by Jennifer Perillo from Parents Magazine
If your little one has started eating solids by Thanksgiving, you should consider serving up nutritional, organic homemade Thanksgiving baby food this holiday vs. low nutrient store-bought baby food. Homemade baby food is healthier, tastier and much easier than you might think. To get started all you need is a pot and spoon, and depending on your baby’s age and stage of eating, a blender, potato masher or baby food processor.
In general, our Thanksgiving foods are appropriate for babies 6 months and older, when prepared according to your baby’s eating skills. However, talk with your pediatrician before serving eggs, fish, citrus, and yogurt if your baby is less than a year old because these foods can cause an allergic reaction. Certain foods, such as meat, fruit, and vegetable purees, may be gradually introduced earlier than 6 months if your baby is ready for them. Just remember that solid foods of any kind should not be introduced before 4 months of age!
If your little one is new to solids, you’ll need to make sure that any food, finger food or purees or mashes are not too big, thick or chunky for your child. Additionally, never give a child under the age of one year honey, cow’s milk, nuts, dried fruits (including raisins), hard holiday candy, whole grapes or marshmallows, as all of these foods pose dangers to young babies. Keep in mind that babies like flavor, so use spices and herbs as you wish, just don’t go too spicy!
- Turkey: Start with your favorite recipe, then chop the turkey very fine using a food processor or chef’s knife. This is best for babies who are already used to eating solids and meats, usually 7 months and up.
- Mashed potatoes: Can be served as-is to little ones, as long as your potatoes don’t contain skins or excessive butter or garlic cloves. Steamed, baked, or boiled, they’re a good source of fiber. Give beginning eaters a taste of plain mashed potatoes — or serve well-cooked, soft cubes to self-feeders.
- Sweet potatoes: are a good source of potassium, vitamin C, and fiber and an excellent source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that helps prevent certain types of cancer and mops up free radicals. Most babies prefer sweet potatoes over other vegetables because of their naturally sweet taste. When cooked and mashed, sweet potatoes make a smooth puree that’s easy to eat, even for babies who are just starting the to transition to solid foods.
- Carrots: have large amounts of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gives them their orange color. Beta-carotene converts into vitamin A in the body and plays a role in growth and healthy vision. Cooking carrots brings out their natural sweetness, which makes them appealing to babies, who are born with a preference for sweet flavors. When making carrots for your little one, make sure they are cooked until very soft. Then puree them or, if your baby is eating finger foods with more texture, you can give her well-cooked diced carrots.
- Stuffing: Take a small scoop of stuffing and press it flat with the back of a spoon. This helps you identify any lumps that could pose a choking and allergy hazard such as raisins, harder celery pieces, cranberries, dried fruits or nuts. Get the lumps out, mash the stuffing a bit, and serve smooth stuffing to your baby.
- Cranberry sauce: Jelly cranberry sauce is perfectly safe for a baby, but whole cranberry sauce is a choking hazard. If the family is having whole berry sauce, puree it up to a nice smooth texture for your baby.
- Butternut squash is appealing to babies because they love its sweet taste. It’s a good source of the antioxidant beta-carotene and also has vitamin C, potassium, fiber, folate, B-vitamins, and even some omega-3 fatty acids..
- Vegetables & fruits: Babies should clearly not have access to a raw veggie and fruit tray. You must make sure any produce served to baby is steamed soft.
- Bread & rolls: Babies can have bread or rolls at Thanksgiving, but served soft it poses a choking hazard. Toast any bread you’re going to serve your baby. If your little one is over a year old, and you’re supervising, he can have a soft roll.
- Pumpkin: Before making your pie filling, reserve some of the puree — it doubles as a sweet or savory treat for babies. Pumpkin is an excellent source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A and fiber! It also contains the antioxidant beta-carotene (known to fight off cancer!)
- Beverages: Fizzy holiday drinks aren’t a healthy choice for baby. Serve a little apple juice or mild apple cider if you want your baby to have a beverage treat.
Setting a good foundation from the start will make mealtime something Baby always looks forward to, so make sure his first Thanksgiving leaves a tasty, lasting impression!