Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Homemade Baby Food Basics (How To + Tips!)

Learn how easy it is to make your own healthy baby food at home!There are so very many food options for feeding babies these days - it can get a little overwhelming! You have to make nutritional decisions for your baby pretty much the second they leave the womb, and as they grow through the first year and start adding other foods to their diet, the decisions continue! It can get a little crazy - not to mention expensive.

Every child is different, and my kids are a fabulous sample of that. My oldest son, Luke, adored baby food purees. He loved everything we tried (except for green beans), and was thrilled to add new foods to his repertoire. When he transitioned to solid food after eating purees for months, he would eat almost anything. Of course, that has since changed (the finickiness of toddlers and preschoolers is unrivaled!), but he was really excited about exploring food as a babe.

Henry was not. I couldn't get him to eat any purees. I tried everything with him, and he wanted nothing to do with any of it. When he was old enough to try little pieces of solid food, things improved a bit, but not by much. There was a pretty long span of time when the only things Henry would eat were bananas, sweet potatoes, avocados, gerber puffs, and cheerios. The end, nothing else. He was still breastfeeding during this time, though, so I felt like he was still sufficiently fed (and the scale agreed), but it was really frustrating trying to get him to eat.

Yeah...it still is. He would live on clementines and french fries if we let him.

Jake started eating solids about a month and a half ago, and I've been really enjoying making purees for him. I know from experience, now, that not every baby is a puree baby, but so far so good! I made the decision back when Luke was a baby to make my own baby food when using purees. I don't trust the quality of what companies put in jars, and even when buying organic, there's no control over the additives. I don't physically see the ingredients or the process of the food being made, and that's not okay with me. (I have turned to organic jars a handful of times while on vacation, but that's it!)


When you realize how truly easy it is to make your own baby food, it kind of seems like a no-brainer!

All you need is...

  • A food processor or blender (you don't need baby food specific machines like the baby bullet)
  • Food prep tools (like a peeler and a knife)
  • An ice cube tray
  • A Tablespoon measuring spoon
  • A pot and a vegetable steamer insert and/or a cookie sheet or baking dish
  • Freezer safe storage bags

The goal, when making baby food, is to cook the foods while leaving the highest level of nutrition in tact. Some claim that the microwave is the best way to go, because none of the nutrients are lost to water through boiling or steaming. But, I've since grown skeptical of microwaving all together (I actually hope to stop using it!) so though I've microwaved baby foods before, I don't anymore. I now roast everything, which also eliminates the water problem - but can produce more intense flavors, so I recommend steaming for babies that are just starting out. For the first month or two, I steam the foods in a very small amount of water, and save the water I used for steaming to thin out the foods during processing (so I'm putting any lost nutrients right back in!).

How To Do it:

Depending on the food you're making, you'll want to peel it (for the smallest babes especially, and also if you don't buy organic!) and cut it into small pieces. Then place them in the veggie steamer in a pot with less than an inch of water in the bottom - the water shouldn't touch the food at all. Place a lid on top and bring it to a boil. When the food is fork-tender, you're done. 

Transfer it to your food processor or blender, and use whatever left over water you have in your pot to smooth and thin out the food to the right consistency (thinner for beginners, thicker for older babes). When you have it just how you like it, fill up an ice cube tray with 1-2 Tablespoons of the puree per cube. This helps you monitor exactly how much you're giving them! Put the tray in the freezer until the puree is totally frozen, and then crack the cubes out of the tray and store them in a freezer-safe storage bag. The frozen cubes are good for up to 2 months! All you have to do is warm up the cubes when you're ready to use them!

Tips:

Start with an orange veggie. They have a mostly-pleasant taste, so your baby is less likely to totally reject it - his or her first puree is going to be a weird enough experience for them. However, it's not as sweet as a fruit, so they're also less likely to reject the green veggies you try with them afterwards. I started all 3 of my babes with sweet potatoes, and they all loved them the most! Did you know that pound for pound, sweet potatoes have the most nutrition in the entire produce section of your grocery store??

Other really great first foods: mashed avocados & bananas (just make these two fresh - they don't freeze so well, but there's no cooking required!), Squash, Peas, Carrots, Green Beans, Pears and Apples.

Baby cereal, in my opinion, is totally unnecessary. It's just a lot of processed GMO carbs, and getting fresh produce and meat into my kids is way, way more important to me. Some doctors will still encourage it, but don't feel like you HAVE to - it's YOUR baby! To relieve their concerns you can give your child vitamin drops with Iron in them, or even add it to your own homemade baby cereals. Baby cereals are fortified with iron and vitamin D (thus why doctors try to push it), but by giving babies meat purees and vitamin drops, you don't need to do that. I'm actually going to try making some homemade baby oatmeal with Jake soon - I've never made it before, I'm excited!

Make 2-3 purees at a time. You already have all of the equipment out, so a quick rinse between food types is all you need to do, and it makes everything a little easier! It only takes me about an hour to make 2 purees that last us weeks!

♥ Use a Sharpie to mark your freezer bags with the date your puree was made and what he puree is. Lots of times, purees start looking a lot alike (Apples & Pears, for example, look almost identical pureed) so it helps to tell them apart, and you should toss anything that was made more than 2 months ago.

What Should I Make?

Stay tuned -  I'm going to be sharing specific purees I'm making for Jake, including lots of yummy fruits and veggies, and even the stranger stuff like meats and cereals! Bookmark this page so you can check back and get the details on how to make these:

Try: Pears & Peas
Try: Sweet Potatoes & Chicken
Try: Oatmeal & Carrots (Coming Soon)

Have you ever tried making your own baby food? I highly recommend it!!

1 comment:

  1. I am a mother of twins and I could not live without the Wean Meister freezer pods. I loved their modern design, but they were super functional! The whole tray is silicone, including the lid, so no freezer burn. They have 9 pods, so 9 meals, each 2.5oz. These trays are BPA free and use a grade of silicone that is actually higher than the FDA grade, making them safer for babies. The food pops out very very easily, which was a huge problem with some other brands. You can get them here: www.nurturedsprouts.com

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