Homemade Baby Food

Before we get started, you should know, I don’t have a baby.  Yet, as a cook, I get asked a lot about making baby food at home.  In addition to saving money, the benefits of making your own baby food are many including guaranteed freshness and complete control over ingredients.  Work with your pediatrician to determine the best timing and an overall approach for introducing baby to solid foods (for example, introduce one new food every week to control for food allergies).  Once you’ve got a plan for safely introducing solids, here are some tips for making baby food at home.

In terms of equipment, you will need a food processor, blender, and/or an immersion blender.  Baby’s food can be portioned, refrigerated and used immediately or frozen in small freezer-safe containers, bags or ice cube trays for use within 1 month.

Babies around the world eat a wide variety of first foods – fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans.  Basically, any dish that is well cooked and can be puréed has a place in baby’s diet.

Choosing fresh fruits and vegetables representing a variety of colors assures a healthy mix of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.  Some good starter ingredients include apples, pears, bananas, apricots, avocados, peas, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash and green beans. Bake or steam sweet potatoes and apples and then purée them with a little vegetable stock for a delicious dish.  Winter squash such as pumpkin, butternut and acorn are delicious roasted or steamed and puréed with cooked pears or apples.

Well-cooked whole grains such as brown rice, oats and quinoa make nice additions to a well-rounded diet.  Well-cooked beans and whole grain pastas with sauce can be puréed for baby.  While it is not necessary to season baby food with salt or sugar, it is also not necessary for baby’s food to be bland.  Babies are born with a developed sense of smell and taste.  Fresh herbs and mild spices can be used to introduce flavors that enhance the eating experience.

If your baby tolerates dairy and has been cleared by a pediatrician to consume it, whole milk yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics.  Mix it with fruit purée for a delicious treat.

Make your own chicken, beef and/or vegetable stock.  Use these stocks to simmer vegetables, whole grains, pasta, and beans.  Add stocks to cooked vegetables and meats to achieve a smooth texture upon blending.   Virtually any soup or stew can be turned into a meal for baby by simply puréeing it.  The same goes for beans and rice and other dishes that you are preparing for the rest of the family. Remember, adding homemade stock to the mix adds nutrition and can help with texture.

Other guidelines I have learned over the years when it comes to making baby food include staying away from raw foods like honey and raw dairy, at least for the first 12 months, to reduce the risk of exposure to botulism spores.  Also, steer clear of small hard items such as grapes and berries, which can be a choking hazard, as can sticky foods like nut butters.

Those of you out there making baby food, please let us know what other tips and ideas you have for the community!

Kristen Desmond

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