By: Sabrina Falone
Making homemade baby food doesn’t need to be complicated. By preparing the same supper for the whole family, not only will you find meal prep (and cleanup!) is a whole lot easier, but your little eaters will thrive watching parents model healthy eating habits — without sacrificing the meals they love.
Food Textures for Growing Babies
When introducing solid foods to babies and toddlers, experts often break it down into three categories:
- Purées: Very smooth without any lumps; best for infants just being introduced to solids.
- Mashed: Moist, finely chopped mixtures that require little to no chewing.
- Finger Foods: Small pieces of easy-to-chew foods that toddlers can pick up with their hands and feed themselves.
Prep and Storage Tips for Making Baby Food
- Using a blender or food processor for making purées is ideal and the pulse function is great for making different textures of baby food. A box grater or potato masher can also work well for chunkier mixtures.
- Avoid adding any extra salt or sugar to your baby’s meal.
- Use breast milk, formula or water to thin out a purée or mash. It is recommended caregivers wait until a child is 9 to 12 months before introducing cow’s milk.
- Baby food made from meat, poultry, eggs and fish will keep in the refrigerator for one day, while baby food made from fruits, veggies and legumes will keep for up to two days.
- Baby food can be frozen for up to one month. Flash freeze first in ice cube trays before placing portions in a zip-top bag and storing in the freezer. Label the bag with the date.
- Before serving, thaw portions in the fridge, microwave or double boiler — not at room temperature.
- Before serving, heat up all baby food until hot, then cool to lukewarm.
Recipes the Whole Family will Love
Just about any recipe that calls for whole foods can be adapted for babies and toddlers. Often, it’s as simple as removing a portion for baby before adding in the salt, sugar and/or dairy, and then seasoning the dish before serving it to adults.
A classic family favourite is this Skillet Lasagna with Spinach. It’s rich, meaty and can easily feed everyone at the table.
For babies 6 to 8 months old, turn the lasagna into a nutrient-rich purée by blending the meat sauce with cooked spinach and steamed broccoli. For older babies, finely chop the beef and pasta mixture then add shredded mozzarella. For toddlers, cut the noodles into small pieces and serve with shredded cheese and steamed broccoli. Then finish the dish with a gooey cheesy topping that parents will love!
Another terrific family-friendly recipe is this Simple Steak & Potato Skillet Dinner. After cooking a piece of steak (without any spice), either purée it with mushrooms, potatoes and peas, or cut it all up as finger food for toddlers.
Make Mealtime Fun for Babies
Eating the same meal at the same table as their parents helps keep babies and toddlers focused during mealtime. Chatting with them, modeling good behavior and, when time and patience allows, letting them get messy and explore the food they’re eating has huge benefits.
Using colourful plates, cutlery and cups will also help babies stay interested, as well as involving toddlers in collecting ingredients, washing vegetables, and placing food on their own plates.
Kids eat with their eyes, too, so offer a rainbow foods, like in this Steak with Grilled Vegetables and Pesto Quinoa recipe. Beef tenderloin is a great choice for one of baby’s first solids. It purées easily and is perfectly tender for mashed mixtures and finger foods.
Toddlers love dipping and the topping on this Beef & Tomato Skillet with Cheesy Cornbread is perfect for dunking into the saucy beef and lentil mixture. The beef mixture also purées easily for infants, while parents will love the full flavours and easy preparation.
Make Every Bite Count to Meet Your Baby’s Iron Needs
A baby’s need for iron is critical for brain and nerve development. Babies’ iron stores are depleted by the time they’re 6 months old and infants 7 to 12 months old need a whopping 11 mg of iron per day — that’s more than Dad needs! That’s why Health Canada recommends babies begin their food journey with iron-rich foods, such as meat, fish, poultry, and iron-fortified cereal, before any other solids.
With babies’ iron needs so high — and their tummies small — beef is an exceptionally efficient and delicious way to make sure every bite counts. For tiny tummies, good nutrition matters!