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Doctors Raise Concern about Organic Food Pouches

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Many parents turn to organic, super food-filled food pouches as easy-to-prep solutions for picky eaters, but experts argue this may be exasperating the problem, and setting kids up for a lifetime of bad eating habits and obesity.

When my baby first started eating real food, I dreamt of preparing love and kale-filled dishes for him every singe day. That dream quickly turned to dust, as the overwhelm of being a working mom hit. After brainstorming a number of solutions, I was thrilled when I found organic baby food pouches chock-full of amazing ingredients at the store. They were the perfect snack to carry in my purse, or to give to my LO on those days where he just wasn't impressed with my cooking.

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Then, the other day when I was checking out, the clerk at the store casually asked if I'd seen the latest research on these pouches. I hadn't, but I immediately went home and looked into it, and what I found shocked me!

For one, more and more experts are concerned about the health problems these packages pose. Often given as the healthy alternative to regular snacks, few parents realize that these pouches contain between 12 and 20 grams of sugar—twice that in a regular apple—thanks to their most tasty ingredient: concentrated fruit juice (aka "added sugar" according to the US Department of Agriculture.)

Even when companies do not list concentrated fruit juice in their ingredients, the process by which this food is created is problematic in two ways. First, a lot of the water is removed, concentrating both the flavors and the sugars. The second problem is that grinding the fruit up destroys the insoluble fibers naturally found in this food, which mitigates the sugar and insulin spikes caused by high sugar foods. Since the food is pureed it is absorbed much faster, which only exacerbates the problem. In other terms: regularly consuming these pouches is the perfect setup for diabetes, weight gain and heart disease later in life.

By indulging our kids demand to eat easy-to-eat, great tasting food, they miss a key developmental milestone and are set up for a lifetime of poor eating habits and dental problems.

Not only that, but Plum Organics and Gerber have actually been accused of bait-and-switch labeling by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest because their prominent placement of superfood ingredients on the label does not match what's actually inside.

If that wasn't enough, doctors are also concerned that frequent sucking of foods has a negative impact on the development on the facial muscles used for chewing (remember how the doctor said to ditch the bottle at your one-year checkup? Same logic!), increases the risk of cavities the same way juice does, and further spoils the palates of picky eaters. By indulging our kids demand to eat easy-to-eat, great tasting food, they miss a key developmental milestone and are set up for a lifetime of poor eating habits and dental problems.

And then, there is the risk of mold and contamination, like last year's GoGo Squeez mold contamination scare which, while not life-threatening, did make a whole lot of food taste terrible and posed an increased risk for allergic reactions in sensitive populations.

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So, what's a mom to do? Did I go home, throw out the devil's pouch? No, of course not! They are by far still the best option for those growth-spurt days where kiddo just needs another snack, or those tired and grumpy breakfasts where even his favorite foods seem to make his skin crawl. (Or, now that he's learned sign language, are "all done" before he's taken a second bite.)

But we have made a more concerted effort to keep real foods on the table. Bananas and apples, steamed sweet potatoes, millet porridge with small chunks of sweet potato, noodles topped with a delicious veggie filled sauce and meatballs filled with kale, beet and more. We always season his food, let him try whatever he wants, and make sure that he has great associations with mealtime.

Eating real food is more than just eating your veggies. It is sitting at the table with mom and dad talking, stealing bites from other people and developing your own tastes, even if that means chucking a handful of dinner at Mom, then signing "all done" before asking for a special treat.

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