Does the idea of making your own baby food elicit dreams of a healthy, gurgling child devouring organic peaches? Or do you have nightmares of being elbow-deep in sweet potatoes?
Making your own baby food doesn’t have to be as arduous as it sounds, and there are so many benefits, both for you and your baby. Once you get the hang of it, it’s more economical than the pre-packaged fare. Most importantly, you know exactly what you’re feeding your baby and can avoid exposure to added sugar, salt and artificial ingredients that are prevalent in so many packaged baby foods.
“For some parents, it’s a good option,” says Megan Wroe, RD, wellness coach and registered dietitian at Synergy Wellness at the St. Jude Centers for Rehabilitation & Wellness in Brea. Wroe, who specializes in prenatal and postnatal nutrition, says, “Making your own food helps you think more about what you’re feeding your child, as well as what you’re feeding your entire family. It creates a habit of healthy cooking and sets a precedent for serving healthier meals as children get older.”
Here are a few useful tips:
- Be scrupulous about washing your hands and utensils, as well as scrubbing and peeling fruits and vegetables.
- Steaming until tender is easy and nutritious, but consider roasting fruits and vegetables as well. This method gives food a naturally sweet flavor, which adds variety to your baby’s palate.
- To puree in a food processer, add some liquid (water, formula or breast milk) to keep the consistency palatable for babies. Don’t be afraid of some lumps and bumps either--added texture helps your baby to adapt to solids faster!
- Store cooked food in the refrigerator or freezer, not in the cupboard like store-bought foods. Try making large batches and freezing some in ice cube trays for ready-to-go baby meals at any time!
- Don’t introduce honey to your honey until age one, as it can cause botulism which is particularly dangerous to infants.
- If your baby seems to have a sensitive tummy, consider waiting until your baby is 10 to 12 months old before trying gassy foods like beans, broccoli, wheat, cauliflower, garlic and dairy.
- Do not add salt or sugar into the food. The whole idea of DIY baby food is to remove a lot of additives. DO feel free to add herbs and spices though (like cinnamon, basil, cumin or nutmeg)--babies like their food to have flavor too!
- If you have allergy risks in your family, space new foods apart by a few days so you can check for potential reactions.
- Rather than prepare multiple baby foods separately, consider simply pureeing, mashing or dicing foods already prepared for the family meal. Having steak, potatoes and broccoli for dinner? Add breast milk or formula to mash one to three tablespoons of potatoes, and steam a few broccoli florets even longer so they can be mashed with a fork. No extra work needed!
Here are some super simple recipes:
For very young babies (4 to 6 months)
- Cuddly carrots – Peel and slice carrots and then place in a steaming basket over boiling water for 25 minutes or until tender. Add fresh water and puree the mixture in a food processor. You can keep in the refrigerator for use within two days. Or, freeze for later in ice cube trays.
- Peachy peaches – Peel peaches and cut into small pieces. Steam in a steamer basket for 15 minutes. Place the peaches in a food processor and puree. You can serve immediately (when cooled) or freeze.
For 6-month-olds and up
- Gobble gobble-it-up – Turkey or chicken are good starter proteins. Choose dark meat to keep the mixture moist. To prepare, take a half-pound of ground dark meat turkey or chicken and stir in a small pan with three tablespoons of water. Cook by breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon until it is completely cooked (four minutes). Let the mixture cool and then puree in a food processor. To sweeten, add a fruit or sweet potato puree, or make it savory by adding some defrosted frozen spinach! Refrigerate for three days or freeze.
- Oh baby oats – Oats are a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and tend to comfort your baby. Mix it up by swirling in a banana or pumpkin puree. To prepare, you’ll need ¼ cup of old-fashioned rolled oats and, for the puree, a banana. Put oats in a food processor and mix until they are finely ground. Then, place in a sauce pan and stir in 1 cup of water, bringing to a boil and then reducing the heat. Simmer the mixture until it thickens (about 5 minutes). If the texture is too thick, add more water, breast milk or formula. To make the puree, peel a ripe banana and use a fork or potato masher to create a soft mash. If you want the banana mash smoother, you can use a food processor. Swirl the fruit or canned pumpkin into the oatmeal. Try experimenting with amaranth instead of oats for the same yummy porridge with added B vitamins, iron and zinc! You can refrigerate your yummy meal for three days or freeze. BONUS: this is a great meal for moms and dads too!
“Not all babies like the same thing,” says Wroe. “Keep trying a little bit every day and take note of her preferences. Don’t give up either--taste buds change a lot in the early years, so keep coming back to foods your baby refused before. Most important is that you maintain safe food handling practices. Remember, always refrigerate homemade baby foods in airtight containers that are BPA-free. The whole idea behind DIY baby food is to keep baby healthy!”
There is no one perfect way to feed your baby. If you are more interested in the baby-led weaning method, ask your pediatrician or go to www.babyledweaning.com for more information. Another great resource for cooking healthy meals for families and baby is the book Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair. Are you looking for a pediatrician? Click here to search for a pediatrician who best fits your needs.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.