The Pros and Cons of Homemade Baby Food

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As a parent, one of your most important jobs is feeding your child nourishing foods. Baby food sold in jars and pouches contains critical calories and nutrients, and it’s convenient. Unfortunately, it can also include preservatives and other ingredients that allow it to sit on the shelf for weeks or even months at a time.

To avoid potentially harmful ingredients, a growing number of parents are making baby food from scratch. "It's really about knowing exactly what you're giving your baby," says Kelly Nohl, a registered dietitian at Henry Ford Health System.

Is Homemade Baby Food Best?

Homemade baby food isn't for everyone. Before you purchase an expensive blender and recipe books, consider the pros and cons of mixing your baby's food from scratch:

Pros

  • It's cheap: Buying jars and pouches of baby food can get expensive, especially if you choose organic. With homemade baby food, you can just puree foods you already have on hand.
  • It's clean: When you first start your baby on solid foods, you're just serving them one ingredient. "It's just bananas, or it's just sweet potatoes," Nohl says. You know exactly what you’re feeding your baby.
  • It's environmentally friendly: With homemade baby food, there's no packaging that will ultimately end up in a landfill.

Cons

  • It takes time: Purchasing baby food off the shelf doesn't require much effort. Mixing up homemade baby food isn't difficult, but it does take time.
  • Storage can be tricky: Making batches of baby food ahead of time means you need storage space in your refrigerator and freezer.
  • You have to be careful about food safety: When you're making food from scratch, how you prepare it — and when your child eats it — matters. There's no expiration date on homemade food and you're not heating it to 500 degrees to kill off pathogens. Not only do you have to make sure you wash and clean produce well, but you also have to store it safely and make sure your baby eats it in a timely fashion.

Homemade Baby Food How-To

Cooking food from scratch takes time. Many parents find it’s worth the extra effort to shape their child’s food preferences. Four strategies for starting your baby off on the right foot nutritionally:

  1. Go easy. Whether you choose to start your baby on solid foods at 4 or 6 months, it's important to select foods that are easy to digest — things like pears, bananas, avocados, squash and sweet potatoes.
  2. Choose nutrient-rich options. Start your baby off with easy-to-digest fruits and vegetables. "Introduce foods one at a time and wait three to five days before introducing a new food," Nohl says.
  3. Don’t give up. Your baby might not like a food when you first introduce it, but that doesn't mean you should give up on it. Babies often don't like a food until they've been exposed to it half a dozen (or more!) times. Still struggling with a specific food? Try combining it with one of their favorites.
  4. Select a rainbow of color. Fruits and veggies come in five main colors: red, yellow/orange, white, purple and green – and each color represents a different mix of beneficial plant nutrients, so variety is key.

Whether you make your baby's food or buy it at the grocery store, follow basic safety rules. Portion out individual servings. If they don't finish the whole serving, throw it away. Always use clean utensils when portioning out foods. And avoid cross contaminating foods, especially those your baby hasn't been introduced to yet.


To find a doctor or registered dietitian at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

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Kelly Nohl is a registered dietitian nutritionist for the Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

Categories: ParentWell