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All parents want to set their child up for a lifetime of good nutrition and healthy eating habits—and research has shown repeatedly that what your baby eats now really matters. In one recent example, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that the taste preferences children develop as babies—particularly those for fruits and vegetables—persist into childhood and adolescence.

Limiting exposure to pesticides is another goal for health-minded parents—and an important one given that toxins are particularly harmful for babies, whose systems are still developing.

The good news is that it’s only getting easier to make healthy, safe choices for your baby. “Homemade food will always be the healthiest option, but prepared foods are a convenient solution for parents who can’t make everything from scratch,” says Nicole Silber, RD, director of pediatrics at Middleberg Nutrition in New York City. “And the baby food market is evolving, so there are more and more products that meet the demands of consumers looking for cleaner, organic, and environmentally responsible ingredients. Parents should feel empowered that there are so many nutritious options available for their little ones.”

BEECH-NUT ORGANIC

healthy baby foodHere, KIWI’s guide to organic brands to consider for your baby’s first bites.
At a glance: In response to consumer requests, Beech-Nut recently launched a line of more than 20 USDA-certified organic jarred purees ranging from Just Pears to Just Butternut Squash, Black Bean & Cumin. (The company is also currently seeking the Non-GMO Project seal for all the products in its regular line.)

More to love: Beech-Nut recently became the first U.S. baby-food maker to list ingredient percentages on product labels and on its website. This label transparency allows parents to know exactly what they’re feeding their babies. Also impressive: Beech-Nut’s upstate New York headquarters has the world’s only LEED-certified baby food production facility.

EARTH’S BEST ORGANIC

healthy baby food
At a glance: Earth’s Best is the only organic baby food company that has a complete line of food for children, starting with infant formula and continuing with grain cereals, jar and pouch purees for three different eating stages, toddler biscuits, and more.

More to love: As pioneers in the organic baby food industry, the founders of Earth’s Best understood that pesticide use was going to continue to degrade the environment and affect the health of children. The company’s dedication to sustainability also extends to its packaging: It encourages parents to recycle baby food pouches through a partnership with TerraCycle, which turns used pouches into tote bags and other products.

ELLA’S KITCHEN

healthy baby food
At a glance: The company’s baby food line is split into three stages, starting at 4 months old. Most of the food is packaged in pouches, beginning with staples like a peach and banana puree and working up to more textured meals like a vegetable bake with lentils. (Products for older kids range from snacks to coconut water.)

More to love: The company’s devotion to healthy eating goes beyond promoting its own products. Ella’s Kitchen has also put out three cookbooks—including the just-released The First Foods Book, a thorough resource for parents that provides recipes, research on how to help kids become more adventurous eaters, safety guidelines for making your own baby food, and more.

GERBER ORGANIC

healthy baby food
At a glance: The expansive mainstream baby food company is offering an increasing number of options that are USDA-certified organic. The products include organic grain cereals as well as several purees for each stage of baby weaning. The pouches start with simple ingredients, like single blends of green beans or carrots, and work up to include more complex flavors like kale and avocado.

More to love: Gerber’s website offers a variety of services for parents, from menu planners to detailed feeding charts. One of our favorite features is the company’s complimentary consultations with registered dietitians. You can call and speak with an RD for 15 minutes, free of charge, for help with any questions you have regarding your baby’s eating habits. (Gerber also offers a similar service with lactation specialists.)

HAPPY FAMILY

healthy baby food
At a glance: The company’s Happy Baby line features a wide range of pouch foods, including single-ingredient purees, Greek yogurt pouches, grain cereals containing probiotics, and more.

More to love: Happy Family has strict standards when it comes to ingredients and nutrition content, resulting in products that surpass what’s required to achieve USDA-organic certification. Executives are also so dedicated to meeting the needs of families that they employ a group of more than 40 “Happy Mamas” who work in local communities to help educate parents about childhood nutrition.

LOVE CHILD ORGANICS

healthy baby food
At a glance: The company has three different types of products: puree pouches for babies 6 months and up, rice cakes that start at 7 months, and bars for children 12 months and older. The fruit-and-veggie-based foods get an extra nutrition boost from ancient grains like quinoa and amaranth and superfoods like vitamin-C-rich acerola fruit and chia seeds.

More to love: The family-owned and -operated company’s founders—Leah Garrad-Cole, a former special education teacher, and her husband, John—are committed to social responsibility. They recently teamed up with nonprofit reading organization First Book and will donate 1 cent from the sale of every Love Child Organics product to the organization.

NURTURME

healthy baby food
At a glance: This relative newcomer’s products look a little different than many competitors’: They come dried and you add water or breast milk and mix them into purees. Baby products start at age 6 months and include superfood cereals, single-ingredient fruits and vegetables, blended meals with produce and grain combinations, and more.

More to love: Nurturme’s baby purees are made using freeze- or drum-drying processes, which allow them to retain more nutrients and phytochemicals than traditionally canned foods since they’re not exposed to as much heat. To make the drum-dried foods, fruits and veggies are ground to a puree form, flash-cooked with minimal heat application, then air-dried on large drums.

PLUM ORGANICS

healthy baby food
At a glance: The company offers a vast array of products that range from first bites for babies to smoothies for moms. This variety also extends to its flavors. The stage 2 blends contain ancient grains and superfoods, like amaranth, quinoa, and chia seeds, while the World Baby line allows children to experience exotic flavors like Thai Roasted Pumpkin & Coconut Rice and Moroccan Lentils & Roasted Squash with Apricots early on.

More to love: Plum Organics was founded to help bring organic, nutritious food to all children—and that mission extends to its charitable initiative called The Full Effect, through which the company has donated almost 9 million organic snacks and meals to kids in need. Plum also worked with pediatrician Alan Greene, M.D., to formulate and produce a product called Super Smoothies that’s specifically made to help fortify the diets of children who don’t get healthy meals on a regular basis.

SPROUT ORGANIC FOODS

healthy baby food
At a glance: This brand mainly offers food purees in pouches. The simplicity of its early stage blends—generally made of just one or two ingredients, with nothing added—gives way to more complex flavors like Carrot, Mango & Coconut with Red Lentils and Minestrone & Greens with Beans once babies progress to the brand’s stage 3 “lightly textured” entrees.

More to love: In addition to nutrition, the company is focused on making sure its foods offer a variety of flavors that will help expand babies’ palates. Sprout was the first pouched baby-food brand to offer vegetable-only options for every stage, which helps babies learn to like the taste of vegetables without relying on sweet fruits to cover up the flavor.

YUMMY SPOONFULS ORGANIC BABY FOOD

healthy baby foodAt a glance: Yummy Spoonfuls’ baby purees are flash-frozen with no fillers. The company offers 25 products across three different age groups, from 4 months to 12 months and up, that gradually introduce babies to different textures and tastes.

More to love: Yummy Spoonfuls’ baby food is produced weekly and then immediately frozen, which helps products stay fresh without heat treatments, preservatives, or processing chemicals.

BE A LABEL DETECTIVE

To choose the best products within any baby food line, be on the lookout for these potential problems:

FILLERS Rice flour and tapioca starch are sometimes used to “bulk up” baby foods. “These may decrease the nutritional density of the food,” says Janet Kopchinski, RD, pediatric dietitian at Be Well Morristown in Morristown, NJ. “Plus, it’s better for infants to get carbohydrates from whole grain sources.”

HIGH SUGAR CONTENT Blends that have more than 10 grams of sugar per serving often have high amounts of concentrated fruit and fruit juice. “While fruit is completely safe and nutritious for babies, babies don’t need that much fruit in a day,” says Nicole Silber, RD, director of pediatrics at Middleberg Nutrition in New York City. Too much fruit means too much sugar, which displaces the small space in babies’ stomach intended for other nutrients—and may influence their taste buds so sugary foods become preferable.

DILUTED FOODS Avoid any products that have water or broth as the first or second ingredient. “Water is not harmful for babies, but it can significantly dilute the nutritional density, which may mean your baby is getting less protein, fat, and vitamin and mineral content,” Silber says.

MISLEADING PRODUCT NAMES “Skip the front of the label and go straight to the ingredients list to see what you’re really getting in the food,” says Silber. It’s common to see a product that includes, say, “kale” in the name but then lists the vegetable very low in the ingredients list—meaning there’s not much of it in the food.

NONORGANIC INGREDIENTS “I recommend that parents choose organic baby foods when possible in order to limit babies’ exposure to pesticides,” says Kopchinski. If you’re not always able to buy organic, the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists from the Environmental Working Group can help guide your choices. (Find them at kiwimagonline.com/dirtydozen.)

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