Making your own baby food is cheaper and healthier — here’s how to do it

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It’s definitely cheaper, but more importantly, making your own baby food means knowing exactly what your child is putting in his or her mouth (at least when it comes to food).

Registered dietitian Abbey Sharp of Toronto says a single serving of baby food is often pricer than something you can make at home.

“You’re paying for the packaging,” she tells Global News. “You also know you can control the quality of the ingredients by avoiding any preservatives, sodium, and sugar.”

A recent study from U.K.-based public health nutritionist Dr. Helen Crawley found that vegetable-based baby foods are often filled with fruits like apple and pear, and little of the actual vegetable on the label, the Daily Mail reports.

“This is of concern, as a high sugar intake is linked to poor oral health, may accustom infants to very sweet tastes and may contribute to overweight later in childhood,” she said in a statement.

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The research, which looked at 343 products across the country, noted pear and apple are widely used because they are cheap and taste sweet to babies.

Mom-to-be Sharp says making your own baby food also allows your child to be exposed to new flavours — that they may end up liking.

“You can add herbs and spices, and veggie/fruit combinations that you may not find in a bottle and [it also] allows you to adjust the texture of foods to meet your baby’s developmental needs.”

The convenience

But as busy parents, Sharp says the biggest con to making your own baby good is finding the time to do it.

“Sometimes a pack or jar or baby food is the best option for your lifestyle, and there is nothing wrong with that,” she continues.

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But the cost alone is enough, she adds, for parents to consider it.

“A 3.5 oz squeeze pack of organic baby food costs about $3. The cost of a 3 oz sweet potato, for example, is likely less than a dollar, so you’re savings are significant.”

What to remember

When you’re making baby food, avoid any unpasteurized milk or dairy products, honey, home-canned food, outdated canned food, or food from damaged cans or jars.

“When preparing baby food, always wash your hands and equipment. Prevent cross-contamination by using different cutting boards for meats, poultry and fish, and their non-meat counterparts,” she says.

READ MORE: More lead found in baby foods than in regular food — study

When dealing with produce, wash it thoroughly, including produce you want to peel. For meat, fish and poultry, cook it thoroughly to kill any bacteria and when it comes to storage, refrigerate food as quickly as possible.

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“Never let it sit out at room temperature for more than two hours,” she continues. “Any animal products should ideally be consumed within a day, and non-animal products like fruits and veggies can last two days in the fridge.”

Making the food

If you are using produce, choose fresh fruits and vegetables without any blemishes. Get rid of seeds, skin (if needed) and pits.

Slice them into chunks and then steam them until tender.

“I prefer steaming to boiling as it helps maintain the nutrients best. Then you can puree them for a fine texture in a food processor or blender, or mash them if you want a more coarse texture.”

Some fruit, like bananas, do not need to be cooked prior. And when you’re mixing, avoid any added sugar or salt. You could add some herbs and spices. Some experts add babies can start eating a small amount of spices after six months.

For protein, choose plain unsalted meats, poultry, fish or meat alternatives. Cook them without oil (by baking or roasting) until soft. For pulses, boil in water until soft before blending.

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“The easiest thing to do is to put a little bit of whatever you are eating aside for baby, and cook it simply, without added salt or sugar, and then puree before consumption.”

READ MORE: Montreal toddler can only eat peaches, family desperate for help

And while there are many combinations of produce or meats you can make, Sharp says you can start by cooking in season. “Pureed sweet potatoes are great in the winter, peaches are delicious in the summer, peas are lovely in spring, and applesauce is great in the fall.”

For recipe ideas, she recommends WholesomeBabyFood via Momstastic, a site that breaks down the best foods for different stages of development.

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