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Best Baby Food of 2024
February 9, 2024

Best Baby Food of 2024

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Pouches, jars, organics and more—here's what's best and why.Best Baby Food of 2024

Purees or baby-led weaning. Organic versus non-organic. Pouches, jars and subscription services. When it comes to baby food, there are a lot of decisions for parents to make.

While starting solids is a fun (and messy, so don’t say we didn’t warn you…) milestone in your baby’s first year, it also brings with it lots of choices and, for most parents, a ton of questions. Just when you feel like you’ve got your breast- or bottle-feeding schedule down to a science, figuring out when your little one is ready for baby food, how to introduce solids and what baby food is best can throw a major wrench into things.

Time to bookmark this guide for answers to all of your burning baby food questions. Whether it’s your first rodeo or you’re looking to step up your baby food game for kiddo number two, we talked to three baby food experts about all things baby food: a pediatrician, the founder of a popular website that teaches parents and caregivers how to introduce solids and prevent picky eating and a baby and toddler cookbook author. We’re also sharing our best baby food picks to save you time at the store.

Babylist’s Picks for the Best Baby Food

Babylist’s Best Baby Food Picks

Best Organic Baby Food

Why We Love It

If you like the idea of fresh baby food but don’t want the commitment of a subscription service, Once Upon a Farm is for you. The company was started with a mission to give all kids access to real, fresh food. Their blends use organic ingredients and are cold-pressed to lock in nutrients. There are baby food cups for spoon feeding as well as pouches for on-the-go.

Keep in Mind

Since Once Upon a Farm uses fresh ingredients and a cold-press process, the cups and pouches need to be stored in the refrigerator.

Another Organic Baby Food Option

Why We Love It

If you’re looking for an organic baby food brand with a variety of unique foods and flavors and something for every stage of baby’s solids journey, Plum is a great choice. Plum uses only non-GMO organic ingredients, and none of their baby food contains added salt or sweeteners. From single foods like mangos and sweet potatoes for early eaters through later stage fruit and veggie blends and even toddler options, there’s something for every hungry baby—and every organically minded parent—here.

Keep in Mind

Plum is a Certified B Corporation, committed to sustainability, meaning they believe in using business as a force of good. Their non-BPA pouches have recyclable caps and a smaller overall environmental footprint than many glass jars.

Best Baby Food Pouches

Why We Love It

While many feeding experts don’t recommend using pouches exclusively, there’s no denying the ease and convenience of this modern baby food innovation. Pouches are perfect for eating on the go or for those times when you just don’t want to deal with the mess that traditional solids can bring. The Happy Family brands, which include Happy Baby and Happy Tot, offer pouches that contain a huge variety of organic fruits and vegetables, grains and seeds, and vitamins and nutrients. We love the selection of flavor blends, featuring things like apples, kale and avocados and carrot, mango and sweet potato.

Keep in Mind

Occasionally using food pouches to feed your little one definitely isn’t a big deal, but make sure you’re also providing plenty of opportunity for your baby to sit in a high chair and explore the tastes, flavors and textures of a variety of solid foods. Introducing food should be just as much an educational experience as it is a nutritional one, and babies need lots of practice as they learn to chew and swallow—something that an excessive use of food pouches prevents, according to experts.

Most Affordable Baby Food Pouches

Why We Love It

Pouches may be convenient, but they definitely don’t come cheap. For a more affordable option, check out Amazon’s “store” brand, Mama Bear. This organic baby food doesn’t have artificial colors or flavors, is certified USDA organic and is made from non-GMO ingredients—all at a much lower price than many other popular baby food pouches.

Keep in Mind

Mama Bear Organic pouches come in Stage 1 for babies 4 months and up and Stage 2 for babies over 6 months.

Best Baby Food Pouches with Meat

Why We Love It

Most baby food pouches’ main ingredients are fruits and veggies, but what about meat? These savory Serenity Kids pouches are made with ethically sourced meat (plus organic veggies) which is a great source of protein and healthy fat for growing babies. They’re also seasoned with various herbs like ginger, rosemary and thyme to introduce your baby to more complex flavors. The AAP even recommends starting baby off with pureed meat (since it’s a good source of iron) and these pouches take care of the work for you.

Keep in Mind

These pouches are a bit on the pricier side when it comes to baby food options.

Best Bone Broth Baby Food Pouches

Why We Love It

Cerebelly makes a variety of purees, including fruit and veggie-based options, but we’re excited about their bone broth-based pouches. Bone broth is known for being packed with nutrients and there are a lot of benefits of drinking it on its own. But we love the convenience of a pouch and that’s where these come in. They’re made with either beef or chicken bone broth mixed with a veggie (like carrots, butternut squash or sweet potatoes) and seasoned for a quick and tasty meal.

Keep in Mind

Although bone broth is nutritious, it’s not necessary to serve to your baby on its own. According to Solid Starts, “low sodium broths and stocks made from meat or poultry may be introduced in meals or as a drink as soon as baby is ready to start solids.” If you do decide to offer it as a drink, be sure to limit to no more than four ounces for babies under a year old.

Best Jarred Baby Food

Why We Love It

We love the simple look (and simple ingredients) of Beech-Nut when it comes to jarred baby food. Available in both organic and natural options, these jars contain exactly the ingredients that are shown—real food, with nothing artificial added, ever. There are single-flavor purees for new eaters and later-stage blends that contain fruit, veggies, grains and more, as well as heartier textures for little ones with a bit more eating experience.

Keep in Mind

If you’re concerned about exposure to plastic, these glass jars are a great option. Beech-Nut was also the first U.S. baby food packaged in an infinitely recyclable glass jar.

Best Baby Food Subscription

Why We Love It

There are lots of parents who love the idea of homemade baby food but either don’t have the time or the desire to make it. Little Spoon solves for this common problem, delivering fresh baby food right to your door. Just hop onto the brand’s website, take a quiz about your baby then sit back and wait for a personalized meal plan that uses over 80+ organic ingredients. Our favorite part? The awesome, unique flavor blends (can you say carrot mango coconut milk tumeric and kale white bean pear basil quinoa?) that we’d never think up on our own.

Keep in Mind

You’ll pay a pretty hefty price for this convenient service, but keep in mind you can adjust your delivery schedule (which is typically every other week) at any time, or use Little Spoon alongside your own store-bought or homemade food.

Best “Make-Your-Own” Baby Food

Why We Love It

If you don’t mind doing a little prep work and making your baby’s food, you’ll love this mix-in powder from Amara. It’s made with whole, organic fruits, veggies and grains that are ground down and minimally processed to help preserve the nutritional content. Similar to how you’d make baby cereal, you can use water, breast milk or formula and customize the texture to what works for your baby. It’s also a more affordable organic option.

Keep in Mind

This food isn’t ready to feed; you’ll have to mix it yourself.

Best Baby Food Meals

Gerber 2nd Foods, Chicken & Rice - 4, 2.

Gerber 2nd Foods, Chicken & Rice - 4, 2

Why We Love It

These Gerber meals are just right for little ones who are ready for a bigger variety of food. They’re shelf stable, making them convenient for taking along to restaurants, and fairly well priced. They also come in a wide variety of food and flavor combinations, including meats.

Keep in Mind

Figuring out how to introduce meat into your baby’s diet can be tricky, which is why we really love the ease of these Gerber meals.

Best Teething Biscuit

Why We Love It

The modern version of the classic teething biscuit, these teething wafers are perfect for teethers looking for anything to chomp on that will soothe their aching gums. Made from organic ingredients, these wafers dissolve easily into baby’s mouth and don’t contain any artificial flavors. They’re also free of the top eight major allergens.

Keep in Mind

These wafers come individually wrapped, making them perfect for throwing in your diaper bag.

Best Baby Puffs

Why We Love It

Although puffs don’t have much nutritional value, they are great for working to develop baby’s pincer grasp—the ability to pick up small objects using the thumb and forefinger—which helps with fine motor skills and self-feeding. These puffs are organic and melt in baby’s mouth so they’re safe for little eaters. They’re also just really fun! Scatter a few on your baby’s tray and watch them go to town.

Keep in Mind

We hardly ever leave the house without some puffs in the diaper bag. They’re perfect for entertaining babies in restaurants when you need a few more minutes to finish your meal.

When Should You Start Baby Food?

By around six months of age, babies need solid food in addition to breast milk or formula for growth and nutrition, says Dr. Tracey Agnese, a pediatrician in New York City. “Solids are usually started between four and six months of age when the infant is developmentally ready. Your baby is probably ready for solids when they are able to sit up with support, have good head and neck control, and show interest in your food while you’re eating (watches you eat, opens mouth and leans forward when food is offered),” she says.

If your baby spits out the food or refuses to eat it, they’re probably not ready yet, so wait and try again in a week, reassures Dr. Agnese.

How Do You Start Baby Food?

According to Dr. Agnese, it’s best to start offering solid food when baby is awake and alert, and ideally when they’re not too hungry or too full.

“Have your baby sitting up safely with support and offer food with a spoon. Try once per day at first, and stop feeding when they’re showing signs they’re done (leaning back, turning away, spitting it out).”

What Are the Best First Foods for Babies?

Although infant cereals were traditionally one of the first recommended solid foods for babies (because of the bland taste and added iron), pediatricians now say it’s totally fine to start with cereal or jump right to vegetables, fruits, and meats as first foods.

“I usually recommend starting with any single ingredient vegetable or fruit puree—avocado, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, carrots or peas are all good choices. The AAP even recommends starting with pureed meat, as it is a good source of iron,” says Dr. Agnese. You can add formula or breast milk to these first foods when you’re starting out in order to reach a texture that’s good for your baby.

Foods to avoid in infants younger than one year of age include:

  • Choking hazards (think round, hard objects like nuts, popcorn and grapes);
  • Honey (due to the risk of infant botulism);
  • Foods with added sugar or salt, such as juice (herbs and spices are great, though); and
  • Unmodified cow’s milk (but full fat yogurts and cheeses are perfectly fine).

As for allergens, while pediatricians previously recommended avoiding highly allergenic foods early on, Dr. Agnese points to new research that shows early exposure actually helps decrease the risk of food allergies. Things like eggs, fish, peanuts and tree nuts may be introduced to infants at four to six months, she says, as long as the choking hazards are addressed and you’ve already made your way through some other solid foods first.

What is the Best Baby Food?

Figuring out which baby food is best for you and for your little one comes down to a lot of factors, including things like ingredients, availability, taste and cost. But there are a few other things to keep in mind when choosing a baby food, according to Dr. Agnese.

  • Read labels. Try to stick to baby food where the ingredients are just that—real food. (Water is okay too.) Herbs and spices are great, but you’ll want to avoid things like corn syrup, sugars and salt.
  • Choose oats over rice. If you decide to give your little one infant cereal, go with an oat-based cereal instead of a rice-based one, and try to offer a variety of other grains, too, like wheat or barley. That’s because rice can contain arsenic, and you’ll want to limit your little one’s exposure as much as possible.
  • Go BPA-free. Choose baby food in BPA-free packaging whenever possible.

Toxic Heavy Metals in Baby Food

You’ve likely heard about a 2021 congressional investigation revealing that leading baby food manufacturers knowingly sold baby food that contained high levels of toxic heavy metals. While there are aspects of these findings that are somewhat alarming, it’s important to understand the full picture before you become overwhelmed with worry about what to feed your baby.

“Every few years a report comes out about toxins in baby foods,” says Dr. Agnese. “While I certainly agree that it’s important to monitor such levels for the safety of our children, the information presented often causes a lot of unnecessary fear for parents who are trying to do their best.”

The reality is that heavy metals are present in many of the foods that both babies and adults eat based simply on how these foods are grown.

“If your child is eating any food at all, they will be exposed to heavy metals and toxins. That’s because the soil, water and air of the earth, where the food grows, contains these substances. That’s how it gets into food. And kids need to eat food,” explains Dr. Agnese.

There’s no difference between organic versus non-organic foods or store-bought baby food versus homemade.

“Organic foods may use less pesticides, but they are still grown with the same soil, water and environmental pollutants of the earth,” she says. “And the report only looked at processed baby food; it didn’t look at unprocessed baby food at all. Homemade baby food or a carrot could have similar levels of metals.”

So what’s a parent to do?

Avoid serving your little one too much rice cereal and rice-based snacks, says Dr. Agnese, and be sure to thoroughly rinse rice prior to cooking it. Keep an eye on certain types of fish that may have higher levels of mercury than others. And focus on variety.

“The bottom line is that kids need to eat food. And variety is key. If you’re serving a variety of fruits, veggies, proteins, fats and grains you’re doing great! By serving a variety of foods over time, you’re decreasing the exposure to contaminants of any one food in particular,” she explains.

Jenny Best, founder of the baby feeding resource Solid Starts website and Instagram, agrees.

“For most foods, the nutritional benefit will outweigh the risk,” she says. “The biggest impact you can make in reducing your baby’s exposure to heavy metals from food is to limit processed rice products like rice cereal and baby crackers. The majority of these products are also unnecessary; babies don’t need rice cereal to start solids nor do they need things like meltable crackers or puffs. Baby food as a separate category of food was an invention. Babies can eat real food starting around six months of age.”

While incorporating baby food into your child’s diet is fine, she also reminds parents that lots of “adult” food is perfectly fine—and even sometimes a better choice—for feeding your baby.

“Babies don’t need ‘baby’ applesauce; regular applesauce is fine! So are cooked apples!” says Best, who also created the First Foods℠ database, a food database created just for babies. “Babies also can eat regular yogurt, cheese, oatmeal, grains, and meats just like we can. There is no evidence-based research demonstrating the need for baby food nor is there any evidence that babies developmentally need purées as their first food.”

And don’t forget that the goal of starting solids for the first six months is about the skill of learning to eat—not consumption.

“What matters is getting ample opportunity to practice the skills of eating. Babies don’t need fancy superfood pouches; they need to practice holding a banana by themselves, to learn how to take a bite, to move that piece around in their mouth, chew, and to swallow. So cut open an avocado and peel a banana and call it dinner. The kids will be alright.”

Tackling Babies & Picky Eating

And what about trying to avoid the dreaded picky eater?

“I wish there were a magic answer on how to guarantee raising a healthy kid who loves to eat a wide variety of foods,” says Molly Birnbaum, America’s Test Kitchen Kids Editor in Chief and author of The Complete Baby and Toddler Cookbook. Although it depends on so many factors, there are definitely a few things you can do to set the stage, whether you’re making your own food at home or using store-bought baby food.

  • Cook and eat together. “Cooking and eating together allows you to model healthy eating—but more importantly it allows you to show your kid(s) that eating a variety of healthy foods is fun!” she says.
  • Eat a variety of foods. “Introducing kids at a young age to a variety of flavors, textures and colors will help set the stage for more adventurous eating down the line. If you’re feeding a baby purees, it’s a great idea to add different spices or herbs or other flavorings. For toddlers, I love to offer the element of choice in meals.”
  • Eat foods that taste good. Simple, but an important reminder!

Experts Referenced in this Article

  • Dr. Tracey Agnese, Pediatrician
  • Jenny Best, Founder of Solid Starts and the First Foods℠ database
  • Molly Birnbaum, Editor in Chief of America’s Test Kitchen Kids and author of The Complete Baby and Toddler Cookbook
  • American Academy of Pediatrics

Jen LaBracio

Senior Gear Editor

Jen LaBracio is Babylist’s Senior Gear Editor, a role that perfectly combines her love of all things baby gear with her love of (obsessive) research. When she’s not testing out a new high chair or pushing the latest stroller model around her neighborhood, she likes to run, spin, listen to podcasts, read and spend time at the beach. In her past life, she worked for over a decade in children’s publishing. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and their two boys, Will and Ben.

Briana Engelbrecht

Assistant Editor

Briana Engelbrecht is Babylist’s Assistant Editor, where she brings her passion for early childhood development and the perinatal period, plus experience as a mom of two to Babylist articles and guides. She’s also a certified lactation counselor. A former preschool teacher, she loves children’s picture books, cats, plants and making things.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content and review products, as well as the Babylist Health Advisory Board.