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Nutrition Spotlight: Iron and Baby Food Pouches

Baby food pouches may get the thumbs up from many parents when it comes to convenience, but they failed to impress Kiwi researchers with their iron content. Registered Nutritionist Regina Wypych takes a look at their nutritional value.

Earlier this year the University of Otago released research expressing concern at the lack of iron in popular baby food pouches. The pouches have become popular in recent years however there has been minimal research done to assess their nutritional quality. Researchers from the University of Otago study looked at 266 baby foods sold in New Zealand supermarkets from 2019 to 2020 and found baby food pouches are incredibly low in iron. On average, the pouches contained just 0.3mg of iron per 100g. One pouch often equates to one meal for bubs, so that’s only 4.3% of their daily iron requirements.

These finding are concerning because iron deficiency at this stage of life can affect growth and nervous system development. By six months of age, about the time baby is starting solids (complementary feeding), an infant’s iron stores are depleted. From 7-12 months a baby actually needs 11mg of iron a day – that’s more iron than their father (8mg/day).

Ready-made baby food and pouches certainly have their place when it comes to convenience and feeding baby on the go, but there’s something to be said for making baby foods from scratch and knowing exactly what goes into your baby’s mouth. After all, at this age of their development every bite counts. Check out our baby food recipes below.

Top iron tips for feeding your baby:

  • Babies who are offered store-brought infant food pouches should also be offered iron-rich foods from other sources to ensure they meet their daily iron requirements
  • Offer foods from a variety of food groups, not just foods based on sweet fruits and vegetables, and ensure your baby eats some iron-rich foods at least twice a day
  • Red meat, such as beef and lamb, contains the most readily absorbed, haem-iron
  • Iron-fortified baby cereals can help to meet a baby’s daily iron requirements
  • As infants age, and solid foods become a larger part of their diet, it is important that they move on quickly from fruit and vegetable purées to less processed (commercial or homemade) foods

For more tips and ideas on iron-rich foods and recipes for infants check out Beef + Lamb New Zealand's Fuelled by Iron resource.

Posted by Regina Wypych

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