A lot of the time, early baby food is a soft, pureed version of whatever fruits and vegetables the rest of the family is eating, but just like how you might pick up something prepared - or order takeout - for yourself, once in a while, it can be nice to pick up jarred, prepared baby food from the store that's ready to serve without much, or any, work. Unlike adult on-the-go foods, though, prepared baby foods are often coded into "stages" that correspond roughly with the your baby's age and experience with food.
The simplest form of baby food is designed for babies transitioning away from breastfeeding. Inside the average jar, you’ll find a single ingredient food, smoothly pureed. A few Stage 1 staples include bananas, sweet potatoes, and green beans. Stage 1 is the easiest for babies to handle.
After mastering the softer foods that correspond with of Stage 1 foods, your baby should be ready to start mixing and matching food groups. Stage 2 baby food offers combinations such as veggie medleys and two to three ingredient fruit salads. The other distinction here is that Stage 2 baby food isn’t pureed, it's strained. This gentle escalation in food texture will allow your baby to become familiar with variations in texture, and begin to experiment with chewing.
Once your baby has passed the average teething age, it’s time to adjust her diet accordingly. Stage 3 baby food takes infant edibles to the next level by combining strained foods and small chunks of solids. Jars of Stage 3 tend to be slightly larger than earlier stages to compliment the average baby’s increased appetite, and you’ll also notice several options in the baby food aisle that contain meat ingredients.