When my daughter Sienna was born, one of the most common questions that people asked me was whether I was going to make my own baby food. Usually I would just laugh nervously and say something along the lines of “We’ll see…” The truth is that even though I had always pictured myself creating culinary masterpieces for my baby, in reality I couldn’t imagine finding the time to do it. Now that Sienna is nine months old, I am happy to say that I’ve been making all of her food and it’s not as hard as you would think. In fact, it’s pretty easy. All you need is a food processor, blender or immersion blender and preferably a steamer (or steamer basket). If you can set aside a couple of hours one day, you can make enough baby food to last for weeks.
Making baby food at home has become pretty popular in recent years and there are several varieties of baby food makers out there on the market. I received one as a gift but the truth is that you don’t need one to make baby food. The advantage of the one I have is that you can steam the food and puree it all in the same canister. But you can just as easily steam or roast the food and then transfer it to a food processor. Or even better, use an immersion blender and save yourself from washing a dish or two.
How do you make baby food? It’s simple. Start with a ripe fruit or vegetable (or meat when your baby is a little older). Cook it by either lightly steaming, roasting or boiling it. Then puree it, add any seasonings and serve. Done! Not bad, right? I recommend lightly steaming or roasting your baby food rather than boiling it as a lot of the valuable nutrients can leech into the water with boiling. Many ripe fruits can be pureed without cooking, leaving all of the important nutrients intact.
|Top row: carrots, mango and prunes. Middle row: pears, Greek yogurt, kale and butternut squash. Bottom row: peas, sweet potatoes, and peaches|
The advantages of homemade baby food:
- It’s nutritious. Commercially prepared baby food is sterilized at very high heat to increase shelf life, a process which kills a lot of nutrients and affects flavor and texture. Homemade baby food, on the other hand, retains most of its nutritional value, taste and texture. When you make your own baby food, you control the ingredients- it’s all natural, no additives or fillers.
- It’s economical. Store-bought baby food can be expensive. You can save money by making large batches of homemade baby food and storing it in the refrigerator or freezer. Most baby food will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days and in the freezer for 3 months
- It will bring out the chef in you and perhaps make your baby a more adventurous eater. When you make your own food, you can create your own yummy combinations and expose your baby to a wide variety of flavors. Sienna loves when I mix apples, kale and sweet potatoes. Another one of her favorite combinations is cherries, pears and Greek yogurt.
Once you make your baby food, you can portion it out and store it in individual BPA-free containers in the refrigerator. If you’re freezing your food, transfer the puree into multi-portion freezer trays or ice cube trays and place in the freezer. Then at mealtime you can pop out individual portions and heat them up. If you’re making large amounts of food, you can store the frozen cubes in BPA-free storage bags. I always label the bags with the type of puree and the date so I can keep track of how long they’ve been in the freezer.
When can you introduce solids into your baby’s diet? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing solids at around 6 months but many people introduce them earlier. The truth is that every baby is different and you should discuss this with your pediatrician. Whenever you do decide to introduce solids, here are a couple of rules of thumb. First of all, wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Many parents choose to use organic produce- it’s your choice whether you want to use organic or not. One option is to check the Environmental Working Group’s website when deciding whether or not to buy organic. They are a non-profit environmental research organization that releases a yearly guide of the fruits and vegetables with the highest and lowest pesticide residues. For more information on the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen,” go to: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/
Another rule of thumb is to introduce only one new food at a time for at least 3 days. That way if your baby develops any adverse reactions, you’ll know what’s causing it.
You can be creative when you make your own baby food, mixing and matching different ingredients. And don’t be afraid to add herbs and seasonings to your food- it’s good to expose babies to a wide range of flavors. And don’t worry if you have any extra baby food- you can use fruit and vegetable purees in lots of other dishes. Fresh fruit purees are delicious stirred into cocktails like bellinis. Frozen portions of fruit puree and Greek yogurt make great additions to a smoothie when you’re in a pinch!
Fresh Peach Baby Food
Makes about 6-8 ounces puree
This recipe can be adapted for many different fruits and vegetables
3 medium, ripe peaches or other similar fruit
Wash the peaches thoroughly.
Peel and cut the fruit into pieces. Place in a steamer and steam until tender, 3-5 minutes. Note: If peaches are very ripe and soft, you can skip this step.
Remove the fruit and transfer to a food processor or blender. Puree to desired consistency. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender.
Serve immediately or pour the puree into individual storage containers and refrigerate up to 3 days. If freezing, transfer the puree to multi-portion freezer trays or ice cube trays and freeze.
When you're ready to serve, pop out individual portions, heat and serve.
|Sienna enjoying her meal|