Best Baby Food: Jars, Pouches and Beginner Snacks for Your Little One
It’s pretty nutty that just a minute ago you and baby were all about around-the-clock nursing and bottle feedings. Now? You’re in full-on solids-mode, searching for the best baby food to feed your little one.
The good news is that there are tons of options available online and at your local grocery store—from organic blends and fortified cereals to baby food subscription services. Baffled by all the choices? Don’t sweat it! We’ve done the research and cooked up a baby food shopping guide to answer all your questions. Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about introducing solids to baby’s diet—plus, expert tips on how to determine which options are best for your family.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of baby’s life. However, once baby has doubled their birth weight (at around 4 months old) they may be ready to try solid foods. “Starting solids by six months is important to ensure your infant’s oral-motor development,” says Dina DiMaggio, MD, and Anthony F. Porto, MD, official spokespeople for the AAP and the co-authors of The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers. “It’s also important to start solids at this time as it will provide your child with specific nutrients needed for growth and development, including iron and zinc, especially if your child is exclusively breastfed,” continue DiMaggio and Porto. Every child is different so look for developmental cues—like reaching for food and sitting up unassisted—that signal baby is ready to expand their food horizons.
Introducing solids to baby’s diet can be a confusing (and messy!) process. Here are some general tips and tricks that’ll help you get started:
• Start slowly. Start baby with a half spoonful of solid food to help them get used to the new flavor and texture. Increase the amount of food gradually, (a teaspoonful or two) as they get the hang of it. This gives infants time to learn how to swallow solids.
• Begin with food that has a lower allergy risk. Introduce pureed fruits, vegetables and infant cereal to baby’s diet first, as these items tend to have a lower allergy risk. For babies that have been exclusively breastfed, DiMaggio and Porto recommend introducing infant cereal or other iron- and zinc-fortified foods early on in the process.
• Introduce one thing at a time. Feed baby one new single-ingredient food at a time, and wait three to five days before introducing something new. This gives you time to monitor your child for any potential allergic reactions.
• Choose a mealtime and stick to it. Starting out once a day, choose a mealtime that’s convenient for you and is consistent for your child. Breakfast is a good place to start, since baby is often hungriest in the morning. Once baby is comfortable with one meal, you can advance to two and then three meals per day.
Whether you’re whipping up homemade purees daily or opting for store-bought jars, there are lots of factors to consider when choosing the best baby food for your family. From affordability and age-appropriateness to safety and nutrition, here are a few guidelines to keep top of mind as you browse the grocery store aisles:
• Read product labels. Check the ingredients on food labels so that you can make an informed decision. The best store-bought baby food contains whole ingredients without additives and sweeteners. “If you want to feed your baby kale, then the food should contain mostly kale and not primarily applesauce with a small amount of kale as the last ingredient,” explains DiMaggio and Porto. Babies will learn to like what they’re fed, so if you want them to eat vegetables, look for a store-bought brand that doesn’t mask the flavor with sweeter ingredients.
• Check that all ingredients are safe and age-appropriate. According to the AAP, honey and products that contain honey are not suitable for children under the age of 12 months, due to the risk of infant botulism. DiMaggio and Porto also recommend that parents avoid rice cereal, unpasteurized dairy, undercooked foods (such as meat, fish or eggs) and products that are high in salt and sugar.
• Variety is the spice of life. It’s important for children to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, full-fat dairy products and whole grains. Although some parents like to shop organic, these products can be expensive and there’s no direct evidence that an organic diet leads to improved health or lower risk of disease.
When it comes to baby food, safety is the top priority. But a 2021 congressional investigation report which found that several major baby food brands contained high levels of toxic heavy metals that can potentially “endanger infant neurological development”, left many parents feeling confused and concerned.
Although the risks shouldn’t be minimized, the AAP stresses that the low levels of heavy metals found in food are only a small part of a child’s overall toxic metal exposure risk. Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reiterates that there’s no immediate health risks from possible exposure to the toxic elements found in baby food.
So how can you limit baby’s exposure to heavy metals in food? Offer a varied diet and age-appropriate serving sizes, advises DiMaggio and Porto. A well-balanced diet that includes fruit, vegetables, grains and protein is the best line of defence as it lowers exposure to heavy metals and other contaminants found in single-source ingredients. Parents should also replace rice products, which tend to contain higher levels of arsenic, with other grains like oats, barley or quinoa.
Packaged food is a convenient option for many families. Baby food brands are constantly innovating, which means there are plenty of options on the market from classic jars to travel-friendly pouches and subscription services that deliver fresh meals direct to your door. Whether you’re stocking up your pantry, or just need a quick fix for when your baby food blender is on the fritz, here are some of our top picks for store-bought baby eats.
Pumpkin Tree Peter Rabbit Organics 4.4-ounce pouches
First up is a product pegged as one of the best baby food pouches on Amazon. Made from 100 percent USDA certified organic ingredients, Peter Rabbit Organics pouches are free from added sugar, salt and flavorings. They’re suitable from 6 months of age and come in squeezable, BPA-free pouches, which make perfect toddler snacks on the go. Available in a range of tasty fruit and vegetable combinations.
Buy it: $18 for a pack of 10, Amazon.com
Cerebelly clean label project purity award winning 5-7 months organic baby food
Cerebelly is a new-to-market option, and one of the best baby food brands backed by science. Developed by a team of doctors and food experts, each pouch is packed full of non-GMO, certified organic ingredients that deliver precise nutrition targeted to baby’s developmental stage. Plus, this baby food is free from the eight major allergens and contains no added sugar. Suitable for ages 5 to 7 months.
Buy it: $8 for a pack of 3, Target.com
Can’t make it to the grocery store? Get the best baby food delivered to your home courtesy of Little Spoon. The Best of Baby award-winning subscription service offers a rotating menu of seasonal, cold-pressed purees that meet all of baby’s nutritional needs. From single-ingredient recipes to complex blends, they cater to every stage of the weaning process. All the blends are certified organic and non-GMO project verified with no added preservatives, sugars or fillers. Sign us up!
Buy it: Starting from $3 per meal, LittleSpoon.com
Once Upon a Farm baby fruit and veggie bundle
Once Upon a Farm, a baby food brand created by celebrity mom Jennifer Garner, delivers delicious, farm-fresh food. The organic, unsweetened blends are cold-pressed to lock in the nutrients and flavors kids love. Start baby off on the signature blends (designed for 6 months and up) before introducing them to yummy smoothies and wholesome overnight oats. One thing to note is that this baby food must be stored in the refrigerator.
Buy it: $40 for a pack of 12, OnceUponaFarm.com
Amara organic baby food applesauce with maqui berry
Unlike most baby foods on the market, Amara isn’t ready-to-eat. Instead, you’re meant to blend in their organic offerings with your choice of breast milk, formula or water. Amara uses a cold high-pressure processing technique that gently dries fruits, veggies and grains via pressure instead of high heat. This method locks in vitamins and nutrients without additives, preservatives or pesky fillers. (And yes, it’s organic.) Is it any wonder this pick is a Best of Baby award winner?
Buy it: $13 for a pack of 5, Amara.com
Stonyfield Organic yobaby pear & peach whole milk yogurt with probiotics cups
Did you know babies can begin eating yogurt as young as 6 months? In fact, it’s a pretty stellar first food—and Stonyfield’s Yobaby offering is a great pick to try. The full-fat organic yogurt is packed with bone-building Vitamin D and calcium. Plus, this creamy goodness contains added probiotics to help support baby’s digestive health, and it’s all free of artificial hormones, antibiotics and GMOs.
Buy it: $5 for a pack of 6, VONS.com
Serenity Kids baby food
On the hunt for some top-notch savory baby food? Serenity Kids is a family-owned business that uses ethically sourced meat and organic vegetables to create protein-rich recipes. To mimic the macronutrients of breast milk, organic avocado oil or olive oil is added to provide essential fatty acids that encourage nutrient absorption and aid in brain development. Plus, the blends are naturally low in sugar.
Buy it: $30 for 8 pouches, Amazon.com
Ellas Kitchen vegetable bake with lentils
Finding gluten-free, lactose-free and vegetarian baby food that’s healthy and appeals to kids is easier than ever, thanks to Ella’s Kitchen. Made using simple, organic ingredients each pouch is nutritionally balanced and packed with exciting new tastes and textures. Better yet, there’s not a single sprinkle or splash of added salt, sugars or additives in Ella’s GMO-free products. And they don’t bulk up their pouches with water or fruit and veggie concentrates, either. Still in the early stages of weaning? Infants aged 4 months and up will adore the fruity options.
Buy it: $5, LittleMooOrganics.com
Beech-Nut organics butternut squash baby food jar
[Beech-Nut] baby food jars are an excellent way to introduce baby to solids. Each jar contains a single-ingredient that has been gently cooked for maximum taste. Choose from the non-GMO naturals range or opt for the organic range, which is slightly more expensive. This baby food is free from added salt, sugar and the big eight allergens.
Buy it: $1, Target.com
Gerber single-grain oatmeal baby cereal
For as long as little ones have been cooing, cereal has been among babies’ first foods—and this oatmeal from Gerber is a tried-and-true option. The single-grain cereal is fortified with Iron and vitamins for healthy development with added calcium for healthy bones and teeth. Gerber oatmeal contains no artificial colors or flavors and the brand makes an organic version too.
Buy it: $31 for a pack of 6, Amazon.com
Don’t want to make your own homemade blends? Yumi has you covered. This subscription service preps, cooks and delivers fresh food for babies on a weekly basis. Yumi covers all bases with single-ingredient blends, textured purees, finger food and toddler snacks. The best part? The plant-based baby food jars are 100 percent organic, non-GMO and kosher.
Buy it: Starting from $4 per meal, HelloYumi.com
Happy Baby organics superfood puffs
A list of the best store-bought baby food wouldn’t be complete with a few healthy snacks in the mix. Our personal favorite? Happy Baby Superfood Puffs. The organic, non-GMO grain snacks are fortified with vitamins C, E and B12—plus, Choline to support brain health. These melt-in-the-mouth treats are sure to be a big hit with babies and tots alike. Looking for something more substantial? Happy Baby also makes tasty cereal and top-rated puree pouches.
Buy it: $20 for a pack of 6, Amazon.com
About the experts:
Dina DiMaggio, MD, is a pediatrician at Pediatric Associates of NYC and at NYU Langone Medical Center, and serves as a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. She has received numerous research awards and a Patient’s Choice award. She was featured in New York Times Magazine as a Super Doctor and New York Rising Star. She and Anthony Porto are co-authors of the book The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers.
Anthony Porto, MD, MPH, FAAP, is a pediatrician and pediatric gastroenterologist at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital and the medical director of the Yale Pediatric Celiac Program. He’s also an associate professor of pediatrics and associate clinical chief of pediatric gastroenterology at Yale School of Medicine, as well as an AAP spokesperson. He has won numerous awards, You can follow them on Instagram at @pediatriciansguide.
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.