By Kim Robson:
Not so very long ago, moms didn’t have the luxury of purchasing ready-to-eat Gerber baby foods in shelf-stable jars. Our grandmothers all made their baby’s food at home, from scratch. The bonus? It’s fast, easy, saves money, and reduces waste. Plus, by making the baby food, you know exactly what your baby is eating, and it’s more nutritious than store-bought baby food. My late friend Emily used to make steamed/mashed zucchini and yams for her son Ryder. She also made sweet potato and salmon with nutmeg, squash with banana and strawberries, or pears with carrots and maple syrup. If you want to make your baby’s foods, here are some tips.
First of all, make sure your baby is ready to start solid foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting six months before starting babies on solids, but that can vary. “When the baby can sit upright, hold her head up, and is interested in food, she’s probably ready,” says Stephanie Middleberg, MS, RD, CDN. Also, avoid honey for the first year, as it can cause botulism.
Secondly, use organic produce whenever possible. “Babies have smaller digestive systems and body masses, so they can handle less toxins, like pesticides, than small children or adults can,” adds Middleberg. If you don’t have realistic access to organic produce, avoid the Dirty Dozen:
- Bell Peppers
- Cherry Tomatoes
And stick with the Clean Fifteen:
- Sweet Peas
And lastly, make sure the foods you’re making are age appropriate:
Four to Six Months
Start with thin purees from single-ingredient low-acid fruits and sweet vegetables. Wait at least four days between introducing new foods so you can spot and identify any allergies. Click title for the recipe.
- Sweet Potato Puree
- Carrot Puree
- Butternut Squash Puree
- Peach Puree
- Whirled Peas
- Brown Rice Cereal
Seven to Eight Months
Start introducing other fruits and vegetables, as well as proteins such as lentils, and foods prepared in thicker consistencies. Continue with one new ingredient at a time, but you can combine a few known ingredients once you know your baby isn’t allergic to them. For a quick snack, mash up soft fruits and vegetables (like cantaloupe, bananas and avocados) with a fork. (Actually mashed-up banana and avocado on toast or crackers makes a light but filling summertime treat!)
- White Peach and Banana Puree
- Green Bean, Potato, and Kale Puree
- Apple Pear Butter with Cinnamon
- Blueberry, Mango, and Avocado Puree
- Beet and Blueberry Puree
- Parsnip, Fig, and Pear Puree
- Basil- and Ginger-Infused Peach Compote
- Apple-Oat Porridge
- Spiced Lentil and Apple Puree
- Zucchini and Potato Puree
Nine to Twelve Months
Now your baby can try chunkier purees, small pieces of soft cooked veggies, whole milk, and dairy. At ten to twelve months old, try gas-inducing foods such as beans, broccoli, onions, fruit juice, wheat, cauliflower, garlic, and dairy. “It is best to check with a pediatrician before introducing these foods into your baby’s diet,” says Middleberg. Introduce interesting flavors like cinnamon in a sweet potato puree, or a little parsley in a white bean puree one at a time.
- Bean Puree
- Blueberry, Chickpea, and Rosemary Puree
- Quinoa Ratatouille
- Lasagna Puree
- Chicken and Vegetable Puree
- White Bean, Sweet Potato, and Carrot Puree
- Chicken and Corn with Cilantro Puree
One Year +
Now that your baby is one year old, you can start introducing adult food if you haven’t already done so. Honey, fish, citrus, and small amounts of salt and pepper are all okay. Just be sure to cut everything up into small pieces!