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NewsTribune photo/Alicia LeGrand-Riniker Bonnie Czech is an Ottawa mother of three boys for whom she made homemade baby food, including her youngest, Aden, who just turned a year old. Czech said making baby food was not only healthier for her child, but helped him to eat regular table food earlier.
NewsTribune photo/Alicia LeGrand-Riniker A spinach, chicken and sweet potato baby food mixture that Bonnie Czech of Ottawa came up with herself. Czech said freezing the food in ice cube trays allows for easy storage and perfect serving sizes for a hungry baby.
Mangoes and carrots (Camille Galvan) One mango ½ cup of baby carrots Peel and cut mango into chucks. Steam carrots and mango together until soft about 20 to 25 minutes. Blend to desired consistency. Feed baby right away or place food in ice tray and freeze. Defrost before serving to baby.
For an additional recipe, pick up a copy of Wednesday's NewsTribune
When it came to feeding her babies, Bonnie Czech wanted to be in control.
“I wanted to know where my baby food was coming from,” said Czech, mother of three.
Brittney Junker, Illinois Valley Community Hospital dietitian, said prepackaged or store-bought baby food can have extra sodium, fillers, thickeners or preservatives that a baby does not need.
In addition, it can be heated at high temperatures which cause it to lose most of its nutritional value, Junkersaid. This allows the baby food to last longer, but might not be the healthiest choice for the baby.
“As a new mom, I was into trying to be as organic as I could,” said Camille Galvan of Ottawa, mother of 15-month-old Gabriel. “I did my research about baby food and I just felt like I could provide him with better.”
The suggested method for cooking homemade baby food is steaming. This allows the food to soften, but still retain most of its nutrients which are good for the baby. Also some foods don’t need to be cooked and can be mashed up with a fork, including bananas and avocados.
Galvan and Czech of Ottawa said they would take an afternoon preparing food that would last for a week or so. Galvan used a combined steam and blending machine which she liked because there were fewer things to cleanup. Czech did not find it necessary to spend the extra money and used her stove, a steam basket and a blender to make her food.
Both women use ice trays to freeze the baby food into perfect serving sizes. Junker said two ounces of food should be enough to satisfy the baby, adding “when he or she is full they are going to stop eating.”
After the food is frozen, the women removed the cubes and placed them in freezer bags. Czech said it is a good idea to label the food with what it is and when it was made. The cubes could be defrosted and served to the baby at room temperature. Czech also found reusable squeeze pouches helpful when on the go. Galvan also suggested canning the homemade food which would last about a year.
“You can taste the difference,” Galvan said about store versus homemade baby food.
She said the flavors in the jarred food don’t taste the same as eating a real apple or banana. She also did not like that some baby food makers idea of adding texture was adding pasta to the food which is not the same as eating chunky fruits or vegetables.
Galvan liked that she could offer her baby a variety of different foods and combinations. She also felt it helped Gabriel start eating table food much faster than other kids his age.
“He seemed to respond to real food better,” she said.
As the baby gets older and accustomed to what the parents are making, dinners and food ideas for baby become easier.
“I just blended up whatever we made for dinner,” Czech said. “And he liked it.”
Whether this is chicken, spaghetti or beef stew, the baby can share in the family meal like everyone else and mom or dad don’t have to make extra food. Junker said this also can lead to the child being not so picky about what he or she eats later in life.
Some parents choose not to make their own baby food due to storage and time management issues. Homemade baby food is fresh and needs to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer to make sure it does not spoil. Mothers making a lot of food would have to make room to store it and to some this might be an issue.
Czech found space not to be a big problem because a bag of pears would cook down to one to two ice trays. She said the jars of store-bought food she would need to buy took up more space.
Junker said that convenience might be winning the war in why some parents purchase store baby food over making their own, but she feels that if people knew the health benefits they would try it.
Both Galvan and Czech said they felt the strains of not having enough time to make baby food and would sometimes pick up store-bought food. Galvan said there was nothing wrong with using it, but she much preferred the benefits of making her own including the money savings.
“Making your own baby food is probably a fourth of the cost,” said Junker.
Jarred baby food costs about $1 and will provide 2-3 meals for the baby. A bunch of bananas costs about the same price and will provide 8-12 servings for the baby.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests introducing a baby to solid food at four to six months with six months being better. Junker said by that time the baby is sitting up and can properly digest food.
She said it doesn’t matter what order you introduce new food to baby, but to do it slowly. She suggests starting with one food for a couple days and then adding a new food. This will help determine if the baby has any food allergies, said Junker. As baby gets older, the texture of the food will change and parents can mix combinations of foods together and also introduce baby to meats, beans and eggs.
For Galvan, inspiration comes from grocery store shelves. Czech said she wanted to keep it simple and would stick to what she had at home or what was on sale or in season. In addition, buying frozen instead of fresh can be less expensive or provide longer storage time for food until it is ready to be made.
“It’s very important (to parents) to give their baby the healthiest options possible,” Junker said. “People want to stay away from processed food. So there is more emphasis on eating foods that are closer to its whole form.”