At some point around the 6-month mark in your baby’s life, you’ll start to introduce solid foods.
It was relatively easy up until that point, right? It’s a pretty simple concept when it comes to feeding a newborn: you give them either breastmilk or formula. After a few months, though, your pediatrician will start asking that you look out for certain signs and signals that your baby is ready for solid food. That’s when the fun begins.
What do we feed these little ones? What is and isn’t ok to feed an infant? Our pediatrician can certainly guide us along the way. But, unfortunately, we can’t take them home with us to hold our hand (or do the cooking).
Thankfully, there are a ton of helpful resources out there to offer us, parents and caregivers, some guidance when it comes to baby food. These resources can provide ample information and help us decide what is best to feed our little ones.
In fact, I found that The Big Book of Organic Baby Food is a great one-stop-shop for new and seasoned parents and caregivers. The author, Stephanie Middleberg, provides the information in an easy-to-read format that will be a staple in your cookbook collection as your kids grow older. Making your own baby food can seem really intimidating, but I do feel this book is a great beginner guide that will help you feed your child from a young age until later in childhood.
First, let’s talk about why it’s important to make your own baby food.
Should you buy or make your own baby food?
I remember babysitting as a teenager and pulling out the small jars of pureed baby food that could range from blueberries to a full turkey and potatoes dinner. Even to this day, the baby food aisle at the grocery store is overwhelming. There are so many options (brands, flavors, organic, non-organic, pouches, jars, etc.) that it’s almost impossible to know what’s best.
You probably already know the answer to what is really best, and that’s to make the baby food yourself. Homemade baby food is by far a better option for your little ones than most store-bought fare. You might not consider this, but store-bought food could actually be harmful to your developing baby.
One of the major reasons to avoid store-bought baby food is the level of toxic heavy metals that can be found in them. In fact, it’s really rare for them not to be present in baby food.
According to a recent article in The Guardian, the U.S. Congress looked into some of the most popular baby food products, finding that most of them contained an alarming amount of toxic heavy metals. The investigation determined that the baby food products contained high levels of mercury, inorganic arsenic, lead, and cadmium.
This alone should motivate parents to consider making their own baby food. Do we want our babies consuming these harmful toxic metals? I don’t think so.
On the other hand, parents are busy. We may not have the time, equipment, or money to buy organic products and make purees for our babies. Therefore, there’s a time and a place for store-bought baby food, and if you have to resort to it, there are good options to consider. The most important thing to remember is that you should always be buying organic baby food.
But don’t freak out just yet. Yes, making your own baby food will take some time. You may need to invest in a new blender and some other small kitchen items. At the end of the day, it will actually save you money, and that’s just one topic Middleberg discusses in her book.
What is included in The Big Book of Organic Baby Food?
As promised, the book is BIG! Therefore, it should have all of the information you need to get started, and I believe it does.
The beginning offers a fair amount of information on why you should be making and not buying baby food. It’s a lot of basic facts, but even someone like me, who has gone through the baby stage with my own kids three times now, should appreciate the refresher.
It’s very easy to fall back into buying foods for convenience and simplicity, but when you are reminded why the alternative is better, it makes a big difference. For example, the simple fact that you’re in control of the ingredients in your baby’s food is a big reason to make it yourself. You can buy (and sometimes even harvest yourself) food at its freshest point to make guaranteed healthy meals.
The author also elaborates on why it’s important to choose organic. She understands that buying fresh organic food can be too much for some families’ budgets. Therefore, she offers some alternative options, like buying frozen organic food instead of fresh and avoiding the Dirty Dozen (foods you should always steer clear of when striving to buy organic).
She also goes into detail about the type of meat you should be buying. It’s not always just about fruit and vegetables for babies. It’s crucial we also consider the state of beef, poultry, and fish we’re feeding our children.
Additionally, there is information on what to stock your pantry with to flavor the recipes. She shares her thoughts on various spices and which ones go best with proteins, fruits, and vegetables.
What do you need to start cooking your own baby food?
After understanding why you’re doing this and how to get started, the next step is making sure you have the right tools to execute the recipes.
I think the most obvious tool, as Middleberg highlights, is a good blender. No, you don’t necessarily need a Vitamix blender, but that will certainly get the job done. There are a lot of budget-friendly options out there. There are even tools made specifically to blend baby food.
The recipes are written so that you can freeze individual cubes for easy access later on. There are a few other items that she says you may need to keep things simple, including silicone ice cube trays and storage bags. She recommends plastic ones, but I suggest buying reusable silicone bags.
How do you know your baby is ready to eat solid food?
This was one of my favorite sections to read. The author begins to explain the signs and signals our babies give to let us know they’re ready for solid foods. For example, around the six-month mark, your baby will start to sit up independently and probably start watching you more as you eat. These are two tell-tale signs that they are ready to start their solid food journey.
From there, the book explains the best way to set up the first eating experience. There are specific food suggestions that are great for first-timers, including avocado and sweet potatoes. Then she discusses the best mix of foods to provide your baby as they start to eat more and explains why these options are the best.
There are key nutrients you’ll want to be mindful of as you start the solid food journey. These include iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics. As a registered dietician, Middleberg is able to provide accurate and helpful information as you navigate your little one’s new eating plan.
The best organic baby food recipes in the book
To be completely honest, I wasn’t exactly excited to read a bunch of organic baby food recipes. It all seems relatively basic. How hard can it be to puree a bunch of fruits and vegetables? So, the recipes in The Big Book of Organic Baby Food are very basic, but the format does work for those who are pinpointing specific recipes for their kids.
To elaborate, each recipe is written in basically the same format. You will pick out your ingredient, cook if needed, puree, and place into the ice cube trays to freeze. Once you are ready to use the puree, you simply take it out of the freezer and let it thaw or reheat. There are tons of recipes written in this format. So, once you get the hang of things, it’s pretty easy.
This format will work for most people, which is why it’s so helpful. If you need to find out how long to cook root vegetables and whether or not you need to peel them, that information is there for you. Also, with each puree recipe, there is also a small paragraph highlighting various facts and useful information about that specific food item.
It definitely gets better as you move past the basic purees or Stage 1 recipes, as they are categorized in the book. From there, you’ll continue to different stages that include combining purees, chunky purees, smoothies, finger foods, toddler meals, and family dinners. I especially enjoyed the family dinner section and the smoothie recipes.
Some family-friendly recipes are:
- Lemon Pepper Cod and Kale
- Peanut Butter Noodles with Broccoli
- Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale-Walnut Pesto
I love finding smoothie recipes the entire family can enjoy. I look for ones that aren’t overly sweet and utilize ingredients we already have on hand. Tasty smoothie recipes in the book include:
- Almond Butter and Cherry Smoothie
- Strawberry and Cucumber Smoothie
- Plum and Chard Smoothie
- Orange Dream Smoothie
Moving along the stages, you’ll find the recipes are very versatile, suitable for children and adults alike. Once your baby gets older, you won’t need to make them a separate meal anymore. Instead, you can simply pull a recipe from one of the later stages in the book.
This book is not about baby-led weaning
One thing to take into consideration is that this book is not about baby-led weaning. There’s a small section describing what to do if you choose to skip the purees altogether. The author explains that it doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing approach. You can certainly combine the efforts and have some pureed foods and some items that the baby can feed themselves.
I personally love the baby-led weaning approach but still took a lot away from reading this book. I loved when she got into the more complex recipes and family-friendly meals that I can feed my baby and the big kids.
Should you buy The Big Book of Organic Baby Food?
I think that any parent or caregiver would find the information in The Big Book of Organic Baby Food very helpful. It’s quite straightforward and easy to read. It would also make a great gift for new parents. Even my big kids enjoyed reading it and finding recipes they can help out with.
While it does contain a lot of basic information that you could probably find online, it’s helpful to have all of it plus healthy recipes in one spot. I also find comfort in knowing that the book was written by a nutritionist and an expert in her field, so I’m certain the information is valid and will benefit me and my family.
Baby organic food to try from the book
Here is one of our favorite recipes from the book, a banana cream pie smoothie. The key to getting healthy, organic baby food is to purchase organic ingredients. While my youngest is still too little to enjoy it, we always seem to have these ingredients on hand and can make this pretty quickly for an easy snack or part of lunch.
I love when smoothie recipes include spices to increase the flavor without affecting nutritional value. This one has turmeric and allspice, which really makes the smoothie enjoyable for everyone, not just something that tastes like pureed bananas. We will be using this as one of the first smoothie recipes for my baby to try. It’s not too sweet and will help her develop a versatile palette.
Banana cream pie smoothie
- 4 ounces non-dairy milk breastmilk or formula will also work
- 1 cup plain yogurt (or unsweetened kefir)
- 1 frozen banana
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground allspice (or nutmeg)
- ¼ cup ice
- Combine all of the ingredients in a blender.
- Blend on high speed until everything is smooth, and there are no chunks.
- Serve immediately or store in the fridge for no longer than 3 days.
The Big Book of Organic Baby Food: Baby Purées, Finger Foods, and Toddler Meals For Every Stage
- It’s important to make your own baby food.
- You must have the right tools to execute the recipes.
- Buying fresh organic food can be out of your budget hence you can get alternative options like organic frozen food.
You need this if...
- You're a new parent looking for recipes to nourish your baby.
- You want your toddler to develop a versatile palette.
- You're looking for healthy foods that your baby can feed themselves.