I’m going to come right out and preface this by saying this is a rant. So if you are a regular squeezie user, either look away now, or prepare to have your mind changed (hopefully!). When I saw Mamamia’s recent Insta post championing Vaalia kids pouch yoghurts, I got a little cranky…so I’m going to give you a big dirty list of why food in pouches should not be on your shopping list. I understand the convenience factor, but it’s just not that much harder to pack real food.
Why give your child food he or she cannot see? Is not sighting one’s food a primal survival tool? How can they tell if it’s an actual food product? Worse, are we teaching them to simply put anything with a cartoon vegetable on the front of it into their mouth? Not only that, sighting food is the very first step in the digestive process, throwing this intricate bodily system into go-mode; it’s a step we shouldn’t miss.
Why give your child food that tastes more or less exactly the same, every single time, despite there being different cartoon characters on the front? How can you expect your kid to try new things when the development of their palate has been limited in that way? Giving children a range of flavours that takes in sweet, salty and sour and isn’t too much of any of those things, gives them an ability to taste and enjoy all flavours, even if subtle.
Why is food in pouches so sweet when it’s meant to be for kids? Our children are born with an almost blank slate when it comes to their tastes. They learn their taste preferences via a variety of methods. Mostly it’s exposure. So if your child’s food is primarily the flavour of stewed apples, (the main ingredient in many pouchy foods) even if the front has a cartoon picture of a variety of green vegetables, then you are seriously prioritising the sweet end of their tooth.
Why are you asking your child to suck their food instead of chewing it? Apart from being just odd when you think about it, it is a crucial part of our natural development as human beings to learn to chew and build up our jaw muscle strength and development and create a bite pattern. When most of your food is the consistency of custard, you are removing the opportunity for this to happen. This can cause problems eating chewier foods, like chicken or meat, when they are older.
On this, as a small human, picking food up with fingers and guiding it into ones mouth is an excellent, simple way to encourage hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Picking up a pea in a pincer grip and getting it into one’s mouth is a right of passage! In fairness, sucking on something to provide food is a good skill to learn too. Oh, wait, that’s the only skill babies are actually already born with!
Let’s turn our attention to nutrition, because I would really hate to think these pouchy foods are used as an actual way to “get a few veggies into them”. Directly from the Choice website:
The new veggie squeezy range from Yoplait Petit Miam seems like a great way to sneak extra veggies into your child’s diet, but don’t get too excited. A standard serve of veg is 75g (or 20g for a baby aged 7-12 months), and the recommended daily intake is 1.5-2 serves (7-12 months), 2-3 serves (1-2 years), 2.5 serves (2-3 years) or 4.5 serves (4-8 years). So the measly 2.8g of veg in each pouch barely scratches the surface.
And because this is now just getting depressing, I will abbreviate the rest:
- pureed food is low in fibre
- pouches are not recyclable, they go to landfill
- when foods are sucked they are consumed more quickly than the “full” message can get to the brain, leading to over-eating.
I’m going to finish up with sweetened “children’s” yoghurts: the lowest form of pouch food. Here is a list of the ingredients in the Vaalia Vanilla baby yoghurt: Skim milk, milk solids, cream, apple juice, water, sugar, gelatin, rice starch, natural flavours, food acids (330,331), live yoghurt cultures. Compare that to the 4 ingredients in Farmer’s Union Greek Yoghurt: Milk, Milk Solids, Cream, Yogurt Cultures. This is intended for a baby to eat!
Young kids don’t actually need or want sweetened yoghurt unless they know it is there. Until you’ve impressed upon them the yumminess of sweeter stuff, they will genuinely enjoy most flavour profiles. You might not love plain creamy Greek yoghurt, but I promise you they will if they don’t THINK yoghurt should be sweet. So to sweeten yoghurt and package it as something specifically for children is truly ridiculous and should be avoided, not championed.
PS: Check out our tips for food on the go.