We’re all for promoting healthy eating habits. We want our kids to eat fruits, vegetables, and the same dinner we prepare for the rest of the family. Maybe healthy eating habits can start with healthy baby food, made from the same ingredients we want kids to eat long after they’ve outgrown the highchair.
Making your own healthy baby food is so much easier than you might expect. There are tons of benefits too, starting with those healthy eating habits.
Why make your own healthy baby food?
One big reason for making homemade baby food is variety. How cool is it that you can shop the entire produce department? Babies can even learn to eat seasonally. Even with all the new kinds of packaged baby food, there are still many more options right there in the produce section.
Packaged baby food may make lofty health and safety claims, but it’s still highly processed. If you follow smart food prep safety procedures, homemade baby food is no less safe than packaged.
The economics of making your own healthy baby food may vary based on what foods you choose and how much you make. Personally, we found homemade baby food to be less expensive than buying packaged. Eating seasonally can help cut costs. Homemade baby food is also more eco-friendly, since you aren’t buying dozens of individual containers.
Plus the whole family gets accustomed to eating the same food, right from the start. If your kids turn up their noses later on, you can remind them that you’ve always served everyone the same dinner.
Equipment you need
You can take a few different approaches to making your own healthy baby food.
1. Baby food maker
Homemade baby food can be a cinch with a machine like the Baby Brezza or Beaba Babycook. These gadgets steam, chop, and puree food, and you can throw the food prep parts in the dishwasher. They can be a little pricey, but if you plan to use them for multiple kids, they can be a smart investment.
2. Immersion blender or food processor
You probably already have a food processor or blender that you use when cooking for the family. If you don’t have an immersion blender, it’s another tool you’ll use for more than just baby food. Boil or steam the baby food ingredients on the stovetop or in the microwave, then puree with one of these gadgets.
3. Food mill
A food mill is helpful for creating different textures, especially as babies have grown beyond purees. They’re also great for straining seeds and skin. While a food mill is less expensive than a baby food maker or food processor, cleanup isn’t always easy.
4. Potato masher or a fork
You don’t need to send a banana or an avocado through the food processor. Peel, pit, and mash them up. Instant snack!
What about nitrates?
Short answer: Unless you use well water to prepare formula, it’s highly doubtful nitrates will be a problem for you or your baby. Only one case has ever been reported in the US, and it was covered in a 1973 study — back when parents fed babies solid food way too early.
Longer answer: Nitrates in high concentrations can cause a type of anemia in young infants. Contaminated well water is the primary concern for this type of anemia; however vegetables such as carrots, spinach, and squash can also be sources of nitrates. The AAP cautions against feeding home-prepared baby food containing these vegetables in early infancy. The AAP also recommends exclusive breastfeeding until babies are six months old. So it’s very unlikely babies will be exposed to nitrates in food. In short, to be extra careful, you may want to try introducing other solid foods before these.
What to make
Fortunately babies are open to trying new things, so get creative with your healthy baby food. Vegetables that usually go over well are avocados, carrots, peas, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and squash. Favorite fruits include apples, bananas, blueberries, mangoes, melon, peaches, and pears.
You can also try lentils, quinoa, beans, rice, and oats. We’re not big fans of pureed meat, but maybe your baby will love it.
No need for complicated recipes, but try adding some mild herbs and spices. Only mix foods that you’ve previously introduced. Stay away from added sugar or salt, of course.
If you really want to get adventurous, blend a couple spoonfuls of whatever the rest of the family is having for dinner. (Assuming there are no allergenic ingredients in the meal.) A few years from now, you may get a kick out of telling your child that he ate this very same meal as a baby.
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