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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Making Baby Food at Home: Expanding Palates Without Artificial Additives

Feb 29, 2024 09:31AM ● By Sheila Julson
Like many processed convenience foods, commercial baby food soared in popularity in the post-WWII era as parents spent less time in the kitchen. As 21st-century parents return to their roots and reject industrial creations in lieu of wholesome, scratch-made fare of varied flavors and textures, they want the same for their babies and toddlers.

Dora Babić Cikoš holds a Ph.D. in nutritional science. She and her sister, Ana Weinstein, formed the U.K.-based Creative Nourish resource as a guide for parents that care about their children’s nutrition. Babić Cikoš notes that commercial baby food often consists of artificial preservatives and food colorings which are not beneficial for babies just starting to eat solid food. By making baby food from scratch, preferably with organic ingredients, she explains that parents can minimize exposure to pesticides and unnecessary substances, as well as expand their children’s palates so that they have a smaller chance of becoming picky eaters.

“Store-bought baby food often concentrates on a few foods as the main ingredients and builds different jars and/or pouches around it, causing the food to be almost always in puree form and of a similar taste,” she advises. “Children that eat homemade baby food, especially if it is adapted for them from the foods that the family also eats for their meal, are exposed to different foods, tastes, textures, spices and ways of serving food.”

Registered Dietitian Amy Reed, the spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), notes that the practice of infant feeding is one of many factors affecting how a child develops. In infancy, this may include when solids and textures are introduced, along with genetics and parental feeding styles.

The academy suggests homemade baby food as a way to offer more variety to little ones’ diets. Parents can choose from an assortment of fruits and vegetables in the produce section, and frozen veggies and canned fruits can be added to homemade baby food to help expose babies to a variety of flavors.

Reed says, “If a family chooses to make their own baby food, they can control the ingredients and individualize it. Baby food that is pureed is typically offered at around 6 months of age. Textures should be offered to babies before they are 9 months of age. A delay in texture introduction can be associated with feeding difficulties.”

Making Baby Food with Ease

A food processor, blender or immersion blender allows parents to quickly puree most fruits and vegetables. Softer fruits like peaches can be pureed without cooking, while vegetables such as carrots or sweet potatoes can be baked or broiled. Steaming helps retain the most nutrients. Puree the foods in a blender or food processor and slowly add water if necessary, to make them easier for the baby to eat and digest.

Making baby food allows parents to get creative and add more flavorful, nutritious foods such as pureed kale to a butternut squash recipe. Parents can also manage sugars and salt or add a dash of nutmeg, cinnamon, thyme or milder spices and seasonings for extra flavor.

“Homemade baby food does not have to be complicated, because you are not preparing a five-course meal for your baby,” says Babić Cikoš. “Just giving them the same food you are eating and cooking for the rest of the family minus the added salt, sweetener, honey or milk, and pureeing or cutting things differently for your baby.”

She notes that price comparisons between homemade baby food and commercial baby food might show that store-bought baby food is more expensive. In addition, homemade baby food can be stored in Mason jars or reusable containers, which cuts down on disposable packaging.

For parents just starting to introduce solid food to their baby, Dora Babić Cikoš, of Creative Nourish, advises these purees can offer babies a sample to help decipher what they will or won’t like:

For babies and older kids, this three-ingredient healthy pancake mix takes minutes to prepare and is good for baby-led weaning: