Toddlers: they’re just like us. They like to snack on cookies and cheese puffs and suck down sugary smoothies. Hey, who doesn’t? But toddler snacks are marketed in a way that makes parents think they’re buying something extra wholesome and healthy.
Let’s be real: Annie’s organic bunnies are candy. These organic “breakfast biscuits” with Elmo’s face on the box are cookies. Gerber Lil’ Crunchies, cheddar flavour, are straight-up cheese doodles.
I’ve got three kids, so I fully understand why these products exist. You are busy, and your kid probably has weird opinions about food (if not in general, then definitely when they’re out and about and prone to getting hangry). When your first baby starts eating food, you’re like what the heck should I feed him now? Pureed baby food is a natural first step, and then every other shelf in that part of the store beckons: feed him this, too.
Everything in this aisle is convenient, but it’s pretty much all overpriced and unnecessary. There are toddler “dinners” that are just regular food, but cut up into little pieces. The aforementioned cookies and cheese puffs. Pouches, which are basically smoothies. And toddler milks, which are sold as the next thing your kid should drink after they outgrow formula. (Your paediatrician will tell you: once your child turns 1, you can switch straight to regular milk.)
But to walk past all of those items, you have to realise a few things. Organic does not mean healthier. Green and brown packaging does not mean healthier. Baby-specific packaging does not make a food more suitable for a baby than the same thing in another aisle. Many of the snack foods illustrated with photos of fruits and vegetables contain only a tiny bit of those fruits or vegetables, just enough to make them look special. As the Washington Post reports, parents are left thinking the foods in this aisle are healthier than adult snack foods, but they’re usually not.
I mean, I get it. I didn’t buy yogurt puffs for my kids, so they ended up bumming them off other kids’ mums. They taste pretty good! But if I’m going to buy sugary snack foods, I might as well save my money and go buy them from the grownup aisles.