• Next to Nature

Making Your Own Baby Food Plus Toddler and Family Recipes

Updated: May 23

Meal planning can seem overwhelming for most, but spending a few hours 1 day a week can save you a lot of time crunching stress, or even help when something throws your routine off and you need to improvise. Not to mention, the health benefits will add up!

We have put together a lot of great details for you to prepare baby and toddler meals easily, with incredible ingredients. We also threw in some recipes for baby, toddler, and the family. With all of these, you can customize them to have something different for several meals. Get creative!



Let’s start with first getting baby acquainted with different foods.


How do you know baby is ready to eat solids? Personally, I did not start my baby on puréed foods until he was 8 months. Some water at 7 months. I think 6 months is too early for the digestive system, and as long as baby is getting enough nutrients through nursing or formula, hold off a tad longer. Also, skip the rice cereal. It’s a filler with very little nutrients, if any.


Signs baby is ready to start puréed foods:

  • Able to sit up without support. 

  • Shows interest in food. Babies grab and want everything you have. Interest in food is different than interest in what you have. Watch your baby and learn the difference. Try presenting when you are not eating yourself so you can pay attention to the cues baby will know what to do with the food. Once interested, eat with baby so they can learn by watching as well.

  • Leans in for food.

  • Exhibits diminished tongue-thrust reflex. This enables a baby to actually swallow food, rather than push it out with the tongue.

If you’re not seeing these signs yet, don't sweat it; baby will let you know when it’s time.


Also, the key to introducing food, and to find food sensitivities is to eat the same thing for 3 days before giving another option. This is important for thinks like avocados, eggs, or coconut or nut butters where there might be a food allergy.


Foods to avoid in the first year:

  • Honey 

  • Cows milk (I’d push this to 2 years. This includes yogurt.)

  • Fish high in mercury (tuna, king mackerel, swordfish, and shark)

  • Choking hazards (grapes, blueberries, frozen fruit, tough meats, bones (in fish and poultry), hot dogs, tough skins (like potato and eggplant skins), popcorn, small seeds, hard nuts, raisins, and lettuce/kale)

  • Refined sugars “sugar” in the ingredients - always check

Textures and portions throughout the stages


Stage 1: 7-8 months 

Texture: smooth, watery, and thin.

Portion size: 1 teaspoon up to about 2 tablespoons

Stage 2: 8 to 9 months

Texture: still primarily smooth as new flavors are combined; offer thicker purées by month 9

Portion size: ¼ cup to ½ cup per feeding, with 2-3 feedings per day


Stage 3: 10-12 month

Texture: chunky purées, whether blended or mashed with a fork, as well as finely chopped foods. 

Portion size: ¼ cup to ½ cup per feeding, with 3 feedings a day, plus a snack (such as banana slices, black beans, or avocado bites)


Ages 1-2 is just as important to monitor what your child eats and moderate the food groups to keep a well balanced diet, high in good fats and proteins. Good fats aid in brain development, but also help with absorption of key vitamins. Good fats like olive oil, coconut butter or oil, avocado and its oil. Again, no sugar, other than from fruit.


One tip to limit sugar: DO NOT BRING IT INTO YOUR HOME! Problem solved before it starts. READ THE INGREDIENT LABELS! Cane sugar is okay, coconut sugar is better, sugar from fruit content is best. Just ‘sugar’, no.


Now, let's take a look at the benefits of homemade foods in your home:


Nutritional Benefits

When you cook your own food, you know exactly what’s in it and where all the ingredients came from, especially when those ingredients are organic. Given our innate desire to provide our babies with the best, it makes sense that we want the highest quality for them. Organic, homemade foods contain no unpronounceable additives, hidden sugars, or stabilizers. If we buy produce at its peak freshness, we can guarantee very little loss of nutrients. What you’ll quickly come to realize is that once you have a heightened awareness of what you’re making, you’re more likely to start eating healthier yourself. This might begin with snacking on the ingredients while you’re cooking your little ones food. As you load up your shopping cart with broccoli, quinoa, and fresh ginger to make dinner, you’ll buy extra for yourself. The process is complete when the entire family is eating the same great meal, you might just have a small portion that is slightly mush for baby!

Taste

Have you tried the average jarred baby food? Doesn’t exactly excite the senses. A jar of baby food, even if organic, is likely to have been in that jar for quite a while by the time you see it. A times a jar from the store is what will have to work, but you can go a lot farther making it on your own, and add more taste. Making your own food is good for the baby and good for the budget. It’s the best tasting, most affordable option we’ve got.


Ease

Cooking your own baby food isn’t hard at all. Sure, it can be a little scary wondering how that first reaction to food will go and stressful knowing that you’re the one responsible for what (and if) your child eats. The actual mixing, matching, and cooking, creates a sense of comfort in your kitchen.


Here are some easy steps making your own baby food:

  1. Find some recipe inspiration if needed or food combos below

  2. Cook each item thoroughly. (No medium rare here!) Steaming is always easiest.

  3. Toss the ingredients in a blender and add liquid. (Water or a small amount of regular coconut milk.)

  4. Blend, blend, blend. Start with a very smooth, thin consistency and work your way up to thicker, more textured purées as your baby grows.

There’s really not much more to it than that. With a bit of patience, you’ll become a pro in no time. You can pour servings into a small, glass container and grab one at a time for each meal. You can also freeze in a silicone mold and set out the day of use. This was a life-saving action for me! Warm up slowly with coconut milk or olive oil - doesn’t need to be hot by any means. I would set the food out for about an hour so it was room temperature by meal time.

Time

Time is the second most important thing in your life right now, and of course, there is never enough of it. Laundry to do, diapers to change. Add cooking to the mix, and it might feel as if there’s no room in your schedule. Making baby food is relatively quick and easy compared to most other kitchen undertakings. Just start by steaming a few organic apples or sweet potatoes and turn on the blender. Yes, one ingredient, one pot or steamer, one blender or food processor and you can begin. Most veggies only take 5-10 minutes to steam!


With a little planning, you can prepare an entire week's worth of baby meals in about an hour. Once you get the hang of cooking your own baby food and setting a plan, you’ll find it doesn’t take a big chunk of your time. Some of this is just getting used to the process, and you’ll be glad you did, because you don’t have to quickly grab something less than healthy or stress to make a meal when it’s ready and waiting for you.


Savings

I won’t get too technical here, we all know one sweet potato can make several meals and 1 jar of baby food can range $1-2.99 per jar. Head to the frozen, organic section and grab several bags of veggies to steam and toss in the blender. You will save wonders and make better meals for baby. Of course, fresh veggies are always better!


If you are looking for some inspiration for what foods to put together for a hearty and tasty meal, the Big Book of Organic Baby Food created a wonderful chart for us:



You have the concept down how great cooking your own food is, now let’s talk about what all you need to be successful in the kitchen!


Essential tools and equipment for making baby food:


Cooking baby food is really pretty simple! All you need to do is make sure the food is super soft (at the start) and either purée or mash it. The tools you need to prep, cook, mash, and purée aren’t really that complicated. Of course, if you I’ve been looking for a great reason to get a new kitchen tomorrow, you go right ahead, you will get plenty of use from these items for a long time!


Prep

Peeler.

A sharp peeler speeds the process of peeling your fruits and vegetables. Most purées (at least at the start) are made without skin for consistency and digestive ease. Apples, squash, carrots, potatoes… you’ll need to peel, so get a good one!

Knives.

Every kitchen needs one good chopping knife with a good cutting board.


Cook

Pots and steamer.

Pots and a metal strainer or some kind of food steamer. I had the Baby Miter All in One and it was amazing. I could steam/cook and blend in one shot. An InstantPot would have been great at that time too! But, all early purées start here. If you already have an assortment of pots, you can just get a steamer to insert inside. Steamer inserts are handy so you can steam more than one batch of fruits or veggies at a time.

Baking sheets.

Baked food adds a whole new level to your babies experience, so a large one is good to have handy. Mini muffin tin.

This is a great pan for making small portions. You’ll need mini paper liners for lining the cups.

Food thermometer.

Skip it if your family doesn’t eat meat, but I find this to be absolutely essential for testing when meat is ready.


Blending 

Blender or food processor.

This is going to be your best friend. Whether it’s purées, smoothies, or soups, your blender or food processor will get a ton of use. Invest in a good one so it lasts a long time, you’ll know it was worth it when it’s still working at five years. The better products on the market are very powerful, which can cut your prep time in half. I have been using mine for 2 years and know I will be for as long as I’m cooking healthy meals, especially when you want to sneak some veggies in muffins or pancakes. ;)


Freeze and thaw

Silicone storage trays.

This could be simply ice cube trays, or you can find the molds for baby food only. Worth it to get the portions down and for storing in the freezer. Just make sure whatever you use has a cover to protect against freezer burn.

Small glass bottles and jars.

These are perfect for thawing you frozen cubes of deliciousness. Many of them fit perfectly in a bottle warmer!


Store

Small glass lockable containers or mason jars. I have a set of baby food containers, glass with seal and lockable lids. The absolute best thing ever! I still use them for lunches. They are the perfect size.


Labeling

Frozen pea purées and green bean purées don't look all that different from one another. You’ll want stickers and a marker if you make a lot and freeze. Especially when you start combining things and have options for breakfast or dinner.

Serving

Spoons

Early on, I recommend a soft silicone-based spoon. As they get older and those teeth come in, a firmer spoon with a deeper bowl is best. 

Bowls

Part of the success of those first bites is getting your baby comfortable with the experience of eating. This means sitting down to a meal. Make yours and baby’s plates together and sit down so mealtime becomes routine and family bonding time.

Before we dive into some recipes, here are some great pairing for herbs, all of which can be found in our store.

Herbs with foods

Clove or cinnamon:

apples, bananas, pears, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, oatmeal, beef, chicken

Cumin or coriander:

Carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, beans, rice, beef, lamb

Garlic:

Broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, kohlrabi, rutabagas, quinoa, any meat 

Ginger:

Apples, peaches, pears, squash, root vegetables, tofu, chicken, fish, beef

Mint:

Broccoli, peas, zucchini

Nutmeg:

Carrots, pear, pumpkin, spinach, oatmeal, egg yolks, lamb

Onion:

Any vegetables, legumes, any meat

Rosemary:

Beets, squash, asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, legumes, chicken, fish

Thyme, basil, oregano:

Beets, squash, artichokes, potatoes, legumes, beef, chicken, fish


Now, for the fun part! Recipes for baby, toddler, and family:


Recipe #1 for BABY


Pear and Carrot Purée

DF GF NF VEGAN

A mildly sweet vegetable and a mildly sweet fruit come together here in a delicious, easily digestible, and quite pretty purée. It is a great source of vitamins A and C, which will provide your baby with a healthy and flavorful dose of antioxidants.


Makes 2 2-ounce servings 

Ingredients:

½ organic pear, cut, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch dice

3 baby carrots

⅛ tsp dried thyme or ¼ tsp mixed fresh thyme 

To make a larger portion to freeze make several meals, double the recipe. After you make your first batch, you’ll know how much to use to make more/less.

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan with a steamer insert, bring about 1-inch of water to a simmer. Steam the pear and carrots covered, until tender, about 6 minutes.

  2. Add the pear and carrot purée, and thyme to a sauté pan or small pot. Mix until combined and gently warm the purée on the stove top over low heat before serving.

Tip:

Apple purée can be substituted for the pear purée. You can also try using other root vegetables in place of the carrots. To customize this purée, simply use 3 freezer cubes of any root vegetable purée with 1 freezer tray cube of any fruit purée. It is easier to make a few single fruit/vegetables then combine to warm up.


Recipe #2 Baby and Toddler


Blueberry flaxseed mini muffins

DF GF


Makes 18 muffins

These gluten free mini muffins freeze well, so its easy to make a batch and have a quick snack on the go. If you’d like to make these muffins dirty free, you can replace the butter with olive oil.


Ingredients:

2 cups almond or coconut flour

2 tbsp ground flaxseed

¼ tsp baking soda (optional)

⅛ tsp sea salt (optional)

¼ cup honey or pure maple syrup

2 tbsp olive oil or half of a mashed avocado

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup coconut milk (the real stuff from the can) Ripple or Oat Milk

½ cup blueberries or 1/2 banana

Dash of these herbs: cinnamon, clove, beet powder


Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a mini muffin pan with paper liners. 

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond/coconut flour, ground flaxseed, baking powder, and salt.

  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the honey, oil, eggs, and coconut milk. 

  4. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, using a spatula to gently fold the mixture in until just combined. Pour in the blueberries. 

  5. Fill each muffin cup three-quarters full.

  6. Bake until the muffins are set, 13-15 minutes. Store the muffins in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.


Recipe #3 Toddler


Avocado egg salad sandwich 

DF GF

Makes 4 servings


Ingredients:

½ avocado, peeled and pitted

1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice 

Pinch of sea salt

½ tsp ground mustard powder

1 tbsp almond yogurt or avocado mayo (both in store) 

1 tbsp chopped fresh chives or onion

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

2 slices flax bread or rice cakes (in store)


Sprinkle on your favorite herbs - our Oh Wow! seasoning is perfect for this!

  1. In small bowl, mash the avocado, lemon juice, salt, mustard, yogurt, and chives with a fork, mixing well.

  2. Gently stir in the chopped eggs.

  3. Spread the eggs mixture on the pieces of bread. Cut in quarters to serve. Store the egg salad in the refrigerator, separate from the bread, for up to 3 days. 


This could be used for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Recipe #4 Family Meal


Black Beans and Rice with Tropical Salad

DF GF

Makes 8 servings

This is a great source of plant-based protein and your entire family will love it.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 red onion finally chopped

2 garlic cloves or 1 tsp garlic powder

14 ounce canned black beans drained (Eden Organic in store)

½ cup vegetable broth

1 teaspoon ground cumin or coriander

¼ teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups cooked jasmine rice (we have a delicious option!)


In a large pot keep the olive oil over medium heat until it simmers, add the red onion and garlic until bronzed. Add the beans, vegetable broth, and remaining seasonings, cook for another five minutes. Stir in the rice until the rice is warm.


Salsa:

1/4 red onion finally chopped

1 mango peeled and cut into small pieces

1 lime squeezed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 good size tomato chopped


Make the salsa and mix all the ingredients together!


You can really get creative with this recipe, add lentils and other veggies steamed or sautéed. Anything with salsa is a win too!

To wrap all of this up, the important thing to do when cooking for you family is JUST TRY! You really cannot go wrong if you have hearty ingredients, some really good herbs, and a desire to eat healthy and feed your family the same.

Let us know if you have questions or try any of these! If you like getting recipe ideas, let us know and we will continue to share each week!


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Sources:

Jamie Vess

Information and Recipes from The Big Book of Organic Baby Food

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