a lost art. It’s very possible to feed your kids at the table for most meals, and real food on the go if necessary, without resorting to pouches and other highly processed foods. When we would be on vacation and road trips, we used to stop at a grocery store for meals rather than fast food. We’d buy fresh produce, nuts, cheese, and yogurt. We’d sit in the parking lot or a nearby park and have a makeshift picnic (FUN!)

I always tried to feed my kids clean and well, without resorting to pouches and overly processed items. I did it with 2 young kids, 3 part time jobs and 15 units in college. Granted, that was the busiest I got while in school for 4 years, but no matter what I was doing in my life with school, work, or a combination of the two, I fed and still feed my family real food on a daily basis. They both grew up to have a better diet than I do, and I eat quite clean. I guess it’s all about priorities.

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mommm!!! June 22, 2012 at 2:51 am

Amen sister!

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Jennifer June 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Does anyone remember the movie Wall-E? The human characters were obese and drank all of their food. Are we truly heading in that direction?

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mommm!!! June 22, 2012 at 2:19 am

OMG….I was totally thinking that

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Amy June 25, 2012 at 9:38 am

First picture I had as well. It is pretty scary.

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MC June 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I probably would have tried these if my son were in the targeted age group in an attempt to improve his veggie intake (he’s almost 12). But I’m glad they weren’t available back then. Even with regular sit-down family meals and my resistance to letting him have different food from what the adults are eating, it is still at times challenging to get him to actually sit and eat, let alone sit and eat his veggies! If we’d let him trampoline and eat, he certainly would (is that even safe?).

Not to mention the trash produced by these things! It’s no coincidence that real food is best for our bodies and best for the environment.

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Sam June 21, 2012 at 8:45 pm

I do see how these could be used for snack or in a pinch, but I’m unclear how on earth these replace a meal. My main concern about the article is the seemingly out of balance priorities of many families. If our lives are so scheduled that we don’t have time to sit together, it’s time to reevaluate. I fear the long term impact of so much grab and go eating.

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Tari June 21, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Like yours, my kids are too old for these; if they were younger I’d consider them for an occasional snack but nothing more. My younger son had problems with food textures and also had some speech problems early on – the last thing on earth he needed back then was to become dependent on this kind of food. As much of a battle as it was, he needed to be eating real food, working on his mouth muscles and becoming less sensitive to texture. These pouches would have made things easy for me at the time, but harder in the long run for him. This was more true for him than it is for most kids, but I think it still holds true for all littles to some extent. We have teeth for a reason, after all. :)

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mommm!!! June 22, 2012 at 2:50 am

Oh wow. I have lots of issues with this. First off, I abhor single use packages. I’m the mom that declines plastic bags at the store. Single use packaging is so much more damaging than just the litter it creates, but it also consumes huge amounts of resources to produce. The term “recycling” generally only happens once on any given product and rarely goes beyond that. AND…lots of it ends up in our oceans….I’ll stop myself from getting preachy here.

Second, eating with people creates social skills. Robbing your child of this is not doing any0ne any favors. Imagine a future for your child where anything food related becomes huge social hurdles for that child later, like trying to plan a meal for someone who will only eat blue food, or someone who will only eat smoothies, or someone that can’t sit in a restaurant for more than 20 minutes at a time. That kinda limits the dating pool, yanno? And who wants to marry and have kids with someone like that? No thanks.

Third, chewing is part of the digestive process. It’s not healthy to swallow food whole even if it is ground up. So, enabling your child to skip the chewing process is opening the door for future digestive problems and, again, is not doing anyone any favors.

Fourth, and unrelated, why is a 22 month old in gymnastics??? Ugh.

Lastly, my child is is older and I’m glad we missed out on the pressure to use these products. There’s an ick factor (I’m reminded of the Canwich and the obese cartoon people in Wall-E) that I can’t get past. I made all my son’s baby food so I never did the jar thing. Who buys jarred bananas? Really? Is it that difficult to just mash a banana? That drove me nuts. I actually tried a couple of the jars myself just in case I was wrong…like green beans. They were disgusting and I was vindicated. But the point is that food is an involvement on several levels and excluding your child from the shopping of the food, the care of the food, the cooking of the food, and the eating of the food, is robbing your child of how to shop smart, how to be organized and not wasteful, how to cook for themselves creatively and in a healthy way, and finally how to connect with people and not chew with their mouths open! These are life skills. There are no life skills in a pouch. I’m sorry. There just isn’t. They remind me of protein bars (we don’t do those either) except with added bonus of being too lazy to chew. I can’t believe I even typed those words.

One last thing and then I’ll shut up. When, as a parent, you arrive at a place where you are too “busy” to feed your child, then it might be time to re-evaluate your priorities. Just saying. And I say this as a single mom, in college full time, and working 2 jobs. Yet, I sit down with my son for dinner nightly. Because when you’ve come to a point where you reach for a pouch of goo to replace an actual snack or meal, to me that should be a big red flag that some time management is desperately needed. Yuck.

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Emma June 22, 2012 at 9:40 am

Well said all around, Mommm! I’m actually reading the excellent “An Everlasting Meal” by Tamar Adler in which she talks about the grace of the meal, and how essential it is for us to be involved with our food. Sucking something out of a plastic pouch definitely does not count as “involved.”

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Laura J June 25, 2012 at 10:57 pm

22 month old in gymnastics? It’s actually a fun parent-child activity that encourages an active lifestyle, motor skills and muscle development. I am no gymnast, nor will my daughter be (I suspect), but we were regulars in gymnastic classes as long as schedule permitted.

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mommm!!! June 26, 2012 at 11:10 am

My reason for mentioning it was in the context of a 22 month old slurping goo on the go because of a gymnastics class. It seemed awfully young to already be on such a treadmill like schedule.

And to each their own. Scheduled activities seem to permeate parenting and its just not something I included in my own parenting style. I fully recognize that what I did (and do) is not the norm and I’m fine with that. So are my child’s motor skills lol!

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Joanne Roach June 22, 2012 at 3:42 am

It’s back to Michael Pollan’s point about eating food, not food like substances, isn’t it?

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Cara June 22, 2012 at 6:50 am

I began using these pouches about a year ago when I first noticed them in the store (the organic ones) as a way to supplement my son’s diet (as snacks, mostly). We still use them occasionally when we’re on the road or as a snack until dinner is ready (my son is now 2 1/2), but the thought of using them a meal substitute is not something I would ever advocate. These pouches only have between 35 and 70 calories a piece (and obviously not the same fiber and such as fresh fruit and veggies) and as my son is on the lower end of the weight spectrum, I’m always looking for ways to increase his caloric intake in healthy ways (flax seed oil on brown rice, an occasional spoonful of cod liver oil, mashed avocado and banana mixed with organic frozen yogurt). Now that he is getting older, I am much more mindful of how he may try to use these pouches as a way to avoid eating a full, healthy meal. So now we limit it to a couple of times a week, and usually not close to mealtime.

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Emma June 22, 2012 at 9:29 am

We may be a minority, Bettina, but I’m so with you! If we give kids these pouches, will they ever want to bite into an apple and, you know, chew?

I also think sitting down to at least one family meal a day is crucial. Where are our priorities that we can’t manage even that? Do we really want our kids to learn to be so over-scheduled that they can’t sit still and just be? Everyone’s in such a rush, but WHY? Sit down with your family, chew your broccoli, have a conversation, enjoy 30 minutes of peace. The world won’t end for it.

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mommm!!! June 22, 2012 at 11:29 am

I agree. I was the one mom that didn’t have my son scheduled for 47 activities a week because you get one shot to be a kid. You have the entire rest of your life to be grown up. Likewise, my life isn’t consumed, either. I limit my out of home activities that don’t include my child and my work times as well. Sure, I could work a gazillion hours. I could also make more money. But my child is a priority and making that clear with employers has put me on a path to work for and with people that understand this rather than be a slave to the boss at the expense of my home life. Consequently, there is no need in my life for a pouch of goo. I’m never THAT busy. It’s more important to me that my son actually gets to be a kid while he’s a kid. Because it’s gone in a flash. I’d rather that flash be filled with quality time rather than appointments and schedules. Consequently, we garden together, fish together, go to farmers markets, enjoy movies (which has led us on the never ending journey of creative popcorn making), and he plays outside with his friends, goes to the park, etc. Any scheduled activities he participates undergo scrutiny from both of us…..how important is this activity, what is the schedule, is it too much, is it expensive and if it is will it cut into our leisure outings funds, etc. I will usually make my child narrow it down to one thing if there are several he thinks he wants to do. Also, I steer him towards things he will actually do as an adult later. For example, will he be a gymnast as a teen or an adult? Probably not. Will he continue to take amazing photographs as an adult? It’s highly likely. What will he actually take away from being on a baseball team over being on the Lego Robotics team? Because he won’t learn engineering and programming on a baseball team and unlike team sports today, in Lego Robotics only one teams wins a trophy. lol!

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Emma June 22, 2012 at 9:32 am

Laura J., I didn’t even THINK of the trash generated by these! Thanks for reminding me– I am constantly fighting the battle at work to get people to throw their cardboard meal boxes into the recycle bins 2 feet away from the trash. God knows, the last thing we need is more landfill.

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Amy June 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I agree with you, Bettina, and everyone else who recognizes these pouches are just more snack foods. Fortunately, my kids are older, so we don’t have to deal with yet another pre-packaged product. I’m wondering, though if these pouches would make a good substitute for after sports games? Even though they are not quite the banana + water I tell my kids to ingest after playing ball, they are also not Doritos or sports drinks.

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Dawn June 22, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I agree. Pureed food seems like a good idea for babies and people who have problems eating solid food. As an occasional thing it also doesn’t seem like a terrible idea but I do wonder (along with you) what happens when kids are eating these things so often that it turns them away from whole foods.

“Or maybe it’s because my own kids were trained from an early age to sit at a table, dine at regular meal times, and generally eat whatever I and Mr. TLT were eating (with minor modifications as needed).”

We cook 5-6 nights a week. We use a varied menu and are pretty good cooks. We have regular meal times every day. We sit at the table and there is no television on while we do so. Yet, my 5 year old refuses to eat anything new and has for 3+ years. Our 6 year old is just a tad more willing to eat the tiniest plate of food but every night, without fail, they voice their distaste with eating “dinner”. We end up cooking something specifically for them (yuck) at least 2 nights a week so we can at least enjoy a few nightly meals with them. All that is to say I can see how people fall victim to using anything to get food in to their kids. I’m not sure why it’s so hard to get some kids to eat but I live with it every day.

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mommm!!! June 23, 2012 at 8:54 am

Todays foods and drinks, especially food aimed at kids, is comprised mostly of enhanced flavors or intensified flavors coupled with sugar. Actual food, like the dinners we prepare, end up tasting bland and bitter in comparison. This is no accident, by the way. Sweeteners are a low grade addiction and intense flavors toy with our pleasure sensors. Several years ago, when I made this subtle discovery, I looked around my cupboards and kitchen and got rid of everything processed that was not organic and cut out all hfcs from our purchases. I couldn’t believe how many different brands of sandwich bread contain hfcs. (I mourned my mayonnaise and other various condiments). It took me almost 2 years to get my son to eat organic cereal, for precisely this reason…it tasted VERY bland to him. 5 years later, the same commercial processed foods taste artificial to him now and even plastic~y.
What prompted me was his constant pandering for the sugar. I believe in moderation so it’s not like I was anti treats. But he was soon expecting to get dessert after every dinner…then after lunch and dinner….then after breakfast lunch and dinner. Then I would catch him sneaking junk food up to his room. I thought…eh he’s a kid, right? My wake up call when I went into his room to change the sheets and discovered piles of wrappers….it was big enough to be shocking. Now I’m very particular. And I’ve watched his palate change and it’s been good. :)

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stef June 22, 2012 at 5:09 pm

so who’s buying $53 million worth of them?

I’ve bought them occassionally for fun. My kids love them.

My beef is the packaging is not recyclable. I buy some applesauce in the individual packs but usually the larger jars.

my kids are 6 and 8, but the NYT article makes it sound like toddlers are eating them non-stop.

the fact that you can’t see what you are eating is an interesting thought to ponder…since it comes out of the pouch. it makes it seem more like a candy than an applesauce.

I don’t know why the packaging has more kid appeal. maybe because it seems more like a candy or carnival snack…

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mommm!!! June 22, 2012 at 11:41 pm

The fact that they are producing such horrendous waste disturbs me. But gatorade bottles disturb me, too. So does produce in a clear plastic clamshell. I did some digging, and it looks like the main ingredient in most of these goo packs is apples, which, incidentally, are the highest in sugar. If they’re using an applesauce product that they don’t themselves make, then it’s likely that there’s added sugar there, organic or not, which then relieves them from having to list the added sugar in the ingredient list, and then the whole thing is given a USDA organic stamp cherry on top. I’m suspicious of veggies that taste like fruit, added sugars hiding out, all under an organic stamp in a single use package that discourages chewing aimed at toddlers. It all seems a little insidious to me. At least with the Canwich it’s openly obnoxious.

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SS June 23, 2012 at 9:09 am

In this recent news report in Science (two tiny excerpts are below), some researchers say that dental health is damaged by modern sugary, mushy diets. We need to eat more chewy, crunchy, high-fiber, unprocessed foods for good jaw development and to prevent cavities.

An Evolutionary Theory of Dentistry ( http://www.sciencemag.org/content/336/6084/973.full.pdf )

‘ “Our jaws are underdeveloped because softened, highly processed foods do not provide the chewing stresses needed to stimulate normal growth of the jaw during childhood,” Corruccini says. ‘

‘ “There was not a single oral environment to which our teeth and jaws evolved—there is no single caveman diet,” Ungar says. “Still, we need to acknowledge that our ancestors did not have their teeth bathed in milkshake.” ‘

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Bettina Elias Siegel June 24, 2012 at 9:32 am

Interesting angle on this topic. Thanks for sharing.

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verbagetruck June 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm

I grew up in a home heavily influenced by the golden age of processed foods. My hard-working single mother cooked dinner, but most fruits and vegetables came out of cans or freezer bags, and I had no idea what a Brussels sprout or a beet or a bulb of garlic looked like. It has taken a lot of work and effort to reform and expand my own palette as an adult. The pouches discussed here and in the NYT, though they contain healthful ingredients such as beets and zucchini, seem likely to contribute to developing similar disconnects between processed foods and whole foods in a child’s mind.

I am sure that, as in the NYT article, many of the food choices in my childhood were the result both of a busy, hectic lifestyle and of adults attempting to accommodate children’s food whims. Yet those whims–also accommodated in the concern in school-lunch debates that kids will refuse healthier food if it is presented to them–can be destructive to future nutritional habits and overall health. Maybe they’re not worth indulging?

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verbagetruck June 25, 2012 at 1:29 pm

ahem, *palate*…though the colorful stuff that comes out of packaged foods such as pouches might more accurately belong on a palette.

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Justin June 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm

I’m sitting here nodding my head and I can’t decide where to begin with all the things that kind of bug me about these pouches.

As the father of a 7 month old, I first discovered them when starting to shop for infant solids. While we make most of her food at home, I wanted to have a few quick things on-hand for travel and just in case I couldn’t keep-up with the cooking/pureeing myself. It turns out that certain foods baby don’t even come in jars anymore or, if they do, they’re difficult to find. Common items like pears, apples seem to ONLY be available in the pouches (even though I was just going to feed her the food with a spoon anyhow).

First and foremost, I find it incredibly wasteful. Jars are recyclable. These things are not. :-( And even more so, if you’re going to feed an infant only an ounce or two, the directions say to discard the rest, while jars can be refrigerated longer (not exactly sure why…they may assume the child is sucking on it and spreading bacteria).

Just this past weekend, we hosted a family gathering and one of the guests (who is also trying to deal with a recent Celiac diagnosis in her toddler son) brought along squeezable. I didn’t even know they made them for toddlers. I asked him what he was eating (a combo of fruits), but he was way more excited to point-out his favorite “Cars” character on the package than he was about the contents. So much for Disney and their ‘healthful’ marketing. ;-)

I can’t agree with you more. Convenience packaging is one thing, but as soon as we start making it our primary source of calories and deciding that we’re so busy we have to “drink” our food, something is seriously wrong. This is the reason kids can’t be trusted to use anything but a spork in the lunch room. It’s the reason they won’t sit-down to a family dinner. This is the reason kids think everything should be a sweet treat (when everything they eat is blended with a fruit).

On a related note, we actually have a difficult time getting my daughter to eat processed purees, whether in a tube or a jar. It’s not that she doesn’t like the taste. It’s because I didn’t realize how thin the commercial purees were when I started making our own and she’s so used to thicker homemade textures, she didn’t know how to swallow the thin stuff and it’d just fall out of her mouth. That was even at 4-5 mos old. The point is, there’s really something to be said for introducing a variety of texture even at the youngest of ages.

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EdT. June 25, 2012 at 3:43 pm

“This is the reason kids can’t be trusted to use anything but a spork in the lunch room. “

Actually, the thing with the spork is likely due to liability and/or “weapon” issues.

~EdT.

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Bettina Elias Siegel June 25, 2012 at 8:57 pm

EdT: That’s what HISD once told me – that in some schools the plastic knife is used as a weapon.

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Justin June 27, 2012 at 9:44 am

Wow…that makes me even more sad for our society. :-(

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MOM2ONE October 12, 2013 at 6:06 pm

I really can’t believe that people give their children these pouches past the toddler stage. However, before we all judge, I am sure there is something that you all have allowed your child(ren) to do that others would disapprove of…. With that said, my daughter gets an applesauce pouch in the morning with a whole grain waffle, pancake or cheerios. We make it a point to sit down as a family for dinner, but we do not eat until 6:30 pm so she gets either a yogurt, which she eats with a spoon or one of these pouches at 5 pm. I try to rotate between the two. Also, she refuses to eat fruit (unless freeze dried) or vegetables, even though she is given exactly what the family is eating. Though, I keep trying and I am determined that one day, hopefully soon, that she will eat the darn things by themselves! Until then, I am creative adding diced up vegetables to her pasta sauce and mac and cheese. Also, she likes pesto so I put that on chicken and she will eat it. Again, I believe using them as a snack for a toddler is fine. I have found that these pouches supplement to provide her with the fruit and vegetable servings she needs. At our last well visit the doctor reminded me that toddlers between 18 months and 30 months can be extremely picky and that I should keep doing what I am doing as she is healthy and thriving! Also, not all the pouches are created equally, it is important to check the amount of sugars and actual nutritional value not just assume it is healthy because it shows a fruit and/or vegetable on the package.

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Lisa January 19, 2014 at 10:36 am

Last year my one year old grand niece ate real food with enthusiasm. Now at two years, she plays with the real food and then eats organic processed food from bags and pouches with enthusiasm. Since I live outside the states and only get to see her infrequently, maybe I have a clearer view, or maybe it’s a skewed view based on limited exposure. It just doesn’t feel right.

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Bettina Elias Siegel January 19, 2014 at 10:50 am

Lisa: Thanks for sharing your perspective here. I do wonder to what degree this practice is going on outside the US? I mention in the post that it sounds like it would not be popular in France, but the lure of convenient, palatable pouches seems likely to appeal to harried parents everywhere. It would be interesting to know. Thanks again for your comment.

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