Ah, babies – adorable bundles of joy, eyes wide to the wonders of a new world. They laugh, they cry – and yes, they make messes, but that comes with the territory. What else do babies do? They eat. Or rather, they get fed. Baby food is pureed for a reason – it’s the only form of sustenance that can be given to someone with underdeveloped teeth and a distinct lack of fine motor skills!
Commercially-prepared baby food is convenient but expensive, and it may contain questionable ingredients. The best way to ensure that your little one receives the nourishment he or she needs (and save money in the process) is to make baby food at home.
Putting Quality First
According to a study in the journal Pediatrics, children who consumed beverages sweetened with sugar during their first year of life were twice as likely to continue the habit at the age of six as those who had little to no early sugar exposure. That’s a sobering fact – dietary habits can become harder to change as people grow older. Introducing your newborn to nutritious foods right away will give them a better chance of making healthier choices later on.
Start with fresh produce. If fresh fruits and vegetables are available and can be used within a couple of days, that’s great – and that’s not an option, choose frozen produce instead. Flash-freezing retains many nutrients. If you can afford to buy organic, you may be able to minimize your developing child’s exposure to pesticide residues. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” for a list of the most contaminated produce.
Fruits like prunes, plums, pears, peaches, mangoes, berries, bananas, apricots and ripe apples are good choices. For vegetables, turn to squash, regular and sweet potatoes, sweet peppers, peas, carrots, avocadoes and asparagus tips.
Keep Those Nitrates Out of Baby’s Food!
We’re familiar with nitrates as a food preservative – but babies are sensitive, and consuming an excess of dietary nitrates can lead to a condition called “methemoglobinemia” – a type of anemia characterized a reduced ability of red blood cells to oxygenate tissues.
Normally, methemoglobinemia is caused by nitrate-rich water, but some vegetables, including carrots, beets, spinach, squash and green beans also contain high levels. That’s why it’s important to avoid feeding veggies to babies less than 3 months of age. When it is time to incorporate vegetables into your baby’s diet, don’t limit them to just a few varieties.
How to Prep Food
Always wash produce. Before pureeing, cook harder fruits like prunes and apples. Produce can be boiled, baked or steamed. The latter option is best, creating the least mess, preventing overcooking and preserving nutrients.
Peels can be removed – some fruits and veggies have thick or chewy skin which can survive pureeing. Newborns can’t handle solid food, so add an appropriate liquid – water, formula or breast milk – to your baby’s food while pureeing until a good consistency is reached.
As an infant grows older, other foods can be added. Grains such as millet and quinoa (which are naturally gluten-free) are easy to puree – they become very soft and almost spreadable when freshly-cooked. Their sticky consistency makes them a great choice for babies old enough to eat with their own hands.
When it’s time to introduce higher-protein foods like meat and poultry, make blending easier by trimming off fat and skin prior to cooking. Once fully cooked, meat can be pureed.
The Best Way to Make Baby Food at Home
While it’s possible to make homemade baby food with a sharp knife and a hand-grinder, that’s a time-consuming way of going about it – and time is a precious commodity when you’re raising a child! Instead, consider using a baby food maker. These labour-saving appliances do the hard work for you, and “2-in-1” models combine both steamer and blender into one device.
One of the most highly-regarded of such models is the Andrew James Digital Baby Food Maker – it includes a steamer and blender, and features a “one-touch” button as well as separate controls for either steaming or pureeing. Its large capacity makes it a favourite among parents – able to hold 950ml, enough food can be prepared for multiple feedings. To save even more time, 10 pre-set functions take the guesswork out of steaming many commonly used foods.
Safety was built into this baby food maker – 2 locks mean the machine won’t turn on unless both lid and bowl are securely in place. Non-slip feet keep the device planted firmly on your work surface, and all parts which contact food are BPA (bisphenol-A)-free.
In today’s world, where convenience reigns supreme, preparing your baby’s food at home might seem quaint – but it’s simply a way to ensure that your young one receives the best possible nutrition, eating the same, natural foods that you do. It’s easy – just remember to choose good ingredients, opt for organic if possible, prep food accordingly and invest in a baby food maker.