Dr. Greene’s Answer:
Many of our long-term food preferences are formed from experiences early in life, as I describe in detail in my book Feeding Baby Green. I love teaching babies the sights, smells, and tastes of real food, and where that food comes from.
Making baby food at home doesn’t need to take extra time or money. And home-made baby food has the advantage of providing nutritionally rich foods with fresh taste, smell and color.
A banana or an avocado or a sweet potato can be a great baby food with little or no prep (do cook the sweet potato). Simply mash the produce with a fork, perhaps with some breast milk. It doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth – in fact, it’s better if it isn’t. We want to teach our children to enjoy textures, not just flavors.
For more complicated baby food meals, parents can simply take most things they are eating, put a tablespoon or two in a food mill or food press, and mush it into a texture the baby can handle. (Just watch out for foods that might cause infections, such as honey, unpasteurized dairy products, or undercooked eggs, meat, or fish)
Thankfully there are also many convenient, nutritious, fresh-tasting, pre-made, organic baby foods available today. Choose the ones that are most like the flavors and foods you will want your child to enjoy after the baby food phase. Usually, these don’t come in jars.
I do cook for my kids, but my favorite is when we cook together as a family – especially if it is made from food we grow together. We have a small backyard garden. Over the course of the year we grow potatoes, carrots, squash, corn, tomatoes, mint, basil, blackberries, apples, oranges, nectarines, plums, apricots, lemons, limes, and kumquats. A favorite harvest treat for the kids is a healthy, homemade veggie pizza, with pizza sauce made from just-picked tomatoes, and roasted garden vegetables on top. You learn more about my family, my own food journey, and how to teach Nutritional Intelligence here.