Mix and Mash

By Sara Curtis on November 05, 2010
Let babies savour a broad range of flavours.

To some, making your own baby food might seem either incredibly daunting or completely unnecessary. (I mean, there’s a reason why those little jars of brightly-coloured purées are so readily available, isn’t there?) In truth, making your own is remarkably easy – a peeler, a pot and a food processor and you’re good to go – and the benefits are undeniable.

Lianne Phillipson-Webb, a registered nutritionist in Toronto and mother of two girls, aged five and seven, is enthusiastic about the benefits. “First, you know exactly what’s in it. Second, you can give them all kinds of foods you won’t find in a jar: beets, parsnips, turnips … you’re not limited in what you can expose them to.” Then later when you’re making family meals, they’re accustomed to a variety of tastes because you’ve been developing your baby’s palate, says Lianne.
While parents have long been been told to hold off introducing their babies to commonly allergenic foods, a 2008 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests otherwise. It found no evidence that waiting to eat foods like eggs, shellfish and even peanuts until older than four to six months prevents food allergies. So go ahead and scramble that egg or mash that halibut filet for your little one. Introduce new foods gradually, and wait a few days between each new food to make sure your baby doesn’t react adversely. And if your child has eczema or signs of allergies to food or anything else, consult with your doctor before introducing these foods.
The idea that baby food needs to be bland is also completely unfounded, and may actually be doing children a disservice, says Lianne. By “dumbing down” their palates from the time they start solid food, it’s no wonder they gravitate to high-fat, high-sodium kid staples like mac and cheese, hot dogs and chicken fingers. Babies in other cultures grow up eating curries and kim chi, chilis and jerk sauce – there’s no reason Canadian babies wouldn’t enjoy these foods as well. (And, in fact, if you breastfed your baby, she has already enjoyed every order of Madras chicken or garlicky Bolognese sauce you ate while you were nursing.)

Tasting notes

Wanting to share her DIY message with as many new moms as possible, Lianne started Mommy Chef in 2006. Groups of up to seven women and their babies gather at her cooking studio or someone’s home and make a month’s worth of baby food while gabbing with other moms. Classes are tailored to babies of all ages with the food getting chunkier and more complex as the baby gets older.
Parents are often suprised at what babies will eat – hummus with garlic, mashed rutabaga, quinoa. “The babies gobble it up.”

Do try these at home:

  • Cruciferous vegetables like kale, collard greens and Brussels sprouts. Puréed with a little cheese or butter and salt and pepper, they’re delicious.
  • Whole grains like quinoa, wheat berries, barley and bulgur. Not only are these grains unbelievably delicious, their textures are good for your baby’s oral development.
  • Herbs and spices. If you love lamb with rosemary and cumin-scented carrots, why wouldn’t your baby?
  • Sure scotch bonnet peppers are not a good idea, but there’s nothing wrong with feeding your baby moderately spicy food if he likes it.
  • Sour foods like cherries and plums (pitted and puréed, or chopped into small pieces for older babies), quince, and tart varieties of apples.
  • Legumes like lentils, chick peas and beans of all sorts. These are a cheap, low-fat source of protein, and they can be served all kinds of ways: mashed and turned into dips, in soups and stews, or even whole as a snack (if your baby is old enough.)
  • Puréed adult food. Whiz up your own beef stew or linguini primavera in the food mill or food processor until it’s the right consistency for your baby. It’s a great way to get him used to your style of cooking and the foods you love.

Published in November, 2010.

By Sara Curtis| November 05, 2010

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