When I decided I was going to make all of my daughter's baby food, I read everything I could on the topic -- how to introduce foods to baby, the best ways to prepare them for texture, and which foods to introduce when. But the real learning came from old-fashioned trial and error. After years of cooking for my kids and running my own baby food company, I'd like to share some of my tips for making baby food.
1. Use fresh, seasonal ingredients. These lush fruits and vegetables will give you the richest flavor, which will help develop baby's palate and love for good food.
2. Make foods you would eat yourself. Most of the recipes I created were things I wanted to eat myself. If I want to eat them, then I feel much better about feeding it to my baby.
3. Texture is everything. Babies reject a food because of the texture, not the taste. There is a gradual introduction to texture, moving through four stages:
1. Smooth puree
2. Smooth puree with subtle texture (80% smooth, 20% textured)
3. Chunky (80% textured, 20% smooth)
4. Whole foods
RUNNY PUREE: Fix overly runny purees with added texture. If a puree comes out too runny, stir or blend in cooked rice, quinoa or oat flakes.
TOO THICK: Fix overly thick foods with added liquids. If a meal comes out too thick, play with your liquid content and processing times to create the best texture for your baby. Add water, milk, breast milk or formula to overly thick meals to help thin them out and make them more palatable for baby.
4. Use the right technique to create the right consistency. A mini food processor is a must-have. You can take your family meal and blend with a few tablespoons of liquid to create your baby's meal in seconds with no mess.
PUREEING is best for a smooth texture. Turn on the machine and let it run until the food is completely pureed into a smooth consistency.
PULSING is best for chunkier textures. Turn the machine on and off (or use the pulse button) to break food down bit by bit, creating texture.
5. Mix favorites with dislikes. If baby does not like an ingredient, try mixing with one of their favorite foods and then gradually reduce the amount of this food until they develop a taste for the new one. For example, mix pears with broccoli.
6. Batch freeze. Most of my recipes are big enough to provide leftovers for you to freeze for easy, quick meals. Freeze baby food in ice cube trays and toddler meals in muffin tins.
7. Amp up your baby's food with added nutrition.
1. CONSTIPATED? Stir in baby lax to any of your recipes. (http://babygourmet.com/eat-healthy/recipes/jills-baby-laxative-recipe)
2. NEED A PROBIOTIC? Stir in kefir or yogurt.
3. NEED MORE HEALTHY FATS? Stir in avocado, coconut or seed butter.
4. BRAIN AND BODY DEVELOPMENT? Stir in a pinch of chia, flax or hemp seeds to your baby food for essential protein, Omega-3s and fiber.
8. Freeze teething biscuits. Frozen biscuits or breadsticks not only last longer, but the cold feels nice on baby's gums. They also do not break up as easily and melt slower in baby's mouth.
9. Be creative. Recipes are a guideline and can be altered depending on you, the ingredients you have on hand, the likes and dislikes of your baby and any intolerances. Swap out fruits and veggies depending on the season and what's in your fridge. For example, swap out apples and raspberries for mangoes and raspberries.
10. Turn your family meal into baby's meal. Adapt your family meal into a baby-friendly one. You would be surprised how easily you can turn your roasted chicken or lasagna into a deliciously warming meal for baby.
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