Hudson Valley Parent

October 2013

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your child to the variety nature has to offer. Applesauce can, and should, taste 10 different ways, depending on the apples selected. Try finding that variety in the grocery store. Heidi DeCosmo, a sous chef for Miraval Life in Balance Resort in Arizona, offers an expert opinion on taste. She feels strongly about feeding her baby the freshest, most flavorful and healthiest foods possible. She chooses to make her own baby food since she prefers to use organic fruits and vegetables, and wants to clearly know what her son is eating. "I would not feed my baby anything that I wouldn't eat. I don't know if you have tasted jarred baby food, but they don't taste good!" says DeCosmo. She has chosen to make her son's food as a way of instilling an appreciation for fresh vegetables, which she hopes will pay off as he gets older. She finds making baby food much cheaper than buying it, and she, like me, has found it to be a most enjoyable endeavor. Time-honored tradition There's also an emotional component to food that is hard to deny. I feel a kinship to all mothers that have gone before me, when I enjoy the satisfaction that comes from watching my sons "clean their plates." Preparing food for your little one can be a fulfilling experience for everyone. It's a great time to prop your baby in their bouncy chair, and begin telling them about the veggies you're working on — how they grow, how they taste. It's also a wonderful example to older siblings who have discovered sugar-coated breakfast cereals, as they see you make a fuss over a perfectly blended yam. Potential hazards The obvious drawback is time. Clearly it is faster to grab a few jars while you're at the store. Another consideration, as Morgan points out, is that "commercial food may in fact have additives that benefit the baby. However, I believe that a good, balanced diet will provide everything that the baby will require." Gerber cereals are fortified with iron and zinc, which are important for young babies. Their toddler foods include calcium, iron and zinc for older babies. Cathie Squatrito, the director of medical marketing for Gerber Products, notes other potential drawbacks to preparing your own baby food. "The main risks involved in making your own baby food are food safety issues, like making sure you wash your hands and the fruits and vegetables thoroughly. "Make sure that meats and poultry are fully cooked before pureeing or cutting them into small pieces, and that the texture you use is appropriate for your child's age." Nutritionist Judy Dodd adds that cleanliness extends to all surfaces used in preparation, how the food is handled and even stored. She also warns against using leftovers from the family's meal. "Food used for the baby should be cooked, processed and served (or cooled) immediately. It should not taken from the table after the meal. Textures also need to be appropriate for the child's developmental age," notes Dodd. As I learned, getting just the right amount of lumps takes a bit of practice. Dodd concedes "commercial baby food is easier, travels better, and provides standardization of texture and quality control. But it is not better." Especially as a child gets older, using more table food becomes an easier and less expensive choice. It also introduces the older infant to lumps, textures and varying flavors. Making baby food doesn't have to be a complicated process. I found it was thoroughly enjoyable, saved money, and in the end it was less work than I had imagined. What's best for you? So, what is the best choice? Morgan advises that while she "strongly believes the benefits of preparing homemade food far outweigh the convenience of purchasing storebought meals, the ultimate decision should be what is right for your individual baby and lifestyle." Dodd says, "Plan some meals that you can make into appropriate food for the baby, but use commercial food when time, travel or an inexperienced baby sitter has to do the feeding!" Squatrito stresses that the important thing is to introduce children to a wide variety of healthy foods during the first two years. "Research has shown that a child's food preferences do not change significantly between the ages of two to three years, and age eight, making it very important that children be introduced to a wide variety of healthy foods when they are under the age of two." Combining store bought with homemade would offer a tremendous variety to your little one. There's an incredibly small window in which we can care for our children in this way. Soon enough the world will push cheeseburgers, and food that is unnaturally blue, on them at every occasion. The foundation of a house can only be poured once, but if you do it right, once is enough. And so it is with nutrition. As parents we can only lay the foundation, keep the sides from falling in as the house ages, and then hope it can withstand what the weather, or life, has to offer. As Morgan points out, "establishing the foundation of teaching your child to eat and enjoy great quality food as a baby will ground him when other food choices compete for his palate." If only all of life was that simple. Linda Kastiel Kozlowski is a freelance writer and mother of two boys. Hudson Valley Parent 37 n

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