For many health-conscious moms, the transition to solids is bittersweet. The excitement of our babies beginning to try new foods and becoming “big kids” seems so sad! Where is my baby going?! However, the idea that we don’t know exactly what we are feeding them when giving processed baby food can be scary. Even the best organic brands are still questionable. When something containing chicken is capable of sitting in a glass jar for over a week and still be considered safe to eat, it becomes painfully clear that organic or not, we are feeding our children more than just chicken.
For working (or just plain tired) moms, processed, store-bought baby food can seem like the only option. However, there is a way to give your child healthy, homemade baby food fresh from your kitchen without breaking your schedule or your budget.
1) Shop Organic. Shop Precut.
Your grocery list should consist of fresh and organic to ensure harmful pesticides, hormones, and preservatives are left in the baby food aisle. To shorten your time in the kitchen, purchase pre-cut and pre-cleaned produce and meat. For example, instead of whole sweet potatoes, purchase sweet potato cubes or ribbons. The only produce you won’t have to worry about are fruits with skin: apples, pears, peaches, etc. You can save money by cutting them on your own. The skin will fall off while cooking.
2) Cook (almost) Everything Together
NOTE:This method only works for babies who have already begun solids and have ruled out allergies. For safety, follow pediatric guidelines of single food, repetitive feeding to determine what food is safe for your child the first time.
There are great gadgets on the market that both cook and process baby food. The BeaBa Babycook is a mom favorite as it creates near perfect textures of baby food. Their only limitation is batch size for cooking. In most of the popular baby food makers, capacity yields about 3-5 days worth of purees for a child who eats three solid meals a day. Busy moms need to cook bigger batches at once. Use large pots and boil all meats and veggies together. If you are adding grains, feel free to throw a tablespoon of brown rice into the pot! Fill with water, cover, and bring to boil. After about 15 minutes, reduce heat to medium and allow to cook for another 45-60 minutes. That’s enough time to fold a load of laundry or complete a bedtime routine. Cook fruits together in a separate pot using the exact same times. The water that the fruit boils in will be sweet and can be used during processing with various recipes – but we don’t want everything to be sweet! Babies should experience various types of textures and flavors.
3) Don’t Drain, Strain
With either a strainer or a spoon with holes, remove your food from pots and place in bowls. If you decide to add a grain, there will be some grains on your veggies (and that is ok, the starch makes for a more substantial baby food), but the majority will still be at the bottom of the pot. Use a regular spoon or strainer to separate the grain. Don’t worry about having extra water when removing the grains, as they need it in the food processor. Follow the same instructions with your fruit. Most fruit skin will be practically falling off, and what remains can be removed gently with a teaspoon before being placed in a bowl.
4) Mix and Match For Yummy Baby Food
The food processor does the rest. Any standard food processor will work. Some moms even use blenders or bullet counter processors with great success. The key to creating baby food that your child will love is in the mixing.
Meat and Fruit
If you are introducing meat to your child, or anything with a different, rougher texture than produce, always mix with a sweeter fruit like apples or peaches. The sweetness and the texture will help keep your baby interested when the texture makes them want to quit. Recipe Example: Chicken and Apples
Veggies are Starches Too
A fan favorite is to mix less substantial produce with starchy produce. When processed, green beans have a high water content and can be soupy (another reason why grains can help!). Mixing them with a starchier veggie like sweet potatoes or carrots can add a smoother, more filling texture that baby will love. Recipe Examples: Broccoli and Carrots.
Spice Up Your Baby Food
While salt and sugar should be avoided, don’t be afraid to add some kick to your baby food. A dash of cinnamon can make peaches and turkey a fan favorite. It is also surprising to many moms how much a small dash of cumin can change how your little foodie feels about carrots.
Just Add Water
Most moms agree that texture is the main deterrent in what their baby loves or loathes. Many homemade foods don’t always have a smooth texture when they are first processed. Use the extra water from either pot when a little more liquid is needed in order to smooth things out. The water has flavor (almost like a bland stock) from the boiling. If you add too much liquid, don’t sweat it. A little organic baby cereal or wheat germ can bulk it up.
5) Store It
There are various ways to store your baby food. Many moms opt for ice trays. Simply fill the trays with purees and freeze. Once frozen, remove from trays and store in freezer bags. Frozen food can be stored for up to 3 months. Busy moms may opt to use reusable food pouches like the Nourish Reusable pouch. Nourish pouches work great with the Infantino Squeeze Station (pictured) for filling. Just like ice trays, they can be stored for up to three months. The great thing about reusable pouches is the ease of defrost and transport. Either take out what you will use the night before or take out what you’ll need for the week and place in the refrigerator. When you are ready to go to daycare or anywhere on the go, simply pack them in your diaper bag and leave.
The first try at baby food making is always the hardest. Don’t give up if the first time takes you longer than expected. Most moms see their process perfected after the second batch.