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The Loving Mother’s Guide to Healthy & Homemade Baby Food
November 30th, 2010
If you're concerned about the food that you provide to your baby, you may be disappointed to find out that commercial baby food isn't exactly perfect. Most of the flavors are bland, nutrients are reduced by sitting on a shelf, and you may also find additives in some foods. A great way to improve the nutritional content of the food you feed your baby is by creating your own homemade baby food. It's healthier, easier, and more fun than you might think. Read on to learn what you need to know to make homemade baby food work for your family.
Some of the benefits of homemade baby food include:
- Saving money. Store bought baby food is not cheap, but making it yourself certainly can be. Just simply hit the produce section and frozen foods to stock up on healthy, quality ingredients at a fraction of the price.
- It's easy. Although making your own baby food sounds like a lot of work, it doesn't have to be. Most families spend just about an hour per week making food for their babies.
- Homemade baby food retains nutrients better. You can be sure that your baby's food doesn't include fillers, because you're the one making it from scratch.
- You can avoid additives if you go organic. Using organic ingredients in your baby's homemade food allows you to keep additives out.
- Homemade baby food is fresher. Instead of sitting in factories, warehouses, trucks, and on shelves, food made at home simply sits in your freezer for a limited period of time.
- You can offer your child a more varied diet than you would if you were simply relying on commercial baby food. A good variety of foods is a healthy part of a balanced diet, and can help avoid picky eaters down the road.
So, how exactly do you make homemade baby food? Follow these easy steps:
- Wash, then cook, the food by boiling, microwaving, steaming, or baking. By steaming, you'll retain the most nutrients, but all will work for creating big batches. Set aside any liquid from cooking to thin the mixute later, and allow the cooked food to cool.
- Puree or grind the food using a blender, food processor, or immersion blender, adding cooking liquid to thin (you can also use breast milk, formula, or water).
- Freeze your puree in ice cube trays (each cube is about 1 ounce) and cover with plastic wrap. Once frozen, remove from the trays and store in labeled freezer bags.
- Feed your baby by thawing, then reheating the cubes. Most babies do not need warm food, so just heat it enough to take the chill off and bring it to room temperature. If microwaving, be careful of hot spots and be sure to mix well.
What about safety?
When prepared properly, homemade baby food is as safe or safer than commercially prepared baby foods. Keep these tips in mind to stay safe and healthy:
- Avoid bacteria by cleaning everything that comes in contact with your baby's food: your hands, utensils, containers, food processors, and more.
- Discard meals that are unfinished, as bacteria can grow rapidly.
- You can store homemade baby food in the freezer for up to two months, and in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Talk to your pediatrician about your baby's schedule and age appropriate foods, as well as textures.
- To watch out for food allergies, test a new food for 4 days, and never introduce more than one new food at a time.
What if your baby doesn't like the food?
If at first it seems like your baby does not enjoy a food you've spent time preparing, don't despair. Experts say it takes 15-21 times of trying to really establish a like or dislike, so just let that particular food sit it out in the freezer for a few days and revisit it later.
Tips and helpful insights:
- Make a large quantity of a basic food once or twice per week, and over time, you will build up a variety of foods in the freezer for your baby to enjoy.
- Don't add salt or sugar to your baby's food, but definitely ask your pediatrician about other flavorings, such as cinnamon and pepper.
- Some foods freeze better than others, like pumpkin and strawberries. Visit Wholesome Baby Food for a list of foods that do and do not freeze well.
- Keep one or two servings defrosting at a time and rotate.
- Shape your baby's palate with interesting food, offering fruits and vegetables that you enjoy eating yourself.
- Keep things interesting by mixing foods together, like green beans and potatoes, mango and papaya, or raspberries and yogurt.
There are many resources for baby food recipes online. Check out these sites and books to find fun and healthy homemade baby food recipes:
- Wholesome Baby Food: Find Stage 1 baby food recipes.
- Weelicious: Find fresh recipes for babies and toddlers on this site.
- Blender Baby Food: This book includes over 125 recipes that you can easily make your baby.
- About Home Cooking: Recipes for baby-appropriate meat loaf, custard and chicken dinners are found here.
- NurtureBaby: Look for baby food recipes archived by age group, all the way up to 18 months old, or by food type, like finger foods, fruits, proteins, or allergy-free.