Rising awareness of pesticides, additives and the “allowable defect levels” of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regarding commercially-prepared baby food has inspired many parents and childcare providers to control what baby’s first solid foods consist of as much as possible by making those foods themselves. There are a number of baby food-dedicated kitchen gadgets and systems on the market which, while convenient, are certainly not necessary to prepare wholesome, healthy food for babies. Here are ten foods that nannies can easily prepare, that are filled with nutrients for growing babies.
- Avocado – Due to the soft, creamy texture of a ripe avocado and the high content of “good” fats and nutrients, it’s often considered an ideal first solid food for babies. For busy nannies, there’s the additional attraction of speed; the fruit can be seeded, peeled and pureed very quickly, and does not require cooking in order to be soft enough for tender gums.
- Sweet Potatoes – A perennial favorite in the pre-packaged, bottled baby food realm, the sweet potato lends itself just as well to baby food of the homemade variety. The Nutrition Action Health Letter calls sweet potatoes a “nutritional all-star — one of the best vegetables you can eat.” Full of potassium, Vitamin C and other valuable nutrients, they’re also simple for nannies to prepare. Peel, cube and then either steam or boil this nutritional heavy-hitter, then allow it to cool and puree.
- Oatmeal – Grinding uncooked oats in a blender or food processor before adding to boiling water can make the texture even smoother, ideal for babies that are just getting accustomed to solid food. To perk it up for older babies, add a peeled, cooked and pureed apple to the mix. Remember, though: baby food never needs added sugar or salt.
- Bananas – High levels of potassium and other vital nutrients make bananas an ideal choice for Baby’s first solid food. They’re also foolproof and quick for even those nannies who aren’t so comfortable in the kitchen. Peel, mash and serve; no need for excessive prep.
- Butternut and Winter Squash – Roasting squash is so simple that a novice cook can pull it off with aplomb; also, these veggies are high in Folate, Vitamin A and Calcium. After roasting and cooling, squash easily purees to as thin a texture as you and your tiny charge require.
- Barley – Not considered to be allergenic and easy to digest, barley contains vitamins A and C, Niacin and Folate as well as minerals like Potassium, Calcium and Phosphorus. Grind pearled barley in a food processor or blender, then add to boiling water. Simmer for ten minutes while constantly stirring; breast milk can also be added to the cereal if your employer is a pumping, breastfeeding mom.
- Peaches – High in vitamins C and A, peaches are ideal for babies that are suffering from constipation due to their new diet. Prolonged cooking can diminish their nutritive value, so it’s best to blanch them only long enough to release the fuzzy peel, then puree.
- Green Beans – Because of the low likelihood of allergic reaction, green beans are a safe and nutritious choice for a baby’s introduction to solid foods. Trim the ends from fresh beans and then trim to a manageable length before steaming or boiling in a scant amount of water. Overcooking will change the color of the beans, but will also make them softer and easier to grind into a fine puree.
- Millet – Grind millet into a powder for baby cereal and add to boiling water while whisking constantly to prevent clumping. Rich in B vitamins and nutrients, the grain is also relatively rich in protein.
- Plums – The low allergy risk and nutritive value of plums, along with their easy-to-digest texture, make them another ideal choice for introducing a baby to solid foods. Remember to wash and peel before steaming, then puree after allowing the fruit to cool.
The World Health Organization recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, and that breast milk continue to be a primary source of nutrition for the first year. If your employer is a breastfeeding mom, it’s very important that you adhere to these guidelines for as long as she continues to pump and breastfeed when she’s home. Also, if you’re responsible for the grocery shopping for your pint-sized charge’s new foods, make an effort to choose locally grown ripe, organic fruits and vegetables to avoid pesticides and other chemicals used in commercial farming.