Homemade baby food is healthy and cost-effective

Making your own baby food can save you money and allow you to control what ingredients your baby is ingesting.

Michigan State University Extension educators suggest that parents and caregivers consider making their own baby food. This can save them money and allow them greater control over what ingredients the baby is ingesting.

Making your own baby food is very simple,” said MSU Extension educator Dawn Earnesty. “It also gives you control over exactly what goes into your baby’s food, and it usually costs less than buying prepared foods.”

Babies should not be introduced to solid foods until they are about 6 months of age, she noted.. 

Earnesty has compiled the following guidelines:

Types of food to use in homemade baby food

  • Use fresh, quality foods whenever possible.
  • If using frozen food, make sure it contains no added sugar, salt or sauces.
  • If using canned foods, choose those without salt or fruits packed in their own juice. If this is not possible, pour off any syrup or salty water, and rinse the foods with clean water.

Preparing homemade baby food

  • Wash, peel and remove all seeds or pits from fruits or vegetables.
  • Cook firm or hard fruits and vegetables until tender.
  • Remove all bones, fat and gristle from meat or poultry. Seafood is not recommended until your baby is at least 1 year old.
  • Bake, broil, poach, boil or steam meat or poultry until well-cooked.
  • At first, food should be completely pureed. As your baby grows and develops, move to mashing and then dicing into small pieces.
  • Blend, food process, or grind and strain until the texture is safe for your baby’s stage of development. Add water if needed to achieve the desired consistency.
  • If you wish to use the same foods that the family eats, set aside a baby’s portion before adding salt, sugar, spices, gravy or sauces. The food will not be too bland for your baby’s young palate.

Serving homemade baby food

  • Serve the food soon after preparing it, but let it cool first.
  • Never chew foods before feeding them to your baby – this can add bacteria to the food that could harm your baby.
  • If not serving the food to your baby immediately, store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Throw out any food that is uneaten or left unrefrigerated for 2 hours or longer.

Storing homemade baby food

Store your homemade baby food in small portions. Two methods for doing this are:

  1. Ice-cube tray method: Pour cooked and pureed baby food into the sections of a clean ice cube tray. Cover the tray with aluminum foil, plastic wrap or a tight-fitting cover. Place it in the freezer where it can stay flat and upright.
  2. Cookie sheet method: Put 1 to 2 tablespoons of cooked, pureed food in separate areas on a clean cookie sheet. Cover the sheet with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Place it in a level spot in the freezer.

Afterwards:

  • When the food is frozen solid in the ice cube tray or on the cookie sheet, remove the pieces and place them in a freezer container or plastic freezer bag.
  • Label the bag with the name of the food and the date it was made.
  • Remove one piece at a time.
  • Thaw each piece in the refrigerator – never thaw food at room temperature.
  • Use all the frozen food within 1 month.

The Health and Nutrition programs of Michigan State University (MSU) Extension are helpful resources that can also provide parents and caregivers with weekly nutrition classes and other education services.

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