If your fingers are crossed that your six-month-old will grow up to love kale and carrots and feel impartial about donuts and chips, then feed her whole, nutritious foods now.
Here's why: our eating habits and taste preferences start to form almost the moment we eat solid foods. When you satiate your baby's hunger with a wide variety of unprocessed purées made with high quality ingredients, there's a greater chance she'll like all sorts of healthy foods as time goes on.
To ensure you're giving your infant spoonfuls of the most wholesome food, make it yourself. It may seem like a tall order when you are already so busy, but don't worry–it's very simple to do. Here are a few tips and a couple of recipes to get you started.
The jarred stuff at the store usually contains extra ingredients, such as tapioca starch, wheat and sugars, which dilute the nutrients in the food, says Jill Hillhouse, a registered nutritionist at Clear Medicine in Toronto and co-author of Easy Gourmet Baby Food: 150 Recipes for Homemade Goodness. Plus, some have salt and high-fructose corn syrup, which aren't good for health. "I think the best reason to make your own food has to be that the quality of the ingredients is completely in your control, which allows you to increase the nutrient value of what your child is consuming," she says. To make the purest and healthiest food, Hillhouse recommends using organic fruits and vegetables.
Then there's the savings. It's so much cheaper to make your own baby food than it is to buy it. And you cut back on waste and recycling since you don't have jars to get rid of.
Making baby food doesn't require you to be chained to the stove. To minimize your kitchen time, prepare it when you're cooking your meals. "For example, when making vegetables for your dinner, use a whole head of broccoli," says Hillhouse. "Steam it all and put your portion on your plate and the rest aside to be puréed with the water you used for steaming." After blending, let the mixture cool, pour it into ice cube trays and freeze it so you always have a supply of food on hand. (It'll stay fresh for a month or two in the freezer.) When you're ready to feed it to baby, thaw it in a sealed container in the fridge or in a double-boiler on the stove, Hillhouse says.
Delight your infant's palate with these nutritious purées, which are perfect for six to nine month olds.
Makes about 2 cups
1. In a saucepan, combine squash, apricots and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until squash is fork tender, about 20 minutes.
2. Transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender in the saucepan. Purée until smooth. Let cool until warm to the touch, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
Makes 1 ¼ cups
1. In a saucepan, combine peas and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until peas are soft, about 15 minutes. Let cool until warm to the touch.
2. Transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender in the saucepan. Purée until smooth. Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
Aileen Brabazon is a freelance writer based in Toronto who's work has appeared in glow, Hello! Canada, Viva, Oxygen, Rouge and on homemakers.com. Her favourite things to write about are nutrition, alternative health and green living, which isn't a surprise considering she's also a certified holistic nutritionist. Between writing, helping clients improve their diets and wellbeing and teaching children with autism, Aileen loves to cook organic foods, hike in nature, volunteer at Evergreen Brick Works farmers' market, unwind with yoga and meditation and dance to Stevie Wonder and Al Green. You can reach Aileen at firstname.lastname@example.org.