While it does take a little time to cook, purée and freeze homemade baby food, at the end of the day, making your own baby food provides more nutritious meals for your baby and allows you complete control over what ingredients you use and what flavours you serve. A win-win in my opinion!
To save time, I have always found it easiest to make lots of different purées on one weekend a month, giving me a big freezer assortment to use for the weeks ahead. Other mums love to make little batches throughout the week whenever they can fit it in. A fun option is to have a baby food–making party – invite some other new mums over to your house and get to work. Whichever method you use, freezing the purées is key to making the process easier, so invest in a few ice cube or purée trays.
Roasting, steaming and frying your baby’s food all contribute to the overall taste of the purée, and when you make your own baby food, you get to control this cooking method and how the flavours will develop. I dare you to try the Banana and Clove Purée and tell me that you can get that in a jar. It isn’t going to happen. All of these recipes are designed to highlight the produces’ natural taste and bring out the foods’ amazing qualities.
When making your own baby food, you get to be in control over the produce and ingredients that go into your baby’s meals. Being able to pick out colourful, ripe, organic and seasonal ingredients for your baby to enjoy at the height of freshness is a great way to teach them how to eat with the cycles of the crops. Bonus – it’s also cheaper to buy what is in season
A cooked apple is a cooked apple, as some believe. That would be true, except the fruits and vegetables used in packaged baby food are heated to extremely high temperatures for long periods of time in order for the jars to be shelf stable for a year or more! This results in food that has lost the vast majority of the nutrients it contained. Sadly, the jars of baby food on the shelf are most likely older than your baby. On the other hand, the produce you use to make homemade baby food is heated at lower temperatures and for the shortest amount of time possible, resulting in more nutrient-dense baby food. Cooking produce for a shorter amount of time also means you are in and out of the kitchen faster – score!
This one is a personal reward, but I always have a sense of pride after I make a big batch of healthy purées for my babies (cue happy dance). Taking the extra time, when we all know there isn’t much of it, to make healthy food for your baby is something that you should be proud of. By taking the time and making your baby’s eating a priority, you are not only giving their bodies a healthy head start, but you are also setting them up to develop a lifelong healthy relationship with healthy food.
Watch Out for Salt
One of the many advantages of making your own baby food is knowing exactly what ingredients are going into it. How much salt is in your baby’s or toddler’s meals is particularly important to keep an eye on. Salty foods are not recommended for babies, as salt will stress a baby’s kidneys and a high level of salt could be too much for them to process. By making your own baby food, you will be able to monitor the salt levels in your baby’s food, and by feeding them fresh, whole foods, salt levels will be naturally low. Toddlers, on the other hand, do need a small amount of salt in their diets. The problem is that toddlers in the United States are currently consuming on average three times the recommended amount of salt. Almost all of this surplus of salt is from processed foods such as crackers, breads, cereals, crisps, dry soup mixes and frozen meals. This doesn’t mean that all salt is bad. Unrefined sea salt and Himalayan salt (pink salt) contain a number of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iodine and potassium which can help with metabolism, hydration, hormone production and the immune system, and are essential for the development of the brain. So when making homemade food calling for salt, opt for the unrefined variety. Unrefined sea salt and Himalayan salt can both be found in most supermarkets. When purchasing packaged foods for your baby or toddler, choose low-
Edited extract from Whole Food Baby: 200 nutritionally balanced recipes for a healthy start by Michele Olivier, published by Apple Press (£12.99), is out now.