With the growing concern of contamination, pesticides and chemicals in produce, parents are now seeking the freshest and safest food for their babies. After all, babies have the most fragile of systems, and pound for pound; babies consume more vegetables than most adults. Perhaps that is why making your own baby food is the latest trend for sustainable and healthy living. In fact, 70% of parents have made their own baby food, and the number is growing. But why leave in the middleman? Growing your own baby food allows parents to grow seasonal produce that their child prefers, while allowing a unique opportunity to have a stake in what goes into their baby’s mouth.
The Jarred Food Dilemma: Over the years, jarred baby food has become safer now that regulations prevent companies from adding “fillers” to jars. It’s also convenient, and many parents are relieved to see organic baby food now shelved at traditional grocery stores. Yet jarred baby food, even if organic; is commonly over-cooked and overly processed. It is also concerning that we do not get to see the produce selected for jarring. Are the fruits and vegetables selected at their peak and truly organic? We just don’t know.
What To Grow: Children prefer sweeter, milder tasting vegetables like carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, sweet peas, and beans. Yet, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are easy to puree and can be made into baby food. In fact, planting a variety of produce can allow babies to become exposed to a variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as flavors. Babycenter.com also recommends incorporating super foods like blueberries, broccoli, avocados, mandarin oranges and prunes, as they are especially healthful for babies. The Producer and Veggin’ Out have a variety of excellent choices.
Preparing Baby Food: Depending on what your little sprout is eating, you’ll need either a: blender, food processor, baby food grinder or even a fork for softer produce like bananas or avocados.
Step 1: Select fruits and vegetables at their peak. Wash off excess dirt, and remove peels, stems and seeds. Slice into chunks.
Step 2: Cook fruits and vegetables until tender (sautéing in water or lightly steaming works well). Do not overcook, as this depletes the food from its vital nutrients. It is also not necessary to use oils, butter, lard, salt, seasoning, gravies or sugar while cooking – keep this food as natural as possible.
Step 3: In a pureeing device of your choice, add a liquid such as water or fruit juice (remember that honey is toxic to infants). Puree until smooth and store in batches in your freezer. Many prefer adding the mixture to ice trays as an easy way to store and retrieve single servings. If you plan on storing a smaller portion in the refrigerator, remember not to store it longer than 2 days.
Carrot Acorn Squash Puree
3 cups acorn squash, peeled and chopped
1 cup carrot, peeled and chopped
2 quarts of water
Method: In a large saucepan, cover the vegetables with water, bring to boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes. When soft, remove from heat and add vegetables to a blender with a slotted spoon. Gradually add reserved water, and puree until very smooth.
What are your experiences in making homemade baby food?