I always taste baby food before a feeding. Some of it, for example…pureed pears, isnâ€™t all that bad… but some of those dinners are nasty! This is what inspired me into attempting to make baby food the first time. Making baby food sounds pretty easy, right? Baby food is just cooked and pureed baby-safe table food. So how do you get started? And, how do we do this efficiently – without having to choose between cooking for the baby and cooking for the rest of the family! There are a few moms for whom making their own baby food is an art form. Itâ€™s a hobby and a passion, and you are amazing! My baby food preparation tips are for the moms who have ninety-nine other things to do, but still want to make homemade baby food to save money or provide better nutrition and taste. So, how do I begin making my own baby food without spending all day at it?
Unless you are up for the potato masher and strainer routine, you will want a grinder of some sort. I use a simple hand-crank grinder that washes up easily after each meal. There are all kinds of options available depending on how sophisticated you want to get and what your budget is. Food processors can make larger batches of baby food as well.
Baby digestive systems are still maturing. Pick foods that will digest easily and have solid nutritional value. If that sounds complicated, look at the ingredients used in a quality baby food brand as a starting place.Then do your own research if or when you are ready to branch out from there. Walk your local baby food aisle, and you will find common fruits and veggies that infant digestive systems handle well. For convenience also pick fruits and veggies that go easily through your grinder. I buy a combination of fresh and frozen options so if I donâ€™t get back to the store for a while, I can grab frozen produce to use.
Fruits: Bananas, pears, peaches, blueberries, mangos, apples
Veggies: Peas, greens, carrots, broccoli (watch for gas, but my kids love it)
Starches: Sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice, oats
Dinners: After six months I puree soups and casseroles the rest of the family is eating
After your baby reaches her first birthday and is able to handle foods that are not pureed move on to toddler-friendly foods that are soft and are easily cut into small pieces.
Foods to Avoid
Honey is dangerous for babies under a year old because of the risk of botulism.
Personally, I also avoid home-canned fruits and veggies and am really careful about anything that could be a potential food poisoning risk, like leftovers. If you are starting your infant on solids earlier than recommended, you also need to be extra careful about the nitrate content of the food you prepare. If you have well water, you are well aware of the risks of too high of nitrate consumption in an infant. See this article for more details on nitrates and babies. Unpasteurized dairy is also on this list for me. Here is a straightforward resource on Babyfood safety with more details.
Unless, you are a real pro at this, always keep a few jars of baby food handy for evenings out, babysitters, and park days. Success with making your own baby food, begins with the weekly shopping trip. Make sure you keep a supply of fruits and veggies that are easy to prepare baby food from handy.
Wash – If you are using fresh fruits or veggies be sure to wash them thoroughly
Peel – Any item with a substantial peal will need to be peeled. Infants easily gag and Â choke on peals of even soft fruits like peaches.
Chop – Cut food items into pieces that will conveniently go through your grinder. If you have a little hand grinder, a few seconds of slicing saves many minutes of frustration with the grinder.
Steam – Many fresh veggies or fruit will need to be steamed before they can be ground. This also makes them easier for infants to digest.
Puree Â – Finally put the food through a grinder or food processor. Please do not skip this step when preparing food for an infant. Infants choke easily because they are accustomed to milk and have not developed the tongue control and swallowing skills necessary to handle chunks of food.
Store – Â Homemade baby food has a very short storage life. Either feed to the baby right away or freeze in small portions for future use. Ice cube trays are a great size to store small portions of pureed fruits, veggies, or soups. Donâ€™t store a weekâ€™s worth in the refrigerator! All the cutting and grinding gives extra opportunities for bacteria to be introduced to the food, so serving or freezing right away is critical. Â
Learn a Few Good Recipes
Just like you need a few easy go-to meals to avoid going out for take-out on a regular basis, you need some go-to baby food options. These are the options you use when whatâ€™s for dinner doesnâ€™t make good baby food – like taco salad or waffles and eggs. Some of my go-to combinations are frozen blueberries plus fresh pears, frozen blueberries plus fresh bananas, and frozen mixed veggies plus chicken breast. Recipes for baby food are easy to lookup, but look for options that are realistic for you. Once you have a collection or three or four go-to baby foods that you always have the ingredients for, things get so much easier.
Training a Babyâ€™s Tastes
Remember to train your babyâ€™s taste buds to appreciate nutritious foods early on. Offering veggies first at each meal is a great strategy, and it works in the toddler years as well.
This morning I was making my nine-month-old her favorite baby food for breakfast, pears and blueberries. I have it down to a science, finally. Grab a pear from the paper bag I use for ripening, peel it, and send it through the baby grinder with a handful of blueberries. Tonight, we are going to out at a family event, and I have a jar of Gerber baby food tucked in the diaper bag for convenience.
I hope you find these tips helpful. Donâ€™t forget to send us yours!
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Images used under creative commons license â€“ commercial use (2/15/2019)
Donnie Ray JonesÂ (Flickr)