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How to make your own baby food

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How to make baby food at home

Making your own baby food is quick and easy. Watch a professional chef demonstrate how to do it.

Making your own baby food is easy, efficient, and economical. Instead of spending money on prepackaged baby food, you can use fresh produce, grains, and meat that you have on hand. Best of all, you'll know exactly what you're feeding your baby.

Going the do-it-yourself route also gets your baby used to eating the same food the rest of the family does, a strategy that may pay off during the picky toddler years.

Choosing the right equipment

You'll need a tool to grind or puree the food. Some possibilities, all of which you can buy at stores or online:

  • A hand-turned food mill with different blades for various textures of food. Many parents say this portable, non-electric gadget is their favorite tool. (Search online for "food mill.")
  • An all-in-one baby-food maker . a device that first steam-cooks and then purees fruit, vegetables, and meat for your baby. Some models also defrost and reheat previously prepared food. (Search for "baby food maker.")
  • A baby food grinder. a very inexpensive and simple way to break down chunks of food for your baby, non-electric and portable, but you don't have a choice of textures. Read the reviews online before ordering. The grinders don't always work as well as they promise, but some parents swear by them. (Search for "baby food grinder.")
  • A hand blender. a useful electric gadget that purees food like a blender does, but works in the opposite way: You place it into the food rather than vice versa. (Search for "hand blender.")
  • A regular kitchen blender or food processor. You probably already have at least one of these at home. A blender or food processor might work well for you, though you might find it less than ideal for small jobs.
  • A good old-fashioned fork. This simple piece of kitchen equipment found in every kitchen does a great job with easily mashed foods such as sweet potatoes, avocados, and bananas.

Other useful supplies:

  • Storage containers and ice cube trays

    (or similar trays made just for baby food) for refrigerating and freezing extra portions.

Buying the best produce

Choose the freshest fruits and vegetables, and try to use what you buy in a day or two. When fresh isn't available, frozen is a fine option. (If you prefer organic produce, find out how to buy organic food for less .)

Good fruits to start with include apples, apricots, bananas, blueberries, mangoes, peaches, pears, plums, and prunes. Vegetables to try include asparagus tips, avocados, carrots, peas, potatoes, sweet peppers, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.

Don't limit yourself to these, though. For more ideas, see our article on adventurous first foods .

Minimizing nitrate exposure

Nitrates are a chemical found in water and soil, and they're a concern when it comes to feeding your baby. Babies who ingest too much can develop a type of anemia called methemoglobinemia.

Preparing formula with well water that's high in nitrates is the usual cause of the illness, but some vegetables can also contain nitrates. The most likely sources are beets, carrots, green beans, spinach, and squash.

To be on the safe side, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents not to feed these vegetables to babies under 3 months old. (Actually, the AAP doesn't recommend feeding babies any solid food at all until 4 to 6 months, but if you do decide to offer your infant vegetables before 3 months, you'll want to avoid these in particular.)

There are a few things you can do to make sure your baby isn't exposed to high levels of nitrates:

  • If you have well water, have it tested. It should contain less than 10 ppm of nitrates.
  • Nitrates increase with storage time unless frozen. When using fresh vegetables for homemade baby food, prepare the food as soon as possible after purchase and freeze extra servings right away.
  • Consider using frozen vegetables instead of fresh for the foods highest in nitrates.

Baby food companies test their products for nitrates. So store-bought baby food – including dishes containing beets, carrots, green beans, spinach, or squash – should be free of these chemicals.

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