Baby Food 101

By: Emily Schwartz, Festival Foods

Food introduced in the first year of life can impact future nutrition habits. For the first six months of life, breastfeeding is widely recommended. However, between six to eight months of age, most infants are developmentally ready to try pureed, mashed, or “lumpy” foods to compliment breast milk (or iron-enriched formula). These new foods and textures may take multiple offerings before acceptance. So to start, it is important to gradually offer a variety of foods one-at-a-time to help the infant’s palate and digestive system to adjust.

Jarred baby food is a quick and convenient way to help growing infants get the nutrition they need. It offers a consistent texture and flavor that may be better received by “picky eaters,” and they are produced under strict food safety guidelines.

Homemade baby food is another option. Compared to commercial baby food, homemade baby food may be a more affordable option and may offer a wider variety of flavors. Whether looking to supplement or replace commercially produced baby food products, one of the easiest ways to start is to simply mash foods that may already be on your grocery list, like bananas or avocados. Or, try incorporating nutrition-packed foods that wouldn’t necessarily be found in jarred varieties, like pureed eggs, broccoli, kiwifruit, or no-salt-added canned beans.

Regardless of the food served, infants and young children are very impressionable. The actions and behaviors of those around can impact the development of food preferences and eating behaviors. Whenever possible try eating (and enjoying!) the same food your baby is eating.

Steps for Making Baby Food

  1. Start with clean hands, cooking surfaces, and equipment.
    1. Even though infants and children are more susceptible to food-borne illness, it is always a good practice to wash hands with warm, soapy water and sanitize any surfaces or equipment before food preparation.
  2. Prepare food; washing, peeling, and trimming, as needed.
    1. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Peel and trim, if necessary. If preparing meat or fish, remove all skin, bones, gristle, and excess fat.
  3. Cook and/or process food.
    1. Cook food, if necessary, until very tender. Boiling, steaming, or microwaving food with water is often ideal. When preparing meat or fish, cook to well done. Allow cooked food to cool slightly before pureeing or mashing to reach desired consistency. Adding a small amount of water may be necessary to achieve an appropriate texture.
  4. Serve or store.
    1. If food is not going to be eaten right away, store it in the refrigerator for up to two days, or freeze for use within a month. Freezing baby food in ice cube trays can help provide baby-sized portions when they’re needed. Small portion sizes are important because any leftover food, regardless if it is homemade or commercially prepared, should be thrown away due to exposure to bacteria.

Some combinations to try after introducing individual foods:

  • No-salt-added canned black beans (drained and rinsed) and avocado
  • Kiwifruit and banana
  • Baby cereal and berries
  • Sweet potato and applesauce

Emily Schwartz is a nationally accredited, registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) serving the Eau Claire and La Crosse communities as Festival Foods’ Western Wisconsin Regional Dietitian.

WIC Helps Keep Families Healthy

By Susan Krahn, MS, RDN, CD, CLC – Public Health Nutritionist, Eau Claire City-County Health Department

What does healthy eating mean to you? To the WIC Program, healthy eating means healthier moms and babies, happier families, and brighter futures. The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program is a public health nutrition program that provides wholesome foods, nutrition and breastfeeding education, and community support for low- and moderate-income women and children up to the age of five years.

There are more women in our community who benefit from WIC than you may think. In fact, over half of the babies born in the United States use the WIC program. WIC is the nation’s most successful and cost-effective public health nutrition program. Nationally, we know that when eligible families use WIC:

  • Moms are less likely to have premature or low birth-weight babies;
  • Moms are more likely to start breastfeeding after delivery;
  • Infants and children are twice as likely to see doctors for well-child care;
  • Moms, children, and infants are less likely to have anemia.

If you think your family may be eligible, contact your local WIC office. A visit to WIC means you will walk away with an EBT card to buy more healthy food for your family. But, did you know that WIC means much more than food? At a WIC appointment, parents are connected with people who truly care about the health and well-being of their children. Parents walk away with the feeling of support, connections to healthcare resources, and inspiration to make healthy changes in their home.

WIC gives you healthy food and teaches you how to use it. Good nutrition during pregnancy and in the first few years of life has long-term positive impacts on health. WIC teaches you about the benefits of breastfeeding and guides you through the process. WIC gives you free healthy food and teaches you how to shop for it, how to prepare it, and ways to help your child enjoy eating it.

We provide a community of support. At WIC you’ll find dietitians, a breastfeeding peer counselor, and others ready to listen, share information, and give guidance and support. WIC is a network built for moms. We connect them, we educate them, and we learn from them.

We connect you to care beyond WIC. Food and nutrition are only one piece of a healthy lifestyle. Through referrals we can connect you with resources outside of WIC, including public health nurses, doctors, dental services, immunization services, and social services. Referrals put you in touch with the care or resources you need to be healthy in every part of your life.

For more information, go to www.ci.eau-claire.wi.us/departments/health-department/wic/how-where-to-use-wic, visit the program office at 720 2nd Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54703, or call (715) 839-5051.