The pouches are often marketed as a healthy option. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

London - Trendy baby food pouches are loaded with sugar and can hook children on sweet food for life, doctors have warned.

Parents have been told to avoid ready-made jars and pouches and instead feed their babies mashed up non-sweet vegetables such as broccoli or spinach.

The pouches are often marketed as a healthy option. But they are packed with "free sugar" - sugar either added to food or naturally present in ingredients such as honey, syrup and fruit juices - say leading paediatricians.

Giving babies fruit-based diets means they are stuck with a sweet tooth for life, which can result in childhood obesity. Parents should instead focus on spoonfeeding babies bitter-tasting foods such as broccoli and spinach, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health advises.

It is calling on the UK government to introduce mandatory guidelines limiting the amount of sugar in baby food. Professor Mary Fewtrell, the RCPCH’s nutritional lead, said: "Baby weaning products often contain a high proportion of fruit or sweeter-tasting vegetables, and parents also often use fruit or sweet-tasting vegetables as first foods at home.

"Pureed or liquid baby foods packaged in pouches also often have a high energy density and a high proportion of sugar. If sucked from the pouch, the baby also misses out on the opportunity to learn about eating from a spoon or feeding himself. 

"Baby foods can be labelled 'no added sugar' if the sugar comes from fruit – but all sugars have the same effects on the teeth and on metabolism.

"Babies are very willing to try different flavours if they’re given the chance and it’s important that they’re introduced to a variety of flavours, including more bitter tasting foods such as broccoli and spinach, from a young age."

An RCPCH report said that the "current food environment is awash with cheap and abundant sugar" which is linked to tooth decay and diabetes.

Daily Mail