Making veggie baby food is super easy — if you put aside just one hour each week, you can stock your fridge and freezer with healthy, yummy foods that are easy to thaw, heat or whip together at mealtimes.
One thing we love about making vegetarian and vegan baby foods is that the risk of food contamination, such as harmful bacteria like salmonella or e. coli, is very low. Raw meats are typically the culprits that allow these bacteria to spread.
But, when making any kind of baby food, it’s important that all your kitchen surfaces, utensils, and appliances are spic and span in order to avoid any sort of contamination.
All fruits and veggies, whether they are organic or not, should be washed thoroughly before using, even if you’re removing the peel or skin. (The only fruit I’ve never washed is a banana!) To make sure you’re removing all the dirt and pesticides from your fruits and veggies, you can make your own natural, organic fruit and vegetable wash at home. Just combine equal parts lemon juice and baking soda, along with some water into a spray bottle. Once it foams up, spritz onto your produce and let it sit for a few minutes and rinse. Alternatively, you can soak your fruits and veggies in vinegar and water for about 20 minutes or so, and then rinse.
When working with canned beans and legumes, we recommend draining the water present in the can and rinsing the contents thoroughly to remove any added salt or residue.
Never leave cooked foods on the counter at room temperature for more than two hours. Be sure you’re home to store cooked foods properly once you’ve made a batch. Don’t thaw your baby’s food on the kitchen counter — you can risk contamination or spoiling.
Never thaw and re-freeze frozen foods — doing this can cause bacteria to grow and multiply. Once you’ve frozen your baby food, it’s best to try to use it up within one to three months, although foods in the freezer have varying storage times, depending on the type of food and your freezer. Now, things get trickier when you purchased frozen raw fruits and veggies, cook, puree and store. Since raw frozen fruits and veggies are flash frozen by a manufacturer, they should be OK to thaw, cook, and refreeze. This only applies to raw fruits and vegetables that have been flash frozen, not fruits and vegetables that have been pre-cooked and frozen by a manufacturer.
If you cook and prepare food for your baby and refrigerate it, be sure to use it within 48-72 hours.
It can be heart-breaking if your baby only takes a few bites of food you’ve spent time making, but fight the urge to keep it if it’s been exposed to your baby’s saliva. To avoid throwing food away, only put small amounts of food into a baby-safe feeding bowl so you can limit exposure to your baby’s spoon.
The baby food making industry will tell you that you need a lot of fancy appliances and baby-specific tools in order to quickly and easily make healthy food for your burgeoning eater. Many of the tools you need to make your baby’s food you probably already have, so there’s no need to rush out any buy a baby-branded food processor, steamer, or mill.
In our experience, all you need is as follows:
OK, we’re ready to cook! Your new eater will thrive on a variety of first foods. We know that the thought of having to now cook food for your baby (along with the myriad other tasks you must do in a day, all on less sleep than normal), may seem daunting. But you’ll be glad to know that pureeing foods for your baby is super simple and doesn’t need to take long.
Fruits and Veggies
To start, wash your fruit or veggie thoroughly. Remove any skin, seeds, stems or pits that you don’t want to include in your baby’s food.
Next, chop your produce into chunks so they cook faster. You can steam, boil, bake or microwave your baby food in big batches. Steaming tends to leave the most nutrients intact, so this method is generally recommended.
Cook until very soft, and remove from heat or water. Let cool a little, and begin to puree. You can use a blender, food processor, masher or even a fork to puree your baby’s food. Adding water, breast milk* or formula to your puree can thin the consistency, which is perfect for babies just learning to eat solid food.
*Please note that if you add breast milk to your purees, use milk that has not been previously frozen if you plan to freeze your newly pureed food. Like any other food, breast milk should never be frozen, thawed and re-frozen.
Once pureed to your desired consistency, divide your puree into your desired storage containers, and let cool. Do not leave your baby food out on the counter for more than two hours
If you’re making a small batch that you will refrigerate, you can store your baby food in glass containers or plastic containers that are BPA-free.
If you’re making a larger batch that you will freeze, transfer your baby food to ice cube trays or baby food freezer trays. Ice cube trays are good for new eaters, as they hold about one ounce of food per cube. Cover the ice cube tray with plastic wrap if it doesn’t come with a cover. As your baby and his appetite grows, you might want to consider purchasing baby food specific freezer trays, as they tend to hold more food per cube and often come with covers.
Once the food in the trays has frozen, you can remove the frozen cubes and transfer them to a Ziploc bag. Be sure to write the date and contents on the bag. You can then wash your freezer trays and start on your next batch of baby food.
As your little eater gets more adventurous, don’t be afraid to mix flavours or even add spices (but salt and sugar are NOT necessary or recommended!). You can find inspiration in the baby food section of the grocery store and copy some of their tried and tested baby food flavours.
Beans and Legumes
Preparing bean and legume puree is similar to preparing fruits and vegetables. Simply cook your bean/legume — or, if using pre-cooked canned beans/legumes, drain and rinse thoroughly — and puree, adding water, breast milk or formula until you reach your desired consistency. You can then refrigerate or freeze according to the instructions above.
You may have noticed that baby food in the grocery stores are often labelled by “stage”. Stages are based on the types of food your baby is ready to eat, and what the consistency of the food should be. You can use these stages as guides when you’re making your own baby food. Do keep in mind that all babies develop differently, and will be ready for various foods at different times. Follow your baby’s lead and hunger cues, and don’t worry if he’s not interested just yet in what you’re serving. You can always try again in a week or two.
For babies aged 6 months. This includes baby’s first foods, and usually contains just one ingredient, for example, sweet potato. The consistency of stage 1 baby food is typically very runny, and can be made on the “liquefy” setting of your blender, should you have this setting. If not, it’s easy to replicate the runny texture needed for baby’s first bites by adding water, breast milk or formula.
For babies 7+ months. Very similar to Stage 1, this stage includes a combination of two or more of baby’s Stage 1 foods, and instead of being pureed, the food might be strained (or put through a food mill) instead. The food in this stage is slightly thicker in texture than Stage 1 foods.
For babies 8-10+ months. These foods might be mashed rather than pureed, with small chunks that will prepare your baby for table food.
Once your baby is past the 12-month mark, she can generally eat what you’re eating, in finger food form. She may still want to eat pureed food, and that’s okay.
If your baby is particularly enthusiastic about a certain finger food, he might put as much as he can in his mouth before chewing. Be sure to offer only a few pieces so he has a chance to chew and swallow before offering more.
There are exceptions to what your child can eat, however. The following list of foods can be choking hazards for children under 3 years of age:
Always watch your child while he’s eating, and ensure your child is sitting in an upright position. Try to discourage your child from snacking while walking or crawling. It’s important to be up-to-date on CPR for babies and toddlers of all ages. If your child does choke, take her to see a doctor, who can ensure no small pieces of food have been left in the windpipe.
There are a few different ways you can thaw or heat your purees. If thawing frozen food, you can take out as many cubes as you think you might need for 1-2 days. See our feeding guides here to gauge how much your baby might eat. We recommend using thawed food within 2-3 days.
When thawing or heating food, try to use a glass dish or container rather than plastic, which can contain harmful chemicals including BPA and phthalates.
Once you’ve determined how much food you’d like to thaw, place the cubes in a covered glass container. Covering the food reduces the risk of contamination. It can take up to 12 hours to thaw your baby cubes this way, so if you need a quicker method, read on.
The microwave method isn’t for everyone, but it is quick if you need food in a pinch.
Thawing: Using a microwave-safe glass container, place as much food as you need for one meal in the microwave and use your defrost setting to thaw. Thaw in increments and stir the food as you go as to avoid any hot pockets. Always test the food yourself before feeding it to your baby so you don’t burn his mouth.
Heating: Similar to thawing, place your baby’s food in a microwave-safe glass dish. Heat in increments of 10-15 seconds, stirring as you go. Always test the food yourself before feeding it to your baby so you don’t burn his mouth.
Hot Water Submersion
To thaw your baby’s food using hot water, you can either boil water in a kettle or pot on the stove, and pour the hot water into a bowl. Then, place the baby food in a smaller bowl that can be submerged in the larger bowl.
Place your thawed baby food in a small saucepan on the stove on low heat. Stir often so the food doesn’t stick to the saucepan or burn. Your baby’s food will heat quickly, so test it frequently. Always test the food yourself before feeding it to your baby so you don’t burn his mouth.