|Publisher:||Bright Ideas Publishing|
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4 things to love about homemade baby food
it's the most nutritious
Most of us know that whole, natural, unprocessed foods, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, and grains, are the best foods for our bodies. They are both rich in essential vitamins and nutrients and free of preservatives. Since babies may only eat a few tablespoons of food per feeding at first, they need all the nutrition they can get in each bite. By feeding baby homemade food made from the healthiest ingredients, you'll be certain that he's getting the best possible nutrition in every bite.
Commercial baby foods can work in a pinch, but you'll want to shy away from using them as your baby's sole source of solid food if you can. The methods used to process packaged foods can destroy a significant amount of the natural vitamins and nutrients, making some commercial baby food 50% less nutritious than a homemade equivalent. Plus, some commercial foods contain fillers, preservatives, or unnecessary ingredients that your baby doesn't need.
it helps develop good eating habits
Homemade baby food is pure and simple, and tastes like its ingredients. It is the perfect first step for growing a healthy eater. Baby will learn exactly what real food tastes like. He'll get used to seeing you make his food — unpeeling a banana, mashing it up, and serving it to him. He'll learn that when he's hungry, chances are you'll slice up some apple, mash up some squash, or dice some chicken. Your baby will get used to eating whole foods instead of reaching for the processed kind — and that is a good habit for you and baby!
experience a wide variety of textures and flavors
With your help, in just a few short months your little one will transition from eating predominantly breast milk or formula to eating table foods. You can help your baby achieve this milestone by gradually progressing the textures and flavors of his food. You'll want to start with completely smooth single-ingredient purees, move to soft, lumpy purees, and later to finely chopped table foods. Your baby will learn new skills at each stage. One of the best aspects of making homemade baby food is that you aren't stuck with just a few flavors or textures. You can completely customize your baby's food so he can try a wide variety of ingredients at the right texture.
Which feeding method seems more affordable? Taking a scoop out of your baked sweet potato and mashing it up for baby's dinner, or opening up a jar of storebought sweet potato puree? If you guessed the first one, you're right! By making baby's food at home you can save a lot of money, simply by feeding baby the same thing you're already cooking up for yourself.
For those times when it's just not feasible to feed baby what everyone else is eating (ahem, pizza night), homemade food still comes out on top. One cup of homemade sweet potato puree costs me about $1.12 to make, whereas the same amount of store-bought sweet potato baby food costs about $4.16. That is a savings of 62%! Even if you add in the cost of buying a blender, you'll still save a ton of money over the long run if you make baby's food yourself.
when to start solids
Breast milk or formula with iron contains all of the nutrition your baby needs for healthy growth for the first six to nine months. Somewhere around that time — it ranges from child to child — your baby will be ready for his first taste of solid food. The process of adding solid foods to your baby's diet is called complementary feeding. The purpose is to teach your baby how to eat, chew, and swallow food, introduce him to a variety of flavors and textures, and provide extra nutrients that he isn't already receiving from breast milk or formula.
The general rule is to start feeding your baby solids around six months, and continue to breast or formula feed until at least one year old.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians advise not to feed your baby any food (even a taste!) before six months, because babies are not capable of handling food any earlier. Doing so could cause him to choke, give him diarrhea, or even increase the risk for certain long-term diseases such as diabetes and obesity. Plus, human milk is more nutritious than any kind of solid food; so for breast-fed babies, feeding too early means he'll miss out on essential nutrients and antibodies that are so good for him. If your baby has any developmental delays, or you are unsure about when to start feeding solids, talk with your doctor to determine the right time.
If your baby is over six months old, and your pediatrician has given you the go-ahead, but you still aren't sure if you should start, look to your baby! Though he can't talk yet, he'll give you clues to let you know when he's ready for his first taste of solid food. He'll start eyeing your food, and maybe even reaching for it!
signs baby is ready
Before eating solid foods, your baby needs to be able to sit up in a high chair on his own and hold his head up. He also needs to have lost his tongue-thrust reflex, which causes your baby to automatically push solid food out of his mouth. This usually happens between four and six months.
Another sign that baby is ready for solids is that he is interested in watching you eat. He may curiously watch as you bring the loaded fork from your plate to your mouth. He may even reach for it, put his hands in his mouth, or open his mouth as if he wants you to feed him. Also, if he still seems hungry after you feed him breast milk or formula, and he's not teething or going through a growth spurt (which it would be normal for him to feed more frequently), then it may be time to start introducing solid foods.
choosing baby's first food
Infant cereal is traditionally the first food given to babies in the United States. Rice cereal mixed with breast milk, formula, or water is easy to digest, and unlikely to cause food allergies. Also, the soupy texture helps babies learn how to swallow.
Though such cereals have been recommended as the best starter food for decades, there is new research showing that infant cereals are high in carbohydrates and low in natural vitamins, minerals, and protein. Though some are fortified with nutrients, infant cereal may not be the most nutritious first food.
the modern approach
In 2009 the AAP started recommending fruits, veggies, and meat in place of infant cereal for baby's first food. Finely pureed fruit, vegetables, and meat are easy to swallow and extremely nutritious. They can also help promote healthy eating preferences at a young age. Despite these benefits, traditionalists argue that these foods are too advanced for young babies who may develop food allergies or have a hard time digesting.
So which is the best approach? Think about it and go with your gut. If your family has a lot of food allergies, you may want to play it safe and go with rice cereal for the first few feedings. Or if you decide on a whim that today is the day to give baby his first taste of food, and all you have at home is bananas, then go with bananas! Try to choose a food that is mild, easy to digest, and has low risk for food allergies.
Whichever you choose, this book will help you navigate the process, offering recipes on how to make your own infant cereal as well as purees that are perfect for the first feedings.
preparing your kitchen
Baby food is so easy to make, and you only need a few simple tools to do it. You may already have everything you need! In this section you will learn what kitchen accessories are essential, how you can use what you already have, and what you can do to prepare your kitchen to cook delicious, safe baby food.
necessary kitchen tools
Here is a basic list of what you need to make your own baby food, as well as a list of items that aren't absolutely necessary, but may be helpful to have on hand. Whether you're a newbie in the kitchen or just new to making infant food, check through the list to make sure you have everything you need to get cooking.
pureeing device: food processor, blender, fine mesh strainer, food mill, or food grinder medium saucepan sauté pan or nonstick skillet colander cutting board spatula measuring spoons and cups quality knife set soft tip or BPA-free plastic spoons good-to-haves roasting/baking pan small and large saucepans small storage containers that hold 2–4 ounces mixing spoons small, nonbreakable baby food bowls flexible freezer tray with lid or freezer-safe containers vegetable peeler vegetable steamer grater permanent marker labels for food containers using what you have
Before you head to the store, check your cupboards to see what kitchen tools you already own. Food processors, blenders, and food mills are all excellent options for making purees.
If you don't have one of these, you can use a fork or potato masher to make a puree. It will just take a little more time and energy. Foods that don't mash up well, like chicken, you can dice up into small bits instead of pureeing.
what's the best way to puree food?
Blenders and food processors are, to me, the most helpful kitchen tools for making purees. Blenders work best for making completely smooth purees and big batches of food. They typically hold up to 9 cups, which is useful if you are making food for multiple infants or plan to do a lot of freezing. Some blenders dice and chop too. This can come in handy as you progress the texture of baby's food. If you are planning to make your own infant cereal, choose one that can grind grains into flour.
Food processors are designed for dicing and chopping foods; though, many can also make purees. Use a mini food processor if you plan to make small batches of food (like most of the ones in this book).
All-in-one baby food makers are another option. These devices cook and puree food for you. Just add chopped food, choose how long to steam it, and then hit puree when it's done cooking. If you're looking for an all-in-one device, then this could be a great fit for you. Keep in mind, however, that baby food makers are typically more expensive than blenders or food processors. And you can't control the texture on many of these devices so it may only be useful for a few months.
saving money when buying kitchen equipment
Save yourself a trip and look online. You might get lucky and find a sale, an old model, or a less popular color for less money than a shiny new gadget. If you're looking for a reason to get out of the house and shop, then head straight to the clearance section to look for deals. Thrift stores, online auction sites, tag sales, and classifieds ads can all help you save some serious cash. Just be sure to give any used items a thorough cleaning before use.
preventing food poisoning
Making healthy baby food isn't just about using nutritious ingredients; it's also important to be mindful that the food you prepare is safe to eat. Babies are still developing their immune systems so they are more susceptible than adults to food poisoning.
what is food poisoning?
Food poisoning occurs when you eat food that has been contaminated by bacteria, parasites, or toxins. You can get it from unclean kitchen surfaces and utensils, unwashed fruits and vegetables, produce with a high concentration of pesticides, contaminated meats or produce, improper food storage, and more.
As adults, we might not get sick at all from these things, or we might feel uncomfortable or have an upset stomach. Babies may have more severe symptoms than adults since their immune systems are so new. Call your pediatrician if you notice any symptoms of food poisoning in your infant, such as high fever, inability to keep fluids or food down, or bloody stool.
By keeping a clean kitchen, you can significantly reduce the risk for food contamination. Take special care to make sure your utensils are clean before you use them, and do your best to disinfect counters after you cook.
clean fruits and vegetables properly
Food contamination can also result from unclean fruits and vegetables. To be sure your produce is clean, wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cold water before cutting them. To be extra cautious, spray with a natural produce cleaner, or make your own by mixing 1 cup vinegar and 3 cups water together in a spray bottle. Spray the produce, then wash thoroughly.
wash your hands
Washing your hands regularly is another practical way to prevent foodborne illness. Hand washing strips away the bacteria, germs, and viruses that accumulate on your hands throughout the day.
Right before you start cooking, get in the habit of washing your hands with soap and hot water for 20–30 seconds. Then dry them with a clean towel. If you pick up uncooked meat, cough into your hand, touch a pet, wipe a runny nose, send a text, or just get your hands dirty somehow, give them another wash.
safe food storage
Keeping food stored properly can also help prevent food poisoning. Refrigerate all foods that can spoil, store meats separately from fruits and vegetables, and marinate foods in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
Check that your refrigerator is set at 40° Fahrenheit (4° Celsius), and your freezer at 0° Fahrenheit (-18° Celsius). Go through your refrigerator at least once a week and throw out any food that has mold, smells off, or has expired. Wash meat and vegetable bins periodically to keep them clean.
Make sure to cover leftovers before putting them in the refrigerator, and eat them within 2–3 days. A handy rule of thumb for leftovers: If you can't remember when you cooked it, don't eat it!
the truth about organic foods
As you begin the complementary feeding adventure, you may have some questions about what foods you should feed your little one, and in particular about whether or not you should choose organic. In this section, we will get to the bottom of the organic versus conventional foods debate, and discover if it really is worth buying organic.
Any food — fruit, vegetable, meat, poultry, egg or dairy product — that has been grown with or exposed to pesticides is considered a conventional food. Conventional growers use pesticides to prevent disease and insects, and promote better-looking, longer-lasting crops.
Conventional foods are the most common type available; it's what you can expect from your favorite restaurants and food products, unless otherwise labeled. Conventional growers are allowed to use chemical pesticides, antibiotics, chemical fertilizers, sewage sludge, ionizing radiation, and growth hormones, among other farming methods. Conventional foods may also include hotly contested genetically-engineered or modified (GMO) ingredients.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), foods that are grown without the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms are considered organic. Animals, such as chickens, cattle, and pigs must be fed certified organic feed, and not given antibiotics or growth hormones.
You can tell if a food is organic or not by its label. Usually you'll find a special sticker or label on organic food, such as "100% organic," meaning it's made entirely with organic ingredients, or "organic," meaning it's made with at least 95% organic ingredients. Some grocery stores make it easier for the organic shopper to find what they need by setting aside small sections of the store strictly for organic foods.
why it may be worth it to buy organic
Even though the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets safety limits on the amount of pesticides allowed in food, some experts suggest limiting your exposure as much as possible.
Most research on the effects of pesticides on the body has been done with people who work with pesticides regularly, like conventional farm-workers. Studies have found that exposure to pesticides can cause all sorts of long-term health problems, such as asthma, autism, developmental disorders, Alzheimer's disease, nervous disorders, reproductive disorders, as well as brain, breast, and prostate cancers.
pesticides and infants
Babies are particularly vulnerable to the potential health effects from pesticides because their organs and body systems are not fully developed. Pesticides stay in their bodies longer because they aren't able to metabolize and flush them out of their systems like adults. They can even ingest pesticides through breast milk. Since babies consume more food and liquid (compared to their body weights) than adults, there may be an elevated impact on babies.
Research has found that pesticide exposure can increase health problems for babies into toddlerhood and beyond. One study found that boys 8–15 years old were twice as likely to develop ADHD when they were exposed to a common household pesticide. Three other studies found that pesticides may increase the risk for developmental delays and autism among kids by as much as 25%. Another study found that children scored lower on IQ tests when their mothers had high levels of pesticides in their bodies during pregnancy.
Though the research on the effects of eating food treated with pesticides is lacking, what we can draw from other research is that pesticide exposure can have a big impact on the development of our little ones, and on our overall health.
Excerpted from "Happy Tummies"
Copyright © 2017 Bright Ideas Publishing.
Excerpted by permission of Bright Ideas Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
guidebook to feeding your baby,
4 things to love about homemade baby food,
when to start solids,
preparing your kitchen,
preventing food poisoning,
the truth about organic foods,
cooking baby's food,
the first feeding,
storing and freezing homemade baby food,
balancing breastfeeding or formula feeding,
ask the nutritionist,
meat and other proteins,
whole grains and seeds,