Two years ago when my toddler was entering his fourth month, I offered him his first solid foods. (I was secretly hoping eating solid food would help him sleep longer. It didn’t.) My husband and I tend to cook meals at home, so making our own baby food wasn’t too much of a stretch. So although we bought jarred food from time to time, we opted to make our own for most of our baby’s meals. I’m so glad we did.
- Homemade baby food provided variety
Choosing my own ingredients provided near-limitless combinations: strawberries and cherries, strawberries and pineapple, cherries and pineapple… I tried to make every possible combination from different fruits and vegetables but there was no way I could have done it.
- Homemade baby food helped transition to table food
When my baby outgrew the pureed stuff, I wanted him to eat what I’ve cooked for everyone else, whether that’s chicken breasts or salad, spaghetti or clam chowder. Because we gave our baby homemade food, introducing a simple “table food” recipe wasn’t too difficult, like zucchini sauteed with garlic and thyme, for instance. Eventually his palette widened enough that he was eating exactly what my husband and I had on our plates.
- Homemade baby food was cheaper
Just as I saved money cooking at home instead of eating out, making my own baby food was almost always less expensive than buying food already made. Since I love to save me a buck or two, the money factor was a nice nudge towards making our own baby food.
There were times though, when homemade baby food wasn’t the ideal choice. I ran out ingredients. I just about had it with peeling and steaming. Or I simply didn’t have time to prepare anything. Plus homemade baby food wasn’t conducive for travel—when we went to Big Bear, we opted for convenience and bought jarred food.
And if I could do this all over again, I would change a few things:
- First, I would skip the cereal. I kept hearing (probably from clever marketing preying on new moms—oh, we are such easy targets!) that cereal is the best food to start with when introducing solid foods. I didn’t see any benefits to starting with rice and oatmeal cereals, or even including them at all. When my baby started eating grains regularly, I would simply buy the Bob Mills crushed grains. Not only were baby cereals more expensive, they were probably not as tasty as fruits or vegetables like sweet potatoes or bananas.
- And second, I wouldn’t introduce broccoli so early. Or bananas so late. I thought that the first foods I offered my baby would magically be his favorite food. Conversely I thought if I waited a bit longer to introduce fruits, he wouldn’t develop a sweet tooth. But alas, food isn’t always love at first taste—tasting broccoli before avocado doesn’t guarantee he’ll prefer the former over the latter. And delaying the sweet stuff did nothing for my toddler’s penchant for fruits. My advice: start off with more palatable flavors and work the stronger flavors like broccoli much later.
Need some ideas on what to feed your baby and how to prepare them? Below are some of the fruits and vegetables we introduced during the first few months of solid food-eating:
- Sweet potatoes, taro and yams: Place an unpeeled sweet potato on a foil or pan and roast unwrapped at 400 degrees in the oven for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the thickness. Let it cool, then peel and mash with a fork or masher. At a younger age, you’ll probably want to thin it out by adding some water.
- Apples and pears:
Peel, core and slice the apple or pear into chunks. Place the chunks into a steamer. (I just filled up a large pot with about an inch of water and left it at a low boil hot enough to emit some steam. then I placed a colander inside the pot and covered that with a lid.) Steam the apples or pears until they’re tender (anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes), then place the chunks into a food processor or blender to puree. You may want to add some of the reserved water (that one inch of water from the pot) into the blender to thin it out and make it easier to blend.
- Zucchini and summer squash:
Wash the zucchinis or summer squash but don’t peel them. Instead, trim the ends and cut the rest into small sections to steam until they’re tender. Then, puree in a blender until smooth. Since zucchini and summer squash have a lot of water, there’s probably no need to add extra water to the puree.
- Peas: Make sure you’re using peas taken out of the pods (the actual circles or beads). Then, place in a steamer and cook until tender before blending into a puree.
- Banana, mango, avocado, papaya and kiwi—These are the convenient foods! Simply scoop out the meaty parts and mash with a fork—no cooking necessary. Feel free to thin with water.
- Broccoli and cauliflower: Be warned—these were not my baby’s favorite foods. That said, I probably didn’t do what I’m suggesting here now, which is to cut just the florets instead of the stem. This will make the puree tastier and smoother. Then, steam the florets until tender and puree.
- Beets: Chop off the leafy tops of the beets completely, then wash and peel the beets. Cut them into smaller section and steam until tender before pureeing in a blender. Make sure to thin with new water, not the reserved water from the pot, in case any of the nitrates made its way into the reserved water.
- Green beans: Wash the beans and cut off the tips from either end. Then, steam until tender and puree in a blender, thinning out with reserved water if needed.
- Carrots: Wash and peel the carrots and cut into chunks. Then, steam the chunks until tender and puree in a blender. Make sure not to use the reserved water in case the nitrates seeped into it.
- Peaches and nectarines: Peel and remove the pit, then cut into slices to steam. Once it’s tender, puree in a blender, thinning out with reserved water if needed.
Did you make your own or purchase baby food? What did you like and not like about preparing the food?
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