So you’ve done single-ingredient purees and fruit & veggie purees for your little one, and now you’re ready to move on to more complex foods! After fruits and veggies only, I like to incorporate grains next. Things like pasta, quinoa, and rice are all great options! We like to stick with whole-grain pastas and brown rice, but you certainly shouldn’t feel bad about white pasta and rice! Whatever you normally eat in your house is perfectly ok for your tiny human! At this point, you can also start expanding beyond two ingredients at a time. As I’ve said before, simply try to pick ingredients that you think complement each other.
Depending on the age of your little one (and, of course, the advice of your pediatrician), you can probably also start leaving the peels on your fruits and stop steaming them before pureeing. Additionally, many babies are doing a good job of mashing at this stage, so completely pureeing may no longer be necessary. A few small chunks in the purees will help your little one learn to chew!
You’ll still want to steam the veggies until tender and of course cook the grains per the instructions. Reserve any cooking liquid to use when pureeing. I also found broth to be a great liquid to add if needed! I use a Ninja to puree. Fill the Ninja cup with the solid foods, then fill with liquid to cover the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of solids, depending on the desired consistency.
Pureeing or processing at this stage was definitely a learning curve for me! I wanted some chunks, so completely pureeing didn’t work in the Ninja. But, I also still wanted some puree to help our little guy transition. The pulse function worked for this a bit, but I actually ended up pureeing about 2/3 to 3/4 of the food and using the food processor for the rest. Then I mixed them together. I wouldn’t say it’s necessary by any means, but it’s a great way to get both chunks and puree together.
Once you have it at the desired consistency, transfer it into containers for freezing. I liked to freeze the food in Gerber bunch-a-bowls. I freeze them without lids by placing the bowls on a cookie sheet and setting the cookie sheet in the freezer. When they’re frozen solid, simply pop them out of the containers and into freezer bags. Be sure to label your bags with the contents and date. If stored in a non-frost-free freezer, use within 3 months. If stored in a frost-free freezer, use within 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator before feeding. I simply put them back in the same Bunch-a-Bowls containers, put the lid on, and let them sit in the fridge overnight for the next day’s feedings.
Some of my little guy’s favorite grain, fruit, & veggie blends:
- Mac and cheese with carrots (I used milk for the needed liquid with this one)
- Quinoa, carrots, and berries (any kind)
- Pasta, broccoli, and pears
- Quinoa, apples, and green beans
- Brown rice, peas, and apples
As your little one grows and has tried a number of single-ingredient purees, you can start introducing blends. To make the new foods easy to digest, start with two-ingredient purees that include just fruits and veggies before going to more complex blends. Try to choose foods you think will complement each other. As a general rule, though, you can’t really go wrong!
At this stage, I still recommend peeling and cooking the fruits before blending since their little stomachs and young digestive systems are still developing. Peel and remove cores and seeds, and cut into chunks. Steam 7-10 minutes until soft but not mushy. Steam all veggies until tender. Reserve cooking liquid. I puree in my Ninja, so I fill the cup with fruits and veggies then add enough liquid to cover the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 (depending on the desired consistency).
Transfer the puree into containers for freezing. Since your baby is probably eating more in one sitting, now, I pour the purees into Gerber bunch-a-bowls. I freeze them without lids by placing the bowls on a cookie sheet and setting the cookie sheet in the freezer. When they’re frozen solid, simply pop them out of the containers and into freezer bags. Be sure to label your bags with the contents and date. If stored in a non-frost-free freezer, use within 3 months. If stored in a frost-free freezer, use within 1 month.
Some of my little guy’s favorite fruit & veggie blends:
- Berries (any kind) and green beans
- Apples and sweet potatoes or pumpkin
- Apples and berries
- Berries and carrots
- Bananas (bananas don’t need to be steamed) and apples
- Pears and spinach (spinach doesn’t need to be steamed)
- Pears and broccoli
- Apples and broccoli
- Sweet potatoes and sweet corn
- Pears and peas
- Peaches or nectarines and carrots
As your little one gets older, freezing your homemade purees in ice cube-sized portions certainly won’t be big enough. At one point, I was taking 3-5 cubes out a time for feeding when I finally realized I needed to freeze in larger portions! We found two great options.
Gerber Graduates Bunch-a-Bowls
Once you’ve made your puree, lay out a few of these bowls, and fill them to your desired serving size. Then place the bowls on a cookie sheet, and pop them in the freezer until they set. Once they set, you can pop the portions out of the bowls and into freezer storage bags. Remember to label your bags with contents and date. Purees can be stored in a non-frost-free freezer for up to three months.
Get Bunch-a-Bowls here.
You know how you can buy all sorts of pre-made purees in those cute little pouches at the store? The good news is you can buy reusable pouches and fill them yourself! There are lots of brands out there, but I like Nature’s Little Squeeze. The bottom unzips, so just pour in your puree, and zip them shut! They have a double zipper to keep them from leaking and to create a great seal in the freezer. Be careful not to fill them too full, or you’ll have some coming out when you try to zip it shut. They have a fill line, but I found it better to stay about a quarter inch below the line. I like to store the full pouches in a freezer storage bag too, so I can label the bag. As your little one gets older, they can even eat right from the pouch. They’re great for any type of pureed food – smoothies, applesauce, you name it! When they’re empty, simply wash them out (dishwasher safe!), let them dry, and use them again. Lost a cap? All the caps from the store-bought pouches will fit as a replacement.
Get Nature’s Little Squeeze pouches here.
Making homemade foods was so great for us! Baby food is crazy expensive at the store. While it’s convenient and great in a pinch, I didn’t want it to be our only option. Making our own at home was easy and inexpensive, and it allowed me to completely control what our little one was eating.
At our son’s four-month well-child checkup with the pediatrician, we were told we could start introducing solids at meal time. We were excited for this new adventure and quickly ran to the grocery store to buy a few purees. Having never bought baby food, I was astounded at the price on these tiny cups of food. Yes, they’re convenient. Yes, they’re healthy (I assume). But wow…they are expensive. We already owned a Ninja and bought fresh and frozen fruits and veggies regularly. Plus, during the summer months, we grow a fair number of things in our garden. I thought, how hard can it be?
As it turns out, it’s easy! At first, you of course want to start with simple purees of just one ingredient. Green beans, pears, apples, and peas are great choices for first bites. Bananas are great too, and they don’t need to be cooked! Be sure to introduce just one food at a time, and wait a couple days before trying something different to ensure no sensitivities to individual foods. Preparation of these single-ingredient purees is easy enough:
- For fruits, wash, peel, and remove seeds and cores (the peels are hard for their little tummies to digest). Cut into smaller pieces.
- Steam on the stove. Fruits should be steamed until soft but not mushy, usually about 7-10 minutes depending on the size of your pieces. Veggies need to be steamed simply until tender.
- Do not discard cooking liquid.
- Allow to cool slightly; then transfer to your blender or food processor. Add reserved cooking liquid as needed to puree to your preferred consistency. With the Ninja cup, I usually filled the cup with enough liquid to cover the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of the solids.
- Puree to desired consistency.
- Transfer to storage containers. For new eaters, I used ice cube trays. Freeze until solid, and then pop them out and transfer to a freezer storage bag. Label the bag with contents and date for future reference (that probably seems like a no-brainer, but I forgot more than once!). Portions can be stored in a deep freeze for up to three months. Use with three days if kept in the refrigerator.
- When ready to serve, thaw in the refrigerator. Small portions from an ice cube tray typically take a few hours to thaw, so plan ahead. I often took a couple out before bed and allowed them to thaw overnight for the next day’s feedings.
As your baby grows and develops their digestive system, you’ll be able to offer blends and new foods.