Creative baby food mash-ups

Creating your own baby food may take time to make, but reaps the rewards in the end. Most mothers prefer to make their own baby food so their baby can have a healthy, fresh and balanced diet with diversity of flavour according to the latest research by The Leading Edge. And why wouldn’t you? When it can save you money, choose your own fresh ingredients, and often it’s healthier and tastier than store bought baby food. There’s a master chef in everyone! So what are you waiting for?

For most babies, soft and easily digested food, are good first foods. These foods can differ between country and culture. And whilst there is no established order of introduction of foods, common foods include:
-   Cooked vegetables
-   Cooked fruit or ripe banana and avocado
-    Well-cooked rice or iron enriched rice cereal

Foods on offer to your baby should be nutrient rich, without added salt, sugar or flavourings, with the exception of herbs and mild spices. There is currently no official serving guide for babies therefore a parent is best to use their baby’s hunger, age, and development as a guide. Recommendations for feeding babies include:

-    4-7 months, mashed or pureed and mixed with breast or formula milk or water, until a silky smooth texture. This makes it easier to digest and swallow. Offer approximately 1-2 teaspoons, once a day for first tastes then slowly increase to twice a day increasing the quantity when your baby is ready.
-    7-9 months, lumpy bumpy or mashed texture. Your baby has developed a swallowing reflex for courser food. Offer approximately ½ -1 cup per meal, working up to three a day.
-    9-12 months, chop raw or cooked food into finger food, avoiding foods that pose a risk of choking i.e. raw carrot, celery, whole grapes, apple and nuts, and popcorn. Finger foods encourage children to feed themselves as they have better hand coordination, and encourages chewing and development of muscles in the mouth. TIP don’t let fear of choking restrict advancement of finger food introduction. Babies at this age have a very good GAG reflex and should be encouraged to eat finger foods. Offer approximately ¾ - 2 cups per meal, three to five times a day (i.e. 3 solid meals with 1-2 snacks).
-    12 months onwards, your baby should be eating foods similar/same to the rest of the family. Offer food as per their demand. 3 meals plus 2-3 snacks per day is an approximate guide.

Recipe for silky smooth texture

Baby’s lamb, sweet potato and cinnamon puree

This recipe is ideal for a 6 -7 month old, once first tastes are well established. High in essential iron, zinc and betacarotene, this is a low GI tasty meal that your baby will enjoy.

100g lamb tenderloin
½ tsp olive oil
1 cup sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 2-3 cm chunks
¼ cup boiling water
Pinch of cinnamon

1.    Heat a medium saucepan ¼ filled with water and bring to boil. Place sweet potato in a steamer and place on the pot over the boiling water. Steam for approximately 4 minutes until sweet potato is cooked through. Then place in a small food processor along with ¼ cup of boiling water from the pot.
2.    Heat a non-stick frypan. Rub meat with oil. Cook over medium-high heat for 4 minutes on each side until cooked through. The meat should feel springy. Rest for a few minutes so the juices remain in the meat.
3.    Slice meat and add to the small food processor with the cinnamon. Blend until silky smooth. TIP no need to add salt or pepper as babies and kids don’t need it. Makes 1 cup. Refrigerate for 3 days or freeze into ice cubes for up to 1 month.

Recipe for a lumpy bumpy texture

Sweet pear, quinoa and yoghurt
Quinoa is a nutritious low allergenic wheat free grain that is easily digested. High in protein, as well as vitamins and minerals, it’s excellent in a baby’s diet. Cooked quinoa is the right consistency for a lumpy texture.

½ cup quinoa
1 cup water
½ small ripe juicy pear
1 tsp full cream natural yoghurt
Pinch of cinnamon

1.    Rinse quinoa in a small strainer and tip into a small saucepan with 1 cup of water. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce heat to low cooking for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
2.    Fluff with a fork, measure out ½ cup of cooked quinoa and place in a serving bowl.  Refrigerate or freeze the rest of the cooked quinoa for later use (enough for another 2 meals).  TIP always cook more quinoa than you need for one meal. This saves time in preparing another meal. Cooked quinoa refrigerates for up to 3 days and freezes for up to 3 months.
3.    Peel, core and finely grate the pear. Add to the cooked quinoa along with the yoghurt and cinnamon and stir through. Serve immediately.

Recipe for finger food – toddlers from 1 year on

Toddlers Cheese and Vegetable Muffins
Wholesome energy food for busy bees. Packed with fibre, protein and calcium. A good snack at any time of the day, especially if out and about.

½ cup white self-raising flour
½ cup wholemeal self-raising flour
½ medium zucchini, finely grated
½ medium carrot, finely grated
½ cup cheddar cheese, grated
¼ cup butter, melted
150ml natural yoghurt
1 egg

1.    Preheat oven to 200C. Line two 12-hole mini muffin tins with paper cases.
2.    In a bowl, sift flour then mix in zucchini, carrot and cheese. Stir with fork to combine.
3.    In another bowl, whisk the melted butter, natural yoghurt and egg. Pour this mixture into the centre of the flour mixture and stir with fork until just combined. Mixture should still be lumpy so don’t over mix.
4.    Spoon mixture into muffin tins and bake for approx. 20-25 minutes, until muffins are slightly golden and skewer inserted into centre comes out clean. Cool in tin for a couple of minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve warm or cold. Makes 24 mini or 12 regular. Freeze muffins for up to one month. No need to reheat. Just thaw and serve.

Other considerations for babies and young children

Avoid foods that are:
-   High in sugar because it increases the risk of tooth decay and offers no nutrition. Instead it sets up a food preference for sweet foods.
-   High in salt. Babies and children don’t need added salt. Too much salt puts a load on their kidneys.
-   A choking hazard i.e. raw carrot, celery, whole grapes, apple, nuts and popcorn.
-   Reduced fat, which are not recommended for children under two years’ as full fat is required for healthy growth.

And in addition, avoid honey in the first 12 months due to bacteria that can cause severe illness, as well as eggs due to allergy risk.

By Cherie Lyden – Nutritionist and Mother –