Raising a healthy baby is every parent’s goal. To raise a healthy, adventurous eater who delights in fresh fruits and vegetables is even better!
Children’s taste buds develop in the first three years of life so it’s important to take full advantage of this time and offer the child a wide variety of healthy foods. This establishes a brain-taste bud connection that will likely impact the child’s nutritional preferences for years to come.
One simple way to shepherd the formation of a child’s palate from the very beginning is to make your own baby food. It may sound intimidating to make baby food from scratch, but in reality it’s incredibly easy and a wonderful way to ensure your child is eating the most nutrient-dense food possible.
What’s In Store-Bought Baby Food?
While convenient, store-bought baby food can actually be a hidden source of some seriously questionable ingredients and even toxins. The riskiest additives are artificial colors, chemical preservatives (such as BHA, sodium nitrite, and sodium benzoate), added sugar or corn syrup, and added salt.
While most packaged baby foods contain just the ingredients listed on the label, if a brand is not certified organic, you won’t know whether or not the product contains harmful pesticides or other chemicals. Some brands have even come under criticism for deceptive marketing, misleading shoppers to believe their products feature nutrient-dense ingredients when they really contain upwards of 70 percent starch and water.¹
Even more alarming is the presence of heavy metals recently found in a broad spectrum of baby foods. Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) tested 168 baby foods made by 61 different brands and found toxic heavy metals in a staggering 95 percent of them.²
Researchers found that 94 percent contained lead, 75 percent contained cadmium, 73 percent contained arsenic, and 32 percent contained mercury. Only 5 percent (9 samples) contained zero metals at all.²
Lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury are known developmental neurotoxins that can harm a child’s brain and nervous system, potentially even causing permanent loss of intellectual capacity. Heavy metal toxicity can also contribute to behavioral issues like ADHD.
To avoid these dangerous substances, the best solution is to go back to basics and make your baby food at home. This way you control the quality of ingredients used and know exactly what is going into your baby’s growing body.
Good Starter Foods
We recommend choosing organic foods for your baby’s diet (and your own!) if possible to avoid exposure to synthetic pesticides, hormones, and GMOs. Avoid choking hazards (such as grapes, tough meat, and nuts) as well as fish high in mercury, refined sugar, and refined flour.
We also recommend starting with a single savory option (just avocado, for example) and save sweeter foods for later. This will avoid overdeveloping a baby’s sweet tooth too early.
We recommend breast milk be the primary food for babies until one year of age, as it takes one year for their digestive systems to be fully developed. At The Wellness Way we will often do a food allergy test with the mother to determine which foods to avoid. Once the child has reached a year old, solid foods can slowly be introduced one at a time. Slow introduction of foods to the baby may reveal IgE type anaphylactic allergies, but until the mom and baby are both tested properly we will not know if there are other hidden allergies present. This is why testing for food allergies is such an important step.
Once foods begin being introduced, offer them alone and not in combination with other foods for at least three days before you move on to offering another food. Once your baby has tolerated one food successfully, you can begin introducing more than one food at a time with the one that has already been tolerated.
Ideal foods to begin with include the following in puréed forms:
- Green beans
- Sweet potatoes
As the child’s system develops, you can begin adding:
- Fruits (apples, pears, peaches, plums)
- Puréed animal meats, organ meats, and wild fish
- Homemade chicken broth
- Egg yolks
Begin feeding your baby just a few bites per day (anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon at the start). Begin introducing solid foods once a day for a few weeks before increasing frequency to twice a day and eventually three times per day.
How to Make Baby Food
The steps are simple!
- Steam or roast the food until soft.
- Purée the food with breast milk, the liquid in which the food was steamed, or filtered water in a blender or food processor. As the child progresses through the food introduction process you may add healthy fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, or grass-fed ghee or butter.
- Blend until the food reaches a very smooth consistency.
Portion homemade baby food in small glass jars kept in the refrigerator. You may also freeze it in ice cube trays and store the cubes in the freezer until ready to thaw and use. Remember, your baby will only be eating a very small amount of these foods at a time, so no need to make huge batches.
As your baby’s palate and tolerance for solid food grows, smoothies are also a wonderful way to offer them a wide array of nutrients in a simple-to-consume form. Our Berry Yummy Smoothie is a great option for babies and toddlers!
A Word on Food Allergies
It’s important to remember that every baby is different, will develop at their own pace, and may have unique food allergies that are discovered along the way. Pay attention to your baby’s hunger cues and reflexes to determine the pace at which you progress through the process. Also watch for any signs of food reactions (such as rashes, diarrhea, excessive gas, or vomiting). If you suspect your child may have food allergies, consider reaching out to one of our clinics to learn how we can help address your baby’s unique needs.