By now, you’ve heard about the downside of eating processed foods—for you and your little ones. Making your own baby and toddler food may sound intimidating, but it’s not necessarily complicated, and it will help you avoid the long list of poly-mono-chemical whatsits that are in so many pre-packaged snacks and meals.
Charity Curley Mathews is a simultaneously urbane and down-to-earth mom of two (soon three) and founder of Foodlets, a blog chronicling Mathews’ attempts to rear “children who eat food, real food.”
“The big benefit [of making your own food] is control,” she writes. “I know what’s going into the broccoli puree, fresh broccoli and water, and that it’s fresh because I made it today.” What mom isn’t seeking a little more control over her child’s nutrition?
To get started, you’re going to need the right tools. A blender or 12-cup food processor, and perhaps a food mill for quickie, low-volume treats, a steamer for vegetables and legumes, freezing trays to freeze perfect-sized portions of puree, bowls for mixing, and small containers (for storing and toting your yummy snacks).
Each child will have his own unique favorites, and his absolutely-nots, but there are a few age-based trends. Mathews cites bread, canned beans, bananas and avocado as general hits with babies. Universal home runs for toddlers: any sort of bread product, cheese, canned beans (white are most popular) and pasta. Cherry tomatoes, cherries and grapes (all pitted and halved or quartered to avoid choking) are also favorites. A toddlers’ relationship with meat, rice and greens tends to be more touch-and-go.
Beyond the health benefits, Mathews likes the countertop snacking during food prep. Her oldest, Phoebe, nibbles on everything from carrots and broccoli to apples, cheese and wheat germ—yep, wheat germ—while she helps Mom cook in the kitchen. Concludes Matthews, “Feeding yourself is one of the most fundamental skills humans need to know about. It’s a basic, ingrained sense that I want my kids to have naturally.” Sounds good to us.