I’ve seen the moms standing on the baby food aisle of the grocery store staring at the giant wall of baby food, picking up random jars and packs reading the front, the back, putting them back on the shelf. Repeat. Repeat. Eventually she picks a few tosses them in her basket and moves on. If this is reminds you of you, read on!
I made my daughter’s baby food. I even tried to make her rice cereal – it didn’t work well, so I wouldn’t advise attempting that especially since there are many high quality rice and whole grain cereals on the market. In this article I will provide an overview on making your own baby food, along with some suggested recipe books for guidance.
Why Make Your Own Baby Food?
There are two main reasons I chose to make my own baby food. The first reason is I could control exactly what my baby is eating and not eating. Commercial baby food is typically heated to very high temperatures to prepare it for packaging. This extreme heating kills the bad stuff as well as the good stuff (vitamins and minerals that regular cooking does not destroy.)
Another advantage to homemade babyfood is that I can easily add ingredients that boost the nutritional value of my child’s food, such as cinnamon in sweet potato or butternut squash puree. Another benefit is that I can control the consistency, making it thinner for early eaters, or thicker for babies who are on the verge of trying finger foods.
The Basics of Making Your Own Baby Food
Making homemade baby food is actually very simple – not quite as simple as opening a jar, or peeling back a top, but very simple still. Considering that babies only eat baby food for a few months, this was an easy way to do something really good for my baby that I committed to for a few short months.
I used the Beaba Babycook. I received it as a baby shower gift from my mom and sister. It is a small machine that steams and purees fruits and veggies. I’m sure it would do meats as well, but I usually roasted or sautéed the meats used in my daughter’s baby food because I thought doing so added more flavor.
The first step to making your own baby food is to flip through a few baby food recipe books, preferably ones that discuss why certain foods are recommended at specific ages. My two favorites are Cooking for Baby by Lisa Barnes, and Super Foods for Babies and Children by Annabel Karmel. Both of these books are organized by baby’s age in months, and provide much nutritional information about why certain foods are used in the recipes.
I purchased organic produce for my daughter’s baby food. If your child is breastfed, you may want to start with something sweet, like pears, and try it with the skin on first. If your baby likes it with the skin on, you just increased the fiber content of your baby’s food by doing less work!
Prepare the produce by cutting it into chunks and steaming it until it’s pretty soft. Once the food is soft, puree it adding some of the same water used to steam the food because that water actually contains nutrients lost by the steaming process. Mix the puree with a whole grain cereal such as brown rice, barley or millet. If your baby is just starting to eat baby food or if the food-grain mixture is still kind of thick add some breast milk or formula.
Not all homemade babyfood is steamed. Some foods such as sweet potatoes or squash are typically roasted, then pureed. You’ll need to add more breast milk or formula to these because they are thicker in consistency than their steamed counterparts.
Beyond the Basics
Once your baby is ready for meats, stews will be your best bet! They are so easy and you don’t need to use your steamer. Buy stew meat, chicken breasts, or whatever meat you want to use. If possible look for organic, grass-fed meats without added antibiotics.
Brown the meat in a sauce pan with a little olive oil, add a little vegetable or chicken broth to the pan to deglaze. You can make your own broth, but I bought boxed, organic vegetable and low-sodium chicken broth from Whole Foods – just be sure to check the sodium content on the boxed broths. Add the rest of the broth and your veggies (a bag of mixed frozen veggies is a great, easy, option). Bring to a boil and simmer. Once you think it’s cooked long enough, puree the entire stew in batches. Mix with some cereal and serve.
Storing your Homemade Baby Food
Icecube trays and freezer bags are your friend. Once you’ve made a batch of pureed pears, stew, or vegetable medley with tomato and cheese (seriously!), let it cool and immediately spoon the food into icecube trays and cover with plastic wrap. Place the tray in the freezer. When it’s frozen solid, empty the icecube tray into a freezer bag and mark what’s in it along with the date that the food expires – 6 weeks from the date that you made it.
To reheat, either zap it in the microwave for a few seconds and stir, or heat it in a small sauce pan on the stove – just be sure not to burn it! (Not that I ever did that…)
If you have any questions about making your own baby food, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment. It’s been about three years since I made my daughter’s food, but my sister (who is also a registered dietician) is currently making my niece’s baby food, so I have a great resource in her!
I’ll be working on another article soon about family meals that are also toddler friendly – it’ll be more of a documentation of what I’m going through right now, so it might be more comical than informative, but at least any moms out there struggling with a picky toddler will know they are not alone!