Homemade first foods
Buzz Baby is a column about life with little ones. Writer Annie McQueen has three children under the age of 4.
There are a lot of options for parents of wee ones when it comes time to introduce solid foods. Some opt for classic flavors, like bananas, sweet potatoes and peas, from commercial brands, either in old-school glass jars or the newer pouches.
Other parents make their own baby food at home. It takes more time and effort, and has to be eaten sooner (within 48 hours is recommended if refrigerated), but these parents say the health benefits outweigh any inconveniences.
“When all three of our kids first started solids, I made all of their food from scratch. Making our own food allowed us to know exactly what our kids were eating,” said Christi Blakkolb Munz, a plastic surgeon. She and her orthopedic-trauma surgeon husband John are parents to twins John Luke and Isabella, 3, and daughter Sienna, 1.
To make the baby food, Christi would blend fruits, vegetables and meats in a Baby Beaba cooker, which cost about $150 on Amazon. “I tried to use local resources whenever possible, such as farmers’ markets and meat from our ranch,” she said. “Otherwise, I would pick up fresh food from the store.” The device works as a steamer, blender, warmer or defroster. The food can be blended to a smoother texture for babies 4-6 months, and more chunky as they get older.
Christi says home cooking and blending was a good way to introduce varied tastes to her kids. “We had a chance to season and flavor the food however we wanted. They loved olive oil and Parmesan cheese.”
Another health-conscious mom, Allison Livingston, made baby food for daughters Grace and Emma, now 3 and 1. “I made puréed carrots, veggie-fruit smoothies and applesauce,” said Allison. “They now have empty pouches you can put your own purée in that are reusable.”
She used a Vitamix blender. “[I would] just steam or boil and put into the blender.” When Emma came along, Allison says the time commitment became an issue. She took a different approach by teaching Emma from an early age to eat baby-sized bites from whatever the rest of the family was eating.
Allison still prepares food from scratch when she can. “We eat a lot of fruit and salads and roasted vegetables and chicken,” she said. “I love to make my own salad dressings and pretty much everything I can from scratch, but some nights it’s a frozen lasagna and salad.”
She says it’s crucial to have snacks and water on hand to avoid “the wrath of two hungry girls.” Her healthy-snack list includes fresh berries, apples with organic peanut butter, Cheerios, pretzels, pickles, dried cranberries and raisins, nuts, organic cheddar cheese, organic popcorn and bell peppers.
Her youngest is now 13 months. While she no longer eats baby food, Allison continues to make homemade health-conscious meals, like blended smoothies. “I hide spinach and flax and chia seed [in them], and they love them,” said Allison. “[I mix] frozen bananas, fresh berries, coconut milk or Greek yogurt, a handful of spinach and a tablespoon of flax and chia seeds and some water or fresh squeezed orange juice and ice.”
Lindsay Evans didn’t make her own baby food, but would mix different store-bought baby-food flavors, including traditional and organic brands. “We [would] combine Gerber, Plum and Beech-Nut baby foods along with the table food that we ate,” she said. “We stopped baby food altogether at about 10 months for both of them.”
Her children, Savannah and Garrett, now 5 and 2, have learned to eat healthy meals at home. Lindsay cooks almost every night. “I do my best to always have vegetables of some type with every meal. We mostly eat lean meats like chicken or ground turkey.” Lindsay says if the kids eat some or all of their greens, they also get a dessert, usually a fruit.
Some nights, they veer off the health wagon. “Savannah [used to] request only Mexican food to go out to eat. Then she would always order chicken fingers,” said Lindsay, laughing. “We finally convinced her to order an enchilada one time, and she loved it.”
While making baby food and cooking homemade meals from scratch are wonderful ways for parents to provide healthy meals for their children, sometimes even a seasoned baby-food-making pro like Christi knows the real victory is in a cleared plate. “I will be honest, with 3-year-old twins and a 1-year old, I am just happy if I can get [them] to eat.”
Editor’s note: Do you or did you make your own baby food? Share your tips in the comments below.
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