While grocery aisles are packed with little jars of pureed goodies for your baby, making your own baby food is simple and less expensive — and perhaps comforting, as you’ll know exactly what’s going into the product. Even non-cooks — armed with a blender and a few fruits and veggies — can quickly whip together tasty meals for baby.
Babies are typically ready to add solid foods to their breast milk/formula diet around 4 to 6 months, says Maryam Naziri, a registered dietitian at Galter LifeCenter. She suggests starting with an iron-fortified baby rice cereal mixed with infant formula or breast milk, and pureed fruits and vegetables.
At around 7 to 8 months, you can start introducing two food items combined (like the apple-pear recipe below). Your baby can start sampling well-cooked, pureed meats around 10 months, and yogurt, cheeses and very well cut-up or shredded foods from your own table at about 1 year.
Here are Naziri’s tips for preparing baby food at home:
• Fresh fruits and veggies are best, but frozen is a great second choice (avoid added sugars with frozen fruits). If you used canned foods, rinse first to remove sodium.
• Wash and peel all fruits and vegetables
• Sterilize all pots, pans, blenders and utensils in the dishwasher
• Unless they’re already soft (such as ripe bananas), all foods should be cooked until very soft and easily pierced with a fork
• Steaming is best for nutrient retention. Never microwave your baby’s food; it can create hidden hot pockets
• Once they’re washed, peeled and steamed, put chunks of food in a blender or food processor. Your baby’s first foods should be a super-smooth puree. Use breast milk or formula to achieve the right food texture and to add calories. Chunkier textures can be introduced around 8 to 10 months.
• After cooking, store unused food up to three days in your refrigerator.
• Unused food can be frozen for one to three months. Put pureed foods in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, pop into individual baggies, label and date.
• To defrost, put baggies in warm or hot water to reach room temperature. Don’t microwave!
You’ll want to introduce one new fruit or veggie every three to four days. Don’t despair if your baby seems to hate bananas or can’t stand peaches, Naziri said. It’s typical for babies to dislike something one week, then enjoy eating it a week or two later. Keep trying.
If you notice softer, runnier stools or unusual rashes on your baby, it could be an allergic reaction to that particular food.
Here are some recipes from Whole Foods Market, shared at the “Make your own baby food” event hosted by Swedish Covenant Hospital and Whole Foods Market Sauganash last weekend:
Apple Pear Blossom
• 2 apples (use apples such as Pink Lady, Macintosh or Braeburn, which are easy to mush)
• 2 pears
• 1 cup water or breast milk/formula
Peel, core and chop apples and pears. Simmer over medium-low heat or steam until tender. Place cooked apples and pears in food processor and puree. Add liquid to create soupy consistency. Let cool and serve. Place remainder in ice cube trays and freeze for later.
• 2 cups frozen or fresh peas (if fresh, remove shell)
• cooking liquid from peas or breast milk/formula
Place peas in a pot with water and cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 4 minutes. Strain peas, retaining about one cup of the cooking liquid. Puree peas in a blender while gradually adding cooking liquid until desired texture is reached. Let cool and serve. Peas are a starchy item and need more liquid than fruit to get proper consistency.
• 1 ripe banana
• 2 tbs. breast milk or formula
Peel a very ripe banana and mash in a bowl with fork. To get best consistency, alternate mashing with stirring. Stir in breast milk or formula if you wish. For older babies, serve banana with more chunks. You can also do this recipe with a ripe avocado, instead of banana.