So you may be asking yourself – why make my baby’s food when I can just buy it in very convenient jars and pouches? My answer to that would be the same as an answer for why my family doesn’t eat processed foods: there are healthier, cheaper alternatives.
There are some major downfalls to purchasing your baby’s food. Just a few of the biggies are 1. you have no idea what is in it and you can’t create your own ‘flavors’ 2. they are chalk full of unnecessary junk like fillers and preservatives 3. they are cooked at an extremely high heat that strips them of much of their nutritional value and 4. they are just plain expensive.
Eating whole, organic food is very important to my family so the obvious choice for us is to make all of Atlas’ food at home. No special equipment needed. A pot. A blender. Nothing but the same goodness we feed ourselves.
The major dilemma of cooking your baby’s food is time. Whether you’re a stay at home mama like me or not, we are all running a little short on time. I hope to address this and a few other concerns you may have about homemade baby food including traveling with homemade baby food, portion sizes, and making sure your baby is eating well rounded.
My first piece of advice is clean out your freezer and organize. If you don’t have much room in your freezer for baby food you will need to freeze less and make your food more often. For us, the freezer is mostly just frozen fruit and veggies so once I organized that, I had about half of the freezer empty for baby food.
Storage is also dependent on your space availability. We like to freeze ours in two different ways. The first is mason jars. These are great because you thaw large quantities at once which is perfect for a busy eater. They are also reusable and easy to clean so you only have to purchase a few. And once they thaw you can leave them in the fridge for 3-4 days (according to the FDA). I like a variety of 4-8 ounce jars because I can get the most use out of my freezer space – sort of like Tetris. We also love our baby food ice trays like these ones. We found ours at a thrift store for only a few bucks so keep your eyes peeled! These are great because they are smaller portions and can be stored in large freezer ziplocks. These trays are also MUCH easier then standard ice trays so they pop out quickly, I give them a wash, and put something else in them to freeze.
Traveling. This is a harder one. We only travel for a day at a time before we are at a house where we can prepare more food if need be. For the most part it is just day trips etc so I have found it very easy to just grab one or two of the small ‘baby food ice cubes’, put them into a sealable tupperware and bring them along. The food will thaw on its own. If you’re worried about keeping your baby’s food cool, check out something like this. We have a built in cold pouch in our diaper bag. I also have seen these reusable baby food pouches. For those of you who like the convenience that store bought food provides, this could be a good option
I like to cook a little bit each day or whenever it is that I have the time. Sometimes there are giant bags of organic carrots or apples on sale and I have a big ‘baby food day’. I don’t have a ton of extra time in the day so it is nice to just have the baby food cooking on the back burner while I am doing something else like cooking lunch or laundry. We have a large LaCroix pot like this one and it allows me to boil large amounts of veggies or fruit at a time. The nice thing about making bulk baby food is that you can just set the food to boil – check on it 30 ish minutes later and then the actual blending and storing process takes about 30-45 minutes. Not bad, right?
So how to be sure your baby is eating well rounded. We do this by having a variety of baby foods in the fridge at any given time. For instance, right now there is a carrots/garbanzo bean blend, beets, and apple sauce. I try and go for mostly veggies and some fruit at meal times and then let him feed himself a banana for snack. We are vegan so at 7 months we started introducing beans instead of meats and next week we will introduce tofu. Although, in general, I really disagree with the food pyramid, it can give you a good idea of what to feed your baby. Mostly veggies, then second most of fruit, THEN grains and proteins. Babies do not need, and should not have, desserts, processed sugars, or spices.
On this note, so many people have asked ‘how much food should my baby be eating?’ My philosophy is when they are full, they stop eating. Children do not eat the way we do. For instance, I snack whenever I am bored. No, children ask to be fed when they are genuinely hungry. I just keep spooning in the puree until Atlas shows me he is done by something like turning his head away or rubbing his eyes because he is ready to go to sleep.
BASIC BABY FOOD BLENDS
These are foods I make all the time and keep around in the fridge because 1. he likes them and 2. they are easy to mix with things he doesn’t like as much and 3. they are SUPER easy to make so they are ‘no fuss’ kinds of recipes.
- I mix some with canned garbonzo beans, some with a dark leafy green and leave some plain
- Chop the carrots into chunks and set in a pot to boil for about half an hour or until they are soft. Take out about 1/3 of the carrots and blend up for just plain ol’ carrots. Then take another 1/3 to put in the blender along with a can of garbanzo beans. Add a few handfuls of dark leafy greens to the carrots still boiling in the pot and leave for 5 minutes. Blend. Store. Freeze.
- I mix some with dark greens and some is left plain
- Peel and core the apples. Then add to a pot to boil for 20-30 minutes (depending on the kind of apple). Take out half of the apples to blend as plain apples. Add a few handfuls of dark greens to the remaining apples still boiling. Blend. Store. Freeze.
- I mix some with whatever veggie is on sale that week (this week it was zucchini) and some gets left plain
- Bake or boil – you can leave the skins on because they fall off in the water or you can scoop the innards from a baked potato. Blend. Store. Freeze.
- sometimes I mix these with another veggie or fruit but usually I just let him try and feed himself
If you are a vegan mama and are not feeding your child fortified cereals, I would highly recommend an iron supplement. We chose not to introduce rice cereals and instead began eating with vegetables and fruits, so Atlas needed liquid iron. The cereal has a lot of iron in it which is hard to obtain with so little beans and tofu in the diet- so just be sure your baby is getting what he needs.
(I am no expert on introducing allergens, vegetable milks, or anything meat or dairy related. This is just what my family has chosen to do. Questions and comments are always welcome!)