Adventures in Living a Natural Lifestyle

Sharing my adventures in living a more natural lifestyle, information about essential oils and natural home, health, and beauty recipes!


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Infant tummies are delicate things! Here’s a DIY Prune Puree and Juice recipe for constipated babies.

So in all my excitement to introduce my daughter to new and exciting healthy solid foods I missed the memo about constipation.  Up until 4 1/2 months my daughter was exclusively fed breastmilk.  We started solids slowly only giving her a little here and a little there for the first two weeks, then once a day for the next 3 weeks or so and only in the last couple weeks have we been giving her solids twice daily.  At home it is usually in between breastfeeding but at daycare they tend to offer her solids first around lunch time and then give a bottle after she has had her food.  I had previously read that babies didn’t need water because they got all they needed from breastmilk or formula.  However, once babies start solids adding a little bit of water, between 2-4 oz daily, can help prevent constipation.  Live and learn…

Little tummies are delicate things. So last weekend we were faced with a very constipated and unhappy baby.  She was super fussy, only wanted to be held, had a lot of excess gas and would cry when she would pass what little she could.  So I immediately ran to my Facebook mommies support group and asked how to help.  The overwhelming answer was give her prunes or prune juice and add a bit of water daily during meal times.  The water was easy, we’ve got a sippy cup that we had introduced a couple times so this just gave us a reason to practice daily (although I’m not convinced she’s getting much as she seems to wear more of it than she drinks on most days!).  But I had no idea how to give a baby prunes.  Since we’ve been making all our own homemade healthy baby food thus far (see my previous post Homemade Nutritious Baby Food Recipes) I accepted the challenge and went off to find a prune purée recipe.  What I found was super simple!

DIY Prune Purée and Juice Recipe: 

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of organic dried prunes – you can usually find these in the bulk or dried food sections of healthfood stores.  (I was desperate and closer to Kroger than any of our health food stores in town and couldn’t find organic.  But I did find preservative free prunes, so that alleviated some of my guilt.  Prunes, or Plums rather, are 18/50 on EWG’s Full List of Fruits and Vegetables with Pesticide Residue so you decide how important organic is to you.)
  • Approximately 2 cups of water – enough to cover the plums by 1″

Directions:

Rinse prunes well, especially if you were unable to find organic prunes.  Place prunes in medium saucepan and cover with water by 1″.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Let cool then add prunes to Vitamix or food processor.  Add reserved water a little at a time until desired consistency.  It will be a thick paste consistency, however.  You can even experiment by adding it to other foods to keep little systems regular.  Keep the remainder of the reserved prune water to give as a substitute to store bought prune juice.  No added sugar, preservatives or artificial junk! (I served a little and froze the rest in breastmilk storage bags – 2 oz each for when we need to get the system moving again).

Modified from the original recipe at Rookie Moms: Prune Baby Food

 

My little love was blocked up for 3 days with very little movement.  I made this puree on Sunday and gave her 1 oz plus she drank about 1/2 – 1 oz of prune juice that day and sent her with 1 oz of puree and more juice to daycare on Monday.  On Monday she had 3 BM (be prepared for poopsplosions – here’s my recipe for DIY Stain Remover if you missed it) and 2 more on Tuesday.  We served apple puree on Tuesday at daycare as a transition meal then re-introduced greens Tuesday evening for some fiber and froze the rest of the prune purée for a rainy day.  It seemed like this has helped reset her system a little bit.  I’ve been more cautious about giving too much oatmeal or too many bananas and have been trying to give her water every day (although I admit I forget some days).  Overall we are quite pleased with this recipe!

What’s your favorite way to give your little one prunes? Share your recipe below!


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Homemade Nutritious Baby Food Recipes: A Month’s Worth of Freezer Meals in One Weekend!

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.

organic applesauce

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.

Organic Applesauce:

Ingredients:

  • 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! 

organic peach puree

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:

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium-large organic peaches

Directions:

  1. In medium pot, bring water to a boil.  Place peaches in boiling water for 45 seconds.
  2. Immediately transfer peaches to bowl of ice water.
  3. Use hands or sharp paring knife to remove skin from peaches.
  4. Slice peaches and remove pit.
  5. 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:

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

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 

Green Bean and Parsley Puree

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:

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

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

yellow squash and cilantro puree

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:

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium (or 4 small) yellow squash
  • 2 branches of cilantro
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 oz liquid – water, breastmilk, or formula

Directions:

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:

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

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! 

Peach and Raspberry Oatmeal

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:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup sliced organic peaches
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch of cinnamon

Directions:

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!

Blackberry, Apple, and kale Puree

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: 

Ingredients:

  • 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

Directions:

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!

Shopping List: 

Fruits:

  • Organic Bananas (1 bunch)
  • Organic Apples (8 medium or 11 small)
  • Organic Peaches (4-5)
  • Blackberries (1 cup)
  • Raspberries (1 cup)

Veggies:

  • 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)

Whole Grains:

  • Old Fashioned Oats (1 cup)

Spices & Seasonings:

  • Fresh Parsley (< 1 bunch) – can substitute 1 tsp dried
  • Fresh Cilantro (<1 bunch)
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg


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! 


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Why We Are Skipping Rice Cereal: Plus A Homemade Organic Quinoa Baby Cereal Recipe!

My little one is 5 months old now (Wow! How time flies!), has cut her first teeth, and is really interested in the food we eat! I had always said I would exclusively breast feed (EBF) until 6 months but I started to feel guilty that I wasn’t letting her have any solids when she was so obviously ready to start trying them. My mom’s favorite quote is:

“With the pitter patter of little feet come a thousand words you have to eat!”

So I ate my words and decided to start introducing her to food at 4 1/2 months old. Breast milk is still her primary sustenance and food is really just for her to start to get a taste of different foods that we eat in our home and start to learn about different textures so hopefully she will be as adventuresome an eater as me and her Daddy are! We’ve known since before we conceived that we really wanted to feed our children as wholesome, nutritious, and varied a diet as possible and really wanted to explore making our own food.

We have a Vitamix, which we love (well worth the investment) and we had always planned on making purees.  But as I’ve done more research I’m leaning more towards a modified Baby Led Weaning (BLW) plan.  I know so many adults that complain about not liking food because of the texture that when I read the concept of BLW and their observation that pureed foods may lead to texture aversion it just really resonated with me.  If you follow BLW concepts strictly you pretty much throw all traditional weaning suggestions out the window and provide your child with small pieces of the food you eat so they can feed themselves.  I say we follow a modified BLW plan because we still mash a lot of our foods up small and feed with a spoon a lot of the time, but we leave good size chunks so it’s not such a fine consistency as store-bought baby food.  But we also let her eat other foods on her own, like eggs, so she learns to chew rather than just swallow.

Traditional weaning programs always suggest you start with rice cereal.  Brands like Gerber would have you believe that starting your child on fortified cereals is necessary to ensure that your child gets the nutrients they need beginning at about 4 months of age.  But lets examine this myth.

  • Breastfed babies get all the nutrients they really need from their mother’s breast milk up until about 1 year of age.  You will often hear the phrase “Food before 1 is just for fun” for this reason. Advocates of EBF often wait until 6 months of age or later before beginning to introduce their children to solids and do so slowly, relying on breast milk as the primary source of sustenance until 1 year old.  Some will continue to breast feed to supplement their children’s diet until 2 years or older.  I believe that we have to listen to our hearts and our children to make the best decision for our family about when to introduce solids and how long to continue breastfeeding.
  • Not all mothers are fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed or feel that formula feeding is the best decision for their family for other reasons.  I don’t believe there is anything wrong with this if that is what they choose.  Formula is already created with the necessary nutrients and is more filling than breastmilk, adding fortified rice cereal is largely unnecessary.
  • Rice cereal is often recommended to be added to baby bottles prior to 4 months old to help fill them up or sleep better.  But the research doesn’t back up these claims.  Scientists at the Cleveland Clinic studied the effect of cereal on sleep and found that adding the cereal did nothing at all to speed up the age of sleeping through the night. That first uninterrupted 6-hour stretch of sleep came no earlier in those who took cereal early.
  • In fact, starting rice cereal early may increase the likelihood of childhood obesity. Babies know how much they need to drink to feel full. By adding rice cereal to their bottles we are preventing them from learning how to self-regulate and may be contributing to the tendency to overeat in order to feel satiated.
  • Rice cereal is empty calories. Rice is low in protein and high in carbohydrates with very little nutritional value.  Therefor, feeding your baby rice cereal is like feeding your baby a spoonful of sugar.
  • “Fortified” means they had to add nutrients back into the food because they were stripped out during processing.  It’s pretty much just white rice with iron added.  Current research suggests that unless your pediatrician has suggested that your baby needs extra iron in his/her diet, fortified cereal is unnecessary. Why not let healthy babies get their iron from real foods like green vegetables?
  • Rice cereal and arsenic. Arsenic occurs naturally in the soil but people have contributed to the problem by using pesticides that contain arsenic or using manure from poultry that has been treated with arsenic compounds thus increasing the arsenic contamination in the soil in many areas. Arsenic can be present in many foods, including grains, fruits, and vegetables as a result. But rice seems to be especially susceptible and much attention has been given to arsenic contamination in rice in recent years.  White and brown rice, especially those grown in the US, seem to be especially susceptible.  Basmati rice and rice grown outside the US seem to be less likely to contain high levels of contamination.

Alternatives to rice cereal for Baby’s first foods: 

  1. Whole grains – Oatmeal, barley or quinoa are good alternatives to rice to make baby cereal from scratch because they contain more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients than rice.  Quinoa is good gluten free alternative if your family has a history of Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
  2. Avocados – Healthy fats are necessary for brain development.  Plus avocados are really yummy and easy to digest.  For little babies just smash them up with a fork.  As they get bigger you can just cut the avocado slices into small chunks and let your baby feed themselves!
  3. Cooked Vegetables – Veggies contain iron and other important nutrients and minerals that are part of a healthy diet. Try cooking them in homemade bone broth, which contains natural gelatin that helps aid digestion and calcium for healthy tooth and bone development!
  4. Raw Fruits – Fruits contain lots of healthy nutrients and help teach your kiddo about natural sugar fixes rather than sugary sweets or candy!  Bananas are an especially good first fruit to try because they are easy to eat, just like avocados, and also contain an enzyme called amylase, which helps aid digestion.  Some recommend waiting to introduce fruits until after veggies because your child may prefer fruits since they are naturally sweeter.  We’ve been introducing both at the same time with pretty good luck so far.
  5. Yogurt – Yogurt contains healthy probiotics which can help your baby build up healthy bacteria in his/her gut and aid in digestion of other solids as you begin to introduce them.
  6. Eggs – You will see many, many people that recommend waiting until 1 or even 2 years old before giving your children eggs.  While a common recommendation its actually based on a misconception that feeding your children eggs too early may lead to egg allergies.  In fact, the current evidence suggests that exposure to foods like eggs, milk, and peanuts while young may reduce the risk of developing allergies.  Some also suggest that egg whites contain a protein that can be difficult for babies to digest.  But Dr. Greene says there is no reason to avoid egg whites either. That stated, if you have a family history of egg allergies, it may be best to wait.  Always discuss with your pediatrician first.  And if you give your little one the complete egg and it seems to upset their tummy, try just the yolk.  The yolk contains vitamins, minerals, and cholesterol which are good for mental development.

 

In my quest for the right baby foods to introduce to our little one as we began solids I turned to Pinterest to find recipe ideas.  I stumbled upon a video for how to make a homemade quinoa baby cereal.  I tried it out this weekend and was really impressed.  I’ll share the steps below.  For the original YouTube video, click here.

Quinoa Cereal

Homemade Organic Quinoa Baby Cereal:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup organic Quinoa
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Breastmilk or formula, to thin cereal for smaller babies (optional)
  • pinch of spices, such as cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)
  • Bananas or homemade applesauce (optional)

Directions:

  1. Use food processor or spice grinder (we used our Vitamix dry blade attachment) and pulse to grind Quinoa to a flour like consistency.  Usually about 30 seconds to 1 minute.  I did 1 cup of quinoa so I had some already prepared for future use.
  2. Bring 1/2 cup water to boil.
  3. Add 1/4 cup quinoa to water and stir constantly until a gummy consistency.
  4. For younger babies, thin with breastmilk or formula until a consistency that you are satisfied with.
  5. Optional: add pinch of spices for flavor, such as cinnamon or nutmeg.
  6. Optional serving suggestion: add mashed up banana or homemade applesauce to sweeten the mixture.  My little was undecided about quinoa when we tried it plain the first time.  I added some mashed up nanners and she loved it!

Have you tried to make your own baby cereal? How did it turn out? Share your story below to keep the conversation going!

 

I was greatly influenced by pediatrician and author Dr. Greene’s perspective on starting solids and healthy nutrition. Check out his White Out Campaign to learn more about his thoughts on why to avoid starting your child off with white rice as their first food. For more information about weaning your baby, check out his book Feeding Baby Green.

Check out the Baby Led Weaning website for more information about this specific approach.