To help parents feed their children, here are some tried-and-tested recipes for everything from purées and solid baby food to family meals—all with guaranteed success—as well as helpful nutrition tips from ecotrophologist and dietitian Marlein Auge.
Marlein Auge, ecotrophologist and dietitian
Along with presentations and cooking classes, in which she provides inspiration for a balanced diet, Marlein—who answers our questions below—has been writing nutrition guides and cookbooks under the pseudonym Anne Iburg since 1999. She has published more than 30 books and has established herself as a notable author in the field of child nutrition, with several Amazon bestsellers on the topic of infant nutrition and recipes for young children.
Q. What do I need to quickly prepare nutritious food for my baby or toddler?
Marlein Auge: With a hand blender, you can quickly blend small or large portions of baby food to a fine purée. It is great for making multiple portions and comes with a convenient lid for storage and transport. Chopper accessories are perfect for quickly making small portions of baby food or snacks between meals. You can freeze leftovers with a bonus freezer container.
Q. Why is it better to use fresh ingredients than baby food from a jar?
MA: Cooking from scratch is always better for your baby or toddler. It’s the healthier choice—with no colourings, flavourings or additives. Not only does it give your little one the very best nutrition, it will also save you money.
Q. How difficult is it to prepare homemade baby food?
MA: You don’t have to be a master chef; it’s really easy to make tasty, homemade meals for your little one. Buy some fresh fruit and vegetables and invest in a hand blender; it will save you time and money. And it ensures you are giving little tummies the very best nutrition.
Q. Can I flavour my homemade baby food with herbs?
MA: Baby food may not be to your taste, but that’s because it hopefully doesn’t contain any salt. The German Research Institute for Child Nutrition (FKE) advises against seasoning baby food with salt. Too much salt is not only unhealthy for babies, but also possibly dangerous. According to experts, a baby’s kidneys can only process one gram of salt (400 milligrams sodium) per day. If a baby is given too much salt, it can lead to serious kidney damage.
Just like all plant-based foods, herbs contain extremely low amounts of sodium and therefore pose no risk to your baby’s kidneys. So, herbs can be used from a relatively early stage, just like vegetables. If your baby has been eating baby food for over a month, you can start adding a teaspoon of fresh herbs towards the end of cooking and blend those into the purée.
You should start by using herbs that you like yourself. It is highly likely that your baby will also approve them! Flat-leaf parsley, basil and dill can therefore often be found in baby food.
Herbs from the onion family (alliums) need to be avoided, as these can cause bloating and stomach pains. All onions, leeks, chives, garlic and wild garlic belong to the onion family. These ingredients can cause bloating and flatulence to varying degrees. In families that regularly eat these foods, a baby is also more likely to be exposed to them. As long as your baby can tolerate them, there is no reason not to use them. Spices containing a high concentration of essential oils, such as camphor and eucalyptus, should be completely avoided if possible. This also includes rosemary and thyme, which should be used only in tiny amounts in baby food, or not at all.
Q. What are some good ingredient ideas?
MA: Purées are the best way to introduce your baby to a mixed diet. These smooth mixtures of fruit, vegetables or baby rice (a vitamin and iron-enriched, sugar-free milky tasting form of powdered rice) are easily prepared using your hand blender. To begin with, keep purées quite runny and very smooth using your hand blender on a high speed—bananas are a particular favourite. Use water, breast milk or formula to achieve the right consistency.
You should always peel fruits and remove stalks, cores and seeds and remember: most fruits and vegetables will need to be cooked before serving to soften them. In these early stages, you could include lentils, but other pulses (such as peas, chickpeas and beans) will need to be blended very thoroughly to achieve a smooth consistency so it is a good idea to save these nutritious foods for the next stages of weaning.
Most babies become familiar with the taste of simple fruit and vegetable purées within a few weeks of starting weaning and then it’s time to move on to:
- Puréed meat or chicken
- Purées of rice, very soft cooked pasta
- Full-fat dairy products such as fromage frais, yoghurt, and small amounts of cheese in meals
Q. How should I transport my homemade baby food?
Just as there are many different types of baby food, there are many different recommendations to store and transport it. As a general rule, baby food should be transported cold and heated up on-site.
Homemade baby food should be transported in a cooler with an ice pack so you can be sure it’s always less than 7°C. Industrial baby food jars obviously are much easier to transport, because as long as the jar hasn’t been opened, it doesn’t need to be chilled. However, an open jar must be kept chilled and eaten within 24 hours. Frozen baby food transported in a cooler bag is an alternative, but as it will slowly defrost, its temperature is difficult to control.
When you’re out and about, your baby food will usually be heated up in a microwave. Make sure to stir the baby food well so that it’s evenly warmed through. And don’t forget to test the food yourself before feeding to make sure it’s not too hot for your little darling.
Porridge and cereals should be prepared on-site and not ahead of time. You can bring hot milk or water, if using formula, with you in a Thermos. Juice or fruit purées should be transported separately. Instant cereals and rusks are most suited for on the go because they don’t need to be cooked or soaked.
Q. If my baby refuses to eat, should I be concerned?
MA: If you’ve just started introducing baby purées and your little one is still spitting out food on day three, your baby might be trying to tell you that he or she is not interested in purées yet. Respect your baby’s wishes and don’t worry. In one or two weeks, your little nipper will probably have a totally different attitude and feeding time goes way smoother.
Babies have personal preferences too. It’s true that babies should have the chance to try a new dish several times so that they can slowly get used to the new taste. But if your little darling is still vehemently refusing to eat a particular vegetable after three or four days, simply try another baby food.
The fundamental rule is: never force your baby to eat! Relax—nothing bad is going to happen if your little one misses a meal or two!
You might also find that your baby will eat a certain food with great enthusiasm and just a few days later they’ll turn their nose up at it. According to child psychologists, this behaviour can be explained by a growth spurt that unsettles the baby and causes them to revert to old habits. Likewise, this also applies to purées your baby is already familiar with. Moreover, some babies refuse to eat when they are teething. In certain circumstances, chilled baby food can help here.
Q. How should I start to get my baby onto solid foods?
MA: Between nine and 12 months, your baby is likely to have developed a few favourite foods and may also have started to feed unaided. Smooth purées are likely to be less popular now.
You may also notice that your baby starts refusing to eat, becoming interested in the exciting world around it. This may coincide with a refusal to be spoon-fed. While this can be challenging, be patient—it is a positive stage of development and a step towards your baby enjoying the same foods as the rest of the family.
As the months pass, you should continue to broaden your baby’s palate with new tastes. Vegetables and hard fruit should all be well cooked and cut into sticks or roughly blended using your hand blender on a low speed. Meats should also be cooked and roughly puréed or finely chopped.
Around 12 months, a small amount of harder cheese such as cheddar can be given as finger food as it is rich in protein, packed with calcium for healthy teeth and bones and offers plenty of energy-giving fat to use at this age. Whole eggs (which should be well cooked) can also be included and are full of protein and essential vitamins.
Q. What can I do to help my baby get onto a balanced and healthy diet?
MA: Preparing homemade food is the best way to ensure your little one gets the best nutrition, vitamin-packed fresh fruit and vegetables with none of the colourings, flavourings or additives that a tiny tummy simply does not need. Blending your choice of ingredients into delicious, fresh meals also helps your baby develop healthy eating habits and can provide a wide variety of tastes and textures.
Q. What are the stages of feeding?
MA: Stage One: From birth until around five months, your baby will get all the nutrition it needs from breast or formula milk.
Stage Two: From 5 to 7 months.
Stage Three: From 7 to 9 months
Stage Four: From 9 to 12 months
Q. What essential pieces of equipment are needed for creating homemade baby food?
MA: Most of us buy readymade baby food from time to time, but there’s no better way to make sure food is nutritious and tasty than to prepare it yourself from fresh ingredients. However, there are so many different things that are competing for your time, from looking after the house to caring for your child. That’s where your hand blender comes in.
Q. Can you explain to us the importance of keeping your kitchen equipment clean and sanitised, especially when catering for a young infant?
MA: Food hygiene and good practices are really important once your baby starts to eat solid foods. Your baby’s immune system is less developed and therefore his or her tummy is more vulnerable to bugs and infections.
It is very important to sterilise feeding spoons until your baby is six months old. Wash your baby’s bowls and feeding equipment in a dishwasher or very hot water. Use a clean tea towel or paper towels to dry them.
Tips for storing food:
- Only use a freezer that can freeze food to -18ºC in 24 hours
- Always reheat foods until they are piping hot. Allow to cool and test temperature yourself before serving to your baby
- You should not refreeze food that has been defrosted, except for raw frozen food that has been cooked
- You should use or dispose of frozen baby food within two months of freezing it
- Do not freeze bananas or avocados
Marlein hopes you enjoy trying out these recipes and wishes the whole family ‘Bon appétit’!
For guidance on food preparation as well as some delicious recipes for your baby and toddler, visit www.braunhousehold.com/en/baby-nutrition-centre