Only 45% of infants are exclusively breastfed in the first three months of their lives. So, parents don’t have a lot of time before they have to think of food for their babies.
The problem will become larger when the infant grows up because parents need to prepare more diverse food and replace milk with other nutrients.
That’s why there is a separate branch in the food industry focused on baby food. Surprisingly, the baby food market is now larger than a whopping $90 billion.
The question is how you can make tasty and healthy meals for your baby at different ages without spending too much money.
Read on as we explore the best ways toprepare, cook, and store food for your baby.
Here are the best methods to cook food for your baby.
Steaming is the most recommended method to prepare and cook food for your baby. It helps retain the most nutrients compared to other cooking methods.
However, you shouldn’t overcook the food as it can become too watery and less enjoyable to eat. That’s why many babies don’t like steamed meals!
If you need to add liquid, you can use a small amount of cooking water. This way, you'll reintroduce some of the lost nutrients back into the food without taking away from the taste.
Baking is another great cooking method, especially when it comes to preparing vegetables for your baby.
Try dry baking veggies without oil. This is a fantastic method to enhance their flavors without adding anything except a small amount of liquid when pureeing. You can try this method with sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, corn, and parsnips.
To bake meat or poultry use a little water for pureeing instead of the meat juices. The meat juices can sometimes make the taste too strong for your little one's liking.
Boiling is a popular method, but it’s not necessarily the best method for baby food. When you boil food, it's submerged in hot water, which can cause some nutrients and minerals to be lost.
However, boiling is still a good option, especially when mothers use the leftover water, which contains nutrients.
Also, when you’re making soup, the boiling water is used along with the food. So you don’t need to be worried about losing nutrients.
There are many rumors that using the microwave for cooking can have adverse health effects. But more than 80% of familieshave a microwave. And microwaving can be a convenient way to prepare food for your babies or reheat leftovers.
However, it's important to ensure that the entire food is evenly cooked in the microwave before pureeing.
Microwaves can sometimes cause uneven cooking, resulting in uncooked sections. If the food is not fully cooked, it can create a rough texture that may be difficult for your baby to eat.
Wrap the food in aluminum foil, making sure it's tightly sealed. Place the foil package in the oven at 400F/180C.
This method is similar to steaming because the heat creates steam inside the package, cooking the food. The advantage is that the steam stays trapped inside, keeping the nutrients and flavors intact.
When opening the package, be cautious as the steam will be very hot! Take care to protect your fingers.
Frying and grilling are not generally recommended as regular methods for preparing baby food. The most important reason is the high temperature of around 450-650 degrees Fahrenheit.
These cooking methods can lead to nutrient loss and expose your child to higher levels of carbon (from grilling) and oil (from frying).
Opt for healthier cooking techniques to ensure your baby receives the necessary nutrients without unnecessary added substances.
Preparing healthy baby food isn’t all about the cooking method or the ingredients. The type of cookware matters, too
When it comes to cooking baby food, using non-toxic materials for cookware is vital. You should ensure nothing harmful leaches into your little one’s food while cooking. This is why stainless steel is one of the best options out there.
Stainless steel is an alloy consisting of different metals. But the most commonly used metals are iron, nickel, and chromium. This metal composition makes stainless steel durable and resistant to scratches and heat. Thanks to its resistance to wear and tear, it’s perfect for cooking baby food, which you may need to cook several times a day.
Stainless steel has a smooth surface that makes it easy to clean. You can rest assured that your cookware is perfectly cleaned and bacteria-free.
That said, the most important feature that makes stainless steel perfect for cooking baby food is that it’s not reactive. If your baby’s food contains acidic ingredients like tomatoes, you can rest assured that it doesn’t eat away at the metal and leach dangerous chemicals into your baby’s food.
The only safety consideration is nickel, which can cause allergies in some people. If you’re concerned about nickel, you can pick nickel-free stainless steel cookware known as 18/0.
Clad stainless steel has excellent heat distribution abilities. So, you can rest assured that your baby cooks evenly and perfectly.
Cast iron is another safe option for cooking baby food. It’s an iron and carbon alloy that may contain trace amounts of other metals, making it one of the best materials for cookware. What makes cast iron a safe bet is the absence of toxic materials in its composition.
Although cast iron is reactive, it doesn’t leach dangerous chemicals into your baby’s food. The only thing that it can leach is iron, which can be beneficial. It can only be dangerous for people with high iron levels.
If you’re concerned about leaching iron, you can opt for enameled cast iron, which is non-reactive and non-toxic.
Cast iron is as versatile as stainless steel. There’s virtually nothing you can’t cook in a cast iron skillet. So, whether you want to bake, boil, or steam meat, vegetables, or grains for your baby, a cast iron skillet fits the bill.
Containers for storing homemade or store-bought baby food should be safe, easy to clean, and durable. Here are the best options.
I can’t think of anything safer than glass for storing food. It’s non-reactive, toxin-free, and scratch-free. You can use glass in the fridge or freezer. Glass is the recommended material by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as the safest material. Glass containers are dishwasher-safe, although they’re very easy to clean if you want to hand-wash your baby’s containers.
And if you need to thaw your baby’s frozen food in a microwave, glass containers are the safest option.
The only thing you should look out for is the lid’s material. Most glass containers come with plastic lids. Look for BPA-free lids to ensure no toxic chemicals touch your baby’s food.
Glass containers are perfect but can be heavy and prone to breaking. This makes them unfit when you need a safe container to take outside.
Stainless steel can be a great alternative to glass. Besides being safe, non-reactive, and toxin-free, stainless steel containers are lighter and more durable than glass. You don’t need to worry about accidentally dropping the containers since they don't break or dent.
Here are some tips regarding your baby food:
Being hygienic doesn't necessarily mean sterilizing everything. But you need to keep everything as clean as possible. While preparing baby food, ensure all the counters, cutting boards, and utensils are thoroughly washed and clean. Wash your hands frequently after touching things that you’re not sure are clean.
When preparing the ingredients, keep raw and cooked materials separate. Meat, fish, and poultry should be cut, washed, and prepared separately to prevent cross-contamination. Use different cutting boards for vegetables and meat.
When cooking baby food, ensure the ingredients, especially meat and poultry, reach the desired temperature to be fully cooked. Chicken and red meat should reach an internal temperature of 165F to kill the bacteria.
If your baby food is frozen, never thaw it at room temperature. Either defrost it in the microwave or thaw it in the fridge to prevent it from getting to the danger zone where bacteria grows.
After cooking, ensure your baby eats the food immediately. Don’t let it sit around for hours.
If your baby doesn’t finish her food, throw the leftovers away. When your baby puts the spoon in her mouth, bacteria sit on the spoon and are transferred to the food once the spoon touches it. And this is a good space for such bacteria to multiply. But if the food is untouched, you can store it in the freezer or fridge, depending on the type of food.
Preparing, cooking, and storing food for your baby requires careful consideration to ensure their safety and well-being. You just need to pay careful attention to equipment, time, methods of cooking, and different means of storing and reheating to keep your kid healthy. Apart from these tips, remember to consult with your child's doctor for guidance on their growth and development.