I had always said I would wait until my daughter was 6 months old before introducing her to solid foods because I knew that the benefits of breastmilk for the first 6 months were too great to be ignored. But I’m also a firm believer in listening (with your ears, eyes, and mommy intuition) to your children and at 4 and a half months old my child was telling me she was ready to start eating real food. She would follow our forks with her eyes from the plate to our mouths, reach out and grab at our forks or our food as we were eating, try to grab our cups and would even put her mouth on the rim like she was trying to take a drink if we gave her an empty cup. She was clearly picking up on all the visual clues about food and meal time and I felt like I had to start letting her try out some food for herself.
My husband and I started our healthy lifestyle and clean eating journey in January of 2014 after watching several food documentaries that really opened up our eyes to everything that was wrong with the way we were eating. Part of the transition to a healthier lifestyle for us was investing in a Vitamix so that we could make green smoothies. We had been trying to conceive for the better part of a year at that point and knew that one day we would have the family that we had been longing for. We were excited about all the possibilities for making our own healthy baby food with the Vitamix and used this as part of the justification for the not insubstantial up-front investment. We’ve used the Vitamix for countless things since then and it has paid for itself! So naturally, I was really excited to get the chance to break it out to make my own baby food now that our little one is finally old enough to start solids.
Why make your own baby food when there are so many options at the grocery store?
- Only the best ingredients – By making your own baby food you can control the quality of the ingredients. Want only locally sourced, non-GMO, organic fruits and vegetables? – done! Want only farm-raised, antibiotic and hormone free meats? – done! Want to grow your own fruits and vegetables? – done!
- More vitamins & nutrients – Commercial baby food is cooked at extremely high temperatures in order to kill bacteria and increase the shelf life of the product. But unfortunately this process also cooks out a lot of the vitamins and nutrients that are found in fruits and vegetables and part of a healthy diet. By making your own baby food you can control the temperature
- No added salt – while a little salt won’t hurt your baby we seem to have a love affair with salt in the United States and pre-packaged baby food is no exception! During the first year of life it is recommended that children only receive between 120 and 370 mg of salt per day, yet a recent study by the CDC examined the contents of pre-packaged toddler meals and found that 72% contained 210 mg of sodium, or more! Even “healthy” packaged foods, like fruits and vegetables, contained as much sodium as a bag of potato chips!
- No added sugar – just like our love affair with salt, the United States seems to think that sugar is one of the major food groups. We add sugar to everything in this country and it’s no wonder that we have one of the world’s highest rates of Type 2 Diabetes! Sadly, we seem to start this trend in sugary foods at a very early age. The same CDC study I cited above found that 57% of the prepackaged grains and fruits contained added sugar and nearly half had as much as 35% of their calories from sugar!!!
- No thickening agents or added starches – the bottom line for prepackaged food is profit and one shady way that many baby food companies increase their profit margin is by bulking up their product with thickening agents or added starches (with no nutritional value) to stretch the limits of the quality ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables, and thus decreases the nutrient density of the food. Companies may also dilute their food with water. While water is often included as an ingredient in homemade baby food as well, especially to get a good consistency in pureed foods, it should never be the first (and primary) ingredient.
- No preservatives – “No artificial preservatives” are big marketing ploys in today’s day and age. Even organic brands aren’t entirely devoid of preservatives. Most use natural preservatives like citric acid, ascorbic acid and even folic acid – which can be used to clean lime scale and metal stains on an industrial level – to extend their shelf life. Sugar is also a natural preservative, believe it or not, and both sugar and citric acid can start to erode the enamel on those shiny new teefers your baby is working so hard on cutting.
- No artificial flavoring – “Natural flavoring” is again another big marketing ploy that is really not all that different from artificial, or synthetic, flavoring. When you cook the tar out of the food and dilute it with water or thickening agents the likelihood of it tasting like the original food it was based on is slim to none. Therefor, many baby food companies feel the need to add flavoring to make their food taste better. Salt and sugar are by far the most common added ingredients to improve flavor but “natural flavoring” is a quick third. Natural flavoring just means that the flavor came from plant or animal sources, not necessarily from the food it is designed to taste like.
- No artificial colors – lets face it, prepackaged baby food looks gross… by the time you’ve boiled the ingredients out and added salt and sugar to make it taste better, and preservatives and thickening agents to increase the manufacturer’s profit margin there’s not much left that looks like real food anymore. As a result, many baby food companies will add artificial color to make their food look more appealing.
- Expose your child to a variety of healthy foods at an early age – by repeatedly exposing your child to healthy foods from a very early age you are increasing the likelihood that they will choose healthy foods later in life. But don’t give up too soon! Research indicates that most parents will only try a new food 2-3 times before assuming their child doesn’t like it and quits serving it. However, it could take as many as 10-14 exposures to a new food before babies develop a taste for it. So just because they spit out green beans the first time they try it doesn’t mean they won’t learn to like them! For more information check out Dr. Green’s book Feeding Baby Green.
- An endless variety of flavor combinations – By making your own baby food you aren’t simply limited by the boring flavor combinations you find on the shelf. Feel free to get creative and make your own yummy flavor combinations!
- More economical – While making your own baby food does cost time it can cut down on the financial cost of buying pre-packaged baby food.
- Better for the environment – You can package your food in reusable containers and cut down on the waste of buying pre-packaged foods. If you’ve used baby food in glass jars in the past and held onto them thinking that one day you would find a use for them break out the Gerber’s glass jars and store your own baby food in them!
Here’s a USA Today article that discusses the CDC findings I listed above: http://www.today.com/parents/packaged-food-babies-toddlers-loaded-sugar-salt-t14121
Also check out The Alpha Parent’s blog post on The Truth About Baby Food Jars for more info.
Note: There are a lot more healthy, nutritious pre-packaged baby foods on the market today than ever before. One brand that I’m intrigued by and I know a lot of parents like is Earth’s Best which does claim to be made with organic without added salt or refined sugar and no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Also, Sprout Foods brand of baby foods claims to be the first organic baby food that doesn’t use acid preservatives (implying that Earth’s Best does). Either way, we can’t all make our baby food or even make it all the time. So these would be two brands I would research more if I found myself needing to pursue pre-packaged options for time, convenience, or whatever other reason.
If you follow my blog you’ve probably already seen my post on why we chose to avoid rice cereal which listed several alternatives and a Homemade Organic Quinoa Baby Cereal recipe (find it here in case you missed it!). In addition to the quinoa cereal we had started feeding our little one soft foods from our own plate, including mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and avocado – all of which were really big hits! So when I went to pick my daughter up from daycare last week and her teacher asked me if she was eating foods at home and proceeds to tell me how she was watching longingly as another child was being fed rice cereal I wasn’t all that surprised. It provided me with the motivation to head to the Farmer’s Market to buy some delicious, nutritious, locally sourced, organic fruits and veggies and seek out inspiration for creative baby food recipes so that I could start really feeding my child a wider variety of food and even sending some to school with her.
Probably my biggest source of inspiration for baby food recipes is the blog Baby Foodie. I swear she must be a trained chef in addition to being supermom. My mouth was literally watering as I was reading through many of the recipes listed on her page and I couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen and start cooking for my baby! So check out her website, buy her book, and show her some love!
So, down to it. Here are the recipes that I made over the past weekend. They are NOT my original recipes and I’ve cited the source for each one below it. All told, I’ve got over a month’s worth of freezer meals for my baby from these recipes alone.
1. Mashed Bananas – Okay, so this one I didn’t need a recipe for. We buy organic bananas from Costco and had mashed some up fresh for our little one, which she loved! But the bananas had started to get soft so we quickly peeled back the peels and started smashing! Once we got them to a consistency we liked we portioned them up into individual portions using freezer trays and froze the rest so that they didn’t spoil.
2. Organic Applesauce – I wanted to make Homemade Healthy Teething Biscuits (see my post on DIY & Natural Teething Solutions for recipe) and it called for organic applesauce as one of the ingredients. I remembered making an applesauce when we first got the Vitamix so I returned to my old Vitamix Obsession Pinterest board for a tried and true recipe. This one I found from Real Food Tastes Good: One Minute Applesauce.
- 4 medium organic apples (I used 6 small organic apples)
- pinch of cinnamon (optional)
Directions: Core and slice, or roughly chop, your apples. If you are using a Vitamix there is no need to peel. Place chopped apple in Vitamix or food processor. Add pinch of cinnamon, if desired. Blend until smooth. Easy Peasy!
*Apples are #1 on the Dirty Dozen list so always make sure to buy organic!
2. Organic Peach Pureé – It was peach season at the Farmer’s Market and last year we had stumbled upon peaches from a local orchard that tasted amazing! So naturally this year I had to buy some so that our little one could enjoy them as well! I got the basic instructions for this recipe from Parents.com: How to Make Peach Puree for Babies
Organic Peach Pureé:
- 3 medium-large organic peaches
- In medium pot, bring water to a boil. Place peaches in boiling water for 45 seconds.
- Immediately transfer peaches to bowl of ice water.
- Use hands or sharp paring knife to remove skin from peaches.
- Slice peaches and remove pit.
- Place peach slices in Vitamix or food processor and blend until smooth consistency.
* Peaches are #2 on the Dirty Dozen list so always make sure to buy organic!
3. Carrots & Nutmeg Pureé – Carrots are a pretty basic baby food plus they taste pretty sweet on their own so you don’t really need to do much to make your own carrot puree. But I wanted to jazz them up a bit and found this recipe from Baby Foodie that used Nutmeg and thought that would be pretty tasty! I halved this recipe because it makes about 26 oz and I didn’t think I needed that much with all the other food I was making. I also chose to use fresh grated nutmeg because we had it on hand, so why not!?!
Carrots & Nutmeg Puree:
- 2 lbs organic baby carrots (between 90-100) – I used half this many, about 48
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg – I grated fresh nutmeg and just sorta eyeballed it
- 1/4-1/2 oz liquid – reserved water, breastmilk or formula
Steam carrots over med-high heat until tender. It took me about 10 minutes. Transfer carrots to Vitamix or food processor. Add nutmeg and 1/4 liquid at a time, we used breastmilk. Blend until desired consistency. It did take more liquid for this recipe than others. I probably used 1/2 oz or a little more to get to a consistency that I liked and it was still thick enough I had to spoon it out rather than pour from the Vitamix.
Original recipe from Baby Foodie: Carrots & Nutmeg Pureé
4. Green Bean & Parsley Pureé – We love green beans and they were just starting to come into season when I stopped at the Farmer’s Market to buy produce to use for making baby food so naturally I had to pick some up! We have a variety of green beans growing in the garden this year but started late so they aren’t producing yet. Wanted to get the little one used to the taste so we she can reap the benefits of home grown veggies too! I bought a quart Ziploc full of the big, flat and wide green beans, they were already cut up, and steamed them all. I used approximately 2 cups for the puree and the rest I laid flat on a dish to freeze individually to give her as finger foods as well. Next time we will use beans from the garden!
Green Bean & Parsley Pureé:
- 1 cup fresh green beans (I doubled this and used 2 cups)
- Parlsey – original recipe calls for 1 tsp dried but I chose to use approximately 2 tbsp fresh
- 1/4 oz liquid – reserved water, breastmilk, or formula
Steam green beans and parsley for approximately 8 minutes. Reserve cooking water if desired. Transfer beans and parsley to Vitamix or food processor. Add 1/4 oz liquid (we used breastmilk but you could use reserved water or formula). Add more if desired (we found 1/4 cup was plenty). Blend until desired consistency.
Original recipe from Baby Foodie: Green Bean & Parsley Pureé
4. Yellow Squash & Parsley Pureé – Yellow squash is another favorite at our house. We have it growing in the garden also but again got a late start so our crop isn’t producing just yet. Was able to pick some up for pretty cheap at the Farmer’s Market. The recipe calls for 2 medium squash but the ones I purchased were pretty small so I opted for 4 small squash. Next time we will use squash from the garden!
Yellow Squash & Parsley Pureé:
- 2 medium (or 4 small) yellow squash
- 2 branches of cilantro
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1/4 oz liquid – water, breastmilk, or formula
Preheat oven to 400°. Slice squash into medallions (or half moons if using a less powerful food processor)
Original recipe from Baby Foodie: Roasted Yellow Squash Baby Food Pureé
5. Zucchini, Carrots, & Apple Pureé – we love zucchini and wanted to expose our daughter to it so she would enjoy it as much as we do when ours starts growing in the garden! Picked some up at the farmers market and found this great recipe that also included carrots and apples that we had on hand for other recipes! I modified it from the original recipe because I wanted to steam instead of boil the veggies and added breastmilk instead of water. It was surprisingly tasty!
Zucchini, Carrots, & Apple Puree:
- 1 lb zucchini (about 3 medium)
- 1/2 lb organic baby carrots (about 18-24)
- 2 organic apples
- 1/4 oz liquid – water, breastmilk, or formula
Place zucchini, carrots and apples in steamer and steam for approximately 10-12 minutes until carrots are tender. Transfer veggies and apples to Vitamix or food processor. Add 1/4 oz liquid, we chose breastmilk but you could use water or formula. Blend until desired consistency.
Original recipe from Picky Eater Blog: Zucchini, Apple, & Carrot Pureé
*Apples are #1 on the Dirty Dozen list so always make sure to buy organic!
6. Peach & Raspberry Oatmeal – The wineberries (a variety of raspberry native to North Alabama) that grow wild at my house were beautiful this year and I wanted to incorporate them into some of the recipes for our daughter so she would learn to love their sweet tartness and enjoy picking them off the bushes as much as I do! I had the beautiful peaches that I had purchased at the farmer’s market as well and when I stumbled upon this recipe on Baby Foodie I knew I had to make it as a breakfast option! The original recipe is written for toddlers and is a pureé that is intended to be stirred into prepared oatmeal. I chose to actually blend the oatmeal up with the fruit to make it a smoother consistency since the little one still has a bit of a gag reflex we are working through. Also, this was quite tasty and the fruit pureé would be a great topping for your own oatmeal in the mornings!
Peach & Raspberry Oatmeal:
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1 cup sliced organic peaches
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats
- 2 cups water
- pinch of cinnamon
In small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to boil. Add oats and cinnamon and reduce heat to med/low for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add oatmeal and fruit to Vitamix or food processor and blend until desired consistency (you could also use frozen raspberries and peaches – just make sure to thaw first or heat in medium saucepan on medium heat for 10 minutes until no longer frozen before adding to food processor).
Modified from Baby Foodie: Raspberry & Peach Pureé with Oatmeal
* Peaches are #2 on the Dirty Dozen list so always make sure to buy organic!
7. Blackberry, Apple, & Kale Pureé – This was the biggest inspiration for making baby food recipes this past weekend. When I ran across this recipe on Pinterest I knew I had to make it. it was ultimately what led me to discover the Baby Foodie website. It smelled so good while steaming and was the most beautiful color palette! Even the water was a beautiful raspberry color – I seriously considered trying to find something white to dye with it, it was that pretty! These ingredients would make a great addition to your morning smoothie!
Blackberry, Apple, & Kale Pureé:
- 2 organic apples (mine were really small so I used 3)
- 1 cup blackberries
- 1 cup organic kale, chopped – the original recipe calls for baby kale, if using regular kale make sure to de-stem it first
- 1/2 cup liquid – reserved water, breastmilk, or formula
Layer apples, blackberries, and kale (in that order) in steamer basket and steam for 10 minutes. Reserve cooking water if desired. Transfer apples, blackberries, and kale to Vitamix or food processor. Add liquid (we used breastmilk but you could use reserved water or formula if you preferred) 1/4 oz at a time. Blend until desired consistency. (Even though the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup liquid we liked the texture using only 1/4 cup and chose not to add any more)
Original recipe from Baby Foodie: Blackberry, Kale, & Apple Pureé
* Apples are #1 and Kale is an added item on the Dirty Dozen Plus list so always make sure to buy organic!
I made each of the recipes above and portioned them out in individual serving sizes using baby food freezer storage trays. After they were frozen I removed the portions from the tray and stored in ziploc bags in the freezer. This way I can take out one portion at a time without wasting too much food. I can easily send a portion to school with my daughter in a reusable container that they can serve directly out of and cut down on waste.
In addition to the recipes above I also froze some of the food that my husband and I made for ourselves over the weekend. We steamed some of the rest of the squash with some carrots and onions which I pureéd and froze, mashed sweet potatoes and a vegetable medley which I poured on a plate and froze for finger food. All in all we have over a months worth of baby food from one weekend!
**What I’ve learned is silicone is by far the superior material for freezing individual portions. It’s super easy to peel the silicone back and pop the frozen portion out with no mess or fuss. There are a variety of different options out there for silicone trays and I’m sure any would work well. The brand that I learned that hard way that I do not recommend is the Munchkin Click Lock Fresh Food Freezer Trays. Mine were a gift and if I would’ve known what a pain in the ass they would be I would’ve returned them for a different brand. The reviews on this product mirror my complaint which is that the food is nearly impossible to get out. It can be done by rubbing coconut oil in the tray before you pour the food in and by running hot water on the back of the tray to loosen it up a bit but I still had to use a knife to pop the food out. DON’T BUY IT! If you are opposed to silicone for some reason and simply must have a harder plastic I’ve heard that the Fresh Baby So Easy Baby Food and Breast Milk Trays as well as the Mumi & Bubi Solids Starter Kit Baby Food Freezer Food Storage Trays are easier to use but can’t vouch for them personally.
Want to know more about eating organic and the Dirty Dozen list? Check out EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists to get you started!
Want to make all the recipes!?! Here’s a shopping list to get you started!
- Organic Bananas (1 bunch)
- Organic Apples (8 medium or 11 small)
- Organic Peaches (4-5)
- Blackberries (1 cup)
- Raspberries (1 cup)
- Organic Baby Carrots (2 1/2 lbs)
- Green Beans (1-2 cups)
- Yellow Squash (2 medium or 4 small)
- Zucchini (3 medium)
- Organic Kale (1 cup)
- Old Fashioned Oats (1 cup)
Spices & Seasonings:
- Fresh Parsley (< 1 bunch) – can substitute 1 tsp dried
- Fresh Cilantro (<1 bunch)
What did you think of this post? I’d love to hear your comments! Do you have favorite homemade baby food recipes you’d like to sure? Comment below!