Baby food basics: Making your own baby food

Photography by Michael Alberstat Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by Michael Alberstat


Baby food basics: Making your own baby food

For Fay Kelman, dinnertime is family time, meaning everyone sits at the table and eats the same meal -- including her 10-month-old daughter, Claudia.

"We should all be included," says the Winnipeg mom of two. "I don't think the baby should be eating anything different than the rest of us. It's all about flavours and she should experience them as we do." So Kelman portions off some of her meal and whips it up in her blender just for baby food. "The other night I made lasagna, chopped it in squares and placed it in the blender," she says. "It's so quick and easy."
Most manufactured baby foods don't include the added sodium and preservatives we're always on the watch for in our own food. But the ingredients used to make ready-made baby foods are heated to very high temperatures to sterilize them and to extend their shelf life, says Tina Ruggiero, nutrition expert and award-winning author of The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet. "While this makes the food safe for baby and convenient for you, it also destroys most of the natural flavours, aromas and some key nutrients in the process." Making your own also allows you to use seasonal foods and introduce your baby to a greater variety of flavours.

First foods
The Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) recommends baby's first foods contain iron, such as store-bought infant cereals, as well as meat, poultry and well-cooked legumes. A new position from the CPS and Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (CSACI), which is endorsed by Dietitians of Canada, does not recommend delaying any foods. "Parents don't need to delay the introduction of potential allergens like peanuts, fish or eggs," says Kate Comeau, registered dietitian and spokesperson for Dietitians of Canada. "Based on current evidence, delaying introduction will not reduce your child's risk of developing a food allergy."

Consistency of baby food
Many parents purée their baby's food until it is a well-blended blast of silky-smooth supper. A new joint recommendation from Health Canada, Dietitians of Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society and The Breastfeeding Committee for Canada, "Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants: Recommendations From Six to 24 Months," suggests parents introduce a variety of textures  including lumpy, tender-cooked, finely minced, mashed, puréed and ground foods no later than nine months. "It gives baby a chance to feel different foods in their mouth," says Comeau.

According to the document, delaying the introduction of lumpy textures has been associated with feeding problems in older children. "If parents are always serving the baby perfectly smooth food from the outset, they see their babies become fussy and don't want to eat new textures as they are introduced to them," says Comeau. "This recommendation looks for children to progress and eat foods with the whole family."

Making baby food
The business of making baby food has become increasingly tech-savvy with a number of products available to help make the task easy.

All in one: These sophisticated baby food machines let you steam and purée in the same device.

Food mill: You steam and chop the foods, then load them into the mill. Choose the interchangeable blades for fine, medium or coarse textures, and start cranking. Some come with their own bowls, others feature three nonslip legs to fit securely over your own bowl.

Blender/food processor: You probably already have one of these devices, which are great for making big batches. Smaller versions, marketed as baby food makers, are also available.

Immersion hand blender: This kitchen tool can be used to make thin purées or chunkier blends.

A fork: This utensil requires a little elbow grease but does the job of mushing food for baby.

Ruggiero says regardless of which appliance or method you use, invest in the food you buy.  "Equipment doesn't make the food more nutritious." Lastly, to batch-cook your baby food, Ruggiero suggests purchasing some good quality ice cube trays with lids as a simple and cost-effective method of freezing food and portioning your baby's next meal.

For more on baby food check out Five homemade baby food recipes to broaden your wee one's palate.

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Baby food basics: Making your own baby food