Dr. Linda, what tips do you have for preparing nutritious, healthy, homemade baby food?
So many parents have asked me how to make sure the baby food they give their babies is really healthy for them. This blog is for you.
Did you know that the way you cook foods has an effect on their nutritional value?
In general, it is best to use moderate(not high) temperatures when preparing homemade baby food. Cooking foods at very high temperatures (like frying and grilling) can cause the formation of toxic chemicals that are not good for your baby(or for you either!)
The healthiest ways to cook baby foods are:
Baking at lower temperatures.
Cooking them in a pressure cooker.
Braising them in small amounts of fluid.
All these cooking methods will help retain the maximum nutritional value when you are preparing homemade baby food!
Tips for Preparing homemade baby food
I know you want to prepare nutritious food and, keep your baby safe from germs in food that can cause vomiting and diarrhea. So, here are some tips
Handling meat, poultry and fish:
Make sure you store the meat in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
Use separate cutting boards and utensils for meats than other produce like vegetables and salads.
Remove the skin, bones and tough parts of the meat before you cook any meat so you do not have to handle it and risk contaminating it with bacteria after you have cooked it.
Make sure you cook the meat completely through. Do not give babies undercooked meat, poultry or fish. Meat, poultry and fish that are not completely cooked may contain bacteria, viruses or parasites that can be dangerous to your baby.
Cook red meats to an internal temperature of 160F(71C), white meat poultry to 165F(74C), dark meat poultry to 180F(82C) and fish to 145F(63C). Please see full temperatures chart here
After the meat is cooked, allow it to cool for 10-15 minutes and then grind it up to the proper consistency . It is much easier to grind meat when it is warm. It is best to use the broth you cooked it in to thin it out. Using breastmilk or formula to thin it out may cause funny consistency issues when you warm it back up later, especially if you have frozen it. You could also try cutting it into very small pieces and crush them with a spoon and offer them to your baby.
Take out the portion you are going to feed your baby, then store the rest as soon as possible.
You can store the cooked meat for 24 hours maximum in the refrigerator.
Freeze the portion of meat you are planning to store for later as soon as possible after you prepare it to lower the risk of bacteria growing in it.
You can freeze it in ice cube trays that you have washed thoroughly or use the cookie sheet method, where you put the food in 1-2 tablespoon portions flat out on a on a very clean cookie sheet. Cover the portions as you are preparing homemade baby food and place them in the freezer. When the cubes or flat portions have frozen solid, take them out and put them in an airtight container which you label with the name of the food, as well as the date you froze it, so you know later if it is still safe to use.
Note that you can safely store frozen meats for up to 3 months.
Fruits and vegetables as homemade baby food
When preparing homemade baby food from vegetables and fruits here are a few things you need to consider.
Can my baby eat raw fruits?
It depends on your baby’s age and on your baby’s digestion.
If your baby is less than 6 months old, you might want to cook fruits (except bananas and avocado). Her tummy may not be able to digest the uncooked fruit.
If your baby is 8 months old and above, no need to cook the fruit.
If your baby is 6-8 months old, try raw fruit and see what happens. if she gets gassy or fussy, try cooking the produce and see if she tolerates it better. Then try the produce raw again in a few weeks and see how she does.
Should I peel the fruit or vegetable?
Whether to peel the skin off or not depends on how old your baby is and how she tolerates the skins. Vegetable and fruit skins are full of fiber which is good to make bowel movements soft and easy to pass, but may be hard for younger( less than 8 months) babies to tolerate and they may get gassy and uncomfortable.
In general, I would use the same rule for peeling as I would use for cooking fruits and vegetables. See above.
If you keep the skin on produce you are making into a puree, make sure that there are no pieces of skin left in the puree that your baby could choke on.
Preparing homemade baby food from produce guidelines
As always make sure your hands are very clean.
Make sure the surfaces you are working on are very clean and have not been used for preparing raw meats.
Make sure you use clean utensils and cutting boards.
Get separate cutting boards for fruits and vegetables and others for raw meats.
Do not store or put uncooked meat anywhere near raw produce or baby food.
Always wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly in clean water, scrub their surfaces with a brush if they have a peel and then dry them off with paper towels. Do this even if you are going to peel the produce. Washing decreases the number of bacteria on the skin and, lowers the risk of food poisoning. Once the produce is ready (whether cooked or raw ), cut it up, then use a food processor to grind it up to the consistency you want proper consistency . Do not leave the cooked food out of the refrigerator longer than 1-2 hours maximum.
If you want, you can freeze the produce (as in meats) or, even better, make a small amount fresh every 2 days.
It is safe to keep produce purees up to 48 hours in the refrigerator as long as you cleaned them very well before preparing them.
Can I add spices while preparing homemade baby food?
Here is a list of things you do not want to add to your homemade baby foods because they are not healthy for your baby:
Sugar and artificial sweeteners.
Honey (until baby is 12 months old).
Excessively hot spices, as they may burn your baby’s mouth.
General rules about using spices
When you are introducing a food for the first time, don’t add spices until you know your baby is tolerating the food alone.
Second foods are when you are mixing together foods that you have already given your baby with no problems. Adding spices to foods not only makes them taste better, but also makes your baby and child a more adventurous eater in the long run. I added cinnamon, garlic, onions and ginger ( one at a time) to my son’s homemade baby food from the time he was 7 months old and he has always been a very adventurous eater.
Can I safely give my baby eggs?
Try to get organically raised eggs if possible.
Put the eggs in the fridge as soon as you get them home to lower the chances of bacteria like Salmonella growing in them. Salmonella is a bacteria found in eggs that can give baby food poisoning
Make sure to store the eggs in the main part of the fridge as it is colder than the door part.
Make sure that you cook the egg till both the white and the yellow is hard..
Serve your baby the egg immediately or put the egg in the fridge to keep till later.
Throw out any cooked eggs left out of the fridge for more than two hours.
If you have a family history of egg allergy or your child has eczema, consult with your doctor before offering you baby egg whites especially if you have a severe allergy. New studies are proving that early exposure to well cooked eggs lowers the incidence of sensitivity developing. You just need to make sure to start with a tiny amount and to watch your baby closely for signs of allergy. If you don’t notice any allergy symptoms you may then slowly increase the amount you give.
How do I reheat frozen baby food?
Always make sure to reheat baby food to a temperature of 165F(74C). Stir it well and check its temperature before giving it to your baby.
Do not defrost baby food by leaving it at room temperature or in a water bath, it will grow too many bacteria to be safe. Instead let it defrost in the refrigerator, put the closed container under cool running water, or let it defrost while you are reheating it.
Do not rewarm food in plastic Even BPA-free plastic may have chemicals toxic to your baby. Instead use glass containers or stainless-steel pots and make sure to heat the food to a temperature of 165F(74C). Use glass to store and heat all food as often as possible
After you thaw the food use it immediately.
If there are any leftovers in your baby’s dish, throw them out.
If there is some thawed food left over that you did not offer your baby, put it in the fridge and use within 24 hours if it is meat and within 48 hours if it is something else.
I hope you feel more confident that the baby food you will prepare is nutritious and safe. If you are not sure about giving your baby solid food please ready my article about it
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