Starting solids soon? Maggie Meade, editor of the top-rated baby food site wholesomebabyfood.com, mom to three boys and author of THE WHOLESOME BABY FOOD GUIDE: Over 150 Easy, Delicious, and Healthy Recipes from Purees to Solids shares her tips and recipes for making your own child-friendly cuisine at home.
When was the last time you looked at a jar of baby food on the shelf at your grocery store? Did you notice that the colors of all the foods offered were less than vibrant? I am not one to judge solely on appearance. However, when it comes to baby food, take a look at the finished product and judge for yourself. I love to use carrots, sweet potatoes and even bananas to illustrate the sheer vibrancy and wholesome goodness of homemade foods. As you can see from this image of freshly pureed carrots, a picture is worth a thousand words (or bites, in this instance).
As your baby approaches the age of 4 to 6 months, you’ll begin to think about starting to introduce solid foods. There are many jarred foods available in the grocery store for you to choose from. However, why not make your own foods for baby to enjoy? Yes, you can make your baby’s food in your own kitchen. You don’t have to have a licensed kitchen nor do you have to have a culinary degree to prepare fresh food at home. Commercial baby food companies would like you to believe that only they can manufacture safe foods and only they know what your baby should eat. Do you remember the old adage “Mother knows best”? When it comes to feeding babies, mom really does know best.
As your baby begins to adventure into the wonderfully tasty world of solid food, making your own has enormous benefits.
Tastes great: Homemade baby food just tastes better. It actually tastes like the food that it was made from. Bananas taste like bananas, and carrots taste as yummy as the image above looks! The taste and texture of real food, rather than the thin drabness of processed food, will help your baby develop a preference for whole foods. Enjoying and preferring whole foods over processed foods can help contribute to better health and optimal weight.
Easy peasy: You don’t need fancy tools or gadgets or even fancy foods. Using all the tools and the foods you have at home, you can easily and quickly make your baby’s food. Steam or bake, then mash or puree – that’s it!
Less waste: Saving uneaten jars of baby food is not a good practice, particularly if you have fed your baby directly from the jar. As baby is first beginning to eat, and so the amount he or she will be eating is very small. (Think 1-2 ounces.) Storing homemade baby food in ice cube trays in the freezer allows you to portion out “by the cube” and each cube is approximately 1 ounce. Rather than tossing out an half eaten jar of baby food, you need only take out 1 cube at a time. Did I mention that there is less environmental waste with homemade baby food? No need to toss jars out or find the time to recycle them.
Maple Sweet Potato Cubes
3 medium sized sweet potatoes/yams
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ*
cinnamon and/or nutmeg to taste – start with 1 teaspoon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
1. Peel then rinse the sweet potatoes, cut into small chunks
2. Put the chunks into a medium bowl, then drizzle on 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/3 cup maple syrup
3. Sprinkle on the cinnamon and/or nutmeg then sprinkle on the wheat germ* and mix to combine
4. Place sweet potato chunks into baking dish and cover with foil
5. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, remove foil and bake another 15-30 minutes or until sweet potatoes are fork tender
6. When finished baking, remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and stir to combine all the wonderful flavors. Serve warm.
Puree and serve
Puree and add peaches and/or yogurt for a juicy twist
Mash in some applesauce
Mash and serve in a bowl with a baby spoon. Let baby use the spoon to practice; this mix will cling well to the spoon!
*Wheat is typically introduced around 8 months of age and after baby is tolerating other grains. It is a possible allergen and celiacs should not eat it; it should be offered with the advice of your pediatrician.
Easy Carrot Puree
Any amount of fresh carrots you desire
1. Peel carrots and cut into small chunks
2. Place chunks into a steamer pan with just enough water visible through the steamer basket
3. Steam until tender
4. Drain and use fresh water to thin
5. Place into your choice of appliance for pureeing and begin pureeing.
6. Add water as necessary to achieve a smooth, thin consistency that your baby will enjoy.