Not only is food medicine, it is a way of bringing your family and community together. It is a means of passing down tradition, and a way to have a savored experience. If you choose to breast-feed, food also serves as one of the first opportunities you have to connect with your baby, and to nourish him through your own dietary choices. Today’s culture places a lot of emphasis on the importance of getting the right amounts of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). While these aspects of your baby’s diet are a critical part of his development, they cannot substitute for his sensory experience, his enjoyment of food, and eating in harmony with his environment. Food nourishes your baby’s body and soul far beyond ensuring proper quantities of nutrients. His first home-cooked meals can provide balanced nutrition, as well as pleasure and vitality.
Your shopping decisions and cooking methods shape your baby’s tastes and dietary habits. Choosing his food is an opportunity to give him a healthy start and influence his tastes for the rest of his life. As you contemplate options of new foods to introduce to your baby’s plate, consider ingredients and their source, as well as preparation methods, to maximize his growth and development.
A common and familiar option that many parents choose is packaged baby food. This is a convenient choice when life is too busy to cook at home, or when traveling. Some brands of packaged food come in jars or pouches and use quality organic vegetables with single ingredients, and they do not include artificial flavors, thickeners, preservatives, or additives. However, many packaged baby foods are inferior in their digestibility, nutritional value, and taste. Many brands mix fruits with grains or vegetables to make them sweet and appealing, which can lead to digestive problems for your baby.
Most prepackaged baby food tastes bland because it has been heated at a high temperature for sterilization. Although this process is necessary for safety, it destroys flavor, essential nutrients, and key enzymes. Often, instant grain cereals are stripped of their naturally occurring micronutrients through processing. Manufacturers then try to compensate by adding these stripped nutrients back into their foods. These fortified grains may provide as many micronutrients as unprocessed grains; however, the fortified vitamins and minerals are not as easily absorbed as those from natural, whole grains cooked at home. While whole, uncracked grains can last centuries without spoiling, instant cereals require preservatives to ensure freshness. Packaged baby food has usually been grown and harvested in an industrial setting, processed in a factory, and then transported and stored in a way that compromises its freshness and vitality.
Another option is to make your baby’s food at home with whole food staples and fresh, locally grown, organic produce.
Benefits of Homemade Baby Food
The best nutrition
You can offer a wider variety of grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruits to your baby than those found in packaged baby foods, thus providing a broader range of key nutrients. Whole, organic, and seasonal foods grown locally provide more nutrition than processed and refined foods.
When you cook food at home, you can be confident about what is and is not in the food because you selected the ingredients and prepared them yourself. You know that there are no thickeners, sugar, dyes, or chemicals in the meals that you have cooked in your own kitchen, and you have no reason to worry about food safety.
Simple, single-ingredient foods
Your baby’s sensitive taste buds appreciate simple foods without mixtures and seasonings found in packaged baby food. By introducing foods one at a time, you can help your baby distinguish each new flavor and check for allergies. Discerning allergies becomes more complicated if you are serving packaged baby food that mixes multiple ingredients.
The best taste
Whole, uncracked grains and beans, fresh vegetables and fruits, and natural seasonings are more delicious and satisfying than canned or frozen foods. Take a bite of the food that you feed your baby and see for yourself. In addition, offering a variety of natural tastes stimulates your baby’s brain development.
Custom-made baby food
Your baby’s taste buds are new and inexperienced. As he experiments with new flavors and develops his own tastes, you will get to know what your baby loves. Making your own baby food lets you mix and match flavors to give your baby just what he wants.
The convenience of packaged baby food comes at a price. With just a little effort, you can save money while giving your baby higher quality food.
Easy to make
Homemade baby food can be easy to make using simple cooking methods and recipes based on fresh, whole foods. When you become familiar with techniques and ingredients, you will not need recipes and you can feel confident in preparing healthy, nutritious meals for your baby. You will not need special cooking equipment to prepare the food, either.
Organization yields convenience
With planning and organization, you can efficiently fit food preparation into your busy schedule. You can make batches of food, store multiple servings in your refrigerator or freezer, and then dish out small portions over several weeks. Menu planning makes shopping and cooking more efficient and economical as well.