Food pouches are one of the latest trends in feeding hungry kids and it’s easy to see why they are so popular. But speech pathologists at Kids First have issued a warning to parents about the impact that food pouches can have on children’s feeding skills and the dangers they pose to children who are fussy eaters.
Let’s face it, they are just a little bit awesome. Food pouches containing yogurt, fruit, or pureed vegies can be eaten on the go, so they’re quick and easy for active families.
They don’t need to be kept in the fridge and the squeezy pouch means that they’re relatively mess-free. What’s not to love?
While food pouches seem like a revolutionary stress-free way to help your child eat their daily 2 + 5 of fruit and vegetables, parents should still be wary of becoming over-reliant on them.
We know that purees can really limit your child’s opportunities to develop their eating skills and it makes sense that kids’ awareness and knowledge about food is reduced when they eat a lot of packaged products.
Unfortunately, food pouches also tend to be higher in calories and sugar than whole food versions of fruit and vegetables. They can also be lower in fibre, which our bodies need to help us feel full.
So, if your child is eating more calories and not feeling as full as they would have if they had eaten a banana from the fruit bowl, over time they may put on extra weight.
This is definitely something to watch out for given the increased rates of childhood obesity.
Pureed food consumed from food pouches might be great for getting nutrition into kids quickly and without mess, but there are several things that children miss out on when food pouches are a frequent part of their diet.
When children eat from a food pouch, they suck the food instead of chewing it.
Because of this, their oral motor skills are not given the work out they need to build jaw strength and the coordination that chewing gives.
Their fine motor skills also don’t develop as quickly as they could because they don’t get as many opportunities to manipulate a spoon, position a bowl, and direct food to their mouth.
As the trend for using food pouches has grown, we’ve seen that children who regularly consume food pouches can become picky with their food later on.
This is because they haven’t had as much opportunity to try different textures, and to interact with the food they’re eating.
Just as children need practice to learn to walk and talk, they also need practice with food. Without repeated opportunities to learn what different foods look, smell and feel like, they struggle to get used to new flavours and textures.
While they are incredibly appealing, it’s best to limit your child’s consumption of food pouches to occasional snacks when you are travelling or to situations when you’re on the go.
For other meals, try to offer a variety of colours, flavours, textures and smells to your child.
For children who have major feeding problems, speech therapists advise that the soft foods that are contained in pouches are often big favourites because they are easy to eat.
However catering to these preferences too often can lead to firmly entrenched, and not so healthy, habits that can be hard to break.
While it can be frustrating to see food go to waste when your little person spits it out, encouraging your children to explore a variety of foods is the key.
You can do this too when you make careful, informed choices when serving snacks to your children.
Your child is likely to have to try a new food up to 15 times before it will be accepted readily.
If you’re unsure or concerned that your child has a restrictive diet, or if your child is having difficulty tolerating different foods, seek professional advice from your GP or a paediatric dietitian.
Finding ways to take your child forward with food is much better than waiting, and hoping, that their fussy feeding habits are just a phase.
© 2022 Kids First Children’s Services
If your child struggles to eat a wide variety of foods, Kids First Children’s Services’ speech therapists may be able to help. We can determine if your child’s mouth, tongue and lips are moving correctly, and that their swallowing is working properly too. Our Early Intervention Specialists may also be able to assist with mealtime routines and advice to take the drama out of dinner time at your house.
If you would like more information about Speech Therapy at Kids First, please contact us on 9938 5419 or click on the link below.