Some Simple Tips and Recipes for Baby Food
Most everyone agrees fresh food just tastes better and we all know it’s better for us than processed food. That’s why so many people are getting into the farm-to-table movement, buying ingredients at local farmers markets and looking for restaurants that can tell them exactly where their produce and meats were grown. If that’s what we want for ourselves, why should baby be left out?
We know, some of you have avoided making your own baby food because you’re afraid it’s a difficult or time-consuming process that will require you to buy some expensive, specialty equipment. The good news is that’s simply not true! Recipes for baby food are as simple as tossing some healthy ingredients into a food processor or a blender, or putting them under an immersion blender.
Why make your own baby food?
Besides the already-stated reason of providing fresher food to growing bellies, there are a plethora of reasons to create your own baby foods. How about a list?
You know exactly what’s in them. Baby food is more strictly regulated by the FDA than processed foods meant for adults, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t additives.
You’re not setting baby up for processed food cravings. New York University Associate Professor of Food Studies Amy Bentley spent nearly two decades researching commercial baby food. She found reason to believe using store-bought baby food sets infants up to crave what she calls industrial food for the rest of their lives.
Keep certain fats and sugars, as well as sodium, out of baby’s diet. Bentley also points out commercial baby food wasn’t even really a thing until the middle of the last century, when it became cheaper, was advertised more, and more homes became two-working-parent homes. What happened since then? America developed epidemic obesity and related health problems.
Extra opportunities to be creative in the kitchen. For those who enjoy crafting delicious dishes out of fresh ingredients, crafting your own baby food recipes can provide more chances to do that.
You can save money. This may be hard to believe when those little jars of commercial baby food sell for a dollar or less, but it’s true. You can get ingredients for making your own baby food for a fairly comparable price and make multiple servings.
Some tips for crafting your own baby food recipes
Don’t use processed foods. This may seem like a no-brainer when you’re trying to make fresh food, but it can be tempting to use things like store-bought fruit juices or stocks in your baby food recipes. The problem there is they can not only have the same impact as using commercial baby foods, they also have ingredients meant for adults, not babies, and may be really high in sugars and sodium. Both of those can cause serious problems for babies, whose kidneys are not fully developed and can’t handle large amounts of sugar or sodium.
If you end up with more than you need, and it’s almost guaranteed you will, put it into an ice cube tray, cover it with plastic wrap, and freeze it. Once frozen, you can move the cubes from your favorite recipe for baby food into a sealable plastic bag to store in the freezer. Each will provide a perfectly-portioned serving. Just remember to thaw slowly in the refrigerator or quickly under hot water to avoid potential for bacterial growth during that process.
Don’t reuse portions that your baby has already eaten out of. The spoon may transfer saliva to the food, which can prompt bacterial growth. Throw out any unused food and start with a new or untouched portion.
For a smooth and easy-to-digest puree, cook harder foods like carrots and apples before adding them to your recipes for baby food.
When introducing new foods to baby, do so one food at a time and test with small portions over the course of about a week to ensure there are no allergies.
Make sure you record the date for every batch you make. Typically you want to feed the whole batch within about a month, though some foods may be good for as long as three months, provided they stay frozen.
Be sure you’re feeding your baby age-appropriate foods. You may want to check the baby food recipes you’re considering with your pediatrician or as him or her to suggest some.
The best foods to include in baby food recipes
Fresh fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors. Think broccoli, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, mangos, bananas, strawberries, and the like. Scrub all and remove peels from those that have them.
Pumpkins, squash, and cauliflower are very healthy and easy to include in recipes for baby food because they cook up fairly soft.
Fresh-squeezed fruit and vegetable juices can help foods puree more readily. As an added bonus if you’re using a juicer in your home, baby food recipes are the perfect uses for that pulp no one ever knows what to do with.
For babies who are still breastfeeding, breast milk can also serve as the liquid needed for pureeing.
Though there’s some debate about the safety of baby rice, if you’re comfortable using it you’ll find it can act as a thickener for purees while providing carbohydrate energy to baby.
If you want to add meat to recipes, use lean meats and poultry.
Some recipes for baby food to try
Bok Choy Chicken Delight
(from The Kitchn blog)
1 to 2 baby bok choy clusters
About 1/4 cup of rough chopped pre–cooked (baked or roasted) chicken breast or thigh
Cooked rice (amount to your child's liking)
1/4 teaspoon of fresh ginger
Steam bok choy and ginger for a few minutes, till the leaves begin to wilt (for me this generally happens in about 5 to 7 minutes). Puree the bok choy and ginger with the chicken and rice to desired consistency.
Sweet Potato and Banana Puree
(from Martha Lee on Paula Deen’s website)
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
Steam the sweet potatoes for about 10 minutes or until soft. Reserve the liquid from the steamer.
Puree the sweet potato with the bananas in a food processor or blender with 1/2C of reserved liquid. Add more liquid to get desired consistency if needed.
Persimmon, Berry, and Mint Puree
(From Bountiful Baby Purees by Anni Daulter)
3 persimmons, peeled and chopped
2C chopped strawberries
1/4C chopped fresh mint
Steam persimmons for about 8 minutes until soft. Add strawberries and steam for another 2 minutes. Reserve water from steamer.
Puree the mixture in a blender with the mint. Add 1tsp of reserved water at a time, if necessary, until desired consistency is achieved.
Plum and Banana Puree
2 plums, chopped and pitted
Place the ingredients in a food processor and puree.
Place the puree in a sieve over a bowl and using a spoon or ladle, push it through so the puree is in the bowl and plum skins remains in the sieve.