When it comes to food, I think homemade is best. From scratch and delicious is the way to go. Homemade baby food is no different. Looking back, it all went by so fast. Too fast, really. I thought I’d be mashing her banana forever. Now, I am honored to pluck it off of the much too high for her counter top. Much too high but, only for now.
She is almost 20 months now and though baby food is an almost forgotten term ’round these parts, I am glad I had made the decision to make our own. Now that she’s grown enough to make some of the (limited) food decisions herself, I am tickled to see some of them making her reach for a zucchini stick, cucumber slice, or broccoli florets. Even the occasional carrot and spinach leaf manage to find themselves on the baby approved list.
She’s a great eater. And, in a mothers world, a good eater is priceless! And though we still have food all over the floor, walls, and yes, ceilings, I know I am blessed. Can I get an amen?
I strongly believe that making our own homemade baby food had a lot to do with how open she is to so many options and is even a little adventurous with the food she tries. So, we may struggle with sleep, but eating? That’s our forte, baby! Here is the account of our homemade baby food adventure. It started from Day 1: Solids-101.
Reap the Benefits of Homemade Baby Food
For the Baby
I have no doubt that my fellow moms agree — the first few developmental years are detrimental to the well being of our kids. So important, in fact, that they not only nourish the brain, and the physical body but they also instill a healthy way of life. So, when choosing to make your baby food at home the first and foremost benefits are life long and are your babies. I’ll cover just a few to give you an idea of ones I’ve personally experienced so far.
Pesticide Free and Raised by the Sun.
For us, fresh and organic food is best. When it comes to a fruit in a plastic cup, sealed air tight, sitting on a shelf versus a local, organic apple or strawberry — local/organic wins every time! There’s no argument there. At least not from me. Whether it’s pesticides, additives, preservatives, or BPA leaking into my babes fruit cup, I say, “No thank you!”
Choosing organic foods helps us minimize the pesticide and other poisonous consumption while increasing the optimal number of vitamins and minerals. Selecting produce that is in-season will ensure that local farms pick their harvest at the peak freshness versus our fruit grown in other countries picked ‘green’ so it can ripen during transport in dark trucks.
A note: fruit, veggies, and other plants get plump and vitamin rich from sun and soil. It can’t do so in a sack on a plane.
Options. Variations. Alterations.
Let the mix and match begin! With me in the captain seat, so to speak, I can create a plethora of meals for my little one. Additionally, I am able to alter each one until we get it just to her liking. The exposure to a wide variety
The exposure to a wide diversity of food can aid in the development of an extensive and versatile palate. In other words, there’s a good chance you won’t end up with a picky eater on your hands. It worked for me so far. No kidding, we had thyme flounder fillets (she gobbled up 1.5 of them!) and toasty buckwheat with roasted broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots earlier (no carrots for her, thanks, but otherwise it was a grand slam!
Healthy Bond & Habits for Life
Your little one can observe you creating these fabulous meals and learn where food comes from – earth and labor of love. I love seeing her stretch her arms out to me, pleading, “Up!” Elongating her little body in my arms even further to peer over the pots edge n see what’s cookin’. Of course, once you let a toddler peer over the pots edge to see what’s cookin’, she’s going to want to stir the pot. And so, follow her hands pointing, clenching, and pumping at the big wooden spoon, just out of her reach and looking at it intensely, then at me and at the spook again. She can barely contain herself (and I can barely hold this excited toddler)! So eager to stir the pot, she squeals and nods her head vigorously, “Mixa, mixa, mixa!!!”
I can only hope that she will continue to love the art of cooking and hope this is the beginning to a healthy way life for her. I want to be the reason for her good and indulgent food choices alike. I want her to know that the world is her oyster. In moderation, almost anything is okay.
This is, in my opinion, is one of the most important takeaways — you are shaping their future on how they feel about food and how seriously they take their health. The bonding aspect of it and the memories created are pretty amazing too!
The Baby Food Jar: The Wean
The transition from store bought jars to ‘real’ food is sometimes a tough one. Making your own, you’ll skip this whole headache because your little one will have been exposed to eating what the family is eating (in mashed or pureed form).
For the Parent
Taking control of sugar intake is a cinch when making your own baby food. Whether it winds them up for an inevitable crash landing or is rotting away at their teeth, sugar is everywhere in is pretty close to evil. And while I can’t avoid sugar 100% (I wouldn’t want to), I can be in charge of what kind of sugar and how much of it she’ll have. There’s a big difference between cookies and fruit.
Picky eaters make parents crazy, don’t they? I know I am touching on this for the second time but the topic is such. Picky eaters are, often times, made. Hiding veggies, threatening, bribing, and the rest of the trick tactics are what makes a picky eater, I’m convinced. If my babe doesn’t like the green beans in the jar, it boils down to, “My kid doesn’t like green beans.” In reality, you can take those green beans and season them, combine them, bake them instead of steaming them. Bottom line, you have choices at home. At home you don’t have to give up on the green bean. If the little one turns up her nose to it one way, try it again in a few weeks with a tweak or two. You are shaping them and how they relate to food… this is an important note.
Knowing exactly what is in your kiddo’s food, you’ll have a much shorter route to pinpointing an allergy should it come up. Just the other week we dug into a pomegranate (it was Bossys first pom). I can’t describe to you how much she loved it. “Mo. MO!”, she exclaimed. She couldn’t get enough. Well, the next morning we knew exactly what caused a nasty red rash on her poor bottom. Basically, if you know what’s in there, the investigative work is much easier. And aren’t’ we, as parents, part (or full) time investigators anyway? What’s that stain? How’d you get up there? Where is my phone? What is that smell? Where are your socks? Yeah, we really are. Making your own baby food will help with that just a little.
Our Rough Food Growth Chart
- Breastmilk 0-6 months exclusively. We waited until the 6-month mark to introduce her pureed solids, though, some pediatricians say you could get started as early as 4 months.
- 6 – 9 months pureed to mashed fruits and veggies (steamer, strainer, slicer, cheese cloth)
- 9-12 months solid soft food and meat
What You’ll Need for Making Baby Food
Less is more. You don’t need the fancy gear that is pushed on us by the local baby ‘authority’. Here are the ONLY things you’ll need to get started today! Oh, and you’ll probably find them all in your kitchen already. Winning!
The Best Rated Baby Food Equipment
Now, if you don’t have a steamer pot at home, don’t run out and get the first one you see. Or don’t get one at all! This little $10 investment is just too perfect (and cheap) of a thing not to share. This BPA free Stainless Steel steamer insert fits any pot or pan and can even be used as a fruit basket when not in use for steaming. There are great reviews in case you like to do some research before you buy. Personally, I think reviews (especially a significant amount) are one fo the best ways to target in on a great product.
If you are looking for a steamer pot and a suggestion, I use this one and it’s perfect for it’s every-so-often use. If you steam often and want more versatility, the Cook N Home (02401) Stainless Steel 4-Piece Pasta Cooker Steamer is rated highly among the steaming crew.
I got an old, dimpled, crooked one. I can’t wait till it croaks so I can get a new shiny one, honestly. But no wasting money or resources here, so I’ll hold onto my ole strainer until the time comes. And when it does, I’ve got my eye on this best selling stainless steel, micro-perforated colander that can handle up to 5 quarts and is even dishwasher safe! I also love that it’s ‘hands-free’ of sorts with a great base. Mine is the hand-held one. Being one-handed is a definite drawback.
Perhaps a ‘knife set’ is too strong of a statement. What you need is a knife. A knife capable of peeling and chopping. Those are the main duties of the knife as it pertains to the subject matter of ‘homemade baby food’. In case you’re in the market however, this is a boss set right here, Calphalon Self Sharpening 15 Piece Knife Set. Sure it’s on the pricier side but, I’d pay for that self-sharpening doohickey any day!
Peeler (optional). Nothing brainy here either. It’s not a necessity by any means. Just makes things a bit faster. Here’s the one I have.
Slicer (optional). Of course, a slicer can save a good chunk of time. If that sounds good to you, invest in a good one. And as long as you are investing in a good one you might as well make it a great one: Mandoline Slicer with Surgical Grade Stainless Steel Blades. Now, you know when a product is approved for a commercial kitchen, it’s going to stand the test of time. I love this thing!
Puree 6-9 months
Cheese cloth (optional). I never used this or had a need for it. But straining your food through a cheese cloth will eliminate every bit of lumps. There are many variations out there but this is the healthiest (being organic), cost effective (it’s reusable), and most convenient (it’s a bag): Iqzeens Nut Milk Bag.
Mesh strainer (optional). This is a pretty way of getting the pureeing job done. The one I have serves many purposes like straining potatoes and pureeing pears. Using a wooden spoon just push the food through a medium or fine wired, mesh strainer to get the desired texture.
Food processor (definitely optional). Any one will do. It can even be a juicer. Be it Bullet or Ninja, Baby Pro or Baby Bop, the bottom line is the same — they do the same thing the same way. I used the Ninja Mega Kitchen System when I made food in bulk.
Chunky/mashed 9-12 months
Masher. For me, the masher (and a lot of my kitchen utensils) has one, major requirement and that is, that it is made of a one piece construction. I am stickler for food getting stuck in the crevices where the nut meets the bolt. I know I am probably overreacting but I can’t help it. So, I love a something like this Stainless Steel Potato Masher.
Cleaning Cloths (forget Bounty). Microfiber cleaning cloths make cleanup a breeze! They attract grime, dust, and crumbs like nobody’s business so it’s the perfect weapon when it comes to our counters, high chair, and table. I think we got ours in bulk at Sam’s Club but you can find them at Amazon. These towels are also superb at soaking up large spills. No more wasted Bounty! I promise, you’ll be amazed with the sparkling results with just a cloth and a bit of water… really!
Floor Mop. I trust our wooden and tiled (bathroom) floors to Bissel Powerfresh Steam Mop. It’s disinfecting power, light weight and speed make it the top choice for me. I’ve had others but this one tops them all. I definitely recommend if you’re looking for something like this. Lots of folks in my circle bought one and all have been very happy with the results.
Fruit for Solid Beginners
- Pear (one of the best to get started with due to it’s calming properties)
- Banana (also a great starter food)
- Avocado (a great choice in starters too and there is no need to steam this one!)
- Plum/Prune (great, natural diuretic)
- Mango (we use in moderation)
- Pumpkin (fantastic for digestion)
- Watermelon (one of our favorites)
- Honeydew (not one of our favorites but may be one of yours)
- Apple (tons of stuff babies need here)
Veggies for Solid Beginners
- Cauliflower (we have a love/hate relationship with this one)
- Sweet Potato (definite must in the pantry)
- Peas (took some time to get her to eat anything ‘pea’)
- Asparagus (I have a very excited toddler when I break out the asparagus)
- Potato (surprisingly, in whatever form presented (fries, baked, mashed) she’s just not a fan)
- Squash (big hit from day one!)
- Zucchini (love it so much we grow it every year in our garden)
- Eggplant (she loves eggplant salad especially!)
Truth time: she hates beans! No matter how many times they’ve been presented to her for a taste they end up on the floor. But, I am not giving up.
Unlike mine, I hear most babies take to beans quite well. There are a ton of benefits from beans too! Try them all. Visit WholesomeBaby: Feeding your Baby Legumes, Lentils, and Dried Beans to check out all the nutritional info, recipe ideas, and ideas on what goes well with beans for your babes next meal.
Lentils and dried beans/legumes come in many shapes, sizes and colors. Here are a few: Red Lentils (Masoor Dal) Orange Lentils Yellow Lentils (Moong Dal, Mung Bean – our favorite.) Kidney Beans Black Eyed Peas Chick Peas Northern Bean Butter Beans (A VERY yummy finger food, you may need to slip off the “skin” after cooking.)
Read more at WholesomeBaby
We always have the following on hand:
- Brown Rice
Recipe Ideas to Get You Started and Other Helpful Links
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your baby food recipes!
Want more ideas?
WholesomeBabyFood.com by Momtastic is a great site to bookmark for fantastic ideas and recipes for your baby. Here are just a few featured recipes from their site:
Kick it Up a Notch
Once my mini me had gotten accustomed to the solids in her system (about 8 or 9 months) I didn’t hesitate to dress up her meals. Some say that babies don’t miss the salt or the butter in their foods. Well, mine sure knew that she wanted more than just a mountain of bland cauliflower. Bland is bland, end of story.
And, bland is not for her, thanks. As a foodie myself, I totally understand where she was coming from; it’s not for me either. So, I say, don’t be afraid of a few add enhancing herbs and spices to her meals in moderation. Our go to’s are:
- Butter (unsalted) or olive oil – Butter is very nutritious, provides necessary fat and cholesterol, along with Vitamin A, CLA and essential fatty acids. Check out more information about adding butter or oil to your babes food from EasyBabyLife.com.
- Garlic powder – just a bit goes a long way so it’ll last a nice long time and it has great flavor. This is what it looks like.
- Onion – a perfect option for when you don’t have any onions on hand. Same brand, different name.
- Thyme – one of my favorites. Try this brand 😉
- Rosemary – another staple with a great flavor. Get it here.
- Salt n Pepper – surely you have some on hand. Have you ever tried pink Himalayan salt? I think it’s great! And for whatever reason, this is a better buy online than in-store. Go here to get your pound of salt (it’s not as much as you think).
- Nutmeg – admittedly, I am not a fan. I think it stems back to when I simply overdid it on the spice and have had a bad taste in my mouth for it since. No pun intended. Soon, I will be getting a wee-bit just to help flavor my little ones dishes. I mean, who am I to say she doesn’t like nutmeg in her oatmeal. Did I get that right? Is it oatmeal that you put that into? I am getting carried away. Here is where you can get nutmeg.
- Oregano – great starter herb. Light and sweet smelling and brings certain dishes together like no other. Grab your oregano, oh!
- Cinnamon – must have! It’s over here.
- Vanilla – definite must have! Make sure you cook this stuff out a bit, it’s got a bit of alcohol in it. Here’s the stuff.
Please note: A trip to my local food market saves me about a dollar to $1.50 on each of the items above as compared to shopping online (as compared to Abe’s Market and Shop Organic). Chances are, you probably would save about the same at your own food store.
Though, if, for whatever reason you want to do some online shopping, I’ve included some links you can follow to some of our trusted online retailers (Abe’s Market and Shop Organic). They will take you to trusted and reviewed online retailers. I’ve also done some light price checks around the web and have linked the items so. Happy cooking!!!
When making baby food in bulk, to save time, I recommend glass containers as it’s likely the healthiest options over plastic. Who knows what else other than BPA we should be concerned about. I choose to cut the whole question out and just use glass dishes, storage containers and cookware over plastic or tinfoil. I may be alone on this one, but, glass food containers just make me feel better.
I also found a great price of a fantastic sized (1 cup) container. You get 8 Pyrex glass storage containers with lids for about $12.00 which is incredible. Here is the exact storage containers by Pyrex that we use at home (I just broke one and may have to place another order, haha).
A Quick Recap
- Create a recipe. Here is how to cook the basics.
- Gather your gear.
- Choose organic produce and grains.
- Create your menu. Don’t be afraid to mix and match. Or just give google a search for “baby food recipe ideas”.
- Peel, core and cut your fruit and veggies.
- Steam them to retain the vitamins and minerals. Remember, avocado and banana need no cooking.
- Mash or purée to the desired consistency. You do not need any fancy gear to do so.
- Dress it up with Introducing your baby to herbs and spices and other yummestries that you find around the house (think sour cream, and spreadable cheese)
- Feed your little human.
- Place the rest in storage containers and freeze
- Congratulate yourself, you and your baby are on your way to a healthy lifestyle and sharing in an incredible bond that can only be created in the family kitchen!
Don’t be hard on yourself or stress too much about any one thing. The less stressed the parental unit the more relaxed and receptive the babe. If you find you made something not to your liking, simply take note and move into your next moment. You’ll do better next time, believe me.
Take Your Time
If I learned anything about the feeding process is to, as above stated, relax followed closely to take my time with the whole thing. I used to cringe with frustration when food lands on the floor. Then, I learned that as long as some of it makes it into her stomach, I am okay. Messes will happen. And they will happen a lot! So, if I let them get the best of me, I might as well be committed… now.
I also learned that if she doesn’t want something one minute, it doesn’t mean she won’t when I start to eat her unfinished food. Again, take your time. Think to yourself, “There will be food on the floor. That’s inevitable. Don’t stress.” Oh, and I finally learned to pick it all up at the END of our meal so that I am not bending over a thousand times. So, these days when it comes to meal time, we might be doing so for a good part of our day (as long as an hour or more), but it’s a fun and fulfilling time spent.
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Skip a Meal or Eat a Ton
I never adhered to a timed feeding. In her infancy, my daughter got food at any time that she felt the need to eat. Even when that meant feeding every 30-90 minutes, 24 hours per day. It felt natural to give her what she needed the moment she needed it, though it turned me into a mom zombie at times.
As time went on and she grew older she developed a ‘regular’ eating schedule. As a toddler she sits down for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with no expectation of her ‘cleaning her plate’. I do make sure she is full, offering her a rotation of 2-3 choices from her meal, be it a piece of bread, a piece of chicken, or a slice of cucumber.
After a repetitive denial I am sure she is sufficiently full and she gets nothing else until dinner. If she eats next to nothing then she’ll be hungry at dinner time and I better make a serving or two more because she’s going to have quite the appetite later.
Likely, if she prefers to eat a serving and a half of breakfast, I am okay with that too. In general, however she eats 3 balanced meals. But she isn’t a robot and I don’t expect her to fill up like one (if robots filled up that is).
Know Your Acidity
Be wary of acidic foods that can cause a diaper rash. Yep, learned that one with a whole lotta pomegranate. In general, start new foods slowly and if you have questions, consult your pediatrician or nutritionist specializing in infant diet.
Wait 3-4 days between new food introduction. This will not only give the baby’s system acclimate to the new food, it will also allow you to pin-point any allergies, should they come up .
Frozen is Your Friend
I can finally say that about prepackaged frozen veggies and fruit. We used to be quite the enemies. And though it still comes in that evil plastic bag, frozen has been recently gaining ground on the nutritional level. Some, like Dr. Weil, say frozen fruit and veggies may be more nutritious than their fresh counterpart
In some cases, frozen vegetables may be more nutritious than fresh ones that has been shipped over long distances. The latter is typically picked before ripening, which means that no matter how good the vegetables look, they’re likely to short-change you nutritionally. For example, fresh spinach loses about half the folate it contains after eight days. Vitamin and mineral content is also likely to diminish if produce is exposed to too much heat and light en route to your supermarket.
Make in Bulk and Freeze
You can make as much or as little as you want/need. Here is how long you can keep your fresh made baby food.
- Freezer: 3-6 months (ideally use within 1-3 months)
- Refrigerator (fruits / veggies): 48 hours
- Refrigerator (meat, poultry, fish eggs): 24 hours
Buy Store Baby Food (Wait what?)
Don’t forsake the pre packaged baby food altogether. Earth’s Best organic and Beechnut Organic baby food was on hand for day trips to the beach or park, friend and family gatherings, and the like. At 20 months (this past Tuesday; happy monthday baby girl!) we still have 10 jars or so of our favorite flavors. Not sure if she’ll ever end up consuming them. What a sad reminder on how fast time goes by. But I digress… and I am almost at the finish line.
What Do You Think?
I’d love to hear what you’re thinking. Share your comments below.
We’ve been through many ups and downs and have yet to conclude this fun roller coaster of baby feeding. Let me know if you have any questions you want to run by a mom that did it. I will try to help the best way I know how.
As always, I am so grateful to have you here. Thanks for reading my crazy, messy buzz. Until next time, my friends.
Together, they explore the topics of gentle parenting, healthy eating, grateful thinking, yoga bending, nifty hacking, green living, soul searching, and mindfulness practicing.
She has lived many lives. She has seen great beauty and utter darkness. It makes her whole. She is strong and with your presence, support, and love right here, right now ever stronger!!!
Read more about her by visiting the Meet the Bee page or email her right now!
We hope you enjoy the adventures of Chewy & Bossy!