8 Best Store-Bought Baby Foods, According to Experts
As much as we love the idea of serving our little ones homemade, fresh, organic baby food every day, sometimes that's just not realistic. Thankfully, there are plenty of wholesome baby food brands out there. Finding the best ones does require some time spent studying labels, but that's easy to do if you know what you're looking for.
Katie Sova, a clinical dietitian at the Children's Hospital of Michigan, notes that food labels list ingredients in order of greatest amount to least amount. "When reading the label, the first three ingredients are crucial," she says. "I recommend choosing brands that have real foods and limited-to-no added ingredients such as fillers to ensure adequate nutrition." She also recommends avoiding added sugars and sodium as well as artificial flavorings.
It's also important to make sure you're feeding Baby a variety of foods. Jennifer House, a dietitian with First Step Nutrition and mom of three, notes that many baby purees are just fruit and veggie mixes. "Fruit and vegetables are great, but don't provide enough calories or iron to be your baby's only source of solid food," she says. "So if you can find a whole grain and especially protein in baby food, that's great! Some baby purees have meat in them, which is the best source of iron for your baby, so look for those if you're not a vegetarian family."
House also recommends looking for plain veggie purees, as most are mixed with fruit. "That way your baby will get used to the less sweet taste of vegetables on their own and not come to expect that every food is sweetened with apples!"
Ready to get shopping? Here are seven of the best baby food brands, according to experts.
This widely available brand offers both organic and natural options, all of which undergo rigorous tests to ensure they're free from pesticides and heavy metals. From cereals and snacks to purees, all the Beech-Nut offerings are free from artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors. They may be one of the oldest baby food brands—founded in 1891—but they're also one of the more progressive, with an eye toward sustainability. They're the world's first LEED-certified baby food production company, with recyclable glass jars that stand out from the more popular pouches that line so many shelves today.
When you hear that a practicing neurosurgeon developed this baby food brand, you immediately need to know more. Teresa Purzner, M.D., Ph.D., was studying developmental neurobiology when she had the first of her three kids. After reading through a year of literature on nutrition and child brain development, she knew exactly what she was looking for in the baby food aisle pinpointing 16 key nutrients to look for, but couldn't find enough of them in a pouch or jar. "I was faced with hundreds of pouches and flipped them over but only found two or three ingredients in meaningful quantities," she says. Each batch of Cerebelly is a vegetable-first combination, goes through a rigorous screening for heavy metals, and offers specific nutrition for each stage of brain development. Just look at the nutrition panel on the back of each pouch for proof.
Canada's top organic baby food brand, Baby Gourmet, is also House's personal favorite. "It was founded by two sisters who are moms that wanted to provide nutritious yet tasty food for their children," House says. Their purees are available in unique flavor combinations like ripe mango and avocado with oats, vanilla banana berry risotto, and coconut, kiwi, and mangosteen with quinoa. Baby Gourmet's "Tasty Textures" line of meat purees includes options like sweet potato, apple, and chicken. They proudly use only non-GMO organic ingredients with no fillers, artificial sugar or salt, or artificial preservatives.
Earth's Best Organic
With offerings for every stage of your baby's journey to eating solids, Earth's Best Organic specializes in pure blends that are free from potentially harmful chemicals, pesticides, genetically engineered ingredients, or growth hormones from animal-derived products. You'll find purees in jars and pouches, plus whole grain cereals, snack bars, and even frozen food entrees for toddlers. For kiddos with dietary restrictions, Earth's Best has gluten-free and kosher products as well.
Using ingredients like chickpeas, zucchini, and quinoa, Sprout baby foods offer a range of textures and flavors for developing palates. All of their chef-inspired baby and toddler purees are made from minimally processed whole foods sourced from certified-organic growers—no concentrates, no preservatives, no GMOs.
If you want to insist on fresh food for your baby but don't want to make it yourself, Little Spoon offers a fully customized menu of baby foods delivered right to your door every other week. All you need to do is take a little quiz about your baby, which will allow Little Spoon to create a personalized meal plan based on their nutritional needs. This is an allergy-friendly company, meaning they don't work with any foods containing the eight major allergens (including meat).
Happy Baby Food
This parent-run company takes an "Enlightened Nutrition" approach to their products that goes beyond USDA organic standards. With different types of foods specially designed for different stages, Happy Baby Food recipes include key nutrients like iron, DHA, choline, and prebiotic fiber. They're focused on eco-friendly packaging, with the commitment to go 100 percent reusable, recyclable, or compostable with their packaging by 2025.
One of the most recognizable and widely available baby food brands on the market, Gerber has earned its reputation for high-quality, nutritional baby food. Available in glass jars, plastic tubs, and pouches—with the goal to make all of their packaging recyclable—Gerber baby food is broken up into different developmental-based milestones, from newborn and supported sitter to toddler and preschooler. Flavors tend to be pretty simple and straightforward, with no artificial flavors or colors.