5 Tips on Reading a Baby Food Label

Tips on Reading a Baby Food Label

You’re a new mom. Your baby is about 3 months old, and you've just started to get used to the sleepless nights, diaper changes and total life change that came to turn your life around (and your heart ❤️️). Now, your baby is showing signs it's time to start solids, and you're starting to think about baby food. You’ve gone to your local supermarket and just stared and stared at the different kinds of baby foods available. Jars, pouches, canisters, so many different flavors, different things to take in. It’s overwhelming, right?

There are few aisles of the supermarket that have more choices than baby food. Here’s your guide to understanding baby food and baby food labels and ingredients. We include quick tips on how to read the nutrition label on baby food - how to read the stages - and how to figure out the best food to feed your baby. Here's what we dive into:

  • Front of a Baby Food Jar or Pouch Label: What to pay attention to  
  • Back of a Baby Food Jar or Pouch Label: What to pay attention to  
  • How to Choose the Best Baby Food for your Baby

Reading the Front of a Baby Food Label

The front of a baby food jar or pouch consists of the Brand Name, Flavor, Stage or Months and any certifications. There are usually some pretty photos of fruits and vegetables. Those are self-explanatory. Just make sure you compare those to the Ingredient List and its order on the back of the pouch.

Baby food traditionally came in one form: Jars. Usually made of glass and been around since our great grandparents, jars contain pasteurized purees of fruits, vegetables, grains and sometimes meat. The jars and pouches use high repeat heat to keep the fruits and vegetables shelf-stable. Learn more about that high-heat process here. Baby food now also comes in Pouches. Inside pouches, there is the same high heat fruit and veggie puree as the jars, just in a different packaging. Today, there is a lot of innovation in baby food formats like refrigerated or Amara Baby Food - all aimed to try to get the benefits of fresh - without you having to make it yourself. 

Here are the things you should be paying attention to on the front:

  • Stage/Months: Companies classify baby food into stages or months, helping parents to decide when to introduce the food to their little one. The World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding and then the step by step introduction of complementary foods. In practice, studies show that a high percentage of mothers/parents/infants start introducing complementary foods earlier than 6 months. Whatever you decide is right for you and your family, make sure you check with your pediatrician. 
The stages suggested in baby food offered on grocery shelves are usually decided by their ingredients and/or texture and are guidelines to help you choose the right food for your baby. 
4-6 months or First stage: Complete puree with a single ingredient.
6-8 months or Second stage: “Strained”, a little chunkier than puree, and combination flavors.
8+ months or Third stage: “Mashed”, chunkier like mashed potatoes.

Note: Stages or months depend on what and when your little one is comfortable with different foods and textures. It varies greatly from one baby to the next so trust yourself and your pediatrician.

  • Organic Certification: In order to prove that food was raised or grown organically, third-party certifiers check to make sure food manufacturers follow organic regulations. Don’t just look for organic on the label. Look for a certification seal as well!
  • Name of Flavor: Make sure you read the ingredient list on the back. It will tell you more than just the catchy marketing name of the flavor. 

Reading the Back of a Baby Food Label

The back of a baby food jar or pouch consists of the nutrition panel, ingredient list and any directions. There is usually some marketing story, too.

Most of the important information to help you choose what baby food is best for your little is here. These are the things you want to pay attention to on the back:

  • Nutritional Panel:This will tell you the daily values which are the recommended daily amounts of nutrients based on age. These are calculated by the Food and Drug Administration. 
  • Ingredient List:  Ingredients are listed in order of the amount of each ingredient in the pouch from greatest to least. So if the flavor says "Sweet Potato Apple" on the front, but the ingredient list starts with apples, it means it's mostly just apple fruit puree instead of the vegetable sweet potato you were looking for. Make sure you are getting what you wanted here. 
  • Why is there fruit in so many baby food pouches? It has to do with controlling pH, which also controls mold and bacteria growth. One of the ways to control pH (how acid or basic something is) is to add fruit that swings pH enough to slow the growth of any bacteria inside. That's why a lot of jars and pouches are fruit- based, with little hints of vegetables, instead of being vegetable-based. If you're looking for a baby food that is mostly vegetables, make sure to read the ingredient list and pay attention to the order of the ingredients listed. 

How to Choose the Best Baby Food for your Baby

We hope this helps to understand some of the common terms around baby food and reading a baby food label. It can be hard to start solids with your baby and knowing how to choose the best baby food and knowing how to read the baby food label are the first steps. 

At Amara, we believe that you - and your baby - shouldn't have to choose between nutrition and convenience. That's why we started Amara baby food - to bring you all the benefits of fresh, homemade meals for your baby - without starting from scratch. Just add breast milk, formula or water for a gentle transition to solid foods and your baby's nutritious meal is ready in seconds. 

Not sure where to start?

Not sure where to start? We have an Introduction to Solids pack that's perfect to start your baby on solid foods, or you can shop our whole collection of baby food blends: vegetable-forward flavors, plant-based proteins, baby cereals and superfruits - always 100% organic. Use the code ONLYTHEBEST for 15% off and free shipping on your first order of Amara. 

Amara baby food brings you 100% organic baby blends with whole vegetables, plant based proteins, superfruits and baby cereals. Voted #1 "Best Baby Food" by the Bump - shop our baby food blends to get all the benefits of fresh, homemade meals - without starting from scratch.

We know starting solids can be overwhelming but we're here for you. Your pediatrician and your mommy tribe can help you as well as our on staff PHD in nutrition. Have more questions? Follow along our #foodfactfridays every week on our Instagram or send us your questions and we’ll keep debunking those baby food myths! 

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