By Savitha V
About the time your little bundle of joy is three or four months old, youstart getting advice from all quarters on starting the baby off on solids. The baby care app on your phone, your helpful neighbour, your mom, your aunts and your friends with older children – they would all be brimming with information on what kind of baby food to try out, and how.
Jars and cans
There is a whole lot of canned, jarred and frozen baby food lining the supermarket shelves. What could be more convenient than picking a variety of readymade pureed fruits and vegetables for the little one, right? While convenience is a big factor, there are several other points to consider before you opt for these little jars.
For starters, studies that were done to understand the nutritive value of jarred baby food showed that these foods do not meet the daily dietary requirement for minerals and other nutrients. In order to preserve the food for longer, they are prepared at very high temperatures, essentially destroying the natural nutrients. To make up for lost taste, readymade foods also tend to be high on sugar and salt content.
A more scary study report said that some baby food samples (pureed fruits and vegetables) tested positive for pesticides. Commercial baby food also tends to have thickening agents in them. Even if you buy jars or cans labelled organic, most of these points remain valid. In the world of baby food, this pretty much reads like the junk food equivalent.
Cooking for baby
Now for the other option – homemade baby food is more like what you were fed in your infancy. It will take up some effort and time, but could well be the healthier, safer option for your little one. The effort aside, it comes with the many advantages of home cooked food – handpicked vegetables and fruits, freshly cooked, nutrients intact, and the option to let the baby try different textures and tastes. And once you are used to it, it won’t be a much bigger effort than cooking for yourself.
The process is simple enough. Pick your fruit or vegetable, boil it till soft, and puree in a blender. Add a spot of butter for taste. And you are done. Apple, carrots, mangoes, bananas, peas and potatoes are good choices to start with. Eventually, bring on the cereals. Rice powder and ragi (millet) malt make good porridges for babies. Or cook rice, mash and mix with pureed vegetables for a complete meal. You can always make these ahead and freeze in small portions.
Things to remember
- Do make sure you wash the vegetables and fruits well to ensure they are free of pesticide. If organic produce is accessible to you, opt for that.
- Initially, mash the cooked food well. Bit by bit, you can go easy on the mashingso that the baby gets used to different textures.
- Go for variety and experiment with combinations of cereals and vegetables, or fruits and vegetables. When the baby is a little older, try fish and meats, too.