Kids Eat Q&A: Puree Pouches

This is a guest blog post by Dr. Dina R. Rose

Puree pouches are all the rage right now.

And not just for little kids either. My almost 11 year old daughter squeezes one into her mouth for snack at least twice a week.

That’s why I was particularly glad to get this question from Molly:

What is your opinion of what we call around our house “mish mash,” those little pouches of pureed fruits or fruit-and-veggie combos, usually organic, that are sold by Plum, Ellas, Trader Joe’s, etc. that kids eat/suck straight from the pouch? My kids freaking love these things– they’d eat them multiple times a day if I let them (though I limit them to one per day, because they’re not cheap!), they don’t have sugar, and we always get the kind that have some kind of veggies in them (e.g., spinach peas & pears; or apple carrot), so I think of it as a way to get a little more veggies in their diet.

The problem with puree pouches is that they lull parents into thinking their children are eating fruits and vegetables.

They’re not.

OK, technically, there are fruits and vegetables in these pounches. Typically, more fruit than veggies. But even if these pouches were packed to the spout with peas and carrots I would still advise people to tread carefully.

To the extent that puree pouches replace other kinds of snacks—Goldfish crackers, cookies, fruit strips, etc.—they’re a nutritional, and a habits, step up. (That’s why I use them.)
However, puree pouches won’t teach your children to eat fruits and vegetables—the real kind—because purees don’t have the same look, taste, or mouth-feel as the real deal. To the extent that purees satisfy parents that their kids are eating fruits and vegetables (at least minimally), puree pouches have the power to move kids away from real fruits and vegetables.

How?

  1. Kids get used to eating puree pouches.
  2. Parents are happy.
  3. Kids start to reject actual vegetables; they don’t taste as sweet, they’re not as much fun…
  4. Parents panic that their kids aren’t eating right and resort to puree pouches more frequently.
  5. Kids get used to eating puree pouches.
  6. Many kids start to demand them.

This is particularly true if you are parenting a picky or a sensory sensitive eater.

Research shows that purees don’t control hunger as well as actual fruit. In at least one study, apples have been shown to increase satiation more than applesauce and more than apple juice. No matter what manufacturers try to sell you, different forms of fruit are not equivalents.

They’re not equivalent when it comes to shaping kids’ habits either.

It’s not just that the apples have more fiber. There’s something about chewing on the whole fruit that works magic. It’s eating whole fruit that is the habit you want to foster.

Read An Apple a Day? and Should Your Kids Drink Their Veggies?

Puree Pouches are a good snack option if they are part of a snack rotation.

I strongly advocate that parents implement The Rotation Rule: No identical foods two days in a row.

The Rotation Rule is vitally important because it:

  • Continually exposes children to different tastes and textures.
  • Prevents kids from “locking” onto a few foods.
  • Reinforces the idea of eating different foods on different days (and this lays the foundation for new food acceptance).
  • Is a power-sharing tool. (You set the structure with a rotation; your kids decide the specifics.)

Variety is the only thing researchers have consistently found that counters the inclination toddlers have to narrow what they eat.

Remember, variety doesn’t mean new. It means different. You can serve different snacks simply by rotating through what your child already eats.

  • Use both traditional snack foods and meal items to expand the rotation.
  • Consciously rotate through foods with different tastes and textures.

Read How Brands Bite You in the Butt! and House Building 101.

When it comes to puree pouches, nothing is what it seems.

 

Happy Tot Puree Ingredient List

Happy Tot Spinach, Mango & Pear is made from more Pear than Mango, and more Mango than Spinach. It should be called Pear, Mango & Spinach, but it probably wouldn’t sell as well. (Ingredients are listed in proportional order.)

Happy Morning Puree

Happy Morning Super Banana Breakfast Smoothie contains more Apple than Banana—and a whole lot of other stuff too:

Organic Apple, Organic Banana, Water (for Protein Addition), Organic Mangosteen, Organic Whey Protein Concentrate, Dehydrated Organic Nonfat Yogurt (Organic Nonfat Milk Solids, Lactic Acid, Cultures, Natural Flavor), Organic Salba (Sahi Alba 911 & 912 Registered Varieties of Chia Seed) (Chia), Organic Quinoa, Malic Acid, Organic Natural Mangosteen Flavor, Pectin, Ascorbic Acid [Vitamin C].

And yes, Molly, even Ella’s Broccoli, Pears, and Peas is made from more Pears than Peas and more Peas than Broccoli.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but don’t despair. You can still pack a pouch when you’re on the go. Just don’t do it every day.

And remember, think of puree pouches as a crappy-snack alternative, not a substitute for actual veggies. You’ll be teaching your kids the truth, and shaping their habits for a lifetime of healthy eating.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~
============================================
Source: Flood-Obbagy, J. E. and B. J. Rolls. 2009. “The Effect of Fruit in Different Forms on Energy Intake and Satiety At a Meal.” Appetite 52: 416-22.
Dr. Dina Rose is a sociologist, foodie and mom. In It’s NOT About Nutrition: The Art & Science of Teaching Kids to Eat Right, Dina combines her professional expertise on socialization, her knowledge about nutrition, parenting and food psychology research, with the practical skills she has gained from talking to, interviewing and coaching hundreds of parents.

 

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  • http://www.pandechiropractic.ca/ Toronto Chiropractor

    It at least makes a good snack alternative for kids! They don’t have to be presented as “fruits and veggies” as that may lead to the problem of them straying away form them in their whole form. 

  • http://www.pandechiropractic.ca/ Toronto Chiropractor

    It at least makes a good snack alternative for kids! They don’t have to be presented as “fruits and veggies” as that may lead to the problem of them straying away form them in their whole form. 

  • Tom Arr

    It’s like the pink slime of the vegetable world, every body freak out….now!

  • Carol

    Companies are supposed to label/name a food truthfully, so “Spinach, Mango, Pear” is false advertising/labeling if there is more mango and/or pear than spinach, unless they say “spinach flavored” (or “banana flavored”) to indicate that is the predominant flavor even if it isn’t the predominant ingredient (although I’m guessing spinach is not the predominant flavor in the first one). Maybe it would be a good exercise to have kids make their own purees once in awhile — throw a bunch of soft veggies, fruit, etc. in the blender or food processor. At least they will see what everything starts out as, and get an appreciation for the ingredients.

  • Maureenandtroybat

    I know by ingredients the majority of these are either apple sauce or pear sauce.  I wish I could find the percentage of vegetables in them.  Just for curiosity sake.  Plum Baby’s spinach, pea, pear.  Is it one pea?  Two peas? A half of a pea (most likely)

  • Carriebear8

    We make our own purée and put it in a Sili squeeze. That way I know how much greens ds is getting for his snack. So much better than crackers and cookies.

  • Bridget Johns

    You should have Nina post more often! She has fabulous information, a great writing style and useful insight into parent/child interactions. I love the rotation rule. And offering opportunities to eat a variety of vegetables at mealtimes.

  • Guest

    I send the pouches to my brother in Afghanistan. At least he’s getting some sort of fruit! :)

  • Dreena

    We relegate the pouches to that category of “Special foods.”  They are so handy for a snack at the ballpark or rest stop on vacation.  I have 5 kids and buy them about once a quarter.  That works well for our healthy eating, sustainable preferences.

  • http://controlissblinds.co.uk/blackout-roller-blinds Jake Smyth

    It seemed that puree pouches really attracts a lot of kids. I also like to eat puree during snack time. I know that you would also like to have some puree pouches some time.

  • http://controlissblinds.co.uk/blackout-roller-blinds Jake Smyth

    It seemed that puree pouches really attracts a lot of kids. I also like to eat puree during snack time. I know that you would also like to have some puree pouches some time.

  • http://twitter.com/davidgrotto davidgrotto

    Hi Doctor Rose:

    For a more substantial dose of veggies, try this pouch – http://www.hooraypuree.com. It is a line of shelf-stable single ingredient veggie purees that can be added into almost any dish. Happy to get you samples if you’d like!

  • Gorge Don

    My 2 grandsons love those pouches & there are certainly worse things they could be eating but I like to give them JustFruit bars for the change of pace mentioned in this article, glad to hear I’m doing something right. : )

    For anyone interested, they are pure fruit snack bars made in Washington state using only PacNW grown fruit. They come in 2 sizes, 25g & 40g, & contain only 2 or 3 ingredients in every flavor, namely purees & concentrates made entirely from the fruit(s) on the wrappers. They are only sold in stores in Oregon, Washington & Idaho at this time but you can find them at http://www.justfruitbars.com or on Amazon.