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Easy First Foods To Make Yourself
By Erika Landau, M.D., and Abigail Brenner, M.D.,

Baby food can be bought or prepared at home. With hectic schedules, many modern families may feel that commercial baby food is a blessing. But for some, it’s just too expensive. And still others simply prefer to cook their own food. You can always cook more of everything to feed older children or yourselves, as well. Remove the cooked food for the baby first, and use the rest for the family.

Making your own baby food is not as complicated as it sounds. All you need is a small pot, a small steamer, and a blender or chopper. There are also electric baby food makers that you can buy, which steam and puree baby food all in one unit.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, without a doubt, taste the best. If possible, buy seasonal, locally grown produce. Buying organic is purely a personal decision. It is more expensive and can be harder to find depending on where you live. But organic or not, fresh produce is a great choice whenever possible. Frozen vegetables and fruits are fine to use (check the date), but try to steer clear of anything canned. Always peel the produce before cooking, and steaming is recommended because there is less of a chance oflosing their nutrition.

Baby Steps: The general consensus is that baby food needs to be as bland as possible at first. But before long, your baby will desire more depth of flavor. There are ways to make food taste more interesting, aside from adding salt and sugar. While now is not the time to be spicing up the menu, you can use fresh herbs: basil, oregano, parsley, dill, cinnamon (very small amounts), and lemon after six months. As with everything else, try them for at least three days.

Fruit Purees

Applesauce: Most babies love applesauce. Use a ripe apple. Peel and cut it into pieces. Remove the core and all seeds. Steam or cook in enough water, just to cover the fruit, until soft. Remove the apple. Either mash it with a fork or process it in the blender. Add cooking water so it won’t be too thick. If this is the first time you’re making it, remove one ounce and cool it to room temperature. Add a pinch of cinnamon. Put it in a separate plate or bowl, and feed it to the baby with a spoon. One to three medium-size apples will make a cup of applesauce.

Mix half an amount of cereal and half an amount of applesauce, then add two to three ounces of either breast milk or formula. Discard whatever your baby doesn’t eat from the bowl used with the spoon.

You can also bake the apples: after peeling, coring, and seeding the apple, place it in the oven at 3500 Fahrenheit for about 30-45 minutes. Mash or blend with two teaspoons of water, breast milk, or formula. Cool. You can do the same thing with pears; they’ll bake faster, around 30 minutes.

Pear puree: Two to four pears will make a cup of pear sauce. Peel, core, and seed one to two pears. Cover with water, and cook or steam for around 10 minutes. Check the softness with a fork. Mash or blend with one to two teaspoons of the cooking water. Don’t feed the baby from the entire prepared amount. You will want to refrigerate or freeze the rest. You may mix this puree with dried cereal.

Peach puree: Four to six peaches will make a cup of puree. Peel and remove the pit. Cut the peach in pieces. Cook in water for five minutes. Cool, mash, and serve. You can also bake it at 4000 Fahrenheit. Add water (one inch) to an oven-proof pan and bake until you see bubbles. Cool, mash, and serve.

Banana puree: A ripe banana can be served before age six months. Mash the banana and serve.

Avocado

An avocado is high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals and contains the good fats (mono-unsaturated). Two avocados will make one cup mashed. Avocado and banana are the only fruits you should not cook. The avocado has a pit, so botanically, it is a fruit.

Peel and remove the pit. Mash and serve. You can mix avocado with bananas, pears, and squash.

Carrots

Use small, young (baby) carrots. The best way to cook them is to steam them. Peel and cut carrots in small pieces. Steam for about 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Mash them. You can serve them plain or add some fresh, finely chopped thyme or oregano (simmered for two minutes), but be careful with herbs because only a very small amount is needed; otherwise, it will overpower the taste of the carrots. Carrots are great because they can be mixed with other fruits, vegetables, and meat.

Baby Watch: Carrots, beets, spinach, and collard greens have natural nitrites, so you should wait until six months to give these veggies. The reason is these root vegetables get the nitrites from the soil, and up to age three months the baby’s stomach doesn’t produce enough acid to fight them. The nitrites can get into the bloodstream where they affect the oxygen transport. These babies have a bluish color (blue baby syndrome or methemoglobinemia), and the blood is brown instead of red. Such a problem is very rare, but if it occurs, go to the emergency room immediately. By five to six months, when the majority of babies start solid foods, the stomach is well-equipped to digest these vegetables properly.

Peas and Other Vegetables

Peas are steamed or cooked in just enough water to cover them. When they’re soft, puree them. Other vegetables that can be prepared the same way are green beans, squash, and zucchini.

Sweet potatoes are often a favorite for babies. They can be peeled, chopped, and steamed, then mashed or pureed in the blender. Or they can be baked in the oven at 3500 Fahrenheit until soft when pierced with a fork (about one hour). Cut the baked sweet potato in half, and scoop out the cooked part. Mash and let cool before serving. Regular potatoes can be prepared the same way.

A vegetable can be mixed with fruits and other vegetables to serve your baby; just mix and match as you please.

Baby Steps: If you notice that your baby’s face, palms, and soles are turning orange after introducing solid foods, there’s no need to worry. This happens because the orange and yellow vegetables (mostly favored by babies) contain beta carotene, which can turn into a form of vitamin A. This gets deposited in the skin because there are higher levels of it in the blood. Carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes are all high in this substance. Do you remember the color of colostrum? It’s dark yellow, also due to this substance.

All you have to do is give fewer yellow and orange vegetables and more green ones. Your little pumpkin’s color will soon return to normal.

Poultry

Start with a boneless, skinless chicken breast. Steam it in water, or bake it (covered) for 30 minutes until the meat is very soft. Cut it into one-inch pieces and put it in the blender with four teaspoons of the cooking liquid. Blend it, then add any fruit or vegetable. You can mix in a very small amount of fresh or dried herbs, such as basil, parsley, dill, or oregano, for a new taste.

Cook turkey as you would chicken. Mix apples, peaches, or sweet potato and squash with it. You can also bake the meat together with vegetables, then puree them.

It’s easy to make your baby’s first chicken soup.

Ingredients

1/2 cup cooked and pureed chicken (or turkey)
1 celery stalk
1 potato, 1 carrot, and 1 zucchini
A few pieces dill, or a pinch of dried dill
4 cups water

Preparation

Peel and chop vegetables. Cook until they’re soft. Add the meat. Put them in the blender or food processor; mix until pureed.

Food Storage

When storing the baby food you make, use small containers that can easily be pulled from the refrigerator or freezer for one meal. You can refrigerate the food for 48 hours or freeze it for 4 to 5 weeks. Use ice trays in the freezer to portion the food. Try to find small ice trays and cover them well, either with a freezer plastic cover or an ice tray cover. Each cube is almost one ounce, or 32 grams.

Pop out whatever you think the baby will eat, and put the rest back. You can also put all the cubes in special freezer bags and use the tray to make new food. Always label everything with the date.

How much your baby will eat at any given meal will vary somewhat, so it’s important to know that whatever food is left over in the bowl at the end of the meal should be discarded and not saved for later. The reason for this is bacteria can accumulate on the food touched by the baby’s mouth. Also, baby food that has been thawed should not be refrozen or refrigerated and must be discarded. Bacteria can grow when food sits at room temperature, so only pull out the portion you want to use at that time.

Don’t use the microwave to warm up the baby food; it cooks unevenly and can produce hot spots in the food. Instead, thaw at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. Don’t ever refrigerate or refreeze any portions of food left over after eating.

Meats can be stored for 48 hours in the refrigerator and for 3 to 4 weeks in the freezer, either in small containers, ice cube trays, or freezer bags. Never refreeze, and discard the container from which the baby ate.

The above is an excerpt from the book The Essential Guide to Baby’s First Year by Erika Landau, M.D., and Abigail Brenner, M.D. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2011 Erika Landau, M.D., and Abigail Brenner, M.D., authors of The Essential Guide to Baby’s First Year