Transitioning your little one from formula or breast milk to the world of differently flavored and textured foods is a very special experience. After consulting with your pediatrician and determining that your little one is ready to begin the transition from milk or formula to baby food, so many possibilities arise!
During this time, you’ll want to make sure your baby is enjoying their first solid food experiences while ensuring that they’re getting the nutrition that they need to thrive. Preparing your own homemade baby food is a wonderful way to take a front seat in this process and ensure that your baby is getting natural, pure goodness in every bite.
Wondering how to get started on making your own homemade baby food for your little one? Read on to learn about the different kinds of baby food, how to safely prepare it at home, and an assortment of yummy recipes, too!
What Do I Need to Make Homemade Baby Food?
Don’t be intimidated by the idea of making your own baby food. Very little equipment is required to get started, and you will likely have everything you need in your kitchen already. The following equipment is essential for preparing baby food.
A Sanitary Workspace
Babies’ immune systems are still developing, making them susceptible to infection. One of the most important things to keep in mind while preparing your own baby food is the importance of working clean.
Always wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before feeding them to your child. You will also want to keep your workspace sanitary by frequently washing cutting boards, countertops, utensils, knives, and your own hands.
A Blender or Food Processor
All baby food must be pureed or mashed to make it safe for little mouths. Using a blender or food processor can make this process significantly easier and takes a lot of effort from the baby-food-making process. If you want to go the extra mile, consider a food processor specifically designed for pureeing baby food.
Peeling the skin off of vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and turnips is essential in their preparation. A peeler will make this task much more manageable.
A Mesh Sieve
Sometimes, you’ll find that pureeing does not sufficiently mash the food or that there are seeds or chunks you want to remove before feeding your baby. A mesh sieve can be very useful here.
A Steamer Basket
This is not a necessity, but steaming veggies instead of boiling them is a great way to ensure that the food’s nutritional value is maximized in every bite.
When veggies are boiled, some of their vitamins and minerals inevitably leech out into the water and are lost; therefore, investing in a steamer basket is a good idea.
What Are the “Stages” of Baby Food?
Baby food is divided into “stages,” which are groupings that align with your baby’s developing ability to eat solid foods.
Stage one baby foods are pureed thoroughly, until they have a slightly thicker texture than breast milk or formula. Stage one baby foods should only contain one ingredient, and they must not contain any chunks.
Doctors advise that, when starting your baby on solid, stage-one foods, you select foods with high iron content to start; think pureed meat, sweet potatoes, or iron-fortified baby oatmeal. To achieve a thinner texture, you may want to dilute these preparations with formula or breast milk.
When preparing stage two baby foods, you have the freedom to mix ingredients and puree the mixtures into a slightly thicker consistency than stage one foods. It’s okay to add some spices to stage two foods, as well, and even a few soft chunks are okay!
At this stage, it’s fun to begin playing around with ingredients to discover what makes your little one smile.
Your Pediatrician Knows Best
Wondering when to transition your little one between stages of baby food? As usual, seeking guidance from your pediatrician is a good idea. Most parents begin to notice signs that their baby is ready for stage two food between six and nine months.
They will have developed a taste for solid foods and may be diminishing their milk intake but will not be quite ready to chew; thus, more complex but easy-to-eat foods are a great step forward.
Food Ideas for Delicious Stage One Bases
Benefits: Healthy fats are a key component of a baby’s diet, as they are vital to the development of the nervous system and vision. Babies will benefit from the high natural fiber and unsaturated fat content of avocados, as well as their high vitamin B and E content.
How To Prepare: Avocado does not need to be cooked, making this stage-one food a breeze to whip up! Simply peel and remove the pit from an avocado that is ripe and soft to the touch. You may choose to finely mash the avocado with a fork or use a food processor to achieve the smoothest consistency possible. Thin with water, breast milk, or formula.
Benefits: Sweet potato is high in iron, making it an ideal stage-one baby food to incorporate into your child’s diet. Babies store iron while in the womb, but their iron stores begin to deplete after several months of age. Thus, when you begin to feed your child solids, including iron is a good idea.
How To Prepare: Wash, peel, and cube sweet potato, then steam thoroughly until completely soft. Allow to cool to a safe temperature, then puree. Thin with water, breast milk, or formula.
Benefits: Adding fruits to your child’s diet is a great way to ensure that they are consuming a colorful variety of foods. Fruits are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber; though they should not be fed in excess due to relatively high sugar content, they make a wonderful and healthy treat.
How To Prepare: Choose a fruit; bananas, kiwis, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, and pear are all great options, and you may choose to use either fresh or frozen fruits. Ensure that the fruit is fully ripe, then wash, peel, and remove any large seeds or pits. Puree the fruit thoroughly and thin with water if necessary!
Benefits: Chickpeas are another high-iron food that makes a healthy and delicious stage-one baby food. These legumes are also high in iron, folate, B vitamins, and zinc.
How To Prepare: For this preparation, it is essential to look for no-salt-added chickpeas in the grocery store. Thoroughly rinse the beans in a colander before proceeding. Then, puree them thoroughly and thin if necessary.
Balanced Stage – Two Natural Base Ideas
Use these bases as a jumping-off point to experiment with different vegetable and protein combinations.
Root Vegetable Medley
Benefits: Root veggies are a wonderful, sweet way to introduce your baby to vegetables. When steamed, they have a soft and easy-to-puree texture and provide many nutrients–such as dietary fiber, antioxidants, and an assortment of vitamins and minerals.
How To Prepare: Carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and beets are great options to mix and match in this medley. When preparing root vegetables for your baby, begin by thoroughly washing the veggies, then peeling and chopping them into cubes. Steam the veggie chunks until softened, then puree thoroughly.
Green Machine: White Beans and Leeks
Benefits: Leeks are high in both folate and vitamin A, essential vitamins for infant development. In addition, beans provide essential proteins and a healthy dose of dietary fiber. Optionally, include chicken, beef, or white fish in the puree to boost your little one’s protein intake.
How To Prepare: Thoroughly rinse a can of no-salt-added white beans. Steam some well-washed leeks, and combine them with the beans in a blender; puree. If adding meat or fish, ensure that the meat has been cooked thoroughly before blending.
Baby-Friendly Sunday Dinner
Benefits: Chicken provides the easily-digested protein fix in this recipe. Cranberries provide a vitamin-C boost to your little one’s immune system, while butternut squash offers vitamin A, potassium, and fiber.
How To Prepare: Bring a pot of water to a boil and chop a skinless, rinsed chicken breast into one-inch chunks. When the water is boiling, add the chicken, and cook thoroughly (simmer for about fifteen minutes, or until cooked through). Meanwhile, add a half-cup of rinsed cranberries and a handful of peeled, washed butternut squash chunks to a saucepan with one inch of water in the bottom. Place the lid on the pot and bring the mixture to a boil; remove the lid, reduce the heat, and allow the mixture to simmer for 30 minutes, adding water ¼ cup at a time if the mixture becomes too thick. Add this mixture to a blender with the cooked chicken and puree when the cranberries are soft.
Berry Greek Yogurt
Benefits: Though babies should not be fed cow’s milk before one year of age, solid dairy products like yogurt are a safe and healthy way to introduce dairy to your little one. Babies will benefit from the protein and calcium in Greek yogurt, and the live and active cultures present in yogurt will help their digestive system. Adding fruit makes the yogurt experience a real treat while providing essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber!
How To Prepare: When shopping for Greek yogurt for your little one, you’ll want to select one that has been pasteurized. In addition, make sure to buy yogurt without added sugar.
This recipe works with both fresh and frozen fruit; if using fresh, make sure to wash, peel, and remove seeds and pits from the fruits. Simply combine 1 cup of Greek yogurt.
Ingredients to Avoid
It’s fun to get creative and add exciting, new flavors to your baby’s dishes that they’ve never tried before. However, there are a few foods that shouldn’t be fed to babies until they are older.
Pediatricians discourage parents from feeding honey to babies younger than one year of age. This is because the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism poisoning, can form spores inside honey products.
The developing immune system of a baby is especially susceptible to botulism poisoning, so leaving honey out of your baby food recipes is a good idea.
Unpasteurized foods, like raw milk and juices, are also inadvisable for a baby’s diet. They may contain harmful bacteria that could threaten your little one’s delicate immune system.
Fish is a great choice for baby food, but certain kinds should be avoided. Fish like tuna and swordfish, which are high on the ocean food chain, generally contain high mercury levels, leading to adverse health effects and should be avoided.
Sucrose, or white sugar, is in many foods. However, it is advisable to limit your little one’s refined sugar intake as much as possible during their early years. High infantile sugar consumption has been linked to health conditions later in life.
Making Homemade Baby Food Is a Rewarding Effort
Preparing homemade baby food is a great way to ensure your child is well-nourished with whole, natural foods. Incorporating a range of foods will help your child expand their palate while getting the nutrition they need to grow.
Baby foods can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the freezer for weeks at a time. Freeze batches in individual portions for quick, healthy dinners, even on the busiest days.
During this exciting time, don’t forget to stay hydrated with Greater Than and nourish yourself, too. Happy cooking!