Your baby’s early forays into eating solid food can be a very joyful — if messy — moment in your parenthood journey. It’s wonderful to see the look of wonder on that little face upon discovering the delights of blueberries and avocados, or random foods that they inexplicably love, like chickpeas or zucchini.
Usually, though, when we think of baby food, the first thing that springs to mind is a pre-packaged pouch. Of course, store-bought baby food can be very useful in certain situations, especially when you’re pressed for time or when you don’t have access to fresh options. Making your own baby food is definitely worth a try — and it’s a lot easier that you might expect. Here are just some of the reasons why making your own purees is a convenient, nutritious, and fun way to feed your little one.
Making your own baby food is incredibly easy
Contrary to what you may have heard, you don’t need any fancy kitchen appliances to create delicious purees that your baby will love. In fact, there’s plenty of baby food that you make without any equipment whatsoever, such as mashing an avocado or a banana. Adding a little breast milk or formula will make the consistency thinner and easier to handle, and it will also help your baby adjust to the taste of the new food.
When you’re ready to get a little more creative, the process is still simple: you’ll just need to be able to chop and cook your veggies (steaming preserves the most nutrients), toss them into a food processor with a little water (breast milk or formula), and freeze the puree for later use. An ice cube tray works great for this, as it provides manageable servings that can easily be popped out and defrosted.
Chances are, you already have everything you need to make baby food in your kitchen:
- Chopping board and sharp knife
- Food steamer
- Blender or food processor
- Ice cube trays
If you do decide to buy anything, such as a masher, storage container, cookbook, or even an all-in-one baby food maker, adding a free online shopping tool such as Honey to your browser is a great way to ensure that you’re always getting the best price.
Homemade purees can be adapted to your baby’s unique, changing tastes
Once you’ve figured out what fruits and veggies your baby prefers, you can create your own food combinations that you know your baby will enjoy — including those that you can’t find in grocery stores. Every baby is different and has different likes and dislikes, so even if yours doesn’t like the classic apple-pear combo, maybe a green bean and prune puree will be more to their tase. This way, you won’t waste money on baby food that your little one doesn’t like, and you’ll have a much better chance of mealtimes going smoothly.
Also, as long as the ingredients are baby-friendly, pureeing whatever’s on the grown-up menu is a great way to help your baby acclimate to different tastes, and take part in enjoying meals with you.
Your purees could be healthier (and tastier) than store-bought baby food
You don’t have to be an experienced chef or have access to any special ingredients, in order to whip up some nutritious baby food. Just using ordinary fruits and vegetables to start with (and adding grains and additional protein sources later on) is sufficient!
Most packaged baby food is heavy on the fruit, which is full of natural sugars. However, there’s no reason to overload your little one with sugar. When your baby is trying solid food for the first time, introducing vegetable purees before fruit purees will help your little one develop a taste for all sorts of nutritious veggies, without expecting them to be combined with something sweet. This will serve your baby well as he or she grows up, as your little one will be less drawn to sweet tastes.
Furthermore, food processing (especially at the high heat used in commercial baby food preparation to kill bacteria) can destroy the vitamins and minerals — not to mention flavors — in fruits and veggies. This is another reason why homemade is better. By making your own purees, you will know exactly what has gone into each mouthful your little one takes — no more preservatives or highly processed additives, and no more disappointment when you discover just how many grams of sugar are in a supposedly “healthy” baby food pouch.
Making your own baby food is cheaper for you (and better for the planet)
Even when you buy in bulk, packaged baby food is expensive. You’ll most likely be able to cut down on costs by making a large batch of your own purees, and freezing them to use when you need them.
And while making your own baby food is sure to help your wallet, it’s good for the planet, too. Think of all the packaging you could eliminate if your baby was fed from reusable containers, rather than disposable pouches that can’t be recycled and will just end up in a landfill. You can also buy seasonal veggies and locally-grown produce to ensure that your ingredients have as few “food miles” as possible. Lastly, having the flexibility to use organic produce in your purees is another significant benefit of homemade baby food.
Embracing your inner chef can be fun (but don’t feel pressured to do it)
One of the best parts of making your own baby food is that you get to be the chef. Once you get the hang of preparing and cooking your fruit and veggies — and your baby gets used to eating the purees — the sky is truly the limit. Feel free to get adventurous with your recipes. You may discover a unique flavor combination that your little one just can’t get enough of, and you can even add a few gentle herbs and spices to make your concoctions a bit more interesting.
Of course, not everyone wants to make their own baby food — and that’s perfectly fine. There are plenty of great baby food brands, many of which are organic, that use entirely wholesome (and even vegan) ingredients. Another option is to make a few easy purees yourself, while also purchasing some packaged baby food.
Most importantly, try to enjoy this culinary adventure with your baby. After all, it won’t be long until your little one graduates from purees to “real” food!
Margaret Lipman is a writer, editor, and teacher based in the U.K., specializing in topics relating to lifestyle, parenting, and nutrition. She has also contributed numerous articles to Little Bundle and other early childhood blogs.