Techniques for Homemade Baby Food.
When beginning a solid food regimen for your baby, set aside approximately an hour per week to prepare homemade baby food. Each of the NurtureBaby recipes yield a large amount of food, therefore, your baby will have a delicious variety of age-appropriate, homemade goodness within a few weeks time.
For the first year, solids are secondary to breast milk or formula. Therefore, once your baby is at least 4 months old, only offer her solids after a full feeding of milk.
You might be tempted to invest in an expensive, all-in-one baby food maker. While this tool can be helpful and convenient, you likely already have all the equipment you need to prepare homemade baby food in your own kitchen.
- Large stock pot
- Steamer basket or metal colander
- Medium saucepan
- Food processor/blender and/or food mill
Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before cooking, even if organic. When starting solids, it is best to peel the fruits and vegetables, as the fiber in the skins can be difficult for young babies to digest.
While fresh, seasonal produce is optimal, frozen fruits and vegetables are a close second. These fruits and vegetables are frozen at the peak of freshness which locks in flavor and nutrients; plus, they are more convenient and less expensive than fresh ingredients.
When preparing meats, especially poultry, wash hands thoroughly after touching. Never use the same utensils to touch the cooked meat as the raw meat. Changing utensils during the cooking process avoids the transfer of Salmonella, bacteria often found in poultry and other raw meats.
There are several preferred methods to cook homemade baby food: steaming, baking, roasting and stewing. These cooking methods ensure the highest nutritional value. While boiling also seems logical, nearly half the nutrients can be lost in the process, as many vitamins and minerals are water soluble and discarded along with the boiling liquid.
Steaming is the preferred cooking method when starting a solid regimen, as it is the best way to preserve fresh flavor and the most nutrients. If you do not have a steamer basket, simply place the food in a metal colander, cover, and place over a pot of boiling water. Do not overcook the vegetables, as nutrients can be lost. Cook just until tender and add some of the steaming liquid to the pureed food for a smooth texture.
Baking and Roasting
Baking and/or roasting baby food is a convenient and nutritious way to get the most out of your time. Just set the timer and forget it! Get the most out of your oven’s energy consumption and bake extra food for your baby while cooking other foods for the family. Baking holds on to most nutrients and intensifies the flavor of the food.
Stewing can be done in a saucepan or even in a slow cooker! It’s an easy “one-pot-wonder” solution, as the food and cooking liquid can be served (or pureed) together. Therefore, stewing holds onto most of the nutrients as the cooking liquid is consumed along with the food itself.
Once the food is cooked, wait for food to cool a little before adding to the food processor/blender. The steam can cause the food to expand when processed, and if you don’t let the food cool, you might have a big mess on your hands!
For babies 4-6 months, add a little cooking liquid and puree until completely smooth. As your baby grows and shows readiness for chunkier foods, puree the food a little less. Experiment with the different speeds on the processor for a wide variety of food textures.
A food mill is less convenient, but ideal for smaller batches of food.
Storing and Freezing
The most efficient way to store homemade baby food is in a flexible, plastic (BPA-free) ice cube tray. For older babies, I like to use silicon cupcake liners (placed inside a metal cupcake tin for stability) for larger portions. Cool food as quickly as possible and place immediately in the freezer. Adding hot food to the freezer can make other foods in the freezer susceptible to bacterial growth as it can bring the temperature of the freezer down.
Once the food is frozen, pop cubes out of trays/tins and store in a well-marked and dated freezer bag. Food in freezer will store for about 3 months.
Do not re-freeze cooked meals that have already been frozen, as this will make the food susceptible to bacterial growth. However, you can freeze food if one or more of the ingredients were previously frozen in a raw state. For example, it is ok to freeze a “one-pot-wonder” meal prepared with raw, frozen chicken. Or, you can freeze a cooked fruit puree made from frozen mangoes or blueberries.
You can reheat frozen food in a microwave or over a saucepan, just make sure that the food has cooled before offering it to your baby.
Traveling with Homemade Baby Food
Traveling with homemade baby food may sound difficult, but it is possible given you have the right equipment. Pack only as much food as you need, and store in sealed bags inside cooler packed with plenty of ice. If staying overnight, remove food from cooler and place in a standard freezer if at all possible.
If food thaws, cook and consume immediately, or discard. It is better to give your baby store bought food rather than risk a food-borne bacteria with compromised homemade baby food.
Foods to Avoid the First Year
- Cow’s Milk (yogurt, pasteurized cheese, or milk cooked with other foods is ok)
- Nuts, seeds
- Unpasteurized cheese
Utensils We Recommend
Antimicrobial is key. Always cut on a clean surface that limits bacteria and doesn't dull your knives.