One of the biggest benefits of homemade baby food is that you know exactly what’s in it. And if you buy the ingredients at your local farmers’ market, your baby’s food is one step closer to the source. You can choose the freshest fruits and vegetables, picked at their nutritional peak—and if they were grown organically, even better. Plus, you can introduce your baby to fruits and veggies that aren’t typically found in prepared baby foods. Alberta Health Services has a helpful parenting website with information on safely introducing new foods to baby.
If you’re starting baby on solid foods for the first time, there are a few things to keep in mind. Babies may be ready for solids around 6 months, but only if they can sit up on their own, hold their head up and show an interest in solid food. You can find more tips about starting on solids in this article from BabyCenter.
When you’re ready, there are a few basic steps to making baby food:
- Wash everything well—your hands, equipment, and the fruits and vegetables.
- Peel the fruits and vegetables.
- Cook fruits and vegetables until tender.
- Purée the food with a bit of water or breast milk or mash it if baby is ready for more texture (about 8 to 10 months, but check with your doctor first).
- Store the food in airtight food storage containers. It can last two to three days in the fridge, max, so it’s best to store it in the freezer until you need it.
Recipes for baby food are pretty basic: cook the fruit or vegetable and then purée it with a little liquid. That’s it. (Parents has some good ideas for puréed food combos.) Keep in mind that some cooking methods help preserve the nutrition in fruits and vegetables better than other cooking methods, with steaming being one of the best methods. Using an electric pressure cooker or slow cooker is also a great method, especially if you blend the liquid from the cooker into the purée. Using a microwave to prepare baby food is another simple method where nutrients are preserved.
With an electric food steamer like this one from Hamilton Beach, you can cook your baby’s fruits and vegetables without heating up your kitchen. Add your choice of seafood or chicken breasts to the bottom rack, and you’re minutes away from serving a satisfying steamed meal the whole family will enjoy.
No matter what method you choose for cooking, the endgame is the same: turning the fruits and vegetables into a soft purée or mash that your baby can safely eat and digest. You can use a small appliance you already have—a blender, hand blender or food processor—or you can pick up a specially designed baby food maker.
Steam and blend your baby food in a one-step process with this baby food maker from Baby Boom. Its patented features help take the hassle out of creating wholesome purées for baby by automatically blending food after steaming. The bowl has a three-cup capacity, ideal for making a quick meal or cooking several portions at once.
This hand blender from Braun features POWERBell Plus technology, which provides an extra milling blade to help finely chop and blend foods into smooth purées. EasyClick attachments are designed to help satisfy growing baby’s developing taste for new flavours and textures. You can also create soups, sauces and smoothies.
This baby food making system from Baby Bullet helps make and store fresh and healthy foods for every stage of your baby’s development. The containers have date-dial lids, so you can know exactly when the food was made. This system is BPA-free. (The containers also have those happy faces and, seriously, how cute is that?)
Because homemade baby food is made fresh, it won’t last the way store-bought baby foods do. That means you’ll need to safely store whatever you don’t feed your baby right away. Freezing is the easiest method.
You can freeze a batch of baby food using ice cube trays, but specially-designed containers like these from Baby Cubes are airtight to help lock in freshness. They are also stackable to help save room in your freezer. This starter kit includes three sizes of cubes to grow with your baby’s needs.
As baby grows and can handle more complex food tastes and textures, consider adding a bit of seasoning to your basic baby food recipes. Dieticians featured in this article on Global News offer advice on adding mild, aromatic spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves or cumin, starting as early as six months (as always, check with your doctor first). As with any new foods, they suggest waiting a few days in between each one so that you can monitor for signs of an allergy or other reaction.
Although making homemade baby food may not be as convenient as opening up a jar from the store, it can be a fun and rewarding experience. Consider making it a family affair by starting with a weekend trip to the farmers’ market, complete with sunscreen and hats, of course. Sun safety first! If you have older kids, pull them in to help with picking out the fruits and veggies, and then involve them with the cooking and processing, too. It’s a great way to connect your kids with food, where it comes from and how it’s made.