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You are here: Home > Baby > Starting Solid Foods

Homemade Baby Food

by Alisa Ikeda |
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Homemade baby food is fresher, smells and tastes better, and is far less expensive than commercial food. And it doesn't require preservatives for a longer shelf life. You can make it to just the right consistency for your baby's liking, prepare it as a convenient part of your own meal, and gradually and naturally familiarize your wee one with your favorite foods and cooking style.

Sure, there's an endless array of ready-made baby food at the market today. You can even find organic, salt-free, and sugar-free varieties. But pop open a jar. Take a whiff. Try a taste. Yeah, you can do better than that for your little sweetie.

Homemade baby food is fresher, smells and tastes better, and is far less expensive than commercial food. And it doesn't require preservatives for a longer shelf life. You can make it to just the right consistency for your baby's liking, prepare it as a convenient part of your own meal, and gradually and naturally familiarize your wee one with your favorite foods and cooking style.

Best of all, making baby food is easy -- even for the cooking impaired among us.

Tools of the Trade

Some recommend a baby food grinder, but all you really need is a good blender or food processor. A strainer and a ricer might also come in handy, but neither is necessary. There's a very short period during which you'll need to process baby's foods at all.

Most importantly, remember to always use clean hands, utensils, and work surfaces.

Rules & Regulations

Don't use honey (which can cause botulism) or offer spinach or beets (which have natural nitrates that can lead to infant anemia) in the first year. Avoid strawberries and citrus, as they can be unnecessarily harsh and might cause allergies.Don't offer peanut butter to very young children, who have a tendency to develop an allergy to peanut oil. Don't salt, sugar, or spice foods.Discard unfinished meals, as bacteria forms when they sit out. Use refrigerated extras within 24 hours. Wait several days between new foods so you can detect any allergies.

The Process

Usually a baby's first food will be iron-fortified infant rice cereal. From then on, things get much more colorful and appetizing. You don't have to be an earth mother-goddess to manage these basic vegetable and fruit baby food cooking steps:

1. Thoroughly wash vegetables and fruits.

2. Remove all skins, seeds, and pits.

3. Cut up into smaller pieces.

4. Steam. (If you microwave, be certain there are no dangerous hot spots.)

5. Puree in blender or food processor.

6. Serve.

Whatever you don't serve can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours. If you'd prefer to freeze it for later, do so in ice cube trays. When frozen, put the cubes (approximately an ounce apiece) in a freezer storage bag or container. Thaw as needed.

When your baby is ready for meats, the preparation is essentially the same: wash, cut up, steam or saut, and grind or puree. Voila!

The Whens and Whats

Of course, your best food guidance comes from your trusted pediatrician. But as a general rule, parents offer iron-fortified infant rice cereal first, at around six to eight months. Then come cooked vegetables and fruits (many suggest starting off with vegetables, which tend to be more bland than fruits); meats come last (typically around ten to twelve months).

Favorite early vegetables include carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes, and winter squash. Don't use canned vegetables, which tend to be laden with salt. Mild first fruits include bananas (which needn't be cooked), pears, apples, and peaches. Simple early meats include chicken and turkey.

Breastmilk, formula, water, or juice can be used to thin the pureed consistency as needed. Over time, when your baby is accustomed to more flavors and textures, wheat germ, whole-grain cereal, creamed soups, yogurt, sorbets, cottage cheese, tofu, and mashed potatoes can be used to thicken the consistency of your offerings. Gradually you can process the foods less finely, and soon you can simply fork-mash cooked foods. When you and your baby are feeling more daring, look to the jarred baby food shelves for combination inspiration.

As your baby becomes more comfortable and proficient at eating, you can broaden his or her food horizons beyond the softer basics (again, remember to wait several days between new foods to detect any allergies). Soon you can offer a wide variety of foods, including pasta, rice, beans, scrambled eggs (many recommend avoiding egg whites during the first year until after the first MMR vaccine), small slices of cheese, pieces of toast or bagel, waffles, soft crackers -- and don't forget the all-time favorite, Cheerios!

Before you know it, cooking for baby becomes nearly one and the same as cooking for the rest of the family.

Alisa Ikeda is a writer and editor in Marin County, California, with a B.A. in sociology and a background in book publishing.

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