DIY: Expand Your Baby’s Diet With a World of Flavor & Texture!

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My children had divergent early experiences with food. My son ate store-
bought jarred purees and moved onto typical toddler fare like macaroni
and cheese, pizza, chicken fingers and french fries. I never considered
another option.

I’ve learned more about nutrition since Bubba was young. When I was
pregnant with my daughter, a friend recommended the book Feeding Baby
Green by Dr. Alan Greene. I was intrigued and surprised by my lack of
knowledge. I learned pregnant mothers can prepare their babies to recog-
nize a variety of healthy flavors. Babies first experience sapidity through
their amniotic fluid. If they are breastfed, then they continue to taste what
their mothers eat through their milk. Therefore, mothers’ diets can
familiarize babies with flavors long before their first actual bite.

I was sick and nauseous during my first pregnancy but was pleasantly
surprised by my hunger during my second pregnancy. I was ravenous and
I reveled in it. I ate little bits, all throughout the day. Following Dr. Greene’s
advice, I tried to eat foods from each of the 21 food categories to expose
her to many flavors in the womb, everything from fruits and vegetables to
legumes, grains and seeds. (I was conscious of what I ate, but I was far from
perfect. I often satisfied my cravings for peanut butter with pistachio ice
cream!) I continued to be mindful of the categories after she was born
since I nursed her.

By the time Little Miss was ready for solids, she had experienced many
healthy flavors. Avocado was the ideal first food. It is almost as simple to
prepare as popping open a jar. Cut the avocado length-wise, remove the pit
and mash. The first few times, I added water and blended it to create a run-
ny consistency. Soon after, I was able to mash it without the extra steps.

I used the Baby Bullet system to blend, mill, store and freeze her homemade
food. The system is convenient and useful, though baby food can be prepared
with any blender. I continue to use the system, even though we are passed
the puree stage, so it was worth the cost.

My favorite baby food cookbook is Cooking for Baby by Lisa Barnes. We
worked our way through the stages and Little Miss enjoyed many of the
recipes. We started at six months with steamed and pureed vegetables and
fruit. Around eight months, she ate recipes like barley with mushrooms,
squash and quinoa pilaf, oatmeal and split-pea stew. By twelve months, she
was eating a variety of foods including salmon, chicken, hummus, smoothies
and a rainbow of fruits and vegetables.

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Little Miss transitioned from pureed to finger foods with ease. Before I knew
it, my family was often eating the same meal. The steps I took, starting in
pregnancy, seemed to prepare Little Miss to accept various foods. The extra
effort has been well worth it to us. She is a joy to feed as she continues to
(messily) eat many healthy foods. We have always allowed her to eat when
she is hungry and stop when she is full. We never forced her to eat. If she
tried a bite and spit it out, we provided another healthy option and offered
the refused food another day.

An insightful tip from Dr. Greene guided my feeding plan. Babies are willing
to taste new flavors. Toddlers experience an innate distrust of unfamiliar
foods. Therefore, it is important to offer babies a variety of flavors, as often
as possible, before they become steady walkers. If they are accustomed to a
taste when they reach this natural picky stage, they will likely continue to
eat it. If they are introduced to a new food after this time, they are more
inclined to reject it.

It is important to remember babies may need to try a food between six to 10
times before they like it. If that seems daunting, consider another fact from
Dr. Greene. After the age of 2, it can take children up to 90 times to accept
a new food! I chose to exercise patience and took advantage of the early
window of opportunity and it has paid off.

It may overwhelm new parents to consider adding another task to their
duties, but with minimal time and effort, baby food can be added into a
cooking routine. Since babies eat tiny portions, it is helpful to make large
batches and freeze several small portions. Then it isn’t necessary to prepare
a meal every time they eat and the portions can be thawed as needed.

It is never too late to incorporate more healthy choices into your family meals.
My family is now eating healthier, including Bubba. If you are interested in
making food for your baby, don’t be intimidated! Start simple to determine
what you have time to do. Keep store-bought options on hand. It doesn’t
have to be all or nothing. Incorporate homemade food into their meals and
determine what works for your family. Keep mealtime light and fun, and con-
tinue to offer a variety of nutritious options. You can instill habits that will set
the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating. Your child’s palate may end up
surprising you!

What are your experiences with feeding babies and toddlers? Do you have
any helpful tips to share?

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