By Michael Russell, Arizona State University Nutrition Communications Student
In May, my wife and I will be introducing our first child, Harrison, into the world. We are extremely excited and thrilled to meet him. One of the first things we did after we found out that we were pregnant was register for baby gifts. One of the many items on our list was not so much a gift for the baby as it was for me.
The gift I am speaking of is a baby blender that makes it possible to prepare your own baby food. Now as a nutrition student and home chef I was very excited to see that it was purchased but I wanted to learn more about homemade baby food, more specifically, its benefits and how to prepare and store it. I started to do some research and here are few things I found out about homemade baby food:
- Better Nutritional Value: When you are able to prepare you own baby food you directly control what your baby is eating. You choose the type of food and how it is prepared. Opting to steam, broil, or bake your food before pureeing will keep the nutrients in tact better than boiling the food. An added benefit of a more nutritious diet is the possibility of your baby avoiding any development of food allergies.
- No preservatives or additives: Again, preparing your own baby food allows you to control what your baby eats and because you are making it at home you can avoid using preservative and additives in order to prolong shelf life.
- A varied diet: Because you control what you make your baby you can introduce he or she to different types of foods that may not come in a store-bought baby food. Also, because you are preparing the family dinner and making the baby food from the meal you will get your baby used to the types of meals the family consumes.
- Cost and Environmental Awareness: Making your own baby food is a great way to mind your budget when food shopping because it is coming from the foods you already prepare for family dinners. It is also better for the environment because it reduces the garbage created from store bought baby-food containers.
Preparation and Food Safety:
- Cleanliness: First and foremost wash your hands and clean your preparation area whenever you are dealing with food. Of course, this point is important with all foods, not just those served to your baby. Clean fruits and vegetables thoroughly in order to wash away any bacteria or pesticide residue for both conventional and organic produce (both organic and conventional are subject to EPA-approved and monitored pesticide applications). Wash any utensils and eating areas with warm soapy water to ensure any bacteria is destroyed.
- Seasoning: Avoid using any salt, butter, cream or sugar on the food you decide is for your baby. It is best to steam, broil, or bake any foods and set aside for the baby and continue cooking the family dinner as normal.
- Fruits and Vegetable: After washing under running water, use a paper towel or clean dish cloth to dry and avoid bacteria from forming in wet spots. Remove all pits, seeds, and skin to avoid any choking hazard that may occur.
- Meats: When preparing baby food from meats it is best to use a separate cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Remove any skin, fat, or bone from these meats to avoid any choking hazard.
- Cooking food: Remember to cook food to the right temperature. Always have an instant-read food thermometer ready to take the food’s internal temperature. (red meat-160o, poultry 180o, seafood 145o)
- Chill food: Foods that need to be stored cold must be done so right away, especially raw meat, poultry or seafood. Keeping your refrigerator at 40o Fahrenheit or lower is a best practice. If food has been left at room temperature for more than 2 hours do not use as baby food.
Storing and Reheating:
- Refrigerator: Keep homemade baby food in the refrigerator no longer then one to three days. If there are any leftovers on the baby’s plate or in the container throw it away as the baby’s saliva can spoil any leftover food.
- Freezer: Storing homemade baby food in the freezer is best when you can portion it into single servings. An easy way to do this is to use an ice cube tray and freeze the food and then store in plastic freezer bags. A best practice is to label and date the food when you store the food in the freezer.
- Reheating: Defrosting baby food is similar to defrosting any other food, you can defrost it in the microwave or refrigerator or run it under cold water. As stated earlier, do not defrost food at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Single servings are important so that you are not defrosting more than your baby can eat and have to throw away the leftovers. Like most foods once you’ve defrosted the baby food do not refreeze.
- Throw it out. There is a great saying “when in doubt, throw it out” this is especially useful when dealing with baby food. If you’ve forgotten to label or date the food, toss it.
- Avoid nitrates. Nitrates are a chemical found in water and soil and have the ability to cause a blood disease called methemoglobinemia. If your child is less than six months old avoid green beans, carrots, squash, beets and spinach as these are vegetables that contain nitrates.
- Avoid honey. If your child is less than one-year-old, it is best to avoid honey as it contains botulinum spores which can cause infant botulism. If less than one-year-old it is best to avoid dairy, eggs, strawberries, tomatoes, citrus, and nuts. Some moms have introduced their babies to honey and the other mentioned foods earlier; as early as six months. In fact, new research is emerging that is causing some allergists and doctors to questions if limiting foods are actually contributing to the increased cases of adolescent allergies.
- Mix it up! Quite literally, if you see your baby is gravitating to certain types of foods, mix ones’ your child does not like into the ones’ he does.
- Always consult your child’s pediatrician and a registered dietician. Ask them if there are certain foods to avoid and to create a well-balanced diet.
Making your own baby food is a great way to start our children off eating right and appreciating the natural flavors that these foods provide. It may be time-consuming and a bit messy but it will be well worth knowing that you are starting your child’s nutritional needs off right.
- Danish E. Making Homemade Baby Food: Benefits and Disadvantages. Healthguidanceorg
Available at: http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/14993/1/Making-Homemade-Baby-Food-Benefits-and-Disadvantages.html. Accessed January 27, 2016.
- org. Make your own organic baby foods. 2013. Available at:
http://www.healthychild.org/easy-steps/make-your-own-organic-baby-foods/. Accessed January 27, 2016.
- org. Choosing baby food March of Dimes. 2016 Available at:
http://www.marchofdimes.org/baby/choosing-baby-food.aspx. Accessed January 27, 2016.
- Nelson JK, Zeratsky K. Mayoclinic.org. Homemade baby food: What are the benefits? – Mayo
Clinic. Mayoclinicorg. 2013. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-blog/homemade-baby-food/bgp-20056227. Accessed January 27, 2016.
- Smith M. Homemade Baby Food – Make it Safely. 2016. Available at:
http://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/homemade_babyfood.html. Accessed January 27, 2016.