Making Baby Food Can Be Easy
If you've thought about or are planning to make your baby's first foods, here is your simple and easy guide on how to get started!
What are some of the benefits of making your own baby food?
While buying baby food comes with the convenience of being readily accessible, making your baby's food can be just as simple.
Some of the benefits include:
Knowing exactly what your baby is eating and not having to worry about any preservatives or additives
Retaining some of the nutrients and fiber that can be lost during processing baby foods into commercial products
Saving some money. Buying fresh fruits and vegetables, even if you choose organic, can be cheaper than buying many pre-packaged baby foods, considering the multiple servings you can generally make from it at home.
You can choose your own foods and flavor combinations rather than relying on what is available in stores. There are some foods that you won't typically find in pre-packaged baby foods but make great baby foods (for example, watermelon, honeydew melon, and cantaloupe).
You can let your baby eat foods that are more similar to what you and your family are eating at home, which will help with mealtimes as your little one continues to grow and ventures into table foods.
Now let's get started!!
What do I need to make baby foods?
Making baby foods can be really easy, easier than you may think. All you need to get started is:
A steamer rack or basket (not absolutely necessary, but recommended since steaming your baby's foods help to retain their nutrients)
A blender (no special baby blender needed, a basic blender or what you already have at home will work fine)
Storage containers (2 oz containers of any type OR an ice cube tray or rubber freezer tray)
What foods should I start with?
The next step is to buy food! There is no specific rule on what foods to start with. However, I recommend starting with a starchy food, because it will be easy on your child's stomach, and something that has a little bit of fiber, so it will not cause constipation for your baby. Opt for frozen for foods that are not easily found in the produce section of the grocery store. Here are some of my first favorites:
Peas (frozen is fine)
Green beans (frozen is fine)
If you want to start even more basic, with foods that don't require cooking, you can easily mash a banana or avocado and offer this as your baby's first food. For a new eater, make sure to mash the banana or avocado until it is smooth and there are no chunks in it.
How do I cook the foods?
Wash the fruits and vegetables thoroughly.
Peel sweet potatoes or butternut squash. For most other fruits and vegetables, leave the skin on to offer your baby the natural fiber that this will provide them. Other than potatoes, if the skin is edible, leave it on!
Chop into pieces if not already in pieces. Any size pieces are fine but the smaller the pieces, the faster the food will cook.
Steam the fruits or vegetables until soft enough to easily poke with a fork or until the food falls apart easily. This can take anywhere from 15 min to 1 hour depending on how soft the food starts out and how small you cut the pieces. You can leave the food to cook, set a timer while you go do something else, and check on the food later. (You can also bake or boil your foods. However, keep in mind that baking will typically take longer and you may lose some of the foods' natural nutrients during the boiling process.)
Once soft enough, puree in a blender. Be sure to add a little liquid to ensure the final product is nice and smooth. You can use water, breastmilk, or formula. If you boiled the food, you can use some of the remaining boiling water to get back some of the nutrients.
Store in the refrigerator if you plan to serve in the next couple of days. Store in the freezer for up to 2 months if you will serve beyond 2 days or if you have excess.
Rewarm in the microwave when you're ready to serve to your baby. 30 seconds in the microwave is usually sufficient to warm a 2 oz serving that was refrigerated. You can thaw frozen servings overnight or warm a 2 oz serving from frozen in the microwave for 1 minute. Be sure to check the temperature of the food before serving it to your baby.
So that's it! Easy peas-y! Below are more ideas for both single and combination baby foods as your baby grows and becomes a more experienced eater. Follow the same steps as above for preparing and storing.
4-6 Months/Starter Foods
At this stage, try one new food at a time, so you can identify if a particular food causes a problem for your baby (rash, vomiting, diarrhea, etc). If this occurs, talk to your baby's pediatrician before offering this food again. It is a good rule of thumb to wait at least 3 days after starting a new food before offering any other new foods.
Carrots (peel first)
Don't be afraid to taste your baby's foods and to add a pinch of salt or butter for flavor, especially to vegetables. But keep in mind that your baby's taste buds are different than yours and that they do not need a lot of salt or seasoning.
By this age or after your baby has gone through all of the single-ingredient foods, they will likely be interested in more diverse flavors. Here are some great combination foods to try. Follow the same cooking and preparation steps as above but you blend them at the same time:
Corn (frozen or cut the kernels off the cob)
Apples & Spinach
Carrots & Yellow squash
Carrots & Zucchini
Green beans & Corn
Peas & Corn
Pears & Blueberries
Pears & Peaches
Pears & Plums
Pears & Tart apples
Butternut squash & Apples
Sweet potato & Apples
Plums & Cherries
Apples & Broccoli
Carrots & Tomatoes
Try any other combinations that you think may work well together or that you think you baby may like.
By this age and for more experienced eaters, your baby is usually ready for more texture. At this stage, you can blend for a shorter period to time to retain some of the chunky texture. Or you can use a food processor instead of a blender or even just mash with a fork once cooked to soft. This is also when you can start to incorporate some grains, beans, and other proteins. Make sure to cook the grains or beans until very soft and mix the so they are only 1/4 of the serving and the other 3/4 is the fruit or vegatable. Here are some ideas to incorporate healthy proteins:
Mix any fruit with plain yogurt or oatmeal (my favorites to mix are pears, cherries, and peaches)
Tomatoes & Quinoa
Carrots & Brown Rice
Carrots & White beans
Zucchini & White beans
Avocado & Black beans
Apples & White or Black beans
Corn & White or Black beans
9-12 months is also a time you can offer your baby very soft, ripe finger food fruits and vegetables such as:
Blueberries cut in half or slightly mashed
Slightly mashed, ripe raspberries or blackberries
Pieces of ripe banana
Pieces of ripe avocado
Pieces of ripe mango
Pieces of cooked, skin-off squash
Pieces of cooked peaches
Making your baby's foods can be simple and fun for everyone!
If you have other great ideas for baby foods or food combinations, leave it in the comments!
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