Healthiest Baby Puffs Guide – 2023
For better or worse, Cheerios were forever a popular first finger food for babies. Their size and shape make them a perfect tool for new eaters eager to practice the emerging pincer grasp. Sometime around the beginning of the twenty-first century, some genius invented the baby “puff,” and then an even bigger genius made an organic variety, another genius threw in some veggie powders, and boom: a whole generation of kids will never hold a Cheerio between thumb and forefinger. (Related: Healthiest Cereal Brands.)
My kids both ate plenty of puffs as babies and toddlers, and “puff” was my nephew’s first word. I am assume many of you are reaching for this convenient snack and want to know where to find the healthiest baby puffs.
While we knew that Cheerios aren’t nearly as healthful as they claim to be, we were hopeful about organic baby puffs. Might puffs be the miracle food all parents yearn for—portable and mess-free, appealing to young eaters, AND full of vegetables, whole grains, and nutrients?
Let’s find out.
What’s Wrong with Baby Puffs?
There are a few ingredients to look out for when you are on the hunt for the healthiest baby puffs. These include:
Extruded Grains. One problem with even the healthiest baby puffs is that they are all produced through a process called extrusion. This involves mixing grains with water in a device called an “extruder,” which, through high temperatures and pressure, processes the grains through a tiny hole to give them the desired shape. There is a theory that this manufacturing process compromises the integrity of the grains’ nutrients, breaks the bonds of fatty acids, inactivates enzymes, increases the glycemic index of the food, and often lowers the vitamin and mineral content. If you subscribe to this belief, it’s impossible to call any puffs “good” snacks. My stance is that even the healthiest baby puffs still are a processed food that shouldn’t make up the bulk of a baby’s diet. That said, the brands listed above (and below, under Good Stuff) have made thoughtful choices about what is in (and out) of their puffs, and I see no problem with them as a snack for babies and toddlers.
Arsenic in Rice. Many puffs are made of mostly white rice flour, which is nutritionally pretty empty. Even more concerning is the presence of arsenic in rice-based snacks, including puffs. (The reasons for this go beyond the scope of this guide. TLDR: rice is particularly susceptible to absorbing naturally occurring arsenic from the soil, as it is grown in flooded conditions, which can increase the uptake of arsenic.) Brown rice actually contains 80% more arsenic than white rice, so you won’t escape it buy choosing puffs with brown rice flour. For this reason, we won’t recommend any rice-based puffs as “Good Stuff”. (Here is more about how you can protect your baby from heavy metals in baby food.)
Cheap Oils: The best baby puffs will either be free of oil or only contain coconut, peanut, or olive oil. Many brands of puffs use sunflower oil, which we do not like for babies. Traditional sunflower oil is full of omega-6 oils rather than omega-3 oils, and western diets have way too much omega-6. However, because this is a snack food, and we are assessing these brands from the context of it just being a snack and not a whole meal. Therefore, a little but of sunflower oil did not disqualify a brand from being “Okay Stuff” if everything else was good in the brand.
White Grains: Many puffs are made of mostly white rice (see above) or other non-whole grains. Opt for varieties whose first few ingredients are whole grain ingredients.
The Myth of the Veggie Puff: Yes, the puff your baby is enjoying is a lovely emerald color, making you think it’s full of broccoli and kale. These puffs do contain powdered vegetables, which unfortunately lack all the fibers of real veggies and which the body may not absorb in the same way. Plus, the puff is comprised mostly of grains, often white ones, so the nutritional punch of the veggie powder is probably negligible.
Lecithin. Puffs often contain lecithin made from either soy or sunflower seeds. Hexane (a petroleum-based neurotoxin and air pollutant that carries a Skin Deep score of 9) is commonly used to separate vegetable oil from seeds, including soybeans and sunflower seeds. Lecithins of all kinds should be avoided unless they are organic, which means they are entirely free of hexane residue. For this and other reasons, always choose organic puffs.
Natural Flavor. At Gimme the Good Stuff, we are not sold on the safety of “natural flavor,” since natural flavors are made in labs using biotechnology to isolate certain tastes, and there is little detail on or regulation over what qualifies as “natural.” We won’t call any puff “Good Stuff” that contains natural flavor unless it’s organic. (This distinction is explained in our post, Are Natural Flavors Natural?)
Sugar. Don’t just watch for the actual S-word–you’ll more likely see “evaporated cane syrup.” Even “fruit juice concentrate” is not ideal, but we allowed this into our “Good Stuff” category because we recognize that kids like sweets! Unfortunately, the majority of snacks marketed for very young children contain too much sugar, and most brands of puffs are no exception.
The Healthiest Puffs Brand
I asked my health coach mother which of the four brands of Good Stuff puffs she would buy for her own grandchild. Her answer: Serenity. You’ll read more about why, below.
The Bottom Line on the Healthiest Baby Puffs
Ideally, babies would eat only whole foods when they are learning to enjoy finger snacks–raspberries, small hunks of baked squash or banana, or cubes of avocado would all make good choices. Unfortunately, these foods are messy and not nearly as convenient as baby puffs, and it’s unrealistic that babies born now are not going to be eating puffs!
When I wrote the first version of this guide a full decade ago, the brand that I called the very best one is now in our Sneaky Stuff category, below. The reason is that back then there were so few choices for truly healthful baby puffs–many brands had actual sugar in them, which you don’t see now. The healthiest baby puffs in 2023 are so much better than the healthiest baby puffs in 2013!
Our recommendation is that if you give your baby puffs to eat, do so knowing that they’re a treat rather than a healthful meal. At the same time, there are certainly worse snacks on the market, particularly if you choose the healthiest puffs brands, which are as follows:
PuffWorks Baby Puffs
These are a special kind of baby puff, specifically designed to help ease early introduction to common allergens like peanut and tree nuts. Research shows feeding your baby (beginning at 4-6 months of age) safe-to-eat peanut foods (e.g. puffs!) helps reduce the risk of developing peanut allergy. These puffs are organic and only contain four healthy ingredients.
Peanut Butter Ingredients: Organic Peanut Butter (Organic Dry Roasted Peanuts), Organic Whole Grain Yellow Corn Meal, Organic Degermed Yellow Corn Meal, Sea Salt.
We love these Serenity puffs because they are all organic, free of grains (cassava flour is used instead!), contain no added sugars or fillers, and contain olive oil. These puffs are about as allergy-free as you can get when it comes to a processed snack food, and come a variety of flavors. We also love that these are a Clean Label Project Certified product–meaning free of a wide range of contaminants and heavy metals. Use code GIMME15 for 15% off on their website.
Pumpkin & Cinnamon Ingredients: Cassava Flour*, Tapioca Starch* (Derived from Cassava)*, Olive Oil*, Pea Protein*, Pumpkin Seed Protein*, Pumpkin Powder*, Sweet Potato Powder*, Carrot Powder*, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Cinnamon*, Rosemary Extract*, Ginger*, Nutmeg*, Clove*. (*indicates organic)
Sprout Organic Plant Power Puffs
Sprout’s puffs have a short ingredient list, and one of which is sorghum flour. While these do contain organic apple juice concentrate, there is only 1g per serving.
Carrot Peach Mango Ingredients: Organic Whole Grain Sorghum, Organic Carrot Juice Concentrate, Organic Peach Juice Concentrate, Calcium Carbonate, Organic Mango Powder, Organic Rosemary Extract.
Yumi makes some of the healthiest baby puffs we found, and like Serenity, these are also certified clean by Clean Label Project. We love that Yumi’s puffs are free of rice, and that sorghum flour is the first ingredient.
Sweet Pea Ingredients: Organic Sorghum Flour, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Organic Pea Powder, Choline Bitartrate, Organic Natural Apple Flavor, Yumi Organic Superfood Blend (Organic Sorghum Flour, Broccoli, Spinach, Sweet Potato, Orange, Pumpkin, Maitake Mushroom, Papaya), Iron Bisglycinate Chelate, Organic Rosemary Extract.
Kabrita Snack Puffs
We love Kabrita for their goat milk baby formula, and their European standards. We’ve labeled their puffs as just “okay” stuff due to sunflower oil being used, even though it is the last ingredient. Use code GIMMEKABRITA for 10% off.
Ingredients: Organic Degerminated Yellow Corn Meal, Goat Cheese Powder* (Goat Cheese, Sodium Phosphate (Emulsifier) Organic Sunflower Oil.
While we like that these contain primarily organic ingredients, they contain sunflower oil and rice flower and are therefore only Okay Stuff. It does not seem that we can get these in United States.
Ingredients: Organic maize flour, Organic sunflower oil, Organic dried tomatoes, Organic rice flour, Organic dried cheese (milk), Organic quinoa flour, Organic wheat bran, Organic dried onions, Thiamin (Vitamin B1).
Like PuffWorks, this brand has designed their products to help introduce nuts to babies early on, in hopes of preventing nut allergies later. We like this concept! organic, and free or added sugars and palm oil. While they only have 6 simple ingredients, the primary ingredient is organic rice flour so these are only Okay Stuff.
Peanut Puffs Ingredients: Organic Rice Flour, Organic Ground Peanuts, Organic Peanut Flour, Organic Peanut Oil, Sea Salt, Calcium Carbonate.
Happy puffs are really just rice and juice concentrates, so unfortunately we have to call these Sneaky Stuff. (Note: Wolfie LIVED on these as a baby!).
Apple & Broccoli Ingredients: Organic White Rice Flour, Organic Apple Juice Concentrate, Organic Brown Rice Flour, <2 Of: Organic Organic Broccoli Powder, Organic Apple Powder, Mixed Tocopherols (To Preserve Freshness), Vitamins And Minerals: Dicalcium Phosphate, Choline Bitartrate (Choline), Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Ferric Pyrophosphate (Iron) Dl-alpha-tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3), Calcium D-pantothenate (Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin 35)) Zinc Oxide, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12).
Maia, Founder & CEO
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26 responses to “Healthiest Baby Puffs Guide – 2023”
Serenity Kids grain free puffs really need to be on this list!
It looks like they might have changed the ingredients in the happy baby puffs – -white rice is the first ingredient. Also lead was found in happy baby puffs not too long ago. Have they fixed that issue??
I really appreciate all you do, but I think it might be a good time to update this list. If I’m correct, I believe your Good Stuff recommendation has been found to gave high levels of Arsenic.
Hi any thoughts on Kabrita cheese puffs? The ingredients list seems pretty simple but I don’t know…
I was wondering what you think of the Nosh brand puffs? They don’t seem to have alot of sugar, main ingredients are sorghum flour & garbanzo bean flour…
Have you seen the recent consumer report about lead? It claims that Happy Baby puffs contain lead, which breaks my heart because I LOVE Happy Baby products!
Hi Maia! I am loving this site, and as a mommy-to-be I have found it extremely helpful!! Concerning this particular article, you may want to watch this before promoting Happy Baby Puffs: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/arsenic-in-infant-rice-cereal/
Thanks for all you do!
Any recommendations on the best freeze dried yogurt snacks? I know they’re not the best snack but my little man loves em.
Thoughts on the Beech Nut brand puffs? I love their baby food generally.
Do you have any teething wafers that you recommend? I was looking at the Healthy Times option but they have pretty opposite reviews on Amazon. I am currently using the HappyBaby organic teethers.
Have you or can you do a review on the teething wafers?
How about ells kitchen snacks? nibbly fingers?
Hi Lisa, I haven’t seen these but I did look them up and it looks like a great company with good ingredients. Of course, anytime something is convenient (already made and packaged) rather than fresh from the kitchen, there is is a compromise, but these are clearly Good Stuff.
What about puffed grains? Like puffed wheat or Kamut? One ingredient – not extruded. I’ve been using Kamut with my 9 month old & he loves them.
I saw that you can purchase puffed quinoa on Amazon by a company called D’allesandro. It’s the only ingredient listed. What are your thoughts on this? It’s not organic but its non gmo.
Also, what are your thoughts on the organic yogurt melts?
What do you think of Sprout puffs?