We all know that the cost of baby food can add up. While the little jars of pureed fruits and veggies are convenient, there are healthier and more economic ways to get your baby or toddler to eat fresh fruits.
My kids are well past the baby stage, but it’s still important that they get their nutrients as toddlers! They love their fruit. During the warmer months, I try to get as much fresh fruit as I can. This past winter, I’ve been doing fresh clementines, apples, bananas, and even a few mangoes (my son will eat one or two whole mangoes if I let him), but I also have to get canned and frozen fruits. This spring I’m going to plant as many strawberry plants as I can fit into my hanging pots, and I’m hoping that our blueberry bushes and dwarf apple trees are surviving this freezing cold and snow-filled winter. If I had a greenhouse, I would try to grow my own bananas, mangoes, and avocados!
In any case, growing your own fruits and veggies definitely helps with health—both for your family and yourself! As long as you don’t use chemicals and non-organic products on your garden, of course. Growing your own produce reduces your carbon footprint, gets you outside to soak up Vitamin D, and can also help your wallet if you eat everything you grow.
If you don’t have the time, energy, nor space to grow your own, no biggie. There are still lots of ways to get your kids eating fresh instead of eating from a jar or pouch all the time.
Eating Fresh for Babies
Once you’re able to introduce solids other than rice cereal to your child, it’s tempting to try a variety of different things right away! However, you should only introduce a new food in intervals of 3-7 days (every 5 days would be a safe bet!). This is so you can detect any allergies that your child may experience with the newest food.
What foods should you start with?
You can do foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots, bananas, pears, and peaches. Bananas and peaches can be pureed with water or a bit of formula/breast milk; the sweet potatoes, carrots, and pears would have to be steamed or boiled before pureeing with a bit of liquid. You can move on to peas, apples, and other foods. Once your little one has gone through the foods you want him or her to be accustomed to, you can mix 2 or 3 fruits/veggies together.
While you shouldn’t add any extra salt or sugar to your homemade baby food, you can add spices and seasonings. For apples and bananas, for example, you can add a dash of cinnamon. For carrots, sweet potatoes, or squash, you can add a tiny bit of pepper, cumin, or even curry powder (which might be nice for your baby if you ate a lot of curry during your pregnancy). The one thing you should avoid is honey, because there is a risk of botulism for children under a year old.
Since fresh-made baby food doesn’t keep for very long, you can freeze it and warm it up in the microwave when you’re ready to use it. You can also freeze them in small popsicle molds, which is great for hot summer days or when your little one is teething.
The Ease of a Mesh Feeder
When I first had my kids, I had no idea what a mesh feeder was. Once I got them, however, it made a whole lot of sense! You can put ice cubes, frozen baby food (ice cube shape is best), or even frozen pieces of fruit inside the mesh. The mesh bag is fitted with a handle, so as long as your baby can grasp things, it should be fairly easy for your little one to try to feed him or her self with this.
These are moderately easy to clean. If there’s chunks of food left in the mesh, you turn the feeder inside out to remove any large pieces of food, and then just chuck the whole thing into the dishwasher. Baby may be a bit messy too, but that’s just the name of the game!
With how versatile this feeder is, I would imagine you could put in cubes of baked sweet potatoes (without the skin, cooled to room temperature) or small pieces of fresh fruit (remove skins beforehand if they could be a choking hazard).
Fresh Fruits & Vegetables for Toddlers
We don’t have any trouble getting our kids to eat fruits, although they do have their own preferences. My daughter loves blueberries and grapes, while my son steers away from them, instead preferring bananas, oranges, and strawberries. We do not let our children have juice every day, preferring to only give it to them if we’re eating out. However, I will gladly make them a smoothie if they ask. I use orange juice or soy milk (my husband and I are lactose intolerant) and whatever frozen fruits I may have. I sometimes add spinach leaves to get a nutritional boost and to sneak in a veggie!
Try, Try Again
Toddlers aren’t always going to want to eat their vegetables. Making it fun or making the vegetables look enticing is a good way to get them to at least try their vegetables. For instance, I’ve made spaghetti squash two times, and both times my kids have refused to eat it. Today, they saw spaghetti squash featured in my Burpee seed catalog; it was a photo of spaghetti squash “noodles” and sauce (and they kept saying “meatball” so maybe it had a meatball too). That photo made my daughter specifically request spaghetti squash. She actually ate some too!
Even if your child refuses to eat a certain food, keep presenting it to them. Find a really yummy-looking picture of that food and show it to your child, or entice your child by preparing the food in a different way. We actually got my son to eat a plain spinach leaf by saying that dinosaurs eat leaves, and that he should show us how dinosaurs eat. It may also be about texture. Some people like their broccoli a bit crispy, while others like their broccoli well done. Experiment and see what your child prefers!
Here’s a video of my son eating that spinach—the video is a year old and I can’t believe how much he’s grown! (Please forgive the mess in the video!)
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