If you have a baby ready to move into solid foods soon, you’re probably wondering what the best baby foods for your new eater will be.
Should you make your own baby food or buy ready-bought? What foods are the best for babies? Is it a good idea to practice baby-led weaning? If you have questions about the best foods for babies, we have the answers. Let’s dive in.
In this article:
- What to look for in baby food
- Does store-bought baby food have heavy metals in it?
- Homemade vs. store-bought baby food
- Best farm-fresh baby food: Once Upon A Farm
- Best baby food for introducing nuts: Happy Baby Nutty Blends
- The best jar baby food: Beech Nut Organics
- Best brain-supporting baby food: Cerebelly
- Best organic baby food: Plum Organics
- Best baby cereal: Happy Baby Oatmeal & Quinoa Cereal
The Best Baby Food: What to Look For
When making choices about what to feed your baby, the first rule is to keep it simple: focus on whole foods with fewer ingredients and fresh flavors and no additives, including sugars or vitamins.
And while that might sound intimidating at first, the good news is—you can achieve this whether you make your baby’s meals or go store-bought.
So what is the best baby food? There are benefits to both homemade baby food and store-bought baby food.
Store bought baby food is great for on-the-go and allows you to introduce your baby to foods that may be out of season where you live. (Hello, summer peaches in December!) It can take a lot of stress and guesswork out of mealtime prep.
Are There Heavy Metals in Baby Food?
If you’ve heard a lot in the news recently about heavy metals in baby food, let us reassure you that there’s no need to panic: store-bought baby food can be safe, but it’s good to be aware.
The American Academy of Pediatrics acknowledges that heavy metals can pose a risk to cognitive development and should be minimized but that “low levels of heavy metals found in baby foods likely are a relatively small part of a child’s overall toxic metal exposure risk.”
The FDA also released a statement indicating that there is no need to throw out their baby food or avoid certain food groups altogether. The AAP also recommends making sure your baby has a varied diet, avoiding rice cereal, continuing to breastfeed if possible, and to consider making your own baby food.
Trust me, you don’t have to be Martha Stewart to whip up baby meals with ease. Steaming and pureeing foods is actually a lot simpler than it seems, especially if you have a device that can do both for you. And if you have a couple ice cube trays, you can make a whole batch of baby food for an entire week or two and stick them in the freezer. And voila! The best baby food is right at your fingertips!
Homemade vs. Store Bought Baby Food
There’s no reason to shy away from store-bought baby food, but if you’re looking to make your own baby food, it’s easier than ever to do. Homemade baby food also gives you the opportunity to pick out the ingredients and mix and match according to your baby’s taste buds.
And by using a baby food maker, the whole process doesn’t have to be super time consuming. Start with one simple ingredient—like a carrot, apple, or banana—and mix with your breastmilk or formula. Then you can diversify and mix things up with combo flavors: carrot/peach, squash/apple, spinach/pear.
Don’t feel like you have to be committed to one method or one brand or even one way of feeding your baby. The best way is the way that works for you and your child and you can let your little one experiment with a mixture of baby-led weaning and joining you at the table with their own silverware.
OK, ready to dive into my real-life reviews of some of the best store-bought and shipped-direct baby food options out there? Let’s get munchin’, moms!
The Best Organic Baby Food
“This was some of the best baby food I’ve tasted. I’m not sure if it was the fresh ingredients and flavors—like turmeric!—or the way it was cold pressed, but the taste was clean and fresh."
Family Farm Founded
Aside from their delicious flavor blends, such as apple & blueberry or mango, coconut, & carrots, Once Upon a Farm also offers cold-pressed fruit and vegetable blends geared towards toddlers but suitable for babies 6 months and over.
Even teens have been reported to enjoy Once Upon a Farm products, which also include overnight oats and dairy free smoothie blends. And who wouldn’t with product names like “Wild Rumpus Avocado” and “Magic Velvet Mango”?
There are also seasonal fruit and veggie blends on offer, such as Farmer Jen’s (AKA actress & cofounder Jennifer Garner) Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookie. And if that weren’t enough, you can customize a subscription box and get baby’s meals delivered right to your door. Fair warning: the farm to fridge method means these products are perishable and should be stored in your refrigerator, so make sure you have room before you put your order in!
- All items are dairy free
- Cold pressed baby food
- Products are perishable, may be frozen for 6 months
- Co-founded by Jennifer Garner
- Subscriptions available
“I’ve wanted to make my own baby food, but it’s too time consuming and this is the perfect alternative. An easy to read label with just the ingredients you want — no strange additives. I also love that their products are Clean Label Project verified.” –Linda R.
My real-mom review:
Not gonna lie: this was some of the best baby food I’ve tasted. I’m not sure if it was the fresh ingredients and flavors—like turmeric!—or the way it was cold pressed, but the taste was clean and fresh.
My 6-month-old as well as my 2 and 3-year-olds devoured these pouches. As a family of 7, however, it’s not economical for us to keep plowing through these.
Keep in mind:
Upon a Farm offers fancy baby food with a fancy price tag. It’s also perishable, so you will have to keep it refrigerated. While you can travel with it, the company recommends it be kept with an ice pack and out of the cold for no more than four hours.
Best Baby Food for Introducing Nuts
“The smooth consistency and pure convenience of these pouches has been pretty helpful. Plus, we never keep cashew or walnut butters on hand, so it’s been a nice way to introduce those to my 7- month-old."
Facing Food Allergies
Food allergies can be scary. There’s no denying it. And introducing a potential allergen to your baby for the first time can be intimidating. (For reference sake, the AAP does say that there’s no need to delay introducing allergens to your baby and in fact, evidence says early introduction may help prevent allergies. Although, if you have a history of severe allergies, be sure to talk to your doctor first!)
The Nutty Blends pouches take the guessing, work, and stress out of introducing nut butters to your baby. Furthermore, the range offers a selection of nut butters which you may not usually have stocked in your pantry. Additionally, it’s a great way to keep nut butters separate from any family members that do have allergies in your home while being able to introduce them to your newest member.
Since pediatricians now recommend introducing nut butters as early as possible and then offering them consistently if no allergic reaction presents itself, having the pouches can be a good reminder to incorporate nut blends into your child’s diet. As always, please consult your child’s pediatrician first.
- Fruit blends with nut butters mixed in
- Varieties include peanut, walnut, and cashew butters
- Smooth texture creates easy way to introduce nut butters
- Consult your child’s pediatrician before introducing nut butters
“Perfect for my kids! My daughter who just turned 1 is super picky when it comes to food. She does not like any kind of chunky texture just yet, nor will she eat any veggie without it being covered up with a fruit flavor, these are perfect for her because it gives her the extra protein she needs and she loves them.”–Amazon.com review
My real-mom review:
When I first started having kids, the “no peanut butter until one year old” rule was still strictly enforced, so when it changed after my 4th baby, I felt a bit like a new mom again. While I can easily mash together a banana and a bit of peanut butter at home (and I frequently do), the smooth consistency and pure convenience of these pouches has been pretty helpful. Plus, we never keep cashew or walnut butters on hand, so it’s been a nice way to introduce those to my 7- month-old.
Keep in mind:
If it wasn’t obvious from the title, this product contains nuts, which is a food allergen. Please consult your pediatrician before you introduce it to your child for the first time. The company does state that their Nutty Blends pouches are made in a separate facility from their other products.
The Best Jar Baby Food
“There is something about Beech Nut’s simple ingredients and simply glass jars that just make sense. The texture of their Stage 1 & 2 baby food is just right for my 4-month-old. I can also find this brand at most grocery stores."
Classic for a Reason
Beech Nut might have been the baby food your grandmother ate—the company has been making baby food since 1931. And if you are looking for no fuss, simple baby food that is still made with USDA organic ingredients and nothing else, Beech Nut may be your go-to.
Nothing artificial is added and all fruit purees are cooked gently over indirect heat to preserve color, flavor, and nutrients. It’s a bit like your grandmother used to make, if your grandmother ever whipped up batches of USDA-organic medleys of pureed pear, kale, and cucumber.
- 4 oz glass jars
- Stage 1: 4+ months, single fruit and vegetable purees
- Stage 2: 6+ months, vegetable, fruit, and grain blends
- Stage 3: 8+ months, a chunkier puree to encourage chewing
“I have never seen pumpkin offered as a baby food so I was thrilled to try it out with my 6-month-old! She can’t get enough of it! I will definitely be purchasing more of this flavor and all of the other Beechnut varieties as well! I feel like Beechnut has the best combinations that my daughter loves!” –Beech Nut review
My real-life mom review:
There is something about Beech Nut’s simple ingredients and simply glass jars that just make sense. The texture of their Stage 1 & 2 baby food is just right for my 4-month-old. I can also find this brand at most grocery stores.
Keep in mind:
This is baby food in a jar, so it might be less travel friendly than a pouch. Jars are glass hence breakable. (But if you’re crafty, there’s a million ideas on Pinterest!)
Best Brain-Supporting Baby Food
“I appreciated the fact that I could email customer service and get another flavor sent to me—for free. That in itself is genius!"
Did you know that in the first three years of life, the brain grows 1% a day? Apparently, that’s a fact, so Cerebelly is all about supporting that brain growth through food.
Don’t have time to make (or even shop for) your baby’s food but want to give him fresh, organic produce that contains nutrition key to his brain development shipped right to your door? Cerebelly’s got you. You can take a quiz based on the milestone your baby is currently at and they will customize a box of food for you. Easy as spinach-apple-sweet potato pie!
- All organic ingredients with no preservatives
- Science-backed nutrition developed by a neuroscientist
- Create customizable delivery boxes targeted towards your child’s development and age
- Build bundles based on age, your profile, or favorite flavors
“After listening to a podcast by the founder I found that Cerebelly is ahead of its time in the baby food game. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of packaging and the forethought put into achieving baby milestones. We have probably tried 8 different Cerebelly pouch flavors and my son has loved all of them. These pouches make me feel less guilty and more in control about feeding on the go.” –Cerebelly.com review
My real-life mom review:
Maybe I am not cerebral enough, but I personally could not really decipher the taste of this from other baby foods I have tried.
However, 7-month-old might be smarter than me because he gobbled up some white bean pumpkin apple like it was going out of style. And if he hadn’t liked it, I appreciated the fact that I could email customer service and get another flavor sent to me—for free. That in itself is genius!
Keep in mind:
The custom and convenience of Cerebelly also comes with a higher price tag and is one of the more expensive baby food products currently on the market.
Best Organic Baby Food
“Plum Organics was the first organic baby food I purchased and, five kids later, I am still buying it. Although we generally make our own food when at home, I appreciate these pouches on the go. And I can always find flavor combinations my kids like."
A Pouch Full of Goodness
No matter what city, state, or grocery store I have found myself in over the years, I can usually count on Plum Organics in the baby aisle. And it’s always such a stress relief, whether I am in the middle of a grocery run with a hungry baby in the cart or traveling in a different state with no baby food maker.
Plum Organics always seems to have baby friendly flavor combinations that all my little ones have enjoyed. Shelf-stable, you can easily keep these pouches in the pantry and then toss them in the diaper bag later when you’re on the go. While the pouch is not recyclable (yet), the cap on it is and overall, the environmental footprint is less than glass. I like using Plum Organics baby food when I want to try a fruit or veg that isn’t in season where I live or is something I am not sure my baby would like at first, such as prunes, mango, or sweet potato.
- Provides baby food combinations in three stages
- Stage 1: 4+ months, introducing solids with one blend of unsweetened, unsalted ingredients
- Stage 2: 6+ months, blends of fruits, vegetables, and Greek yogurts, and grains
- Stage 3: 6+ months, more hearty blends that include vegetables, grains, and meats
- Pouches of baby food
- Refrigerate and use within 24 hrs. after opening
“My daughter has an extremely sensitive stomach and is one of the few with constipation issues so I’ve looked and tried every sort of food you can think of. This is the absolute best for a million reasons; the flavor is great even if your kid doesn’t like vegetables the pear balances it perfectly, it’s made of clean ingredients, it’s very forgiving on the stomach, it’s great for an on-the-go snack and MOST importantly is it’s not just an empty snack! A lot of the pouches are just fillers with 1g of fiber (or less!) and usually less than a gram of protein. With my daughter’s stomach issues, I like to make whatever she eats count. Just one pouch has 4g of fiber and 2g of protein! You absolutely cannot beat that and it’s great knowing of course she’s getting a good amount of vegetables on top of it!”–– Amazon review
My real-life mom review:
Plum Organics was the first organic baby food I purchased and, five kids later, I am still buying it. Although we generally make our own food when at home, I appreciate these pouches on the go. And I can always find flavor combinations my kids like.
Keep in mind:
While these are travel friendly, the pouch is not entirely eco-friendly as only the cap can be recycled. The House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform released a report about heavy metals in baby food and Plum Organics was included. The company responded here.
Best Baby Cereal
“The Happy Baby oatmeal & quinoa blend stood out because the protein in the quinoa fills up my baby more than rice cereal and the packaging makes it easy to store.”
Baby’s First Food
If you are looking for a first food that is gentle on the stomach, you may first want to try a baby cereal. Most pediatricians now recommend starting with an oatmeal-based cereal over a rice cereal and the Happy Baby oatmeal and quinoa blend has a satisfying mix that will go down easy and keep your baby content.
You can easily control the thickness of the cereal by measuring how much liquid you add and mixing it with breastmilk can make for an easy transition to solids.
- Quinoa and Oat blend
- Mix with water or breastmilk to create custom consistency
- Serve as is or warm
- Resealable package
“Good cereal, healthy and easy to use! You can mix it with milk, formula, or water and it easily dissolves, warm or cold. Good nutritional value too, and I like that it contains quinoa and oat flour (slightly more nutritious than just wheat, corn or rice flour). I am skeptical about preparing baby foods and making my own at home, but liked this one to provide iron while being relatively unprocessed. One negative is that it’s very bland and our baby won’t have anything to do with it plain. And she eats most anything. BUT- she loves it when it’s mixed with other flavors, and it’s a good vehicle for other purées.” –Amazon.com review
My real-life mom review:
After trying numerous types of baby cereal, it’s difficult to tell them apart after a while. For the most part, they all have a similar flaky consistency and overall bland taste, which, for babies, can be a good thing. However, the Happy Baby oatmeal & quinoa blend stood out because the protein in the quinoa fills up my baby more than rice cereal and the packaging makes it easy to store.
Keep in mind:
Some babies may prefer the bland flavor of oatmeal as their first meal or mixed with the familiar taste of breastmilk. As baby gets older and more experienced with food, you can mix other foods in with the oatmeal to create different flavor combinations.
Frequently Asked Questions
What brand baby food is best?
Look for brands that contain simple ingredients with no added sugar. If possible, choose organic.
What is the best first baby food to try?
A good starter meal would be a form of baby cereal (rice or oatmeal) mixed with your breastmilk or formula but you can also go with a fruit or veg for their first foray at the table. As long as it’s not honey or cow’s milk, baby could try almost anything.
What are babies’ favorite foods?
Baby favorites tend to be foods that go down smooth: bananas, squashes, avocados, even mashed potatoes. Fruits can also be favored due to their sweetness. Apples, peaches, pears are good places to start.
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