by Lynn Siprelle
hat's in that jarred baby food in the cupboard? Chances are there's a ton of sugar and preservatives in it, that's what. The majority of baby foods on the market add sugar to everything, even chicken and peas. And that's not counting the extra salt!
Why should you go homemade? For starters, you'll know exactly what's going into it that way. You'll be able to tailor the ingredients to what your baby needs and likes. The food will be fresh, free of extra sugar and salt, and prepared with good ingredients, as opposed to jarred ones which are often made from bruised fruits and vegetables with chemicals added to even out the taste. The killer reason for me? Homemade baby food isn't only better for baby, it's not only easy to make--but it's incredibly cheap!
Making your own baby food is really quite simple and needn't take that long. You don't need any specialized equipment, just a blender or food processor and some ice cube trays (although a food mill can be handy). You can easily freeze the food that you make and use it later on.
For beginning eaters, your baby food will need to be soft and runny, perfect for whipping up in the blender. You can use just about any plain fruit or vegetable that has been cooked and add a little formula or breast milk to get it to the right consistency. At this age, your baby isn't able to process most raw foods yet, so stick with things like overcooked carrots and potatoes or a boiled or baked apple.
As baby gets teeth, he's ready for a slightly more advanced baby food. You can stop watering the food down and simply give it in puree form. This may mean that your blender won't be able to handle all loads. If this turns out to be the case, you might need to resort to mashing the food with a fork, or using a baby food mill, which is an extremely handy device. Ask around your friends, they may have a food mill you can borrow from when their babies were small. In time, just mashing is enough; your baby will like the texture better.
To avoid making up minute amounts of baby food for every meal, most mothers find that it is far easier to cook up several batches of fruits and vegetables at once and freeze the extra in ice cube trays. You can either leave the food in the trays, or pop out the frozen baby food and store in Ziploc freezer bags. Just make sure you mark everything well, since frozen cauliflower puree can look just like frozen potato puree!
Later, you can just pop a cube or two into the microwave and thaw it out just in time for a meal. This is perfect for moms who are busy all week and don't have time to be preparing special baby food each night. You can easily do up to a month's worth of baby food in an afternoon and freeze it. When you microwave baby food, always remember to stir the food well and test it! You don't want to burn that little tongue.
One great resource for families with beginning eaters is the book Feeding the Whole Family. Geared toward vegetarians, but useable by everyone, it shows you how to break out ingredients from a meal so that you're not cooking a zillion different meals for dinner but the baby, the little kids and the parents all get something good to eat tailored to their needs. I really recommend it, and you KNOW I'm a carnivore! :)