What's the best way to make tasty baby food?
Many mothers (and fathers) struggle to feed their babies what they think is best. Once it's time for solids, many prefer making their own food for their babies. While the food prep can be time-consuming, there are many advantages. Parents love it as they know exactly what their baby is eating. It can prep baby for eating the same foods as the rest of the family--just, er, in a pureed, somewhat blander form. Parents have a lot more freedom in choices of flavors of food when they make the food themselves. Avocado banana? Broccoli apple? Why not?
But some parents feel at a loss. Where do they start with making awesome meals that their baby will actually eat? Here are some tips to help you make mealtime as stress-free as possible. We can't guarantee that your child won't end up wearing it, but hey, if half of the food makes it in their mouth, that's a start!
15 Cook in Batches
Set aside some time (Maybe Sunday afternoon?) and cook food in batches. You can't expect to cook meals from scratch every single day. Save yourself some time. Instead, cook a bunch of meals and freeze lots of portions for later.
You can freeze meals in large ice cube trays. They store great in large freezer Ziploc bags. Take out an ice cube portion or two at a time, and heat up more as needed. Be sure to label the bags, as it's harder to tell what's what after it's been steamed, pureed, and frozen into little cubes.
14 Start Small
Cook one batch of everything, and freeze it in portions, being prepared that baby might not like everything. Feel free to try to introduce it again a few weeks later, as baby's taste buds are constantly evolving, and it often takes multiple exposures to a food before your baby will like it. Just don't try the forcing method; that's never going to win over a picky eater.
13 Get the Right Supplies
There are lots of "baby food makers," so read some reviews and ask your friends for their feedback. If you don't have a lot of money, you'll want at least a few things:
- Food processor (or a super powerful blender) for pureeing foods
- Ice cube trays to freeze the foods
- Ziploc freezer bags to store the frozen foods
- Small glass jars are another alternative some people prefer, but be sure to not fill the jars all the way to the top before freezing. This prevents the jars from breaking after natural expansion occurs during the freezing process.
12 Get a Cookbook (or Two)
Don't worry--you don't have to start from scratch, wracking your brain for ideas on foods to make that are healthy and tasty for baby. Get a few cookbooks like these:
- 201 Organic Baby Purees: The Freshest, Most Wholesome Food Your Baby Can Eat by Tamika Gardner
- The Baby and Toddler Cookbook: Fresh, Homemade Foods for a Healthy Start by Karen Ansel
- Real Baby Food: Easy, All-Natural Recipes for Your Baby and Toddler by Jenna Helwig
You can make adjustments, but flipping through these books might give you a good idea.
11 And Bookmark a Few Recipe Websites
Bookmark a few websites for looking up new recipes for baby. There are tons of great sources out there, and a quick Google search of "baby food recipes" will overwhelm and delight you. Here are a few to get you started:
10 Baby Food Isn't Just for Babies
Baby food can be something adults can eat, too, whether you make extra for yourself or use the leftovers that your baby doesn't love. You can use it for your own cooking. Toss frozen fruit cubes into a blender with some soy milk or green tea for a morning smoothie. Or, puree veggies with some milk or broth to make a great pureed veggie soup (maybe adding a bit of spice and garlic to liven things up).
Pureed mangoes frozen can be a nice summer treat--defrost pureed mangoes for your baby. You can also add a stick (and maybe some lemon juice and a bit of sugar!) and make some mango Popsicles for yourself.
9 No Salt or Sugar Needed
Maybe you like to salt your food or even sprinkle a bit of sugar on your fruit. Baby's taste palate is still pretty neutral so skip the salt and sugar. If you need some sort of flavor enhancer, add a bit of lemon juice. Baby's kidneys can't process salt the same way adult kidneys can so really keep it blander here, especially at the beginning.
8 Smaller Portions is Best
Even though baby might eat several ice cube's worth of puree carrots in one sitting, it's best to defrost them one at a time. This allows you to be flexible with your baby's appetite and to waste less food. So, cook in batches, but freeze in smaller portions.
7 Variety is the Spice of Life
A variety of different types of food is best for your baby. Experiment with different recipes, and serve a few different kinds, rotating so your baby doesn't favor one food over all the others. However, talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about allergens, and introduce new types of food slowly so you can isolate potential allergens.
6 Know What to Feed Baby at Any Stage
Start with cereals, and then advance to other kinds of foods. Cereals generally begin at 4-6 months, and then at 4-8 months, start with pureed fruits, veggies, and meats. Then go to chopped, mashed, or ground foods at 9-12 months.
5 Don't Feed Baby Everything
Certain things are not okay for baby. Honey can actually cause botulism if it is introduced too early to your baby. If your baby is at risk for a citrus allergy, talk to your doctor because your baby can experience diaper rash or eczema.
Cow's milk is not as nutritious for baby as mother's milk or formula, so delay cow's milk for a bit longer. Also, skip on nuts, gobs of peanut butter, popcorn, dried cranberries or raisins--these are all choking hazards. Speak with your doctor if you have any other concerns about foods to avoid.
4 Some of the Recipes Sound Yummy to You
...and that's okay. No one will judge if you eat pureed carrots for dinner...though maybe, you'll opt for a grown-up version, adding some spices and garlic to yours.Check out these baby food recipes that sound tasty even to those of us who haven't been babies in quite a while!
3 Learn to be Flexible
Your baby won't like everything and that's okay! Baby might love sweet potatoes and devour it nonstop, but after a while will completely ignore it. Try the sweet potatoes again in a few weeks, and if baby still doesn't like it, don't worry. Try it again in a few months. Taste buds are always changing. Be sure to keep trying (though not forcing.) Baby might like it eventually.
2 Spice is the Variety of Life
Introduce baby to different tastes at a young age. It might help in raising a more adventurous eater. Some pediatricians recommend waiting until a baby is eight months before introducing spices. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns. They'll give you the a-okay.
Try recipes like this curried carrot and red lentil puree, minty peas, herbed white beans, or just try adding a sprinkle or two of cinnamon to your baby's foods (check out this list of great foods that cinnamon compliments).
1 Let Your Baby Eat Like You
Okay, so maybe your baby isn't about ready for full on sushi or those spicy black bean Chipotle tacos, but slowly introduce foods you are eating to your baby. If you're steaming some broccoli, put a few pieces in the blender to mash up for baby, so the baby eats just like mommy.
Making your own baby food is not that hard. It can be fun, a great way to expose a baby to new foods, and a great introduction to healthy eating. Be sure to check in with your doctor about when it's time to start feeding your baby solids. Have fun!