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Understanding Baby Food Labels

by SarahD on January 26, 2011

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How to Interpret Baby Food Labels

You probably have some experience reading the nutrition labels that are present on all packaged foods.  You’re careful to check for calorie count and the amounts of fats, sugars, and carbohydrates present, not to mention the inclusion of vitamins.  You might even look to see how much of the content is organic.  You want to ensure that you’re consuming items that are healthy and nutritious.  But how often do you check the labels on your baby food?  You might assume that because it’s made for infants and toddlers, it must be healthy, but you shouldn’t expect manufacturers to do anything but try to make money.  It’s your job to protect your child.  So if you’re not sure what to look for, here are a few tips to reading the labels on baby food and choosing what’s right for the little person who looks to you for nutrition.

The first thing you need to determine is if you’re choosing the right food for your child’s age group.  This isn’t usually too hard to figure out.  Although all kids advance at different rates, you can generally place them in one of three stages.  You won’t want to wean them off milk for at least several months (and maybe even a couple of years) but by the time they’re about 4-6 months old they’re ready to start eating food as well.  Pureed foods are the place to start and you can switch strained around 7-9 months of age, then chunkier fare after that.  Of course, not all babies will be keen to start eating at these ages (or they may progress more quickly), so you just have to try out different types of food periodically to see how receptive they are.

Next, you’ll want to make sure that the content in the food you’re buying is appropriate.  You should avoid anything that has a lot of added sugar (including corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, and any other name that might mean sugar).  Of course, most fruits and vegetables have some natural sugars, but these won’t show up on the list of ingredients (whereas added sugars will).  You should also try to find foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.  You don’t want a lot of modified food starches, additives, or preservatives, and a shorter list of ingredients will ensure that most of what’s in the food is natural.  In addition, you should be able to read all of the ingredients (if there are a lot of words you can’t pronounce, put it back on the shelf).  This will help to avoid introducing toxins or potential allergens into your child’s delicate system.

Single-ingredient foods are the best for your baby (if you get pureed carrots, there’s really no need to include other ingredients).  And you may want to think about getting organics so that your child isn’t exposed to chemical pesticides or fertilizers during their formative years.  And don’t be afraid to choose foods that are high in calories from fat (usually listed right after the calorie count).  Babies need a diet high in fat calories to develop properly.  Of course, you can always prepare healthy baby food on your own.  But if you don’t have the time or you hate to puree, you should at least know what’s in the jars of food you’re getting from the store.

Sarah Danielson writes for EPI Labelers where you can find products for bottle labeling and a labeling machine for your packaging and promotional needs.

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  3. Early Start: Healthy Diet and Exercise for Kids
  4. How to Lose Weight after Pregnancy Naturally
  5. Switching to Solids

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