For all the reasons it can be a special kind of torment to be stuck in the house with your kids during a pandemic, dealing with their finicky palates is chief among them. Which is why a number of our mom and dad writers and editors decided to test out a range of kid-specific meal-delivery services — from those containing freshly puréed carrots for a baby’s first solids to those offering substantial toddler fare like chicken marinara. The price points among the different options vary; some cost about the same as the veggie pouches you might pick up at Whole Foods, while others run you more like $8 per meal.
As with our coverage of the adult versions of such services, we evaluated things like ease of preparation and quality of ingredients. In some cases, our discerning little guinea pigs probably didn’t get to give their sample feasts a truly fair shake, considering that conventional wisdom suggests children must try a new food as many as ten to 15 times before they’ll enjoy it. But we did find a number of options that they gobbled right up. Whether you’re using them in a lockdown or not (and let’s hope none of us ever have to do this again), these services do indeed make mealtimes less stressful, with no bullet blenders or steaming baskets required.
For babies just starting on solids
Prices start at $24.50 per week for one meal a day ($3.50/meal) of organic baby-food blends including Sweet Apple Blueberry Flax, and Kale White Bean Pear Basil Quinoa Avocado Oil. Meals are delivered every two weeks. The company also offers small plates for toddlers and kids starting at $26 for four meals per week ($6.49/meal).
Our tester: Yvette Johns, mom to a 9-month-old (at the time of testing)
“Starting our baby on solids felt both simple and complicated, especially as we began to move her onto more and more complex blends and my mom paranoia over allergies or discovering a picky eater kicked into overdrive. Little Spoon made the entire affair less like a circus.
“The baby-food delivery service provides simple, single-ingredient purées and multi-ingredient blends for your growing baby’s diet. You decide how many meals you want to feed your child per day and then pick from Little Spoon’s available blends. The variety is great; they rotate regularly and include a number of seasonal additions. In our case, our daughter is already familiar enough with the most common fruits and vegetables, but with Little Spoon, we’ve been able to introduce her to foods we don’t stock as often in our home, like beets, spirulina, buckwheat, and dates. It’s also nice to see her readily eat blends of foods that I never would have thought to put together, like their Strawberry Basil Beet Pear Chia mix.
“Each delivery comes packed in ice, and each purée comes in a single-serving-size tub with its own, ahem, little spoon attached. That makes it superconvenient to take food with you on trips without having to worry about packing baby utensils. Also convenient are the boosters they offer, which come in packets of different vitamin, mineral, and probiotic blends that you can mix into your child’s food or drinks for an added dose of nutrition. But take heed: They do alter the taste of whatever you add them to. I learned this the hard way by making a spinach dish taste ten times more like spinach.”
For babies getting more adventurous with solids
Weekly subscription prices start at $35 for one meal a day ($4.30 per meal) of organic (and vegan, kosher, dairy-free, and gluten-free) baby food and finger food. Options include single-ingredient purées of things like beets and kidney beans and, for older babies, small pieces of foods, including black beans and sweet potatoes, or larger bites, including beet burgers and banana bread.
Our (first) tester: Strategist writer Lauren Ro, mom to a 6-month-old (at the time of testing)
“My son ate up most of the fruit and vegetable jars (except the spinach). He liked the beets, mango, purple sweet potatoes, carrots, apple, and peaches. And I liked the fact that everything comes frozen and packed in ice and is made fresh weekly.”
Our (second) tester: Fritzie Andrade, mom to an 11-month-old (at the time of testing)
“Pre-pandemic it never seemed that hard for me to prepare my daughter’s food, but with the nonstop cooking that came with quarantine, I was excited for a break. We tried Yumi’s stage 4 and 5 pinchables and finger foods, which are for babies 10 months and older. The ratatouille, for example, has a texture that’s a little chunkier and is made with pear, sweet potato, zucchini, tomato, basil, red pepper, kale, yellow squash, and white beans. That’s a hell of a combination that I would honestly never bother to make myself. “
For babies whose parents prefer pouches
This pouch subscription service was created by a neurosurgeon and ships every two weeks. You can build your own box or take a quiz about your child’s developmental milestones and let Cerebelly create the box for you. Pricing starts at $2.89 per pouch when you buy at least seven pouches, but the more you buy, the cheaper it gets (as low as $2.17 per pouch).
Our tester: Felicia Shivakumar, mom to a 9-month-old (at the time of testing)
“This is a tempting option for parents looking for nutritious baby food that won’t take up any fridge space. The food arrives in colorful, sturdy pouches that have roughly a year’s shelf life. With ingredients like mango, chickpeas, pumpkin, and peas, the combinations are interesting but simple. Each pouch has an ‘organic nutrient blend’ added in, which is where I think the real value lies. I would never think to add kelp or squash seeds to the smoothies I make for my son and certainly not nutrients like DHA. It makes me feel a little less guilty about giving my baby a pouch instead of fresh food.
“Cerebelly’s savory flavors also stand out compared with other baby-food brands. The purées aren’t sweet, and some flavors have an umami or peppery taste to them. The consistency of the purée is on the thicker side, not watery or runny, which my son prefers. For the variety pack I received, calories average around 60 to 80 for each pouch, and the total carbohydrates were in the ten-to-15 range, which is lower than other pouches we’ve tried. With less than a dozen flavor options, after a while it may feel a bit repetitive, especially if you’re feeding with pouches more than once a day. But at $2 to $3 per pouch, Cerebelly costs roughly the same as other organic options at your local grocery. And unlike many of those other brands, their pouches are recyclable, which is another big plus.”