By Lisa Milbrand
Making your own baby food is actually simpler than it seems -- just blend up a few simple steamed veggies, fruits or well-cooked meats, and you're in business. It's also a way to get more control over what's going into baby's mouth and may save you money over the pricey jarred foods. DIYing it may even help head off future picky eating (which toddlers are notorious for), since it can get baby exposed to a greater variety of flavors. "The type of food in premade baby food is actually pretty limited compared to all the different fruits and vegetables that are available at the grocery store," says Bridget Swinney, MS, RD, LD, and author of Baby Bites. "Leafy greens like kale, spinach and Swiss chard are rich in lutein, an antioxidant important for eye health. You don't see those vegetables in a jar! Infancy is a perfect time for babies to try many different foods to encourage them to eat a wide variety in the toddler years."
Ready to give it a shot? Here's what to keep in mind:
While there are some amazing baby-centric steam-and-puree systems out there, the pricey gadgets aren't necessary for making baby food. Odds are you have everything you need in your kitchen -- a microwave or stovetop to steam the food, and a blender, food mill or food processor to turn it into puree.
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Choose the right foods.
Stumped on what kind of foods to puree? Sweet potatoes, green beans and carrots are good choices for veggies. Just cook them and mash. For fruits, try pears, peaches or plums. Also, some foods are no-cook, making it a lot easier for you: Bananas and avocados can be mashed or pureed quickly -- super fresh! When it's time to prep the fruits and veggies, you'll want to wash them thoroughly and remove any parts that could cause a choking hazard, like seeds or stems.
Make big batches.
You don't have to make it fresh every night. Instead, make a large batch of a single type of puree, and freeze it in smaller units -- ice cube trays make perfect one-ounce servings. Then, simply thaw out your baby's meal when you're ready. (You can mix and match purees every night to mix it up for your baby -- apple and banana purees one night, apple and chicken another.) You can carve out an hour and make all of baby's food for the week! Baby food can be kept in the freezer for three months, so keep track of the dates.
Let her have what you're having.
Your baby may not be ready for a bite of your curry or Buffalo wings, but if you're serving something simple -- steamed broccoli, mashed potatoes -- you can throw some in the blender and puree it for her. Just remember to do the seasoning after you set aside a serving for your baby: She doesn't need the salt. Other spices are fine, but you might want to take it slow, to watch for allergies and not to overwhelm baby. When you introduce new foods to baby, you'll want to wait a few days between each new serving to monitor any potential allergic reactions.
Move beyond the basics.
Now's the time to challenge your baby's taste buds and give him the nutrition he needs. Try ultrahealthy options, like pureed kale or spinach, mashed avocado -- or anything else you find that's interesting in the produce aisle. You never know, he may love them for life.
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