How to Choose a Jam for your Child

baby eating jam

While a peanut butter (or nut-free alternative) and jelly sandwich has been the go-to option for a no-fuss meal forever, how do you know if you’re picking out the best jam or jelly for your baby? There are so many options in the jelly aisle that it can be overwhelming. Should you be looking for lower sugar or higher fiber? What’s most important?

What’s the difference between jelly, jam, preserves, and spreads?

All of these are made with some form of fruit mixed with sugar and pectin. Pectin is what gives jams and jellies their consistency. Jelly is made from fruit juice. It is generally the easiest to spread. Jams will be made from mashed fruit. Preserves will have large pieces of fruit or whole fruit. Marmalades are a subcategory of preserves made from citrus fruit. Fruit spreads should be 100% fruit with no additional sugar added (sometimes juice will be added to spreads), however the FDA has not defined fruit spread, so there is varied interpretation. Even without any added sugar, there will be sugar in any of these spreads due to the fact that they are made from fruit.

Store-bought versus homemade

This will really come down to how often you use it and how important it is to you to keep added sugars to a minimum. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no added sugars before age 2 which would make using any store bought option very difficult. You can look for a fruit spread that is truly just 100% fruit, but that may be difficult to find. If it’s something that you are not using often, you can spread just a thin layer for a taste. If your child is younger than 1, you may want to consider making it yourself so that you can opt for a no-added sugar version (Check out my Starting Solids Made Easy Course for more information on feeding your baby). Remember that with responsive feeding, you are in charge of what foods your child is offered, so if it is important to you to limit added sugars, you may want to opt to make your own.

When opting for a store-bought version, here are some things to look for:

  • fruit should be the first ingredient
  • low in added sugars
  • avoid artificial sweeteners in place of sugar

Easy Homemade Chia Jam Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups frozen fruit
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • optional: 1 tbsp maple syrup or honey

Directions:

  1. Add fruit, water, and lemon juice to a medium saucepan. Bring up to a boil.
  2. Turn down the heat and let simmer 5-7 minutes. You want the fruit mostly broken down.
  3. Use an immersion blender, potato masher, or fork to break up any fruit chunks.
  4. Stir in chia seeds and sweetener, if using. Let sit ~10 minutes until the chia has absorbed most of the liquid.
  5. Transfer to a mason jar or storage container. Store in the fridge.

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