How to Make Baby Food at Home

When our son was venturing into the world of solid food beyond infant cereal, my husband and I decided to make some baby food ourselves. It’s an easy thing to do and, for some (like parents of multiples), can also be cost-effective.
There are a few guidelines and things to keep in mind however, when preparing baby food at home. Some things to consider:

�· Commercially grown fruits and vegetables, both domestic and imported, tend to contain higher levels of pesticides than organically grown produce

�· Trimming the fat from meat will help reduce pesticides, as they tend to concentrate in fatty tissues

�· Organic foods have been found to contain lower levels of certain pesticides

�· Processed foods (canned fruit for example) generally have lower pesticide residues than fresh foods

�· All fresh produce to be used in preparing baby food should be peeled, washed with very diluted dishwashing detergent, and cooked well

�· When making your own baby food, do not salt, sweeten or season the food at all.

Cooked, fresh vegetables and stewed fruits are the easiest foods to prepare for baby, and except for raw bananas, (which can be mashed with a fork) all fruits should be cooked until soft. Steaming is the best cooking method, as fewest nutrients and vitamins are lost this way. Refrigerate any food that is not used immediately, and check it well for signs of spoilage before giving it to baby. Unlike commercial foods, freshly made baby food contains no bacteria, so it will spoil more quickly. Use or freeze within one to two days of preparation to be safe.

Water or formula can be added to mashed foods to create the desired consistency, and food processors, blenders and strainers can also be helpful. Individual portions of the baby food can then be frozen in ice cube trays. Cover the trays with plastic before freezing. After freezing, place the cubes in a plastic bag, seal it and return it to the freezer. Be sure to label and date all foods, and use them within 1 month from preparation date. Do not thaw individual portions at room temperature; rather, thaw them in the refrigerator, double boiler or microwave (on the defrost setting).

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the following foods should not be prepared at home for baby food: beets, turnips, carrots, collard greens and spinach. In certain parts of the country, these vegetables contain large amounts of nitrates, a chemical that can cause an unusual type of anemia (low blood count) in young infants. Baby food companies are aware of this problem and therefore screen the produce they buy for nitrates. They also avoid buying these vegetables in parts of the country where nitrates have been detected. Since you cannot test for the chemical yourself at home, it’s safer to use commercially prepared forms of these foods, especially while your child is an infant. If you should choose to prepare these foods at home anyway, serve them fresh and don’t store any leftovers. Storage of these foods can actually increase the amount of nitrates in them.

In addition, there are some foods that should be avoided until at least the child’s first birthday; some suggest waiting until the child is old enough to speak, and can then inform you of a “funny feeling” in their throat (due to swelling from an allergic reaction). Foods that may cause allergic reactions include egg whites, seafood, nuts, citrus fruits and tomatoes. Honey should also be avoided, as it may contain botulism spores that, though not harmful to adults, can cause infant botulism, a potentially severe illness. Honey is acceptable however, in processed foods such as honey graham crackers, and Honey Nut Cheerios.

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