January 21, 2008

Healthier Baby Food

Filed under: Cookbooks,Table Talk — Diane @ 2:10 pm

Warning! Gross-out alert! Read further at your own risk… By now, you may already have heard the story of the California couple who found maggots in baby food. In still-sealed jars. That they just purchased a few days earlier. (Warning: if you’re easily grossed out, don’t follow that link!)

If you have (or are planning to have) a baby, you might be worried by news reports like that — I mean, there are enough things to keep you awake at night when you have a young one at home already. It would be nice if you could take a lack of larvae in your child’s food as a given. Unfortunately, as the story demonstrates, it doesn’t always work that way.

Now if that’s not enough to at least make you consider the idea of making your own baby food, I don’t know what will.

Don’t fall for the corporate hype

But from personal experience, I know the concept of “DIY baby food” can be a bit daunting, too. What foods are good for baby, and what should you avoid? How do you prepare it? How do you make sure your child is getting a balanced diet?

See, those are the kinds of new-parent fears the big food conglomerates and their highly-paid copywriters love to exploit. To hear them tell it, feeding your child a nutritious, flavorful, healthy diet is all but impossible without their help.

To put it bluntly, balderdash. Horse hockey. Humbug! (Well, okay, maybe that wasn’t as blunt as I could have made it. But this is supposed to be a family-friendly blog, ya know.)

This looks like a job for Super Baby Food!

Now, my son is six years old, so we’ve been a bit beyond the baby food stage for a few years. He quite happily eats many “grownup foods” these days. But back when he was an infant, I found a not-so-little book that took a lot of the anxiety out of making my own baby food.

Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron eased my mind by offering tons of nutritional information along with the recipes and food prep ideas.

In fact, I still keep my copy handy right there on the same shelf as Joy of Cooking, just so I can look up nutritional information, advice on how to judge ripeness and tips on food preparation and storage.

And idea for nothing, a tip for free

One tip I remember came in very very handy was the idea of using ice cube trays to freeze pureed food (see page 166 in the book). I could prepare food in larger batches, puree and then freeze into two tablespoon portions using the ice cube trays.

Once a tray full was frozen solid, I would empty the cubes into a freezer bag and label it with the date — and then reuse the tray for the next round of “food cubes.”

Since I knew how much each “food cube” was, it was easy for me to measure out how much I was serving my son. And it was convenient for me to serve him a wide variety of foods at every meal by just mixing and matching cubes. Just thaw ‘em out in the microwave and we were good to go.

I give you that tip for free. For the rest, you’ll need to read the book. ;-)

A (mild) word of warning

One caveat: the author, Ruth Yaron, is a dyed-in-the-wool vegetarian. So you’re going to find a lot in here about yogurt and lentils and tofu, but not a whole heck of a lot about hot dogs, chicken nuggets or cheeseburgers.

On the other hand, yogurt, lentils and tofu are probably better for you (and your kids) than burgers and ‘dogs. And I’m told we here in the USA don’t eat enough fruits and veggies as it is (so training our kids to eat more of them from the get-go is not a bad idea, actually). Besides, once you get the basic concepts down, it’s easy enough to extend them to other foods.

Beyond that, it’s possible (even likely) Ruth will introduce you to several fruits or veggies you’ve never heard of, much less tasted. Could turn into a learning experience for mom and dad as well as baby!

So what are you waiting for?

Look. Making your own baby food is cheaper than buying. You can be sure exactly what’s going in to your baby’s tummy. You can expose your baby to a wider variety of foods than are commercially available. You can ensure what you feed your baby is only of the highest quality (no larvae!).

And with the ideas and tips you’ll get from this book, it’s actually pretty easy to do. So what’s your excuse now?

— Diane

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