Lisa Cain cares about food. She also cares deeply about her two children. When her kids were babies, she wanted to find a way to feed her new eaters that was both nutritionally sound and fun. Most importantly, she and her husband didn't want to add extra work to their day by cooking two seperate meals -- one for baby and one for them. So she did what many moms wished they could do, she researched the latest from nutritionists, childcare experts and chefs and pooled her information into a website that she co-founded with her husband. Their site, Babyfood101.com, aims to bring parents the latest and most important info they need to make feeding a baby heathy, easy and fun. Here are Lisa's best tips for feeding little eaters.
JS: What do you think are the best "first foods" to try feeding a baby?
LC: The best first foods are the ones that are easiest to clean up. The first thing to realize about starting solids is that your baby is getting all the nutrients he needs from formula or breast milk. Your goal with solid food is to have your baby eating three meals per day and two snacks by the time he is one year old. The serving size that is expected is 1 tablespoon of each starch, protein and vegetable for each meal PLUS snacks. This isn't really a lot of food, so the beginning eater is just practicing for the transition off of breast milk or formula to solid food. Most parents start with rice cereal and bananas because they are easy, cheap, and there is a very low chance of a food allergy.
What should parents look for when selecting jarred baby food?
The good news is that commercial baby food is a highly regulated industry. The FDA has stopped food manufacturers from adding yucky things like MSG or high fructose corn syrup to baby food. Additionally, companies do not use BPA in their packaging of baby food, probably because of the long term liability issues (since BPA hasn't been pronounced safe for babies). Also, baby food is tested for things like nitrates in the carrots to ensure that the right levels of these things exist.
The big choice in jarred baby food is between organic and conventionally grown food. There can be significantly less pesticide residue in the organically grown fruits and vegetables and that is a good thing. Keep in mind that there is still pesticide residue even in organically grown produce. But, if your baby is just eating a little bit, it really isn't going to matter to their overall health. On the other hand, if they are a big eater, you should consider buying organic baby food.
There is no study testing conventional baby food versus organic baby food for amount of pesticide residue. In addition, there is no data that links increased amounts of pesticides with illness in children or adults. But, this is a very hard study to do, and we all know that farm workers who get exposed to large amounts of these pesticides get sick.
If you care about the environmental impact of pesticide use, spend the extra money to support organic farming. The choice is really yours and one that relates to your income and environmental perspective.
What tips do you have for parents who want to make their own baby food?
There is really no difference between cooking baby food and cooking adult food. The easiest thing to do is to just make yourself something for dinner and mash it up for baby. The sooner you can get your baby to eat chunks of food, the easier it is for you. Do not waste time pureeing lots of food and storing it, because your baby may start feeding himself before you know it (and then you'll be stuck with a bunch of pureed food with no way to get rid of it).
What's your favorite recipe for baby/parent food?
My favorite recipe is for sweet potatoes. You can make your own really easily by just baking them in the oven. Baking ensures the peel falls right off (no peeling), they get really soft, and you can make some extra for your dinner. VERY IMPORTANT - line baking pan with aluminum foil to make clean up easy (otherwise you will be scrubbing for days). Heat oven to 425 F, poke holes in potato with fork, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. For baby, just mash and serve. For the parent, you can add chopped fresh cilantro to the mashed sweet potato to make a very delicious side dish.