Many eco-minded and do-it-yourself parents are leaving the jarred baby food on the shelf and making their own right at home. And why shouldn’t they? Homemade baby food is more nutritious and economical than its store-bought counterpart, and it can be tailored just for your little one’s tastes and needs, without unnecessary fillers or preservatives. Read on for tips about how to whip up your own homemade baby food.
Before you peel, boil, steam and slice, check the cupboards to be sure you have the right culinary utensils on hand. There are myriad tools, gadgets and basic kitchen equipment that can be used to make homemade baby food. Chances are that you already have one or two in your kitchen.
For most, a food processor, a traditional or immersion blender, or a hand-cranked food mill will do the trick. Several eco-conscious companies are even putting out their own spin on the trend by releasing grinders and mills designed just for making baby food. These companies offer everything from plant-fiber plates to cornstarch bowls, and bisphenol-A (BPA), nitrosamine- and polyvinyl chloride (PVC)-free forks, spoons, cups and lids. For preserving and storing your freshly made baby food, look for silicone and BPA-free freezer trays.
Pick Your Produce
When shopping for produce, aim for locally sourced, organic fruits, vegetables and meats. This way, you’ll keep harmful pesticide and fungicide residues out of your baby’s food, and the fresher the produce is, the more nutrients it will retain. Remember that there isn’t a need to shop just for baby; simplify meals by making a version of what the family is having for dinner and expand your child’s palate at the same time. The more variety he or she is exposed to at a young age, the lower the chance you’ll have a picky eater on your hands in toddler-hood and beyond.
Here are some “fresh” tips to making your own baby food:
- Fabulous first foods. Great foods to try first include winter squash, pumpkin, avocado, sweet potato, peas, bananas, apples, apricots, carrots, peaches, plums, pears and mangoes.
- Use clean hands and utensils. This one goes without saying, right? Clean hands and utensils will guard against introducing harmful bacteria into the food, particularly if you’ll be storing some for later.
- Skip the salt and sugar. Remember: Your baby’s palate is fresh and new. Try him or her on the real taste of whole foods before adding seasoning. Add a little organic lemon juice for flavor, if needed; it will also keep the food from browning.
- Add breast milk. It may sound odd, but when transitioning your baby to solid food, breast milk offers a nutritious segue to solids. The milk continues to transfer valuable antibodies and offers a familiar taste to baby.
- Make a lot. No need to fill the fridge with pounds of butternut squash purée, but as long as you’re making a batch, make enough for multiple servings. To store, fill an ice-cube tray with the fresh food, freeze and transfer cubes to a plastic bag. Thaw cubes as needed. If refrigerated, use within 48 hours.
- Label, label, label. Unless properly labeled, you may not be able to distinguish your pumpkin purée from your sweet potato! Be sure to label and date all of your stored food.
- One food, four days. To be aware of possible allergies, introduce one new food to your baby at a time. Feed that item for four days, and wait to introduce any new foods until that time has passed.
- Experiment. There’s no need for baby’s food to be bland and tasteless! Experiment with different “grownup” foods your family may be eating. Your baby may not love every taste and texture, but give it a try and see what works.
Ask questions. Speak to other parents who make baby food at home to learn what worked for them and what didn’t. Remember to consult with your pediatrician to discuss the introduction of new and solid foods.
- Steam, bake or boil to soften the vegetables. Hint: All methods will soften the vegetables, but steaming will retain the most nutrients.
- Move vegetables to the container in which you’ll purée them. Keep the liquid they were steamed or boiled in (if so), and set aside. You’ll add this liquid to the puree process a bit later. This is also a great way to put lost nutrients back into the food.
- Mash, purée or grind the food. For younger babies, aim for a smoother texture. As you puree, add liquid or breast milk to achieve desired consistency.
- Serve small portions at a time from a designated bowl, not the entire batch of food; once the spoon returns to the food from your baby’s mouth, it introduces bacteria that may lead to mold growth and spoil the entire batch.
- Store, label and date the food. Thaw as needed.
There’s no doubt about it; making your own baby food at home is worth the extra effort. It’s easy, economical and eco-friendly. Best of all, you can rest easy knowing that your little one is getting the freshest food available and the most nutrients you can provide. Bon appetite!