Preparing and Storing Baby Food: From Weaning to Toddlers
Once your little one is ready to eat solid food, it's essential that you treat cleanliness and freshness with the utmost care and importance. This is because their immune system is less developed than adults, leaving them open to bugs and infections.
So, while there's no need to completely sterilise your home, some sound preparation and storage practices are always a good idea when it comes to their food. Whether you're weaning them onto solids or they're a discerning eater, here are some excellent tips you can use to ensure feeding your child is as convenient and hygienic as possible.
Making your own baby food
If you go the do-it-yourself route and decide to make your own baby food, then good news: it can be more delicious and nutritious for your little one than shop-bought versions. In the long run, it can also be more economical, plus it allows you to tailor flavours and textures using all manner of fresh, healthy foods.
A note on allergens:
- Slowly introduce common allergens such as eggs, milk, wheat, soy, nuts, fish and shellfish.
- If you're thinking of introducing gas-inducing foods like beans, broccoli, onions, fruit juice, wheat cauliflower, garlic and dairy into their diet, it's best to wait until they're 10 to 12 months old.
- Whenever possible, opt for organic produce. The smaller digestive systems of babies mean they're unable to handle toxins like pesticides in the way small children and adults can.
Lastly, make sure the foods you're making are age appropriate.
Go with thin, single-ingredient purees made from vegetables on the sweeter side of things and fruits with low acid. Try to leave a gap of four days before repeating meals, so you can spot any allergies that may occur.
As for ingredients, think things like pureed sweet potato, carrots, peaches and peas – flavourful
From here, you can introduce other fruits and vegetables into their diet. You can even add proteins like lentils and meats to make thicker purees. You'll still need to go one ingredient at a time, but you can mix multiple ingredients together once you know your baby isn't allergic.
Start simple with things you can mash by fork such as avocado, banana and pear. Savoury purees like green bean and potato add some hearty heft to mealtimes, while a combination of fruit and veg like parsnip and pear mixes things up nicely, giving them plenty of nutrients in the process.
At this stage, they'll be ready for chunkier purees with small pieces of soft vegetables that won't pose a problem for them. Whole milk and dairy can also be added once they reach this age range, too. Newer flavours like cinnamon and parsley, used sparingly, won't go amiss either.
Now you can add more adult foods to what they eat; honey, fish, citrus and small amounts of salt and pepper are all ripe for introduction, though be sure to keep the pieces small for them.
A step-by-step guide to baby food prep and storage
Whether you're preparing your baby's first meal, or cooking in bulk for the first time, here are some helpful tips for every step of the way.
- Whatever you're preparing, wash your hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water and rinse carefully before handling raw or cooked food.
- Similarly, clean and wash all foods before cooking. Trim bad spots from fruit and veg, and cut off any excess fat from meat you'll be using.
- If you're cooking veg, steam them so more of the vitamins and minerals are retained. Just make sure you don't overcook them as you'll end up losing the all-important goodness in the process.
- For meats, opt for medium or well done, and cook them using a grill or sauté in a pan with cooking spray.
- Puree or mash your chosen food to a consistency they'll be able to handle.
- With your food pureed, a great way to store them in manageable portions is by pouring them into ice cube trays. Cover the trays with cling film, freeze them, then defrost as and when you need them.
- Alternatively, you can do the above, and then place the ice cubes in a FoodSaver freezer bags. Make sure you label them by food and date too!
- Another way is to pour 1-2 tbsp of pureed food into separate spots on a baking sheet, cover them with cling film and freeze. These can then be removed and put into freezer bags for later.
- If you're looking for the food you've prepared to last longer, then use a vacuum sealer to preserve the flavour and nutrients. Whether you use one of the methods above, or simply place the pureed food in them by bulk, sealing your little one's dinner is safe, effective and convenient for you, too.
Reheating the food
- Each evening, take the foods you plan to feed them out of the freezer, then place them in the fridge to defrost. They'll usually be defrosted overnight.
- When reheating, make sure everything is piping hot throughout. Don't be tempted to partially warm the food just so they can eat it immediately.
- If they don't finish their food, throw away the leftovers. Reheating the food a second time could be harmful and might lead to food poisoning.
As for the method, either of the following will ensure best results:
- Place the food in a heat-safe dish, and place the dish over a pan of simmering water. Stir often so that everything's evenly heated.
- In a microwave-safe food container that is covered with a lid or suitable plastic wrap; covering it helps ensure even heating without losing any of its moisture.
- Once defrosted, fruits are good to go, with no need to heat them up!
Don't forget, to help the food in this article last a little longer, it can all be stored using the FoodSaver vacuum sealing system to help you save money and reduce food waste. For more information about our innovative vacuum sealers, be sure to visit our homepage.