Choosing Store Bought Baby Food

AngelaRD, LDN, CBS


Stage 2 foods are thicker in consistency and can be started once your baby is comfortable with the consistency of stage 1 foods.  Foods included in this stage are often combination foods like sweet potatoes and banana or apples, squash and turkey. 

When looking at the array of baby food choices, you may have noticed that each selection is labeled with a stage. The stages refer to where your baby is developmentally in relation to eating.  Stage 1 foods are considered first foods to start around 6 months of age. They are usually single ingredient items including single grain cereals like oatmeal and rice cereal and thinner purees like green beans, squash, apples, peas, bananas, pears and even single pureed proteins like chicken and turkey. 

Stage 3 products are chunkier and contain small soft, pieces of foods. Once your baby is doing well and seems comfortable with one stage, use that as a sign that he is likely ready to be progressed to the next stage.


The ingredients in store bought baby foods can vary greatly by brand. Some manufacturers may add more ingredients for preservation, taste and texture, while others do not.  The main ingredient in the foods you choose should be the specific food you are choosing, meaning that it should come first on the ingredients list.  If you are choosing peaches, then peaches should be the first word on the ingredients list.

Most baby food manufacturers today do not add salt to their products; however added sugars and empty calorie fillers still manage to sneak their way in. Examples of this include extra fruit juice added to jarred fruits. Choosing foods with as little and as natural ingredients as possible will reduce your baby’s exposure to these additives.

What to Do

  • Read the label– Be sure to look at the ingredient lists of the foods you are choosing. Make sure the food you are choosing is the first word next to the ingredients list. For example, if you are choosing a jar of sweet potatoes, make sure “sweet potatoes” are the first (and preferably one of the only) words on the list.
  • Check the expiration date– It’s exciting picking out which foods your baby will try; but don’t forget to take a look at the product’s expiration date to make sure the product is fresh.
  • Choose the appropriate stage- Start with stage 1 foods as first foods and progress as your baby tolerates. Once he seems comfortable with one stage, it’s time to move to the next.
  • Listen for the “pop” sound– When choosing jarred baby food, make sure you hear a popping sound (just as you would with any other jarred product) to ensure that it is airtight and hasn’t been opened.
  • Keep food safety in mind– Avoid feeding baby straight from the jar, as this can introduce bacteria from your baby’s mouth into the food. Be familiar with recommended “safe times” for opened jarred baby food
    • Opened, strained fruits or veggies- 2-3 days
    • Strained meats- 1 day
    • Veggie and meat combos-2 days
  • Include variety- Expose your baby to as many different flavors as possible. The more variety in your baby’s diet, the more he may be accepting of new foods long term.