Squeeze Packs for Kids – Innovative Solution or Irresponsible Crutch?

Squeeze Packs

We’ve spent the weekend in sunny Anaheim, at the Natural Products Expo, which showcases foods, supplements, and beauty products that are … “natural”, a term that is hard to define. We focused our attention exclusively on the food and beverage exhibitors, small and large. All the products may be natural, but that does not necessarily mean they are healthy.

One of the growing product categories seem to be the squeezable pouches. The target market is toddlers who may, or may not, still be sucking on pacifiers, bottles, or sippy-cups. These pouches usually contain some mix of fruit and vegetable puree, and tend to be high in something young children crave – sugar.

Pictured above are 3 products we sampled at the expo. They are all single serve and range in serving size from 3 to 4 ounces.

The Go Go Squeez product is made from apples and apple juice, all organic. It has 60 calories, and 48 of them are from sugars. True, the 3 teaspoons worth of sugars are naturally present in the apple, but the fiber count is extremely low – just 1 gram. For comparison, a small apple with 60 calories will have 4 grams of fiber. Additional nutrients are lost in the process of transforming an apple into this mush.

Go Go Squeez Nutrition

The Dole pouch is similar in nutrients and ingredients. It is not organic.

Dole squueze pack nutrition

The Plum Organics product is interesting. It is slightly larger – 4 ounces. Instead of 60 calories, it has 80, and only 44 of them are from sugar. It is not exclusively a fruit product, but rather incorporates Greek yogurt, quinoa, and chia seeds. The fiber count is slightly better – 2 grams.

Plum Organics NutritionThe pros for the products above are convenience, taste, and the sense of doing nutritionally good by your child. The cons are lower nutrition compared to the original fruits, and setting your child up for food failure. Young kids are small people, not babies. They need to get started eating people food, not goop. The earlier you get your child used to new mouth-feel and flavors, the easier it will be later in life. Allowing your child to suckle on pouches instead of eating a real apple or quinoa might come back to bite you. It’s possible she’ll outgrow the squeeze pack but won’t want to be willing to eat a real fruit.

What do you think?

Get Fooducated

  • Amber @ Au Coeur

    I occasionally let my 14 month old eat squeeze packs (and by occasionally, I mean she eats one in the shopping cart while we are still at the grocery store but I never bring any home). There are vegetable varieties. The other day she ate one that contained organic pumpkin and white beans. Much lower on the sugar count than any of these. As for the sugar content, considering what some people give their kids to drink this is nothing as long as not used as a meal. I think of it in the same vein as when we make smoothies at home — it’s a nice treat that is considerably healthier than some similar alternatives.

    Honestly, I’m not really worried about using something like this as a snack. We practiced baby led weaning and as such she has been eating/chewing solid foods since six months. I’m hardly concerned about an occasional squeeze pack impacting her desire to eat real foods as this post seems to think may become a problem. Even adults drink things like smoothies and thick fruit juices. We eat pureed soup and apple sauce too.

    http://www.amber-hinds.com

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Thanks Amber, *Occasional* is the key word.

  • Monika

    It doesn’t have to be one or the other. I have noticed that you didn’t analyse any pouches with just vegetables in them. At home I offer my 13 month old pieces of vegetables and only in the afternoon I offer fruit, as a dessert, apart from that she eats almost everything I eat, we simply share meals (wholesome). On the go I give her saltines the version without salt, and I always have a broccoli-carrot pouch or Ella’s beef and vegetable stew which actually has vegetables first in the ingredients and then beef, the only sweet pouch I sometimes buy is beet-sweet potato as I cook beets for us at home and I want her to like it. I tend not to buy fruit pouches at all or veg-fruit, because even if it says on them peas carrot and apple, ingredient list shows it’s mostly the sweet apple. . . It’s all about knowing how to read pouch ingredients and giving them real food bits several times a day.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Hi Monika, we showcased the 3 pouches that we were handed at the show.

    • Dana Catherine Lee

      LOVE Ella’s

  • http://ehkitchen.net/ Alyssa B

    I agree with your stance on this and other “kid foods.” They are, for the most part, unnecessary and don’t promote good eating habits down the line. No way would kids choose “adult food” if they’re used to eating the sweet, tasty “kid foods” that come in brightly colored packages. They’re probably not a problem when given as treats once and a while, but kids will gravitate towards these fun, easy-to-eat foods if that’s what they’re used to. (Even I crave a fruit roll-up now and then.)
    I like to think of kids as “people in training” or tiny humans, and not as whole different life forms. They don’t need their own special foods like a cat or dog does.

    I have an older baby and people are surprised when they see her eating the same foods I make for my husband and I. (all sorts of meats and fish, beans, all kinds of grains and vegetables. She loves salmon and carrots.) They ask how we get her to eat “grown-up foods,” and I tell them it’s because that’s all we’ve ever fed her. (Except for formula, of course, and purees when she started solids.) It makes meals easy when I can just cut up what I’ve already made and feed it to her. So far she has eaten everything I put in front of her. (Although I know that may not last.)

    The thing I struggle with are portable, non-refrigeratable, mess-free snacks. She doesn’t have teeth so things like carrot sticks and crackers are out. She snacks on steamed fruits and veggies, at home, but those aren’t very portable and make a mess. There are a tons of packaged things like baby puffs and little crackers available, but I don’t want to buy these kid snacks unless they contain real ingredients and nutrition. I’ve browsed the “adult” snack aisle, but most require teeth or are processed junk. Does anyone have any suggestions or recipes of snacks for toothless babies? So far cheerios are all I’ve got. I might be trying some of these pouches (the veggie varieties) once and a while.

    • Anna

      Awesome parenting! I am impressed.
      What about semi-soft cheeses such as babybell, kid sized plain yogurt packs, berries(..?)

      • Alyssa B

        Thanks, I try my best. (I’m sure we all do!)
        I appreciate the suggestions. I will try blueberries. They aren’t sticky and can be out of the fridge for a while.

        • Cassie

          I buy freeze dried fruits. My kids love them and they’re not messy!

    • Alyssa B

      I discovered these little bars while shopping today by Ella’s Kitchen called nibbly fingers. They seem to be similar to a Larabar and seem to be pretty healthy. There is hope after all.

    • Fraise

      You may want to give a try to these: http://www.littlegreenpouch.com
      They give you the mess-controlling convenience of squeezable pouches for on-the-go snacks, but you are in control of what you put in. And they are re-usable…

    • Dana Catherine Lee

      We packed these all the time when my littlest only had a few teeth. FYI, he absolutely prefers “real” food now. No damage at all. He would much rather have a real strawberry, banana, grape or apple than a pouch (also real chicken, turkey, beans/peas).

  • Donna

    I don’t have any children but one of my concerns would be what are these pouches made out of what toxins are being ingested!

  • Dave

    Not to mention that these things are absolutely horrible for the environment!

  • bpie

    I get the pouches that has all organic ingredients and without ascorbic acid which is a gmo. I look for the least amount of sugar possible and I don’t give the whole pouch in one session.

    • Bettyboo

      What brand and flavor do you get. Please share!

  • http://brightweightloss.blogspot.com/ Dreena Tischler

    I don’t think it has to be an either/or proposition. I have kids ranging in age from 4 to 17. They all eat very healthfully. They consider apples, oranges, nuts and carrots to be “snack food.” I do occasionally give them the pouches as a treat in their lunch because I never send “dessert” per se. I have 5 kids and buy perhaps 20 of these pouches a year, so I am okay with it. They really love them for a treat and even the older kids enjoy them.

    I don’t believe an occasional pouch, granola bar, snack cracker etc makes a child a poor eater or makes them depend on or expect these foods. I think what matters is what they eat the other 95% of the time and what they see their parents eat. My kids have never seen me eat a pouch — they look so gross to me. But they have seen me eat tons of greens, fruits, lean meat and whole grains and those are the foods they eat without question. My oldest refuses to eat school lunch — it’s nasty to her and my 4 year old will tell you that his favorite foods are grape tomatoes and blueberries. All in between are just as strongly opinioned toward whole food.

    An early decision to feed your kids in a wholesome manner does pay off and they can still have occasional treats and not be ruined.

    Just my opinion!

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Thanks Dreena, a once in a while treat makes perfect sense.

  • Jessica Witinko

    I agree with Amber. However, it is really important to keep a heightened awareness that Fooducate provides here. Some may make these pouches more of a habit than others and it is important we, the parents, don’t succumb to these enticing conveniences. Also, food for thought…..these pouches are not see through and I’m a parent with quality inspection tendencies. The unknown interior concerns me, such as the possibility of mold.

  • Amanda

    I understand the convenience of these and I understand why parents use them and of course as an occasional snack it’s fine. But in my opinion fruits and veggies are not “snack foods” they should be the main foods in our diet and not seen as snacks. Children should be able to understand the difference between snacks and fruits and veggies. These are a snack since juices are from concentrate and most of the nutrients are lost in the process. I believe that puréed fruits and veggies done at home is the best way, but after a year old lose the purée stuff and introduce whole foods.

  • My 2¢

    This was short lived when my son was a toddler. It gave him runs so I stopped wasting my money.

  • tibb

    Well the way I look at it, I’d rather give these to my little girl (which is every once in a while) than give her m&ms like some people I know. My little one likes real fruit but these are convenient as a to-go snack. .

  • Samantha

    I eat them…never! Discusting!

  • Jessica

    Well said! Nothing like making/pureeing homemade baby food from organic whole foods!

  • J.

    Instead of letting my kids (if I will have any)drink this, I will make them juices at home.

  • erinely

    what about the problems with plastic packaging? no mention of the problems with plastic packaging…. real food does not come in a plastic package.

  • Jessica

    Thank you for this line: “Young kids are small people, not babies. They need to get started eating
    people food, not goop. The earlier you get your child used to new
    mouth-feel and flavors, the easier it will be later in life.”
    As an ECE teacher, I work with children as they go from transition to bottles-mush to cups and real food. I fight with parents daily about this, and am trying to get them to realize that young children need this ‘real feel’ of food sooner rather than later.

    There are so many benefits to using real foods rather than pureed mush, from fine motor skills, oral development, language development, and of course, healthy eating!

  • Traci

    I personally don’t have children, but I buy these for myself as a snack when I am doing clinical shifts or between the gym and class. I am careful about the ones I pick and read the ingredients. I have not tried the brands listed but I will say I love the fact that I can have one of these in my car on the go instead of stopping at mcdonalds. I plan on buying the kit to make my own (yes there is one out there) but I am waiting until the weather warms up and crops start growing again where I live. I think these a great sometimes snack for kids, I wouldn’t do it all time, if you need the convince, make your own.

  • v westlake

    It’s not only toddlers eating these. My 18 yr old daughter loves them. They fit in her backpack as an easy snack.

  • MMJ153

    I think most people use these on the go in place of things like chips, crackers, a soft pretzel, etc. and in that case – they’re pretty perfect. Another thing to consider – lack of choking hazard. When you have multiple hungry children in the car with you it’s nice to know that’s not a big issue.

  • Chris Chaney

    They do make a quick and easy classroom snack for my Kindergarten son. He eats a great variety of whole foods otherwise. We strive to find the balance between convenience and the healthiest choice. In this case, these pouches are far better than many of the quick and easy choices out there.

  • Doug L. Bullock

    Worst part of these pouches is the toxins BPA or Phthylates in the pouch itself disrupting endocrine system and causing all sorts of issues and even early puberty in girls

  • Bryson Webb

    Does anyone know a good alternative to a healthier snack pouch? Preferably home made to save on cost. For example, could you re pack these squeeze packs with home made veggie fruit purees which would have much less sugar…

  • Stephanie

    I disagree. My son eats these and he eats regular fruits. It’s not turning him away from eating an apple, it’s just something different. I’m guessing there isn’t a whole apple in the pouch, that’s why there isn’t as many calories or fiber. He is a picky texture eater, so if I can give him applesauce instead of fruit snacks, I’m going to do it. I don’t think these need to be portrayed as a terrible snack when it’s not bad for you and there are way worse snacks out there.

  • Becca

    I found this article very poorly researched and shortsighted. You looked at three products out of a whole genera of food, and you are willing to condemn them all and the parents that serve them? I do buy pouches for my son, and I don’t regret it. Of all of the brands we currently have at home, including Earth’s Best, Gerber Organic, among others, not one has added sugar or juice. The ingredients are a mix of whole pureed fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and whole milk dairy. Do you eat smoothies? Would you serve your child a smoothie made of whole foods? Yes? Then that is what you are serving when you choose a pouch with whole ingredients.

    My son was born with a food intolerance, and after a few bad reactions, developed an exaggerated aversion to food. Indeed, all humans are born with an innate instinct to avoid bitter flavors like those found in vegetables. So, needless to say, it has been a struggle to get him to eat, period. Pouches are one thing he would always eat, so for us they are a blessing. If they are a crutch, then thank goodness for that crutch! It’s a crutch that, at age 2, has gotten him from an aversion to almost all foods, to eating whole fruits on a regular basis. We are still working on most vegetables, but with the pouches he gets a taste for them. He is slowly getting used to the slight bitter flavor inherent in all veggies, and like a stepping stone, the pouches are getting him to a healthier eating style.

    So, is it ideal? No. I don’t like the expense, and I don’t like the waste, but at the end of the day it is more important to me to get my son the vitamins and minerals he needs in whatever form he is comfortable with, so long as it’s not a gummy vitamin, or Sunny D. Do I think this poorly researched, narrow minded article should stop what I know to be best for my child (or any other parent)? No.

    Next time, open up the playing field, review more than three products, and do some actual Research into what forms healthy eating habits from birth to adult. Clue: it is not shoving whole fruits and veggies down your unwilling child’s throat.

  • Enna Lessiw

    Interesting but would have liked to see them analyze more than just three. Also the reason for the product is because of high demands these days on working parents that are trying to be health conscious in a pinch. When I was young my day was sugar cereal, fried baloney, and hot dogs with mac and cheese, and for fruit a terrible red delicious apple and for veggies corn (which is not a vegetable as we all know but was told that it was). I survived just fine and I think some of these packs maybe a better snack then anything I ever had growing up, and agree some are just crap… Everyone knows there is nothing like the real thing but there is a need for this product, hence why it has become so popular. Really you should review it’s profits and if we can buy into it’s stock, so we can get rich, stay at home, and make real food for our kids!

  • Brittany Acuff

    I’ll be honest- I’m a first time mom, so I’m still figuring some things out. I have a 9 month old son and I really love the Plum brand of these pouches. Here’s why… My husband and I work full time outside the home and have no close family/friends in our area. So, coming home from work after an 8-10 hr day to puree food is not always in the cards. I have pureed some of his food and found that some of it is rather easy to do, but some veggies are downright impossible! On top of that, a lot of the veggies we have done that with go to waste or we froze a container and never remembered it was in the freezer, months later. So, for us, these pouches have been really nice to have on nights when we only see our son for a few hours before bedtime. We don’t seem to waste as much food this way, and we can easily store everything. I’m sorry, but with the short time I have every night to spend with my son, I would rather do it playing with him or reading to him than standing in the kitchen pureeing food. It’s a struggle for us to find organic options, so I really like that aspect as well. I always watch the ingredient label and for now, I am only giving him one new ingredient every 4-5 days. As he starts to have more of a variety of foods, I’ll probably shy away from these pouches, but for now, they have really helped the working mom and dad be able to enjoy our new son!

    • Dana Catherine Lee

      Your time with your little one is so precious and fleeting. Kudos for realizing that it’s better to get that time in than stress yourself crazy

  • Chandra Carty

    You are so right. My daughter bought the fruit and vegetable pouch for her 8 month old because they are convenient. I suggested she purchase a food processor and make her own. It’s fresher and she doesn’t have to worry about the unknown affects of the packaging. She now has a food processor and she purees the foods the family is eating. This encourages her to prepare more balanced family meals.

  • http://www.facebook.com/twistedmommy23 Twisted Mommy

    My daughter is soon to be 3 and she eats these little squeeze fruits. I mostly go with the Plum Organic ones. I generally keep them around for when we are going out or for a long drive in the car or on the subway. They are more convenient, way less messy, and more sanitary (in the case of the subway rides) than giving her the actual fruit. At home she only eats actual fruits and veggies. These are like a treat for her. As for the environment, yes I agree they arent eco-friendly. One solution is to buy refillable squeeze pouches and make your own fruit and veggie blends at home. I considered doing this but she doesnt eat these things that often and at nearly 3 she is starting to request them much less so the investment in the refillable pouches really isnt worth it for us at this point.

  • Dana Catherine Lee

    Some of us had babies that needed low fiber diets. Imagine that.