Professor, Human Nutrition
Food Science and Human Nutrition
Iowa State University Extension
Nicholas K. Fradgley
Iowa State University
Homemade baby foods can help you provide low-cost, nutritious foods for your little one. Commercial baby foods are convenient and safe, but they often contain more water, starch, and sugar than homemade ones.
Most babies do not need solid foods until they are about 4 to 6 months of age. Before that age most babies have not learned to swallow solid foods. The sucking reflex pushes the tongue forward in the mouth and pushes out solid foods. You can force food down the baby’s throat, but the baby is not swallowing. Starting solids too soon may contribute to gagging and choking. If you wait to introduce solid foods, you will not need to make them too liquid. Babies will be able to handle food that is slightly textured and has small lumps.
Baby’s first foods need to be soft. Some pediatricians recommend iron-fortified infant rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula as a first solid food because rice is less likely than other grains to cause allergic reactions. Foods can be softened or mashed in a blender, food processor, food mill, or grinder. Sometimes just mashing with a fork is sufficient. If you are using foods fixed for a family meal, take out baby’s portion before adding seasonings and spices. Begin with single foods in case allergies are present. Later try combinations of fruits, vegetables, or vegetables and meats.
WHEN TO INTRODUCE SOLID FOODS
CEREALS: 4 to 6 months
VEGETABLES: 7 months
FRUITS: 8 months
MEATS: 10 months
EGG YOLKS: 10 months
CHEESE AND YOGURT: 10 to 12 months
REMEMBER FOOD SAFETY
- Special care should be taken when preparing foods for babies because they are more vulnerable to germs than are older children and adults.
- Always wash your hands and equipment thoroughly before making baby food.
- Raw food contains bacteria. Never let cooked food come into contact with raw food. Thoroughly wash cutting boards and utensils that have been used with raw foods to avoid the cross-contamination that is responsible for many foodborne illnesses (food poisoning).
- Do not let baby food sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Harmful bacteria in the food grow very well if given a chance. Refrigerate or freeze baby food as soon as possible.
HOW TO MAKE BABY FOOD
1. Wash and rinse your hands and equipment thoroughly.
2. Prepare fresh fruits and vegetables by scrubbing, peeling, and removing pits or seeds. Remove all bones, skin, gristle, and fat from meats. Do not use leftovers to make baby food.
3. Cook food in a small amount of water until tender. Use the cooking water
if the recipe calls for liquid. Food also may be steamed or baked.
4. Don’t add salt or seasonings.
5. Don’t add sugar, honey, or any other form of sweetener. Babies do not need the sweet flavor. They like fruits and other foods just the way they are. Honey and corn syrup are not safe for infants under the age of 12 months because they may carry botulism spores. The digestive system of a baby cannot destroy these spores.
6. Puree or mash cooked food.
7. Package and label for refrigerator or freezer storage.
HOW TO STORE BABY FOOD
Making several servings is a good use of time, but it also requires careful storage. One to three extra servings may be stored in the refrigerator. Use cooked vegetables or fruit within three days. Raw fruit and meats should be used the next day.
To store more than three servings, freeze the prepared foods in ice cube trays. After the food is frozen, put the cubes in freezer bags. Seal tightly, label, and store up to one month. To serve, heat in a small dish or custard cup set in a pan of water. You do not need to heat the food too much.
WARNING: Use extreme caution if defrosting or heating in a microwave oven. Microwaves can heat a food unevenly and form hot spots. One spoonful may be cold, yet the next spoonful could burn your baby’s mouth. Always stir the food well before feeding your baby. Most health and child care professionals recommend against using a microwave oven to warm baby food.
BABY FOOD RECIPES
VEGETABLES(for 7 months and older)
1. Use fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables. Check canned and frozen labels to see that they are low-salt or unsalted.
2. Wash and peel the vegetable, if necessary. If uncooked, cook over low heat in a small amount of water. Cool and puree or mash.
3. Some good combinations are: mashed potatoes and carrots or green beans; carrots and peas; sweet potatoes and squash; green beans and peas.
WARNING: Beets and spinach have high concentrations of naturally-occurring nitrates which can reduce the ability of the baby’s hemoglobin to transport oxygen. Use these foods in moderation or not at all until the baby reaches his or her first birthday.
FRUIT (for 8 months and older)
Follow the same procedure as for vegetables using fresh, frozen, or unsweetened canned fruit. Good combinations are: peaches and pears, banana and apricots, or applesauce and peaches.
BANANA-OATMEAL BREAKFAST (for 8 months and older)
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup formula (or breast milk)
1/3 cup whole banana
1/4 cup formula (or breast milk)
Combine oats and 1/2 cup formula. Bring to a boil, and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, mash banana and 1/4 cup formula. Combine banana and oatmeal mixtures.
FRUIT AND YOGURT (for 10 months and older)
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup cooked, unsweetened fruit
Combine, mashing lumps of fruit, if necessary.
MEAT (for 10 months and older)
1/2 cup cubed cooked meat
2 to 4 tablespoons water
Combine and puree until smooth.
COMBINATION MEAT DINNERS (for 10 months and older)
1/2 cup cubed cooked meat
1/4 cup cooked vegetable pieces
1/4 cup cooked rice, potato, or enriched macaroni
1/4 cup formula (or breast milk)
Combine and blend or mash until few lumps remain. Some good combinations are: beef, peas, and potatoes; chicken, carrots, and rice; beef, squash, and macaroni; liver, green beans, and potatoes.
MEAT BALLS (for 10 months and older)
1/2 pound lean ground beef or pork
1/2 cup mashed potatoes or rolled oats
Combine the meat and potatoes or oatmeal, mixing well. Form into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place meatballs on a baking sheet, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, or cook in a skillet until done in the middle. Drain off fat. Offer the cooled meatballs as finger foods for snacks or meals. Label and store the extra meatballs in the freezer. Use within one month.
Babies sometimes choke on small foods. Make sure the meatballs are large enough not to get caught in the windpipe, and never leave the baby unattended while eating. To protect your baby from the danger of choking, offer only foods that are soft or will soften in the mouth.