Making homemade baby food does not have to be a lot of work. The book “Baby Love” makes the case that homemade baby food is better than commercial because you can control what’s in it. Both homemade and store-bought food contain vitamins and minerals your baby needs. But the book notes that those little jars of food on the grocery shelf also can have add-ins such as modified cornstarch, though major brands such as Gerber and Beech-Nut don’t add starch (or salt or sugar) to their purees. And, the authors say, because the food in those jars has been cooked at high temperatures to ensure a long shelf life, they may have lost some of their nutrients and flavor.
Making your own can be far cheaper than store-bought baby food and nearly as convenient, the authors insist. Most of all, though, O’Donnell and Tracy say, homemade baby food simply tastes better and can foster a lifelong love of healthful food.
“Baby Love” features delicacies as straightforward as Get Your Greens, a blend of spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, water and milk, for children 8 months and older; and as exotic as Ginger Beef, a puree of 12 ingredients that requires some cooking, for kids 10 months and older and their parents. For kids 12 months and older, there are baked goods such as Norah’s Brain-Booster Zucchini Muffins. Foods for the youngest babies (6 months) are necessarily simple: Perfectly Basic Avocado, for instance, involves mashing half a ripe avocado with the back of a fork for 90 seconds, then mixing in a tablespoon of orange juice. Even I could have done that!
One time-saving strategy suggested in the book is organizing all the ingredients and equipment before you start to cook, known as mise en place. Tracy writes that doing this allowed him to make food for two weeks in just an hour. Most recipes for the youngest kids are purees meant to be frozen in an ice-cube tray, then stored in plastic baggies in the freezer.
Jatinder Bhatia, MD, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Nutrition and is my former attending at the Medical College of Georgia, notes that feeding babies a version of the family’s meal is a time-honored way to influence the child’s future tastes in food. “It’s common sense,” he says. “That’s how ethnic babies learn to eat ethnic food.”
“At this point, your baby is still a captive,” Bhatia says. It’s an ideal time to “present what the family’s eating” — assuming, that is, that the family is eating healthfully.