How to Make Baby Food at Home
A Step-By-Step Guide With Pictures
The average infant eats about $40 of commercially packaged baby food per month. This could be slightly less or quite a bit more depending on which brands and products are used. Making your own baby food at home costs less than $15 per month.
Whether you’re looking to save some green or be more green, making your own baby food is a great tactic. It’s incredibly simple, saves all those little containers, is even healthier than the best baby food you can buy, and gets your baby used to eating food the rest of the family eats. It’s a win-win-win-win!
If you’re thinking you don’t have time to make your own baby food, it’s not true. You could make a few batches of baby food while you’re cooking dinner, or- if you really want to save time in the long run- take a couple hours a make enough food to last your baby a whole month or more. You don’t even need a baby food cookbook, making your own baby food is not only quick, it’s incredibly simple.
Making homemade baby food also allows you the added benefit of knowing exactly what is going in your baby’s tiny body. Commercial baby foods have preservatives and “fillers” that are unnecessary. Making your own baby food is most likely the healthiest option available for your son or daughter
Use the following simple guide, complete with pictures, and a few tips and you’ll be on your way to greener baby food and more green in your wallet!
Fruits or vegetables to prepare
Bowls or pots and spoons (whatever method you normally use to cook your desired fruit or vegetable)
Food processor or blender
Ice cube trays
Gallon sized freezer baggies
Which fruits and vegetables should I choose?
You can make your baby almost any fruit or vegetable that you can puree smoothly to feed them. For inspiration, look to the jars of baby food at the grocery store! Keep in mind that frozen foods have been shown to have just as much nutritional value as fresh, sometimes even more since they are quickly frozen at their peak of freshness while “fresh” produce is picked, travels miles to the store and then sits on the shelf until you purchase it.
Apples, bananas, pears, peas, green beans, sweet potatoes, squash, even avocado are all fair game! Just keep in mind that cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower and broccoli may cause gas. So you might want to wait till your baby is a little bit older and their digestive system is more stable. Also, if you prepare carrots or any other vegetable containing nitrates, don’t use the water the vegetables were cooked in for pureeing. This is simply a precaution as the AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics recommends not preparing these foods for babies under three months. However, doctors don’t even recommend feeding your infant until they are about five months old. (Keep in mind that even commercial baby foods have nitrates. Manufacturers screen for nitrates but cannot completely remove them.)
Step By Step
1. Wash Your Fruits and/or Veggies
That should be an obvious first step, but it’s still worth including.
2. Cook Your Fruits and/or Vegetables (if necessary)
“If necessary” meaning there are a few items you will not need to pre-cook, they are ready as is: bananas and avocados, for example.
As for the rest of the wide variety of foods you may pick, prepare them as you normally would. You simply need to cook them until they are soft enough to puree smoothly. Keep in mind that steaming maintains the most nutrition, but you can also bake, microwave, or boil your food.
Following are preparation instructions for a few of the more common baby food choices:
- Squash: Cut acorn squash in half, remove seeds, and place cut side down in a shallow baking pan with one inch of water. Bake for one hour at 400 degrees.
- Sweet potatoes: Poke holes in sweet potatoes to release steam. Cook at 350 degrees for one hour. Remove from oven and peel. Chop into chunks.
- Peas/Green beans: Use two 16 ounce bags frozen peas/green beans. Use microwaveable steam bags, if possible. Cook until tender.
- Potatoes: Peel potatoes and boil whole. (Boiling potatoes whole retains more of the nutrients than cutting them up.)
- Apples/Pears: Peel, then boil whole or cut up until soft.
- Peaches/Nectarines: First, remove the peel: Cut an “X” into one side of the fruit, place “X” side down in a pan with an inch of water, bring water to a boil, steam until tender, allow the fruit to cool and peel should slide off easily. Chop or dice the peaches.
3. Reserve the water used for cooking
If you boiled your fruits or veggies or baked them in water, reserve the water you cooked with for later. Many nutrients from the food seep into the water as it cooks. You can use this liquid to thin out your baby food as you puree.
Take the chunks of fruits or vegetables and fill your appliance a little over halfway. Puree or chop according to your baby’s age, smoother textures for younger infants, bigger chunks for older babies. If the mixture is too thick, add water reserved from cooking, formula, breast millk, broth, or even apple juice to thin it out. If the food is too thin, you can use baby cereal, yogurt, or mashed sweet or white potatoes to thicken food up.
5. Spoon Pureed Foods Into Ice Cube Trays
Yes, you read that right! This is a surprising use for ice cube trays for which you will be extremely grateful. Use some you already have on hand, or buy a few new trays to use for this express purpose.
Spoon your pureed food into the ice cube trays. (I spray mine with nonstick spray first, but this probably isn’t necessary.) Cover each tray with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for four hours or overnight.
6. Remove Food Cubes from Trays and Place in Plastic Freezer
Simply remove the cubes as you normally would from ice cube trays. Drop them into large freezer bags, and label them with the type of food and the date.
Once frozen, each cube is approximately one ounce of food. For younger infants just being introduced to solid food, one cube will be all they need. The more baby grows, the more cubes you can serve per meal.
Storing and Preparing
Store your frozen baby food in plastic freezer bags for up to one month. You can defrost your baby food by taking it out of the freezer the night before and thaw them in the refrigerator in a covered bowl for the following day. You can also microwave your frozen cubes of baby food for 30-45 seconds, preferably in a glass container. Once removed from the microwave, stir the food well to protect your baby from any “hot spots”. Then let the food sit for two minutes to cool down. Your baby food can also be thawed out by placing the food in a small bowl and then sitting this container in a larger bowl of hot water, the “submersion method”. The cubes of food should take ten to twenty minutes to thaw out with this method.
Baby food can be served at room temperature, and many babies prefer it this way.
A Few Tips
Most pediatricians recommend starting “solid” (pureed) foods between four and six months. Generally, your baby should be able to hold their head up with support and swallow small spoonfuls of food on their own. (A reflex at ages earlier than four months- and sometimes beyond this age- causes babies to push the food back out with their tongue.)
Consult your pediatrician as to your baby’s first food. Many recommend baby cereal, a powdered grain you can buy in boxes at grocery stores and mix with breast milk, formula, water, or apple juice. Pears, or another mild fruit or vegetable may also work.
As you start your baby on new foods, offer only one food at a time and wait several days before adding another new food. This gives you an opportunity to watch your baby for any signs of an allergic reaction. Symptoms to watch for include runny nose, itchy eyes, a rash, or in severe cases anaphylaxis. Give new foods in the morning hours so you have the entire day to monitor baby for any adverse reactions.
New foods may need to be offered repeatedly before baby willingly accepts them. Be prepared to offer a new food ten to fifteen times before baby accepts it. Don’t get discouraged or think the first time your baby turns up his nose at something he doesn’t like it. The experience of eating and every food is completely new to your baby, it takes time to learn and adjust.
Baby food does not need salt or pepper. Babies should first learn to know and love the true flavors of their food. Too much salt could possibly harm your infant’s health.
Scoop as much food into a bowl as you think your baby will eat for that meal. Reason being, it is unsanitary to re-store food once you have served your baby from it. Bacteria are now in the food from their mouth via the spoon. Storing the food after serving it would only give these bacteria the opportunity to grow. Once you have served your baby directly from a container, the food needs to be disposed of.
As your baby grows and adds more and more foods to her diet, you can thicken the consistency of pureed foods as well as mix foods together. You can be as creative as you like! Mix fruits and vegetables together, or meats with vegetables. You are your baby’s chef!
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