Make Your Own Baby Food

Monday, October 23, 2006 - 1:46pm

By Erica Lesperance, RD, LD

In recent years, as consumers have become more educated about the perils of highly processed foods, the natural food industry has exploded. As a result, many health-conscious consumers are shifting back to eating whole foods instead of their processed counterparts. This quest for what is natural has also steered many mothers away from highly processed baby foods. While some head to the “natural” and “organic” lines of commercial baby foods (see also "Organic Foods and Children"), others are taking it a step further by preparing their own at home.

Advantages of homemade baby food

Why should you make homemade baby foods for your child? Following are several advantages to doing so.

Home made baby food at minimal expense

When purchasing baby foods, you are paying for the food, the jar, the cost of processing, and the profit for the manufacturer. When making your own baby food, you are paying for the food only.

You  have the quality control if you make baby food yourself

You have total control over what goes into your baby’s mouth. You can choose only the highest quality ingredients, leaving out the preservatives and extra sugar and salt that are often added to commercial baby foods.

Making your own baby food gives your child greater food variety

Your baby is exposed to a greater variety of nutrients, tastes and textures, making the transition to table foods less stressful.

Disadvantages of homemade baby food

Despite the many advantages of making your own baby food, it is not for everyone. Preparation can be time-consuming, and some may not be willing or able to make time for another weekly task. Homemade baby foods require refrigeration and spoil quickly because they do not contain preservatives, so they may not be convenient when traveling.

Tips for making your own baby food

If you decide to make baby food, the here are some suggestions:

  • Wash and rinse your hands and equipment thoroughly.
  • Prepare fresh fruits and vegetables by scrubbing, peeling and removing pits or seeds. Remove all bones, skin, gristle and fat from meats. Do not use leftovers to make baby food.
  • Bake, steam or cook food in small amount of water until tender. Steaming and microwaving vegetables and fruits is preferable to boiling because these methods preserve as many nutrients as possible.
  • Puree or mash cooked food.
  • If pureed foods are too thick, thin them out to desired consistency with the water leftover from steaming. You can also use breast milk or formula.
  • Package and label foods for refrigerator or freezer storage. If preparing pureed foods ahead of time, freeze in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop out the cubes and store them in the freezer in a sealed plastic bag. Each cube should be about 1 ounce and will keep for about two months in the freezer.
  • Do not add salt, sugar, or strong spices to homemade baby foods.
  • Use fresh produce. Canned vegetables are high sodium and additives. Frozen vegetables are often suitable, but check labels to be sure nothing has been added.
  • Take caution when warming foods in the microwave. Even well-stirred foods could have dangerous hot spots. If you use the microwave, use the defrost cycle, checking and stirring often. Always test the temperature by touching a spoonful to the outside of your upper lip. Be sure to wash the spoon before using.
  • Once a food is thawed and used at mealtime, discard any leftovers to prevent the formation of bacteria.

Conclusion: before making your own baby food consult your doctor for further guidelines

While commercial baby foods are convenient and safe, they often contain more water, starch, and sugar than their homemade counterparts. If you have a desire to get back to the basics of natural eating and can find the time to take on another project, try making your own baby food. Consult your doctor or nutritionist for a complete list of feeding guidelines and appropriate foods before getting started.