Parenting

5 Myths About Making Your Own Baby Food -- Debunked!

baby food making

The decision to make my own baby food made itself ... the moment I learned that my husband and I were expecting twins. The double cost of single-serve jars and pouches was math I had no interest in doing. Also (full disclosure) I am a trained cook and personal chef, so I may have been expected to make baby food regardless of head count.

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But you don’t have to double the occupancy of your home or be a chef to make your own baby food. Skipping the prepackaged commercial option can save you money, and it primes your baby to accept and enjoy a wider array of flavors and textures. It can also encourage the whole family to eat a healthier diet, since you can prepare one meal chock-full of vegetables and lean protein for you, and then simply purée it for the baby.

And really, the skills I used to make baby food were ones I learned as a kid, helping my own mother in the kitchen: simply chopping and boiling water.

More from The Stir: 16 Bizarre Facts About Baby Food Through the Years

Yet somehow making baby food has earned the reputation of being an extraneous, complicated task requiring considerable skill and organization, the kind most busy parents would never be able to undertake. Not true! Here are a few of the most common concerns parents tend to have about making baby food. I’m here to discuss them -- and debunk them.

MYTH #1: Making baby food will take too much time.

THE REALITY: It only takes as much time as you want it to.

Yes, making your own baby food does require more time than purchasing premade food. But if you regularly prepare meals for yourself and your family, it tacks on a negligible amount. Roasting sweet potatoes to go with Sunday dinner? Bake a few extra to purée or mash for the baby. Need a side to go with those weeknight pork chops your spouse likes so much? Consider a quick stove-top applesauce you can also serve to the baby. For some, simply adjusting how they plan the meals they’re already cooking is all they need to make homemade baby food an easy part of their routine.

If you’re not as into cooking, expect to spend about an hour each weekend preparing food for your baby. This time includes prepping ingredients, cooking, puréeing, storing, and cleaning up. Make big enough batches and freeze them, and you can easily skip a week and have plenty of food in stock.

Remember, this doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing prospect. If the idea of making every morsel your baby eats intimidates you, just make some things. Start by giving your baby foods that are already one step away from becoming a meal: ripe pears, bananas, and avocados. All you need to do is clean, peel, and mash them before serving.

MYTH #2: Making baby food is pricey.

THE REALITY: You’ll actually save money.

Making your own baby food is less expensive than purchasing the premade counterpart, even if you go organic. When my babies were eating single-ingredient foods, the cost per each of their two-ounce servings averaged less than a quarter. A two-ounce serving of comparable commercial organic food ranged from 65 to 85 cents.

More from The Stir: 8 Reasons Organic Baby Food Is More Affordable Than You Think

Keep costs low by sticking to seasonal produce -- your local CSA or farmers’ market typically yields the best savings. Not only will eating seasonally save money, but your baby will also enjoy each new food when it’s at its freshest. But don’t discount frozen organic produce, which is often cheaper than its fresh counterparts. Picked and processed at the height of ripeness, frozen fruits and vegetables are reliably tasty and every bit as nutritious. They also have the added bonus of being pre-prepped and available year round.

MYTH #3: You have to buy baby-food-making gear.

THE REALITY: If you have a kitchen, you probably already have what you need.

Pricey baby food makers aren’t necessary. Their oft-touted steam-to-purée feature saves you just one measly step and yields a modest amount of food. Other baby food–specific products are just regular kitchen items -- freezer trays, small food storage containers, potato ricers -- given a makeover, complete with new names and inflated prices.

More from The Stir: 9 Tips on Making Baby Food

Chances are your kitchen already has what you need to make plenty of baby food. A standard or immersion blender, food processor, or food mill can all serve you well. Add to that a large pot, a steamer basket, a couple of sheet trays, some silicone ice cube trays, and storage freezer bags, and you’re all set.

MYTH #4: You need to be a good cook to make baby food.

THE REALITY: You’re cooking for a baby, not a food critic.

What you buy when you purchase prepared baby food is convenience, not a taste-bud explosion. Steaming -- thought to be the healthiest way to prepare food because it helps retain the most nutrients -- is easy and requires a steamer basket, a lidded pot, and water.

Roasting is my preferred method of cooking and requires even less equipment -- a sheet pan and some parchment paper. In fact, roasting is a surefire way to ensure a tasty product -- exposing vegetables and fruits to dry heat encourages their natural sugars to caramelize, and because they lose some of their moisture, their flavor intensifies.

Whatever your skill level, you are more than capable of using these methods to make tasty food for your baby.

THE MYTH #5: Homemade baby food isn’t very safe.

THE REALITY: It’s perfectly safe, so long as you use good hygiene, basic food handling knowledge, and common sense.

Food-borne illness is a legitimate concern, particularly for young babies, who have immature immune systems. But as long as your baby is healthy and without any major health concerns, adhering to basic food handling practices in the kitchen will ensure the food you prepare is safe.

You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with foods that may not be recommended for your baby’s age. Opinions vary as to when introduction is best for a number of foods including egg whites, tree nuts, peanuts, citrus, and fish. Check with your baby’s pediatrician for personalized advice on which foods to introduce when. Many doctors advise waiting about three to five days after introducing a food before trying another new food, to watch for allergic reaction. That helps you more easily pinpoint the cause.

More from The Stir: How to Tell If Your Baby Has Food Allergies

So did that ease your fears? I hope so! Because when you think about, it’s just baby food. Save your apprehension for when you’ll really need it -- the teenage years!

 

Stephanie Kivich is a personal chef and culinary instructor. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and her twin toddler sons.


Photo via iStock.com/Pilin_Petunyia

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