If you asked me what I think is the one thing I did to raise kids who eat really healthy, without a doubt, it would be making my own homemade baby food.
I don’t consider myself an au naturel, crunchy type of mama who only eats organic food, makes all of her own cleaning products and cooks every single meal from scratch, but I am a big advocate for serving up fresh, healthy, real food including homemade baby food.
When my kids were babies, I loved looking through cookbooks, whipping up new combinations of fresh fruits and vegetables and serving them up as my kids were exposed to all the new flavors and textures.
You might think making your own homemade baby food is time consuming. Truth be told, it does take time—more time than throwing pouches into your grocery shopping cart. But with the right tools to cook and store the food, you can make it in no time.
Still not convinced? Here are 7 reasons to consider making your own homemade baby food.
1. Homemade is healthier
Many of the store-bought brands don’t have preservatives or additives, but they may contain additional fillers and be less nutritious than homemade. In fact, in 2015 Good Morning America found that water was the most predominant ingredient in Plum Organics’ baby food and other ingredients like fruits, vegetables and meat were in smaller quantities.
What’s more, store-bought baby food is heated at high temperatures to kill bacteria but doing so may also lower the nutritional content. A 2011 study in the journal Food Chemistry suggests some store-bought baby food brands contain less than 20 percent of the recommended levels of many minerals and micronutrients.
2. You control the ingredients
Recent studies suggest store-bought baby food may contain dangerous chemicals. According to an October 2017 study by the Clean Label Project, a non-profit advocacy group, of 530 baby food products tested, more than 25 percent had detectable levels of lead. Another report, published by the Environmental Defense Fund in June 2017, found detectable levels of lead in more than 2,100 baby food samples.
When you make your homemade baby food, you control the ingredients and the nutrition. You can choose local, organic foods, pick up something new and interesting at your local farmers’ market and get foods that are in-season in your area, which are fresher and may be more affordable.
3. The potential for flavors, textures and consistenies are endless
Store-bought brands of baby food offer unique food combinations and go beyond the basic peas and carrots of yesteryear.
Yet when you make your own homemade baby food, you can expose your baby to a wide variety of new foods and flavors that you won’t find in the store. You can also use your kitchen tools to change the texture and consistency according to your baby’s age and preference and add herbs and spices to change the flavor every time.
When you go the homemade route, you’re also not limited to steamed foods alone—you can bake and roast your ingredients to bring out delicious, robust flavors.
4. Your baby is less likely to be a picky eater
If you want to raise a kid who is a healthy, adventurous eater, introduce real, fresh food early on. Studies show the more types of foods and flavors babies are exposed to, the more adventurous they’ll be as they get older.
A February 2017 meta-analysis in the journal Nutrients found that although children are predisposed to prefer caloric, sugary and salty foods and reject new foods during the pre-school years, and genetic differences for certain types of food can exist among kids, their preferences can change when they’re consistently offered healthy foods.
Regardless of whether it’s organic or has flavorful food combinations, store-bought baby food simply doesn’t come close to the taste of fresh, homemade baby food.
5. You don’t want your kid to eat out of a package
Baby food pouches are so easy and convenient especially when you’re at the park or traveling, but an important part of raising healthy eaters is teaching your children that fresh, whole foods are best.
Feeding kids from a pouch when they’re babies and letting them suck pureed food from the pouch as they grow, only reinforces this unhealthy habit of eating out of a package.
6. Your baby can eat what you do
When your baby first starts solids, you’ll probably stick to basic, one-ingredient fruit and vegetable purees.
As your baby gets older however, and you make combinations with more ingredients and complex flavors and textures, you can take a portion of the meal you make for your family and put it in the food processor or serve it as is to your baby.
Not only will this make your job much easier and save time, but your baby will get used to eating the same meal as the rest of the family and you won’t get into the bad habit of being a short-order cook.
7. Your baby will take to table foods more easily
When you’re ready to offer finger foods, you won’t have to sneak vegetables into meals, negotiate or plead with your baby to eat. Chances are, he’ll be more likely to accept the foods you serve because he’s already been eating those foods all along.