My sister-in-law Deborah makes her eight-month old, the lovely Lily, all of her baby food. I’m super impressed and it looks delicious, but Deborah says she does it because it’s less waste, all-natural, and inexpensive. It also happens to be really nutritious, and since Deborah is a registered Dietitian, she knows what a baby needs for good health. Here are Deborah’s top 5 tips for making homemade baby food.
- FRESH IS BEST: Start by using the freshest food available. Use seasonable ingredients where possible, strive for organic but don’t sweat it if conventional produce is all that’s available. “Your kid is better off eating non-organic fruits and vegetables than not eating them at all.” Here’s the “dirty dozen” that Deborah tries to buy organically since they have the most pesticides. She says frozen fruit and veg are also great if fresh are not available.
- BATCH COOKING: Set aside an hour or two to prepare your food in bulk batches and make a variety of items at one time. For instance, Deborah has made zucchini, green beans, sweet potatoes, tofu and pears all in one go. “It may sound like a lot but it means you’re only cooking once every week or so.” Then all you do is portion the various foods out into small containers or ice cube trays, freeze, and defrost and heat as needed.
- SALT-FREE: Deborah says now is not the time for added salt and sugar. “Babies should become accustomed to the natural flavours of the foods themselves rather than additives. There’s enough time for them to develop a sophisticated palate later.” That said, some parents do add mild seasonings and spices such as cinnamon, garlic, basil and curry, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
- THE RECIPE: Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables, then all you need to do is cook them until soft. On the stovetop this means boiling or steaming, and in the microwave, just add a touch of water. Cool, then puree with a blender, hand blender, Magic Bullet or Baby Bullet until very smooth for younger babies, and then build up to coarser textures for older babies. Note: hard fruits, like apples and pears have to be lightly cooked, but soft fruits, like mangos and berries need only be pureed.
- BON APPETIT, MON PETITE: Deborah says variety is key. She usually serves Lily three to four different items at one meal. In this photo Lily is eating tofu, butternut squash and zucchini, and for dessert she enjoyed mango and yoghurt. Lily must like her mama’s cooking since I have yet to see spit something out, and she’s the happiest – and healthiest -- baby on the block.