SILVER SPRING, MD, February 3, 2012―When parents introduce baby to solid foods, they have a choice of two approaches: buy commercially prepared purees or make their own. While store bought baby food has a convenience factor that appeals to many people, when your break down the cost per ounce, it’s much more expensive to purchase baby foods than it is to make your own. While costs vary from brand to brand and store to store, that dollar you spend for five ounces of baby food does not sound like much until you realize you could buy a pound of carrots, a pound of apples or two pounds of bananas for a dollar. Other fresh vegetables cost even less per pound.
Variety is important to every diet, and commercial baby foods can offer limited choices. Conventional wisdom is to introduce one food at a time to baby. With only a dozen or so store-bought baby foods available as single foods, parents quickly run out of options. For example, peaches are available by themselves, but apricots are hard to find as anything other than an ingredient in a multi-food container. Rice, barley and oatmeal cereals are common in stores, but quinoa is offered in pouches mixed with banana, apples or blueberry. Green beans and peas are the only green vegetables commonly offered by themselves. Broccoli and spinach are often mixed with pears. Making your own food allows you to set a schedule for what you introduce when and to stick to it.
Another benefit of making your own baby food is that you know exactly what is in it. While you can find first food type purees that contain just one ingredient, many of the second level of foods mix multiple types of food together, and if you are trying to carefully introduce one food at a time, the tomato that has been snuck into your beef stew (the picture only showed beef, peas and carrots after all) might be an unexpected food that your child hasn’t been exposed to yet. And while some of the ingredients like lemon juice and tapioca flower are considered safe and mostly non-allergenic, some parents don’t want to risk an accidental introduction.
You can also choose where your produce comes from. Unless labeled as such, most baby foods are not made from organic produce. With the concern about pesticides and growth hormones in foods, more and more parents want to avoid non-organic foods. Making your own food allows you to choose what goes into each meal for baby and where it comes from, whether it’s a farmer’s market, and organic grocer, or a backyard garden.
Making baby foods is easy. Some foods, like banana and avocado, you can simply mash with a fork. Other you need to steam and put through a blender. Regardless, the preparation is usually minimal compared to meals made for adults. If you are hesitant to pull out the pot and blender yourself, systems like the Beaba Babycook Baby Food Maker and the BabyBrezza One Step Baby Food Maker provide one appliance that cooks and blends food for your baby.
While there is convenience to opening a pre-packaged container when you need food, making your own food allows you to stock up as well. While refrigerated baby food only lasts a few days, freezing baby food makes it last for months. All you need are BPA-free ice cube trays and freezer storage bags. Simply freeze your purees and then transfer to your labeled bag. Most ice cube trays create one-ounce portions that you can easily defrost.
There are many great resources for the home baby food cook. Momtastic’s wholesome baby food is an outstanding website that provides information ranging from food chart for introductions, information about food allergies, preparation tips, detailed information about dozens of foods and recipes. Homemade baby food recipes is another site that provides numerous recipes for baby foods. If you prefer to have your recipes in a book, Annabel Karmel has written a range of books. There are also numerous other options for baby food cookbooks, like The Baby and Toddler Cookbook by Karen Ansel and 201 Organic Baby Purees by Tamika Gardner. A quick search at your favorite online bookseller will provide dozens of options. Some are even available as e-books.
The biggest benefits of commercially prepared foods are their portability and convenience. There are organic baby food pouches available that make traveling much easier. A handful of fruits are available as single foods, and their blended food options provide fruit and vegetable, and sometimes a grain. These are great options for a traveling family, but are higher priced than even regular containers of baby food, so use them sparingly if you’re on a budget.
Commercially prepared food has its place, and the industry has even started to create organic varieties for mothers concerned about chemicals in their food. However, in the long run, if you make your own food, you will save money and increase the number of foods you can introduce to your little one. Use commercially prepared foods as a supplement to your child’s diet. A little time in the kitchen goes a long way.
Follow Brighid on Twitter at @BrighidMoret and receive updates on when new columns post on Facebook. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times.
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