Phase 1: Food Preparation Guidelines
Before You Begin
- It has been said many times before but we will say it again – ALWAYS wash your hands before you prepare any food, AND wash your hands and your baby’s hands before you begin the meal.
- Make sure all equipment and the food preparation area are clean and sanitized.
- Thoroughly rinse all fruits and vegetables before you begin preparation. Do not use detergent or bleach; it is not necessary and can leave residues on some fruits and vegetables.
- Wash utensils and cutting board between different foods, especially between cutting raw and cooked foods
What You Will Need
- Fork or masher
- Sieve, strainer or ricer
- Steam basket, microwave
- Food mill, blender or food processor
- Ice cube tray or other storage container
Making food for your child can be as easy as pureeing steamed, baked or microwaved food, or simply setting aside food cooked for the family before it is seasoned.
Making Baby Food
- Steaming is one of the best ways to prepare foods to preserve vitamins and minerals. Place the food in a steam basket or colander above boiling water to cook. Save any leftover water to thin pureed foods if necessary.
- Recipes found on this site recommend steaming vegetables, but do not be afraid to experiment with other cooking methods like microwaving or baking.
- Use a fork or food mill to mash food to the proper consistency for your child’s age. If food is too thick, use a thinner such as leftover liquid from cooking, milk, broth or water. An 8-10-month-old baby can handle food the consistency of cottage cheese, but a 6-month-old will need food that has been pureed and strained to a fine, smooth consistency.
- Use ice cube trays to freeze pureed foods. Fill each cube with puree, just as you would if you were making ice cubes. Each cube should contain 1 ounce of food. When the tray is filled, cover with plastic wrap. Once frozen, pop out the cubes, store in a sealed plastic container or bag and use within 3 months.
Freezing and Storing Baby Food
- Always wash containers in hot, soapy water and let air dry.
- Refrigerate or freeze foods immediately to avoid bacterial contamination.
- Home-prepared baby food should be tightly covered and stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator for no longer than 2-3 days.
- Use ice cube trays to freeze serving size portions and then transfer the frozen cubes to freezer bags or containers.
- Be sure to label and date each bag or container and store in freezer no longer than 3 months. It is best to use food within 1 month.
- As your baby grows you may want to increase your serving sizes and freeze the portions in 3-4 ounce freezer-safe plastic containers. Never freeze food in glass containers.
- Ice crystals may develop on baby food cubes. This is normal and not cause for alarm. Excess liquid in the puree can rise and freeze at the top.
- Do not refreeze a thawed food.
Thawing and Serving Baby Food Cubes
- When you are ready, select the cube(s) from the freezer and thaw.
- Baby food can be served cold, at room temperature or slightly warm. Do not serve hot food.
- Please remember that allowing food to thaw on the kitchen counter is not recommended. This allows contaminants and bacteria to get into the food. Food should be thawed in the microwave, double boiler or refrigerator overnight.
- You can warm food in a microwave on medium-high for 45 seconds. You can also place cubes in a small bowl and then place that in a larger bowl filled with hot water. This method will take about 10-15 minutes to thaw. Be sure to touch-test all foods before feeding your baby to make sure there are no hot spots.
- If the food is too thick you can add breast milk, formula or a little water. If the food is too thin, you can add whole-wheat baby cereal, mashed banana or yogurt.
- Serve food in a bowl or shallow dish. Throw away leftover food after the meal since saliva can spoil food.
- Add breast milk, formula or a little water to thin foods. Breast milk offers a familiar flavor that may encourage baby’s acceptance of new foods.
- Do not add sugar or salt as you cook. Pure foods will help your baby develop healthy eating habits and keep your baby from developing a taste for salty and sugary foods.
- Steam or microwave foods; boiling foods reduces nutrient content.
- Make food in large quantities to conserve time and money. You will only need to prepare food once or twice a week.
- Use fresh or frozen vegetables. Like fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables are flavorful and full of beneficial nutrients. Do not use canned vegetables; they are usually loaded with sodium and additives.
Plan weekly menus ahead of time to save money and time.