Food + Wine

Something for the baby mamas out there…but if you work for a large baby food company, I don’t recommend reading this.

I am giddy with excitement.  Giddy, I tell you!  The most anticipated moment in my daughter’s life has finally arrived.  As of this past week, my little baby girl has been able to eat solid food!  Hooray!

First there was the sweet potato…

Then the butternut squash…

Along came the avocado…

And her latest, and most favorite-ist food so far has been the banana…

This really brings me back.  I had the best time feeding my son at this age.  I would lay awake at night thinking of the next food I was going to introduce to him.  There was nothing he didn’t like.  He was a fantastic eater and still is.  He loved everything from garlicky avocado to curried cauliflower puree and I would like to think he eats so well now because I introduced him to good food at a very early age. I chose back then and again now to make my own baby food and freeze large quantities of it using ice cube trays because I stay at home with my kids and found the time to do it.  I know this isn’t an option for a lot of full time working mothers, but I still encourage all moms to give it a try.  You can get a lot of baby food made in an hour on a weekend, trust me.  Even if you’re buying the organic, high quality, jarred baby food, you are still feeding your baby canned food versus fresh or frozen.  And I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of my daughter’s first ever food being something that’s been sitting on a shelf for months, sometimes years. There are, however, new products popping up on the shelves that allow you to buy frozen or vacuum sealed, bagged baby food, which I believe is a better choice than the jarred kind.  And don’t get me wrong, I will be purchasing a few jars or bags of baby food at some point in my daughter’s life to keep in my diaper bag, or to take places where refrigeration isn’t a possibility, I’m simply talking about food in her everyday, normal life here.

Most people start their babies on rice cereal because we have been told for years it is the right thing to do.  The issue I have is that the boxed white rice cereal that baby food companies make is processed, constipating and has no nutritional value whatsoever.  The idea behind feeding it first was that it’s sensitive on their tummies and gets them used to the idea of eating a solid food.  You could choose to use the oat or barley baby cereal instead, which has a higher nutritional value, but it is still manufactured and highly processed.  If you want a better option for a baby cereal, then what I recommend doing is buying organic whole, rolled oats, barley flakes or short grain brown rice and grinding it in a clean coffee grinder, food processor or blender until it becomes a powder.  You can make a large amount of this ‘powder’ at one time and store it, tightly sealed, at room temperature for months.  Or you can also make large quantities of the cooked cereal and refrigerate it for 3 days or freeze in ice cube trays like you do the rest of your baby food and keep in a zip bag for up to 3 months.  To make the cereal, simply add one part cereal powder to slightly more than one part boiling water.  Whisk until the mixture thickens and then keep stirring until all the water has been absorbed and the cereal is soft and tender.  This, again, could be done in a matter of minutes on a weekend day, no problem.

What many mother’s don’t realize is that you don’t even have to start your child on cereal at all.  You can begin them on butternut squash, sweet potato, avocado, green beans, apples, bananas or pears.  (My doctor and I discussed this first, and I encourage you to do the same with your baby’s pediatrician.)  These are known as ‘first foods’ for babies 4-6 months.  Everything but the banana and avocado needs to be cooked (peeled then boiled or steamed) and then pureed.  Bananas and avocados are soft enough to simply mush with a spoon before feeding.  Or you can do what I do and just open a really ripe banana or avocado and scrape off some of the flesh with your spoon like this…

(I promise she was upright when the video was taken…somehow she is now sideways)

Once they pass the 6 month mark you can introduce them to more exciting fruits and vegetables like parsnips and mangoes, and they can even have poultry, whole milk yogurt and tofu.  From then on it keeps getting more and more exciting because you can mix certain things to create little meals and add herbs and spices as well.  My son knew what cilantro and garlic was before he cut his first tooth.

I absolutely love feeding my babies things that I know came from a good place.  I watched it being made with my own two hands and had complete control over it, so when my daughter looks up at me with a mushy smile on her face, I can feel damn good about receiving that smile.  The main problem I have with the way we look at baby food in this country is that we think of it as its own thing.  We don’t look at it as food.  It’s ‘baby. food.’.  Generally, parents simply go to the baby food aisle of the store and pick out whatever the big, colorful labels tell them to buy because no one has informed them there’s another option or they never thought they had the time to make their own.  But if we can start to change the way we think about feeding our babies, or grown children for that matter, we can change the way our society as a whole will be eating in the years to come.  Now, I understand parents are busy.  I’m one of them, I completely understand.  I’m not saying making your own baby food is as easy as buying it.  Homemade food in general is never easier than buying pre-made food.  But don’t you always feel better about yourself after you’ve eaten a home cooked meal rather than one that came out of a box?  All I want is for us to start thinking about our babies as people.  As actual eating people.  Then, maybe we can change the diet of an entire generation, one jar at a time.

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  • Reply Pam August 12, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    This is a great informative post and your daughter is adorable! My grandson is 6 months and his mom just started him on pureed baby food last week. He does not like rice cereal at all so she made him some other cereal from scratch that he likes. Then she cooked him pears, carrots, etc.

    His mom makes all of his food herself. She makes a batch of it and freezes it in tiny baby cube containers that are convenient for transporting. It's great food for him, and he loves it! She works full-time and this is very important to her as she knows exactly what is in his food—pure whole pureed food cooked with no additives, only water.

    Your children definitely have a great start when it comes to their diet and you should be very proud of yourself. So wonderful that your son is familiar with a wide variety and that "food" is not an issue the way it is in so many families. Keep up the good work!

  • Reply Velva August 12, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    I applaud you. I think what you are doing is wonderful. I believe that even parents do not have the time to make baby food, the introduction of fresh foods that includes lots of flavors and textures goes a long way in helping children become good eaters.


  • Reply Everyday Champagne August 23, 2011 at 4:01 am

    I can't wait until we find a food that Ellington enjoys. I haven't tried peas yet, so maybe a trip to the store will be on our agenda tomorrow & a date with the blender

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