Baby food is almost as varied and flavorful as adult food now — anything that can be pureed can be put in a jar and called baby food. Once our little one has reached the food stage at around six months, it’s time to make a decision. Should you buy your baby food or make it at home? We’ve assembled the pros and cons of each option to help make the choice between Bought vs Homemade Baby Food a bit easier for you.
Store Bought Baby Food — Pros and Cons
Store-bought baby food may be the food of choice for most parents because of its convenience and variety — there’s an enormous wall of it in nearly every grocery store, and it comes in every flavor imaginable.
- Convenience — You don’t have to worry about refrigeration (before you open the jar) or Tupperware with loose lids making a mess in your bag.
- Portability — It’s easy to store and carry jars of baby food in your diaper bag or purse. All you need is a spoon, and it’s dinner time for baby.
- Cost — In the long run, jarred baby food ends up costing more than the homemade alternatives.
- Waste — Disposable packaging can be wasteful, and if it’s not cleaned out well, it’s often not recyclable either.
- Preservatives — The only ‘preservative’ you should see in baby food is Vitamin C, but jarred food can contain a variety of listed or unlisted preservatives to make the food shelf stable.
- Contaminants — Contaminants can make their way into store-bought baby foods and can even show up in the water used to make it. In 2014, the Environmental Defense Fund found lead in some packaged baby foods.
Jarred baby food can be a great tool if you’re traveling or away from home, but is it really the best option for every meal?
Homemade Baby Food — Pros and Cons
You can make almost anything that you’re eating into baby food as long as you don’t mind skipping the salt and other seasonings.
- You Know What’s in the Food — Nothing goes into your homemade baby food that you’re not aware of.
- Cost — Overall, making your baby food ends up being less expensive, even if you have to buy a blender or food processor to get started.
- Variety — You can make up food combinations to cater to your infant’s tastes and nutritional needs without having to open multiple jars.
- Safety — Jarred baby food is pasteurized, killing off any bacteria that might appear in the finished product. Homemade baby food is not.
- Storage — Homemade baby food has no preservatives, so it doesn’t keep as well. It can be frozen, but should only be made and stored in small batches.
If you’ve got the time and the inclination, making your baby food can be an excellent option for providing your infant with healthy and organic food.
Making Your Own — Tips and Tricks
If you’ve never tried making your own baby food, here are a few tips and tricks to get you started:
- Steam or microwave fruits and veggies to soften them while still retaining most of their nutrients. Boiling works too, but many of the nutrients can leach out into the cooking water.
- Don’t add anything — you don’t need any extra flavors or additives. Your baby’s tastes are very bland at the moment, plus most of these flavor additives also add salt or sugar which are unhealthy for your baby.
- Mash. Add small amounts of water or breast milk and mash the fruits or vegetables until they’re smooth. You can also spin these foods up in a blender or food processor to get a smooth, even texture.
That’s all there is too it. Baby food is pretty simple. If you’re making up large batches of food at once for convenience, pour the extra food into an ice cube tray to make individual sized freezer portions. Once frozen, they can be transferred into a zip lock bag for storage for up to a month.
Homemade Baby Food Recipes
If you’re just getting started with baby food, here are a few homemade recipes to get you going.
Stage 1 — These infant foods should include only one ingredient, not including the water or breast milk used to dilute the mash. Not only does it make it easier to introduce new foods to the baby, but it also makes it easier to determine if your child has any food allergies that you need to be concerned about.
Avocado Mush — All you need to do is halve your avocado, scoop out the meat of the fruit and mash it until smooth. Avocados are very soft anyway, so there’s no need to do anything extra to it.
Banana Mush — Same as the avocado. Peel, mash, serve.
Applesauce — Peel your apples and cut them into chunks. Boil or steam until tender, then mash or blend until smooth.
Stage 2 — This is when you can start getting a little more adventurous with the food combinations, but you still don’t want to add any salt or additional flavors. Start combining fruits and vegetables like:
- Apples and bananas
- Apples and plums
- Bananas and blueberries
- Apples and carrots
- Peaches and sweet potatoes
- Avocado and peaches
The list is endless. Just make sure you’re using foods that you’ve already introduced the baby to in case of food allergies.
Stage 3 — Now that your baby is used to a variety of different foods, it’s time to start looking into chunkier foods. You can start introducing finger foods here as well.
The food you feed your baby, much like the rest of your parenting decisions, is a personal choice. If you have the time, making homemade food can be a healthier alternative to store-bought baby food, but the jarred stuff isn’t all bad.