Baby food gets a healthy boost

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: June 3rd, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

As adults, many of us are becoming more mindful about what we eat. We avoid too much sugar and salt and shy away from processed foods. We seek out organic options and whole grains.

Now parents are starting to make the same kinds of choices for their babies. There’s a major trend toward healthier baby food today. Manufacturers now promise everything from vitamins and minerals to probiotics and hidden vegetables in those little jars of bland, creamy goo.

What prompted this sudden change? Well, the overall trend toward healthier eating, for a start. But several prominent studies also called attention to the fact that baby food wasn’t as healthy as it was previously touted.

An analysis published in the Journal of Public Health found that of one-hundred and eighty-six products marketed toward infants or toddlers, more than sixty percent were high in sugar, sodium or both.

While many of the products were deemed too high in sodium, an excess of sugar was the biggest problem. Fifty-three percent of the products derived more than twenty percent of their calories from sugar. The worst offender was a fruit dessert, with more than seventy-five percent of its calories coming from added sugar.

Today, Gerber is offering a line of certified-organic products, such as organic brown rice. And they aren’t the only one getting in on the act: Happy Baby, a maker of premier, healthy baby foods, has grown from being in five stores three years ago to more than five thousand today. These foods generated a lot of buzz at this spring’s National Product Expo. Also popular: low-sugar, natural juice and healthier snacks.

So parents, be sure to read labels when shopping for baby food. Those tiny jars hold more secrets than you might think.