How to Prepare Fruits and Veggies for Baby Food

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Flavorful, nutritious, and simple, homemade baby food is a great way to introduce your baby to a variety of fruits, vegetables, textures, and flavors, and it can be more economical than buying pre-made food. While making your own baby food does take more time than using pre-made varieties, there are some techniques and tricks that help you prepare homemade foods more easily and quickly.

A few basic cooking techniques and planning strategies can help make parents more comfortable making baby food. You can make baby's food right alongside other dishes you are preparing. If you are baking sweet potatoes or steamed broccoli, for example, set some aside before you add salt and use for baby's meal. Or if you are using the steamer basket for broccoli for the family meal, throw in a pear or an apple to purée for your baby.

Remember, too, that they will only need a small amount (say, one-fourth of a small sweet potato, or even less), so you will be able to refrigerate or freeze some for the future.

Choose Fruits and Vegetables

Almost any fruit or veggie can be turned into a purée or mash for baby. Choose organic produce if you can (but it's not essential). Some people choose to feed infants organic produce, but it's important to remember that all produce contains important nutrients and helps to expose baby to a variety of flavors and texture.

For those occasions when you don't buy fresh, frozen can be an easier option and just as nutritious (in fact, because fruits and vegetables are picked ripe and frozen immediately, sometimes they're more nutritious!). Canned fruits and veggies are also an option, but opt for ones that don't have added sugar or salt.

Preparation

Your first step is to wash fresh produce thoroughly and remove any seeds, rinds, or cores. You may choose to peel thin-skinned fruit and vegetables (such as apples and potatoes), or keep the skins on.

You'll likely want to cook most fruits and vegetables before making a purée, as you'll get a smoother result when blending. The exception is bananas and avocados; just mash with a fork. Both of these foods are prone to preventable browning, but it does not affect their nutritional value or taste.

Cooking Methods for Baby Food

The smoothest purées typically result from wet cooking methods, like steaming or boiling. When staring to make your own purées, try:

  • Steaming (using a steamer insert or basket on your stovetop)
  • Boiling
  • Baking or roasting

Once your fruit or veggie is cooked, blend with enough liquid (water, breast milk, or salt-free broth) to create a smooth texture in a food processor or food mill (for younger babies who are just starting solids). For older babies, mash with a fork for a chunkier texture.

If serving immediately, thin your purée as needed with a splash of breast milk, formula, or water (use the cooking water for extra nutrients). If you will be freezing the food, do that without thinning first. Only portion out what your baby will eat at one sitting. It's not safe to refrigerate or freeze partly consumed food and serve the leftovers later, due to the risk of illness from bacteria.

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