Variety| Why is variety important for your baby’s inexperienced tastebuds? For starters, studies have shown that babies are less likely to grow to be picky eaters – as toddlers or even in adulthood – after being exposed to many different flavors early in life. Even as adults, past food experiences shape the ways we eat, our attitudes about food, our preferences. If you or your spouse is a very picky eater, it’s likely that the trend began with a monotonous family menu or minimal opportunity to explore new foods in childhood.
Homemade food provides the easiest way to ensure diversity in baby’s diet. Most commercial baby food brands offer about 5-6 vegetable varieties, 5-6 fruits, 2-3 types of grains, and 3-4 meats and then various combinations of these. This book provides recipes for purees of 10 vegetables and 6 fruits, plus 5 types of grains and 5 sources of protein that can be combined in a multitude of ways to provide balanced nutrition at every age.
In addition to supplying more variety, making ingredients separately gives you the freedom and ease to explore your child’s preferences and help develop her palate. She may not like spinach alone but love it mixed with butternut squash or ground turkey and rice – and if you present a combination that isn’t liked, you aren’t forced to discard a whole jar of food along with any additional jars purchased. You are only out one cube of food, and the rest of the puree can be used in one of the many related family recipes included in this book – try it again in another combination for baby later.
Price| I checked prices on a popular brand of commercially prepared baby food jars of bananas, pears, and sweet potatoes (standard recipe, not organic or ‘natural’ varieties) at a major local retailer. A single 4-oz. jar (1/2 c.) cost $0.64.
By comparison, 4 oz. (1/2 c.) of homemade puree would cost: $0.18 for banana puree $0.48 for pear puree $0.25 for sweet potatoes
Flavor/quality| It’s no wonder babies tend to dislike vegetables when their only exposure includes the runny, canned-vegetable-flavorlessness and unappetizing muddled-greenish color of jarred peas or green beans. Fresh or fresh-frozen vegetables have bright flavor and vibrant color and better retain their nutrients. What would you prefer – would you trade your sweet, bright green peas or crispy, fresh-flavored green beans for the mushy, off-colored canned variety? While it’s true your baby must have the pureed texture, there are ways to offer vegetables with a wonderful array of colors and flavors that will make your baby more likely to enjoy them. Another bonus to making your own baby food is that you control the consistency, so you know how much actual food there is versus water.
Time| Making baby food purees is not nearly as time consuming as one might think. Look at the individual Power Puree pages, where prep times are listed for each type of puree. Most take just a few minutes. Those with ingredients that must be cooked take a little longer, but this can also be accomplished quickly by steaming in the microwave. (A close friend of mine made me aware of the dangers of microwaving plastic, which can release toxins into food, so I advise only cooking in glass or ceramic microwave-safe dishes. If the microwave in general is of concern to you, then plan to take a little extra time to bake in the oven or use a steamer.)
It is also important to note that your baby will only be able to try one new food every 3-4 days so you can test for allergy, which means you really only need to make small batches of 1 or 2 types of puree each week during the first couple of months, until you have eliminated allergy concerns. After that, you can make 2 or 3 larger batches of puree every 1-2 weeks and store leftovers in the freezer for use in combinations or recipes later.