CNN photojournalist Jeremy Harlan is based in Washington D.C. This is the third installment in a series on what to cook for a pregnant spouse - and now, a newborn. In this instance, beast is a loving term. Read the first and second installment.
You don't ever want to meet Mungry. Trust me.
My wife and I have been super blessed with the most unfussy, spirited and sleep-loving baby. Lucy has truly been the model infant. But, when that lower lip begins to quiver and Sophie the Giraffe is flung head over hoof from the Bumbo perch, we know Lucy has left the dining room. We are now face to face with her very angry alter-ego: Mungry (Her scowled face looks as if she's howling, 'Mmmm, Hungry!"). These genes came from her dad. An unfed Harlan is a very unhappy Harlan.
For six months, my wife was able to satisfy the half-pint howler with breast milk. If she was not around, I had bottles of milk ready to go. But a month or so ago, we noticed Lucy was giving our food the eagle-eye. From her chair in the kitchen, she would stare at the chopping block while I cut colorful fruits and vegetables. We could no longer hold her at the dinner table because she would dive-bomb our plates. It was then we realized milk alone would not keep Mungry at bay.
As a new parent, it's been hard to know when it's time to transition your baby to new things. They develop so quickly. Just when you're used to a routine, it's time to move on to something new. Food is no different. But where in the world do you start?
"Your best place to start with a child is the very first spoon. You’ve got to start fresh," believes Tyler Florence. "Your child is a blank palate that will literally taste anything."
Florence, the famed Food Network chef, has saved my spatula on several occasions with fantastic recipes from his cookbooks. I mean, who doesn't love bourbon peach cobbler in a cast iron skillet? But, as a new dad wanting to do right for his daughter, cobbler doesn't make Mungry's menu.
So Florence, himself a father of three, has championed the cause of making fresh food for kids' developing taste buds. He's created a simple cookbook for baby meals, co-founded an organic baby food company and takes time to interact with parents via social media.
"The best thing you could ever do for a child is to make homemade foods from scratch," he says. "The simplicity of just pure carrot puree, it’s one of the most useful flavors in the world. I think it’s just gorgeous and something your child will absolutely love. They’ll lick a bowl clean."
Mungry does like her carrots.
There are so many reasons to make food at home for the whippersnappers. Clearly, it's much healthier. We've found it to be cheaper and, it's really been pretty simple from the get-go; it doesn't require a laundry list of ingredients and kitchen appliances.
Obviously the first step is finding a wide variety of fresh produce. Kids like anything sweet tasting. We started with apples, pears, carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, etc.
If you make something and they don't like it, try something else and come back to it another time. Lucy has tried everything listed above plus broccoli, asparagus, mango, avocado and banana. She seems to like every one of them (her day care providers weren't too thrilled the day after she ate asparagus).
The mango, avocado and bananas are great finger foods to practice her dexterity, too. When she really wants that mango, she finds a way to pick it up and put it in her mouth. Mungry will not be denied.
Next is how to cook the veggies. Florence hammers home the point that roasting and steaming are the absolute best ways to prepare fresh produce.
"When you boil, you’re not going to develop the sweet natural flavors in vegetables. So that means you need to roast and steam,” he stresses.
So far, we've only steamed the fruits and veggies. If you don't have a pot with a boiler insert or some kind of steaming contraption, you can always take a large pot, fill it partially with water, set a colander on the rim (above the water), drop the veggies in the colander, cover it with a lid and steam away.
Once the produce is soft, transfer it to a blender with some of the leftover water in your pot and flip the switch. The beauty of a blender is that it will puree the food to a very smooth consistency, so much so, we don't even peel apples or pears before steaming. The skins eventually disappear during blending.
We usually pour the puree into small four-ounce containers and store them in the fridge or freezer. If you put it in the fridge, the food is only good for 48 hours before you have to discard it or freeze. On average, two steamed apples makes about 12 ounces of puree. Do the math and that's cheaper than jars of processed baby food you'll get at the grocery store.
While cost and ease are important to us, it really comes down to the health of our daughter.
"When they get a taste for the sodium level and artificial ingredients and fat embedded in fast foods and that's their kind of preference, get ready for a fight because they'll give you one,” says Florence. "When you feed a child food, you have to understand that you’re in charge. You have to understand you’re the parent. You really have to provide a healthy nutritious environment for your child to grow up in.”
Hopefully that's an environment with more tasty vegetables and fewer flying giraffes.
I'm 23, and and all my parents did was puree whatever they were having at mealtimes. Saved my mom a ton of work. It was also great for my brother–he's a very picky eater (no allergies, thank goodness though!) but he learned early that the whole family ate together, and ate the same thing.
Be careful. I remember about 25 years ago when some babies got sick and some died because home grown carrots were used to make baby food. The nitrates in the soil in Idaho where we lived were very high. The carrots were grown underground and absorbed the nitrates. Too high for infants.
I made my own too. It was super easy. Great article and information!!
Babies don't need solid food until they are six months old. By then they have teeth and have the hand mouth coordination down. They don't need pureed food. Give them table food, steemed brocolli, apple slices etc. They can feed themselves oatmeal, mashed potatoes etc. No salt, no sugar, just good whole food. Saves a lot of money on all the "equipment".
I put a drop or two of Bourbon in with my homemade baby food. That way he goes down for a nap after getting fed. He also sleeps through the night without a sound. Try it it works.
Are you sick in the head? I would never put Bourbon or any other alcoholic beverage into my baby's food, ever! Are putting your baby to sleep with Bourbon every time you feed or just at night? I think you should be arrested for child abuse. You are a nut job and should be ashamed of yourself. I hope your baby is OK despite your efforts to make sure he/she goes to sleep so you don't have to be bothered. My baby boy has been sleeping through the night since the age of 9 months w/o the use of alcohol or drugs. I give him organic yogurt mixed with rice cereal before bed. Try it it works.... and it doesn't cause brain damage to his tiny developing brain.
Calm down – I am sure she's not putting 1 or 2 shots of bourbon in her baby food. A drop or two is not going to do permanent damage – it's just like rubbing whiskey on the gums when they're teething. Every feeding or every night is not acceptable but if they're being fussy or don't feel well I don't see the problem. Lighten up.
I think that the joke's on you. There is no way that she (Jeanna) is serous.
"serious" not "serous"
PS – I hope you are just a lying troll because I can't imagine anyone doing something so stupid and harmful to their own baby! And you sound so proud of yourself.
I like you, Penny – kudos for calling out the fool.
22 years ago with our first child, then with the 2nd and third, we made all of our own baby food. Processed foods were too expensive. I don't think either my husband or myself realized that we were being "revolutionary." I still encourage new parents to make their own.
pureed food can be put into ice cube trays, frozen then put into bags and kept in freezer.. fruits and veggies work best.. we found members of the broccoli family could case digestive problems.. we did this back in the 80's.. commercial baby food is seasoned and produced for the parents..
I did a lot of cooking and freezing in big batches – one favorite was to make up a batch of brown rice and freeze them in a silicone muffin pan – then I could pop out the rice "pucks" and send them to daycare for lunch. They would mix them with the veggies (pureed lentil soup was another favorite) and then add in other foods, too. When my little guy was older, I would make homemade macaroni and cheese, but puree cannelini beans into the sauce for a little extra oomph, then mix it with whole grain pasta and freeze it in the "pucks" -again a great lunch and I was in charge of the ingredients.
Back in 1981 I looked at a jar of baby food and saw the over a year expiration date. Decided toi skip bottle food just like I skipped perfumed baby wipe for mini rewashable cloths and cotton balls with water.
So looked around and bought an Oster blender and these little mini blender cups. I blended pure food (meaning I am not into throwing everything into to produce GLOP!), I steamed it with a little metal steamer then blended it in the mini cup. YOu can store in the mini cup but the big rule is move food to a plate or bowl...do not feed directly out of the storage container.....saliva gets into it and starts the digestion process. Freezing in ice cube trays worked well, but for the most part I simply steamed a non spicy version of whatever we were eating and blended it all separately. Then kept the food separate on the plate. (one pile of carrots, one pile of fruit, one pile of meat/protein source). I had triends who took this idea and simply put everying in one puree...but yuck...not my style.
I make our baby food and really love the Baby Bullet (by the makers of the Magic Bullet.) It's super easy and it's fun for me to make actually. I steam apples and pears and carrots. I've roasted sweet potatoes. She's loving the foods and I love feeding them to her.
I bought BPA free plastic ice cube trays (though they're sold as baby-food trays) with covers and that way I can have lots of little portions.
Thanks for this article!
Great article – hilarious.
My first is 5 months and I am eagerly awaiting feeding her new foods! I bought the Baby Brezza. It is a bit expensive (100 bucks) but it does the steaming and pureeing for you all in the push of a button.
I did this for my now 2 and half year old daughter and will do it for my next baby next year. I thought that I would end up kind of crapping out on it being busy, working, etc. but I found it really easy. I made the purees, froze them in covered ice cube trays, and then popped the ice cube trays out into ziploc bags that were labeled and dated. I would spend time on a weekend doing big batches so that I'd have lots ready to go and not have to do anything for a few weeks. One thing the author doesn't mention is that you can actually microwave most things. Chop food as need, put a little water in the dish for steam, cover completely with plastic wrap or a tight fitting lid, and microwave for 10-20 minutes depending on quantity. Easy peasy. Like apples–use one of those apple slicers, peel the sliced pieces, water, plastic wrap, 15 minutes or so, and toss in the food processor. Even easier was sweet potatoes. I would just bake those whole like I would if I was making one for myself. Take it out of the oven and let it cool long enough that you can touch it. Cut open, scoop out inside, into food processor. As she got older I'd mix them into a little baby food medley–a big favorite was 1 apple cube mixed with 1 sweet potato cube and 1 squash. Later on when she was on a variety of foods, I would add a pinch of cinnamon or other spices to things for variety. wholesomebabyfood.com gives a lot of good tips for making baby food and ideas for new things. It's also a good place to give ideas for when the baby is ready for their first finger foods.
P.S.–I found it MUCH cheaper to use ice cube trays to create the cubes than using the 4 oz containers. I had both and those containers can get expensive. The best price you'll probably find them is on Amazon and it's still a bit pricey for how many you're likely to need. Ice cube trays are cheap. And to take food with me places, I would put the frozen cubes into small kid dishes with lids (try the baby section at Walmart). By the time I got where I was going, they were usually thawed and ready to go but hadn't gotten warm enough to be potentially unsafe.
Yes, by all means lets microwave plastic wrap over our child's food – cancer aldenta anyone?
Wow. Want to attempt to be courteous and engage in useful discussion rather than useless sarcasm?
Beyond that, Harvard Medical School telling me that plastic wrap in microwaves is safe under general guidelines (only microwave safe plastics, don't let it touch food, etc.) is good enough for me. http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update0706a.shtml
If you'd like even more information on your belief in this urban legend, a quick google search of "does microwaving food in plastic wrap cause cancer" brings up a significant amount of information. My particular favorite comes from Dr. Rolf Halden of the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health: "This is an urban legend. There are no dioxins in plastics."
I concur, you should not microwave anything in plastic, especially things you are giving to a baby, small child. Plastic wrap should have a warning, DO NOT MICROWAVE.
Thank you for taking the time to share this information. My wife and I try to eat healthy (organic, natural, nothing processed, no frozen dinners, never deep-fry, etc) and as a result we tend to spend a lot of money at places like Whole Foods. Our justification is that we spend the extra money now eating healthily to reduce the risk of spending more money later on treating a disease. Your suggestions sound like good money-saving tips on how not to break-the-bank for keeping the baby healthy too, whenever he/she comes! They even sound like things I can sample myself. :-)
Please don't microwave baby food, especially in plastic! On the rare occasion I would ever use a microwave myself (like at work where I have no control), I always put it in glass or ceramic. We would never use a microwave to heat baby food or bottles. You should also not put the hot puree in the ice trays. Wait for it to cool down a bit so the toxins don't leech from the plastic.
I did this for my sons, but didn't necessarily boil everything myself. I used canned fruit in juice. There were a few things that I cooked myself. For applesauce, I just bought unsweetened applesauce. There ya go!
I really can't understand why most people don't do this. Bananas are super easy to do and much, much cheaper than buying the little jars. It took no time at all to do and I was less stressed about spending money on baby food. I think it should be mentioned as an option at welfare/WIC offices.
There is a lot of BPA in canned food. You shouldn't be offering babies anything that comes out of a can! Jarred applesauce may be fine if there is no sugar added, but most have a load of sugar.
I'm sure you mean well but perhaps you shouldn't be telling someone how to take care of their own child. It's annoying and, quite frankly, were I a parent, unless the advice is coming from my own mother, I wouldn't take anyone else's word for anything. I'm quite certain that parents taking the time to try and make meals more healthy for their children are not going to seriously endanger them. Chill.
You can skip baby food entirely. Just make sure you don't feed your baby anything they can choke on.
Agreed. It's called Baby Led Weaning and requires no pureeing. You just put the food chunks (large ones) in front of your child and they play with it until they're ready to eat it themselves. Makes going out so much easier – you don't have to bring anything with you. We've done this with both of our children and highly suggest it!
And what exactly do you suggest? Doctors do not recommend feeding infants anything except baby food until certain ages. You can't just feed a baby something just because. But if you want to do that to your child(ren) than by all means do so. But you have no idea what a baby may be allergic to and cereal (like rice cereal) is fed before food anyway, and before that formula or breast feeding. Doctors recommend what children need to be started on, but hey, that's just my opinion after working with pediatricians for several years and raising my own kids.
You do not need to feed a baby rice cereal. It lacks in any nutrition. You can feed your baby real food. They are not going to be any more allergic to it than they would that awful stuff in jars. The point of baby led weaning is that you wait until they are old enough to eat the larger pieces of food or gnaw at them to get a taste of it. For my baby's first year, his main nutrition came from breast milk. If he ate the food I made, it was just picking at it. He was not getting any real nutrition from it.
@Raed, I completely agree with your assessment of storebought baby food: smells and tastes like nothing I would feed my dog, much less my child. No wonder kids grow up and prefer junk food to real food, when "real food" has been smelling and tasting so awful all along!
I steamed and mashed the vegetables and fruits (unseasoned) that we cooked for ourselves, and froze them in batches in ice cube trays for our children. Saved tons of money. Didn't even need an appliance to do it, either–I mashed everything with a fork . . . somehow my kids survived my lack of blenderness. But it's all good. Let them eat real, folks!
Once you've gotten through the single food introduction phase (when you are only supposed to introduce one thing at a time to see if there are any allergic reactions), I have tried as much as possible to make things that the whole family can eat, like pureed soups and pasta sauces – it makes life easier if you don't have to cook separate food for baby. Plus, kids will have more adventurous palates if you introduce them to flavorful foods early.
Great article! My only comment is that a serving of fruits or vegetables is about 1 Tablespoon per year of age. 4 oz seems like a rather large portion size for a 6 month old. I used ice cube trays for my homemade baby food. Each cube is about 1 oz. If I was going to all the trouble to make my own food, I didn't want it to get wasted! Of course, by baby #2, I was keeping up with a busy preschooler and didn't have time for all that fussiness. Baby number #2 got fresh banana that I just scraped with a spoon, or fine grated raw apple, for example. If they are at least 6 months old, can sit up on their own, and don't push the food out with their tongue, they don't need food ultra pureed. I love the emphasis on fresh foods in this article.
We used a Magic Bullet, too. Some of the meals that included meat that we pureed looked pretty - well, gross! But our son ate it up like crazy all the same. He was never a fussy eater and yes, we did save a lot of money. We prepared his meals 2-3 times each week, keeping an eye on when we could stock up on veggies and fruits. My little guy is coming up on 2 years old now, so we handed down the Magic Bullet to my sister-law who gave birth last month.
By the way, to the author: This article really got me laughing, "mungry" haha. She sounds adorable! But that poor giraffe!
My dad made all of my food, and now at 24 I'm so glad because I became a very picky eater in terms of health and freshness.
After struggling with my stepdaughter trying to get her to try actual foods I decided homemade babyfood is the way to go. I can't help but feel all the extra crap they put in the store bought stuff contributed to her pickiness- for example if it isn't hidden in sauce she won't eat it and goodness help you if it LOOKS like actual food. I'm expecting my first in a week and really hope that introducing him to wholesome foods made from scratch will help him grow into an adventorous eater who is eager to try new things =) who knows, maybe his "adventure" will rub off on big sis- plan on including her with the food prep and I am very much looking forward to it!
Smart lady, sounds like you've learned a lot already, and just in the nick of time, too! Hope you have a smooth & quick delivery, and your newest addition benefits from having a mama who cares enough to educate herself & learn from experience. My guess is, you're right – your step-daughter will come around, especially if she's involved :)
Wow – I must have been wayyy ahead of my time – I did this very thing for my son, who is now 34 years old. I believe it developed his strong penchant for all sorts of tasty fruits and vegetables – he was never, ever a picky eater. Saved myself a ton of money and personally – I think my son had better nutrition!
I did that, too, Jenny W, for my now 35 year old daughter. Friends thought I was a bit crazy, but I was determined to serve her healthy foods. This article makes it seem as if it is a new idea. I remember having a book about it back then and mini blending containers that came with my blender for blending baby foods. Hope our kids know how lucky they were to have caring moms.
I had a "Happy Baby Food Grinder" 35 years ago for my son – pre food processor days – it was a small hand crank food grinder. I made most of his baby food and my friends thought I was a bit nuts too. He grew up eating very healthy food and has the most eclectic palate – he will try anything. Just a thought to those making the food now – be sure to cook and freeze the fruits and veggies as soon as you buy them. Significant amounts of the vitamins are lost every day after they are harvested.
Not ahead too far of your time – just doing what people did for centuries and most people around the world still do – feeding your baby what you eat. :) I did it too, just throwing things in the blender. The only processed baby foods my kids had were cereals and sometimes jars on vacation. And as they got a little older, I'd sit them in a high chair and give them a big bowl of peas or fruit pieces to munch on while I prepared their dinner. Now adults, they're both healthy eaters and were among the few kids I knew when they were little who loved salad. My son was more cautious but he gradually added things himself; until by his teens he'd eat more or less anything. My daughter at 18 months old was eating curry at Indian restaurants with us.
I'm expecing in 2 weeks, so this article has meaning to me. I am planning on making most of the baby food too. Thanks for all the ideas on which fruits and veggies to puree. I suppose a regular food processor is sufficient- I have lots of 4 oz cups with lids- no need to buy a specific baby food maker.
Hey Jill, a food processor will not be able to fully puree the food. It gets close, but not a totally smooth texture. A Magic Bullet-type appliance will work, though.
You don't need completely smooth food. I used a food processor and my kids didn't mind at all.
We make all our daughter's food and use a food processor... never had any problems with the results. It gets it close enough and the small bits get them started chewing. Now if you're leaving the peal on an apple I might not try to do it in a food processor.
For me, I loved the Sistema containers. They are BPA free and freeze like a charm. They are rectangular, so stack easily well. I just grab one froze on our way out the door and once at our destination, the partially thawed food is ready to heat. They are incradibly durable and they don't leak. I still use the same containers 5 years later for home made spaghetti bolognese sauce for nstant pint size lunches for school or home. My kids have never had commercial baby food past the organic rice cereal.
I highly recommend an immersion blender. It is by far the best tool I've found for making baby food—and soups!
Wow- thanks for all the responses! I am planning on leaving the peel on. I have a magic bullet type of appliance- I've used it once in 6 years so I have to test it out and get used to trying it. I have a hand blender as well- I wonder if that's the same as an immersion blender.
The people who wrote the article said they just used a blender- if anyone who reads this tried that, let me know how it worked out.
Immersion blender does indeed = hand blender; and it should work just fine for ya. If you're cooking apples, pears, plums via steam, the peels will be soft enough to integrate into edible bites for a baby coming off of milk/formula (from my own experience). Kudos to all the parents who, like me, have put health for their kiddos first .. it does NOT have to cost more to feed kids well. Just remember, no cereal in the baby bottle to "get them started" – no bueno, amigas/amigos.
I made my own baby foods with my first, steaming then blending in a blender and then putting through a strainer – whew! By my second baby, I didn't have time for that. I also realized that because I was following current recommendations not to introduce solids until my baby could sit up on her own and had lost her tongue thrust reflex (didn't push the food out with her tongue), which happens *around* six months – they don't need ultra smooth purees. I kept it simple the second time. I would peel a banana and simply scrap it with a spoon. Or do a fine grate on a raw apple. Other nights I would just bake a sweet potato with the rest of dinner and mash it with a fork. Cheaper and fewer appliances to clean!
I never even had a food processor, just a basic blender, and it was fine. Things like bananas you can mash with a fork. I don't think you need to stick to 6 months either, depending on your baby. My son was a big baby (9 lbs 10 oz at birth) and by 3.5 months he was 17 lbs and waking up twice a night hungry (he'd slept throguh from a few weeks old) despite drinking as much milk as he could hold during the day. I introduced him to one solid meal a day, and by 4 months old he was at 3 meals a day plus milk and sleeping through again. And no, he didn't get fat or have health issues - these days he's 6 ft 2 ins, 190 pounds, and a college athlete.
I think I may have a little gourmet on my hands ! :) I will say some of the "pouch" baby foods aren't bad, they do tend to have a little more flavor than some that come in jars.
Yes, it does sound like you have a little gourmet on your hands. Totally awesome.
It really isn't nearly as hard as people like to think. You can do huge batches and freeze in ice cube trays for perfect sized portions. Pop the cubes out after they are frozen and put in freezer bags to save space, grab and go ! A word of caution though, once my daughter (now 15 months) had the homemade baby food, she was insulted by the store bought food I tried to slip in now and then !
No kidding, really?
My dad was the same way as an adult... grew up with homemade pasta sauce and wouldn't eat sauce from a jar. You notice a difference. I'm not surprised that a 15-mo old can tell the difference between homemade food and store-bought.
Have you tasted bought baby food? it's disgusting. I tried a jar of it once on mine and neither myself nor the babies would eat it. Home made food is so good! We'd make pureed peas and call them Whirled Peas (World peace).
Actually, there are some desserts that are pretty good. I enjoyed the blueberry buckle. Bananas were, eh. But the desserts were pretty good.
That is how we do it as well. Make large batches, freeze in ice cube trays and then store in 1gal freezer bags. We started saving small jars months ago, like what you might get pimentos, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, or other pickled vegs in (I'm a sucker for pickled stuff). Every morning take out three clean jars, put 2 cubes for morning, 3 for lunch, and three for afternoon snack and off to day-care and work we go!
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