Baby food isn’t normally something you’d picture an adult reaching for as a meal of choice. That is unless you’re a mom trying to get your infant to eat their food, or you’re recovering from dental surgery. So when NBC Chief White House Correspondent, Hallie Jackson revealed to Bloomberg Pursuits that she lives off of baby food pouches while she’s traveling for work, I was intrigued.
I understand that eating healthy while on the road can be a tough endeavor, but it never occurred to me that baby food pouches could be a food alternative. It actually gave me flashbacks of the once popular and short-lived baby food diet (surprise, surprise). Jackson’s reason behind living off of her favorite Happy Baby, baby food pouches, is that they make for a nutritious meal replacement (since they’re filled with veggies and fruits)—something that’s hard to come by in her travels.
This got me wondering if perhaps Jackson was onto something or if it was as unhealthy as it sounds. As it turns out, some experts are weary about an adult trying to sustain themselves on baby food—especially when there are better alternatives.
Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, Acupuncturist and Doctor of Chinese and Integrative Medicine challenges the idea that baby food pouches are nutrient-dense. “Even if the product is organic or claims to be full of nutrients, fiber and fat are what we need to stay full, fight diseases, and keep our body and skin healthy,” she tells Hiplatina. Additionally, she says that humans are intended to chew food and sucking on baby food pouches takes that away from us. “We need fiber, to fight off disease, keep us full, and we need a baseline amount of calories which baby food doesn’t have,” she says. Lara Field, a Pediatric Registered Dietitian, agrees with Trattner and says, “Baby food pouches are intended for babies because of their simple ingredients and smooth texture, making it appropriate for an immature digestive system and those without mature dentition.”
In fact, another thing to consider are the possible hidden contents in these baby food pouches. Field says most baby purees are fruit-based and made from concentrate, which means they’re filled with sugar. This dispels the idea that they are not as nutritious as they are presumed to be. She echoes Trattner’s concerns on adults living off of baby foods and says that we are intended to chew our foods for healthy digestion. “Whole foods, in particular from fresh fruits and vegetables, provides not only an abundance of vitamins and minerals, but also dietary fiber, which keeps us full and typically allows us to consume less calories,“ Field points out.
Not to mention that eating just baby food can set you up for nutritional deficiencies. “In the long run it’s possible to become malnourished because we need a baseline of calories that baby food doesn’t have,” says Trattner, adding that women need at least 1,500 calories a day to survive. Field concurs and explains, “The variety of vitamins and minerals required for an adult on a daily basis that are found in a whole foods diet cannot be replicated in a baby food pouch.” Her biggest concerns are that key nutrients, fiber, iron, and calcium are lacking in baby food. She says, “[Because of lack of nutrients] It’s important to review the nutrition facts panel for the quantity of vitamins and minerals, in addition to total carbohydrates and protein.”
Although baby food pouches can make a decent snack—in addition to a well-balanced diet—it doesn’t have to be the only option to eat while traveling. Some alternatives that Trattner suggests carrying are hard-boiled eggs, veggie sticks, dark chocolate, roasted chicken or canned tuna. For more TSA-friendly alternatives, you can also reach for applesauce cups (which are high in pectin and fiber), portable fruit, nuts, hummus or almond butter packets. Field says that when in doubt, opt for fiber-filled snacks. “If you’re in a pinch, even popcorn makes for a healthy choice. As a dietitian who travels for clients frequently, these tips help me manage hunger, keeping a healthy balance day to day.”
So lets be honest, would you ever forgo a nice, juicy steak for pureed meat? I didn’t think so. Remember balance is key in a healthy diet, and in this case it may be best to leave the baby food for its target audience. Ultimately, if you want to include baby food pouches as part of your daily snacks, you can do so. Just make sure that you’re also eating well-rounded meals throughout the day.