If your baby is old enough to start on real food, you probably have a lot of questions, and you may have received more advice than you can process.
In the following Q&A, Carolyn Land Williams answers common questions about feeding your baby and making homemade baby food. For even more information and great recipes, check out Cooking Light First Foods.
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Making Baby Food
Q: Did you make your own baby food?
A: Yes, and I think it's important for moms to know it doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing decision. There was nothing that I loved more than going to the farmer's market to pick out fresh produce to make baby food for my little girl. But as a working mother, I had to be realistic; sometimes buying commercial baby food was the best option for my sanity!
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Q: As a dietitian, what would you say are the key benefits of homemade baby food?
A: I love knowing exactly what's in the food that my baby is eating! Being able to hand-pick ripe fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and high-quality protein is a huge benefit of making your own food. Another benefit is that you have so many more puree options and can expose your child to more foods such as avocado, papaya, and blueberries.
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Better for the Budget
Q: Is it cheaper to make baby food or buy it?
A: Homemade baby food is usually cheaper if you plan to make and store it in large batches. For example, a large sweet potato costs on average $1 and will give you 3 to 4 servings for baby. Four jars of commercial baby food costs about $2. This cost difference adds up when you consider how much baby food will be eaten during that first year.
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Q: What is the most common mistake parents make with homemade baby food?
A: Wanting to add salt or sugar to foods is one of the most common, but babies don't need either. It's a natural tendency for parents to think that sugar or salt might make homemade baby food better. What they have to remember is that baby hasn't had anything other than milk or formula until now, so the natural flavors of fruits and vegetables taste wonderful to him.
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Q: Do you have to use organic fruits and vegetables in homemade baby food?
A: There is no clear answer about the long-term effects of pesticides and hormones on humans, but when you think about feeding your baby, going organic seems like a good idea. However, organic varieties are often more expensive. I suggest going organic for varieties of produce that tend to retain more chemicals, such as apples and strawberries.
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Q: Can you use frozen produce to for homemade baby food?
A: Yes, and many frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh because they are frozen just after being picked, so few nutrients are lost. There are even organic varieties of frozen produce available these days. The downside to frozen produce is that it usually doesn't have the vibrant colors and flavors that ripe produce provides.
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Sweet Tooth Myth
Q: Is it true that you should introduce veggies first so your baby doesn't have a sweet tooth?
A: Parents often worry that if babies taste sweeter foods first, they'll develop a "sweet tooth" and reject veggies. However, research hasn't proven this to be true. Several of the beginner purees in First Foods are made with sweet vegetables and fruits. This is because root vegetables and soft fruits are mild in flavor and make smooth purees, which babies just starting solids tend to find more palatable.
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Meals Made Easy
Q: Are there dishes from MyRecipes.com that baby could eat?
A: Definitely, and part of what First Foods does is teach parents how to take the meal being prepared for the rest of the family and to break it down into purees or finger foods that baby can eat, too.