Thursday, August 18, 2011

Baby Care Meets Food Enthusiast

I haven't really been making a big deal about it here on my blog, but my wife and I are expecting a baby, scheduled to arrive Thanksgiving weekend (or thereabouts).  As new parents-to-be, we've been spending quite a bit of time trying to sort through all the information, gadgets, nursery "must haves," toys, and whatnot to determine what is actually a "must have" versus what's just going to add to the clutter we already don't want in our home.

Needless to say, being a foodie, some of my first thoughts were what I could do to feed my kid "from scratch" and how one approaches baby nutrition. Sure, we intend to use a quality commercial baby food (probably organic) for convenience and travel.  But when we're home and I have the time, I'd really like to feed the baby as much homemade food as possible.  I'd also like the child to learn to eat what we're having as early as possible.

So there's no question about my motives, I'm going to state my purposes for doing so upfront:
  • Developing the Palate - Aside from pureed fruits, I find baby food overly bland.  In fact, even one of the most popular organic brands lists water as the #1 ingredient in most of its "dinner" purees.  After watching a friend of mine raise her two children and discussing the subject with her, I'm convinced that most children have "bland palates" because we train them from their first solid foods to like bland food because that's all we feed them.  By making our own food, I can control how bland or not bland the food is, within reason.
  • Ingredient Control - As with adult food, I like to be able to control the ingredients.  Pre-packaged anything usually has stuff in it that you don't want or don't need.
  • Thrift & Time - I've heard that you can more or less puree-up whatever the adults are having (within certain parameters, of course).  That's not only a cost-savings, but it's a time-savings too.
  • Unnecessary Processed Foods - I don't believe in wasting money on the various "second stage" foods that have appeared on the market in the last few years.  From what I've read, they're really no different than TV dinners for toddlers.  If I want to feed my kid mini-ravioli, I'll make it myself.
So where did I start?  Cookbooks, of course.  The first book I looked at was Top 100 Baby Purees by Annabel Karmel because it was on every end-cap and display I'd seen in various maternity and baby stores and it was the first one to come up in a search of Amazon.

I'm going to level with you...  Unless you don't know where a puree'd banana comes from, this book is a total joke.  There's very little information in the book about infant/toddler nutrition or what you can't feed an infant and why.  More importantly, more than three quarters of the so-called "recipes" are fruit or veggie purees, which is repetitive information. If you can puree one item, you can puree them all.  You can also figure out which combos your kid is going to like by experimentation.

Probably the most annoying feature of the book was the recurring theme: "Mix something sweet with it and the baby will accept it more readily."  Chicken & Sweet Potato, Beef & Applesauce, [Insert Savory Item] and Papapaya.  If you want your baby to think every bite of chicken needs to be paired with a square of Hershey's chocolate when he grows up, this is the book for you.  Otherwise, pass it up as I have.

I did end-up finding two rather nice books to put on the baby registry.  The first is The Everything Cooking For Baby and Toddler Cookbook by Shana Priwer.  The second was Baby Bites by Bridget Swinney.  What impressed me about both books was the wealth of information about childhood nutritional needs from birth, as well as the wide variety of recipes for every stage of eating development.

For example, did you know that a baby is born with stores of certain vitamins and fats that last 4 to 6 months after birth?  After that, the baby needs to acquire those items via food.  I didn't know that...  The books also discuss how much salt intake a baby should have versus an adult and why you shouldn't feed a very young child a low-fat diet while that same diet may be entirely appropriate for an adult.

These are the types of books I was looking for.  If you're looking to learn about young child nutrition, I recommend them to you as well.  I can't wait to receive them and sit down and give them a good read-through.

Next discussion, what uni-tasking gadgets (if any) do you really need to prepare and store your own baby food...

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