by Nancy Miller
There's nothing very difficult about cooking for your baby. It just requires a little extra care and attention in the preparation of the ingredients.
Here's the basic procedure:
1. PREPARE YOURSELF Always wash your hands with soap and hot water and dry them with a clean towel before you start cooking. Likewise, carefully wash your equipment (blender, pots, bottles, etc.) before use.
2. PREPARE THE FOOD Always wash, peel and dice fruit and vegetables before cooking. If there are any seeds/stones, remove them.
If you're preparing meat, cut away all the fat before cooking. Once cooked, cut the meat into very small pieces and remove any bone or other hard bits.
If you're preparing fish, remove any fat, bones and other hard bits before cooking. Once cooked, crumble it into small pieces and remove any remaining traces of bone and skin.
3. COOKING THE FOOD With the exception of avocados and bananas, all fruits and vegetables must be cooked before giving them to your baby (until he's at least 10 months of age).
Fruit and vegetables can be steam-cooked, boiled, or micro-waved. Some fruits like apple or pear can also be oven-cooked.
Steam-cooking is the best option because it retains the most nutrients. If you don't have a steam-cooker, don't worry, boiling or micro-waving is fine. Keep the water to a minimum and try to strike a balance between not over-cooking (to retain the maximum amount of nutrients) and not under-cooking (to make digestion easier).
NOTE: Beet, carrots, turnip and spinach should always be boiled (as opposed to steam-cooked or micro-waved) because they contain potentially harmful nitrates which are largely removed during the boiling.
Meats and fish can be cooked in any manner you like (steam-cooked, boiled, micro-waved, etc.). Just be sure that they're well cooked and that you remove all fat bits and hard bits before serving. (If frying or roasting meat or fish, try to avoid adding fat - or keep it to a bare minimum).
Don't add any salt, fat or sugar to your baby's food. It isn't necessary.
4. SERVING THE FOOD Use a food blender (or a mashing fork) to mix the food to the right texture for your baby.
If he/she is just starting out with solids, then the food should be completely 'liquified' and added in small quantities to his/her bottle. As your baby matures, you'll begin feeding him/her directly with a spoon. Gradually make the food slightly thicker and slightly chunkier (beginning with 'chunks' no bigger than a grain of salt). Give your baby time to adjust at every stage of the progression.
If you have cooking water, you can add some to the food to smoothen it or make it less dry (except for carrots, spinach, beets and turnip -- use fresh water or milk instead).
Remember that your baby's mouth is much more sensitive to heat than yours. His/her food should be warm, not hot.
IN CONCLUSION... Really, the two most important points to bear in mind when cooking for your baby are: (1) Make sure that he/she is able to comfortably deal with the texture of the food, and (2) Avoid preparing foods that are inappropriate for his/her age.
Everything else is just plain old cooking.
About the author
Nancy Miller is author of 'How to Make Your Own Healthy Baby Food' and a full-time working mom. Visit Nancy's website at http://www.healthy-baby-food.com