Ah, the reemergence of homemade baby food! Homemade baby food has been around since the beginning of civilization.
However, the convenience of store-bought food leads to a decrease in the production of homemade baby food. With the recent surge in health consciousness in addition to the fascination with organic products, more and more people have been making their baby food for their offspring.
This leads to many questions, such as what to make and how to efficiently store the food and keep it fresh, to name a few.
Keep portion sizes small and proportionate.
One thing many people have trouble with their diets is determining the appropriate serving size. A single container of food is not necessarily one serving. This common misconception is what leads to overeating and, in some cases, under-eating. In regards to babies, this is no different as well-meaning parents also tend to make the mistake of overfeeding their baby.
One efficient way to keep proportion sizes small while keeping food efficiently fresh is to place puree fruits and vegetables into ice cube trays. Not only are the small openings a generally sufficient portion size for an infant or young toddler, but ice cube trays are made for freezing.
Frozen baby food has a shelf life of about three months, which is ideal for any long term planning. Another great means of storage is via cookie sheet through the use of placing a dollop of puree before storing it in the freezer before transferring the now frozen dollops into labeled freezer bags, again keeping the concept of proportion and efficiency in mind.
A deep freezer is an incredible investment!
For any long term planning, a conventional freezer may not be enough storage space, especially when considering other things that tend to share storage space. Investing in a deep freezer, on the other hand, is one of the best long term investments one can make. Not only can having a separate deep freezer become useful for its vast storage space and option of having a freezer dedicated to storing the baby food mentioned above, but it can also be used for other storage once the babies grow up.
There are methods to prevent or delay oxidization (browning)
While the oxidization or browning of fruits and vegetables is perfectly normal and safe to eat despite their appearance, there are ways to prevent or delay this process. One method is adding citrus juice, whether its lemon, lime, pineapple, or orange, the citric acid contained in the juices help increase refrigeration life.
The high pH levels in citric acid cause a reaction that stops the browning process right in its tracks. Another solution is to fuse puree into natural yogurt. This not only reduces browning but induces the calcium benefit for babies as well as creating a new snack to diversify your baby’s constantly developing taste buds, which could, in turn, make them less likely to become picky eaters in the future.
Along with freezer-safe bags, there is also the option of vacuum sealing excess foods, preventing oxygen from seeping into the bag and increase shelf life, whether it’s stored in the freezer or kept refrigerated. Either way, these are a handful of suggestions to maintain the freshness of homemade baby food.
Refrain from making too much food!
One of the simplest and easiest ways to keep homemade baby food fresh is to simply not make more than you need! Once frozen baby food is thawed, it is highly recommended not to re-freeze any leftovers due to sanitation reasons such as bacteria from your child’s mouth contaminating leftovers.
You should also not feed your child directly from the frozen container for the same reason above. It is recommended that the frozen portions are transferred to a separate container before consumption to keep the process as sterile as possible. Measure how much food to thaw in correlation to the serving size and your child’s eating habits.
This same premise goes for making fresh food as well. While time-consuming, making food daily or per meal not only ensures the freshest quality but eliminates the later issue of excess food.
Understanding shelf life
Unlike its processed counterparts, the expiration dates for homemade baby food, whether it is frozen or thawed, has a short window as far as shelf life goes. You must understand that fruit and vegetable puree is only good for 48-72 hours when refrigerated. You should also refrigerate freshly made baby food within two hours to prevent room temperature bacteria from forming.
If the puree is made with meat or poultry of any kind, it must be eaten within 24 hours after cooking; otherwise, it loses its freshness. In the case of frozen food, it has a much longer shelf life of about three months, and as mentioned above, it is crucial not to make too much food to where it cannot be effectively eaten within three months or re-freeze thawed food due to bacteria being a risk to your child.
Homemade baby food is not only ideal for ensuring your child receives proper nutrition, but it is also cost-effective. However, there is also the responsibility of maintaining freshness as long as possible. These are only a few of numerous ways to do so. From proper portioning to potentially investing in appliances, this busy process reaps its rewards when seeing your child growing up with a healthy diet and lifestyle.