MS, RD, LDN, CSSD, CBS
Rachel holds a Master’s in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University and is also a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. She works as a nutrition and wellness coach with focuses on infant and maternal nutrition, and mindful eating.
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Once your little one is ready to start solids, the next question often asked is: Do I make baby’s food or buy it? The store offers many baby food options, but making at least some of the food at home may allow for even more variety.
With a little bit of planning and use of some of the utensils you likely already have around the house, making homemade baby food doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds.
Read more: Introducing Solids: First Foods & Textures
You might be worried that you need an elaborate kitchen setup and all new kitchen tools to make your baby’s purees, but the good news is that you likely have many of the tools already needed to whip up some homemade baby food!
Following proper food safety is especially important when cooking for children and especially for baby’s first foods.3 Babies are more prone to foodborne illness than older children or healthy adults, so always wash your hands, rinse the food items, clean your work area, cook foods to their recommended internal temperatures, and avoid cross-contamination.3
For more specifics on proper food safety protocols, see Food Safety for Babies and Toddlers
There are many cooking options available for pureeing food for your baby. Each method has pros and cons in terms of ease and retention of nutritional value:
*Note that the longer you cook a food for and the higher the temperature used in cooking, the more nutrients may be lost.5
Fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats can all be cooked and pureed into baby food. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states there is no specific order that foods should be introduced.8
Some foods need to be avoided as they are choking hazards. Read more on Preventing Choking
Always cook vegetables before serving to your baby – steaming, roasting, or baking are the best methods. Once cooked, softer vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash need only be mashed with a fork or potato masher.
If the vegetable has a thick skin, like green beans or peas, push the cooked food through a strainer or sieve to remove the tougher parts. You can also just use a very powerful food processor or blender to puree the entire vegetable once cooked!
Try adding herbs such as oregano, rosemary, or dill; or spices such as cumin, ginger, or curry powder.
Try one of these vegetable puree recipes: Avocado and Pea Puree or Root Vegetable Puree
Certain fruits, like avocados and bananas; or very ripe pears, mango, and peaches; require no cooking before feeding to your baby. Simply peel then mash them up with a fork or blend quickly.
Other harder fruits, like apples, firmer pears, and underripe nectarines and mangos can be baked or steamed to soften them up for a puree. Simply halve or quarter your fruit of choice, remove the skin, remove the core, pit, or seeds. Place the cut fruit in a shallow baking dish with about 1 inch of water in a 400F degree oven.
Bake for 20-40 minutes, or until fruit is tender, then allow to cool before pureeing in a blender or dicing for finger food.
You can even sprinkle the fruit with ginger, nutmeg, or cinnamon!
Fruit puree recipes to try: Orange Sunny Soup or Beet and Cantaloupe Puree
You can make your own baby cereal at home using whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, or barley.
Finely grind the uncooked grain using a coffee grinder, food processor, or blender. Then cook the powder in water for 15 minutes until you get a thin, soupy consistency. You can also cook the raw grain whole, as you normally would for yourself, and then puree or mash. But this method can sometimes create a pasty consistency.
Try one of these homemade cereal recipes: Whole Ancient Grain Baby Cereal or Strawberry Quinoa Cereal
Yes, you can even puree meat for your baby using a food mill or blender. Cook the meat to well-done before pureeing (but avoid luncheon, cured, and smoked meats at this stage due to the high salt and additive content).9
Try one of these meat based baby food recipes: Avocado and Chopped Chicken or Ginger Carrot, Sweet Potato Mash and Lean Beef
If you have questions on how to make these recipes, or are looking for more ideas, reach out to our team of registered dietitians and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday – Friday 8am-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). Chat now!
Our little one’s food preferences are formed early in life, so avoiding or severely limiting these strong added flavors before the age of one is important. In fact, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for American recommends no added sugar at all before the age of 2 years.12
Additionally, you want your baby to experience and get used to the true flavors of food so that they are more likely to accept them in the future!11
Read more: Minimizing Added Sugar
Find the right consistency for your purees. Most babies start with thinner purees and work their way up to thicker ones as they learn to manage food in their mouth and then swallow.
Note that food textures can – and often do – change in the freezer. For example, certain fruits and vegetables like blueberries, pears, and eggplant contain a lot of water and can become quite runny when thawed. You may need to tinker with the consistency either before or after freezing some of these homemade purees.
Advancing textures steadily as your baby is ready will help develop their oral motor skills as well as prepare them to be more adventurous eaters.11
Start with thinner purees and then move to thicker purees over several weeks as your baby’s chewing and swallowing skills becomes more coordinated.
Once your little one can handle thick purees, it’s time to move onto lumpy purees as they prepare for soft solids.
Read more: Introducing Solids: Different Approaches and Strategies
After making a batch of baby food, either use the food right away or freeze it in small portions in an ice cube tray. Once frozen, pop out and place into a freezer-safe air-tight bag to help save room in your freezer. Be sure to label the bag with type of food and the date it was made.
For more information: How to Store Baby Food
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday – Friday 8am-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). Chat Now!
Read more about the experts that help write our content!
Introducing Solids – Signs of Readiness
Introducing Major Food Allergens
Introducing Solids: Baby Led Weaning
1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Is it OK to make my own baby food? Accessed 11 August 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/ask-the-pediatrician/Pages/Is-it-OK-to-make-my-own-baby-food.aspx
2. Mura Paroche M, Caton SJ, Vereijken CMJL, Weenen H, Houston-Price C. How Infants and Young Children Learn About Food: A Systematic Review. Front Psychol. 2017;8:1046. Published 2017 Jul 25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5524770/
3. Foodsafety.gov. People at Risk: Children under Five. Accessed 11 August 2021. https://www.foodsafety.gov/people-at-risk/children-under-five
4. Yuan GF, Sun B, Yuan J, Wang QM. Effects of different cooking methods on health-promoting compounds of broccoli. J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. 2009;10(8):580-588. doi:10.1631/jzus.B0920051. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2722699/
5. Wang Yong, Li Amin, Chen Dongpo, Status and prospects of nutritional cooking, Food Quality and Safety, Volume 3, Issue 3, August 2019, Pages 137–143 https://academic.oup.com/fqs/article/3/3/137/5566318
6. American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Cooking with a Microwave. Accessed 11 August 2021. https://www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/safety-tips/microwave/cooking-with-only-a-microwave
7. Cancer.gov. Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk. Accessed 11 August 2021. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet
8. American Academy of Pediatrics. Starting Solid Foods. Accessed 3 September 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Starting-Solid-Foods.aspx
9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Foods and Drinks to Avoid or Limit. Accessed 3 September 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/foods-and-drinks-to-limit.html
10. American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. How to Make Homemade Baby Food. Accessed 11 August 2021. https://www.eatright.org/food/planning-and-prep/snack-and-meal-ideas/how-to-make-homemade-baby-food
11. Harris G, Mason S. Are There Sensitive Periods for Food Acceptance in Infancy?. Curr Nutr Rep. 2017;6(2):190-196. doi:10.1007/s13668-017-0203-0 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5438435/
12. S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf