I still remember my first experience with baby food. It was at a friend’s baby shower, about 2 years before our son was born, and I was appalled. How could anyone possibly eat this stuff, and how do you feed it to a child who is experiencing food for the first time? Taste preferences aside, processed foods are filled with preservatives and other undesirable ingredients. Surely, we can do better.
Since our son turned about 5 months old, we’ve been feeding him a variety of homemade baby foods that are nutritious, fresh, and completely under our control. Through those first months, we learned a lot about what it takes to make great-tasting baby food that I wouldn’t mind eating myself.
The Base: Putting together a good foundation for baby food means you can play with the other ingredients to vary things up and know that your baby will still probably like it. We found that bases usually came in two varieties:
- Creamy: What most people think of as baby food, these are based on vegetables that cream well, creating a soft, fluffy appearance to the food (like carrots, butternut squash, or potatoes).
- Soupy: These usually look like small, individual components that have been shredded and mixed together to create a soupy substance. They’re based on vegetables like zucchini, squash or tomatoes, which tend to be more water-based and can be more difficult for smaller babies to deal with.
The best way to find your own favorites is to experiment with different combinations—simple at the start when your child is just growing accustomed to solids, and more complex as they develop a working appetite.
Our Baby-Food Tips
Here are a few things to remember when making baby food at home:
- Pick up a good baby food book: The one we liked personally was First Meals by Annabel Karmel. Not only will you get quick recipe ideas, but most of these texts will go through the details of a complete baby diet, so you can rest assured you’re providing your little one with what he or she needs.
- Work in batches: No sense trying to reinvent the wheel at every meal, unless you have that kind of time. We made food in a single batch for 2-3 days, and varied up meals by using different “desserts” (blended fruits) with each one. Some people recommend freezing if you plan to use the food more than 24 hours later—if you follow this advice, there’s no limit to how big of a batch you can work up!
- Invest in the right tools: A small food processor, a simple hand blender, and a set of glass jars or resalable containers are all you need to make good baby food and store it for a few days. A steamer is also helpful, but you can just as easily boil foods in a small amount of water on the stovetop.
- Go light on the meat: Red meat is a tough ingredient to work with, and it usually creates an oddly unpleasant look and smell to baby food. If you want to start adding meats into your foods, I would definitely recommend chicken to start with, or do it on a per-batch basis with a premade base of vegetables.
- Introduce a variety of flavors. We get very comfortable with our favorite ingredients and forget that babies are like a blank canvas, ready to absorb anything we let them try. Start your child’s love of culinary variety early by giving them a wide range of foods, within the limits of expert’s recommendations.
Making homemade baby food can be easy and fun, and a great way to take ownership and control of your baby’s diet. It’s really nice to see something you personally made being ferociously enjoyed by your baby. By using batches and having the right tools, you can make the process quick and effortless and make it much more likely that you’ll stick to it. Enjoy!
Photo by stevendepolo