Q: I’ve heard a lot of things about the benefits of making my own baby food – does it really make a difference? What about if I just use jarred organic baby food? Is that OK?

A: That depends, how guilty is your conscience?

I, too, once thought I would go green for the sake of my child and make my own baby food. I purchased the Beaba BabyCook (a baby food cooker that touts itself as an all-in-one steamer, masher, and reheater) and was so excited the day it came so it I could begin cooking him all the recipes from my brand spankin' new Baby Food Cookbook, complete with annoying, perfect-looking, unstressed model — I mean mom — on the cover. I went to the store, bought out all the organic veggies I could find, went home, made him some eggplant and squash puree in my new baby food cooker, and watched helplessly as he refused every bite. Needless to say, the baby food cooker went right back in the box and up to the top of the pantry, where it remains to this day. (For those of you breastfeeding, MNN caused quite the stir this summer with their article about why breastfeeding is greenfeeding.)

For about a month, I gave in and gave him jarred (but organic!) baby food. It seemed to me to me to be a good compromise — giving him jarred food, but making myself feel better about it by spending 20 cents more on the organic. (MNN's family channel blogger has a terrific interview with baby food expert Lisa Cain about jarred food.) I cringed every time I tasted it, but I figured the baby food makers must know what they're doing, right? Babies must love tasteless mush, right? I'll tell you what (yes, I'm from the South) — nothing from those jars actually resembles the taste of real food. And I know it says organic on the label, but there must be something in it preserving its shelf life till it expires in October 2010, right?

But then something happened. My little cuddlekin saw me eating real food, avocado salad to be exact, and he smiled so wide, I couldn't help but think how happy it would make him to have some. So I gave him a spoonful (after I mashed it up, of course), and he loved it!

The truth is this: Though some pediatricians and baby books tell you otherwise, once baby hits eight months or so, he can have just about anything (still no peanut butter and no honey, though, until he's at least 1). As long as your little one has been tolerating his food generally well, and doesn't seem to have any food allergies, you can give him pretty much whatever you're eating. Although if you do have an allergic baby, it's a good idea to make his food, too, since you can really control what he's eating instead of giving him all those odd combinations of baby food purees (beets and chicken surprise, anyone?). So go ahead, give him the good stuff. (If you're looking for some ideas, here are seven of them. That's me being generous. You're welcome.)

Using this strategy of giving my baby actual people food has made me more conscious to eat healthy food myself because I know that whatever I'm eating, he's eating too. That means no more chocolate donuts for lunch. And definitely no more cheesecake for dinner (I'm going to miss that one). There are lots of great websites out there that have great baby food recipes to choose from, but let's face it, making your own baby food is harder than it looks. Go for the healthy food you like, and chances are, he'll like it, too. I betcha, if he could talk, he'd thank you for it.  

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