Baby Food: Winter Squash

Winter SquashWinter squash is far and away my baby’s favourite food. It’s pretty much a staple in our house now; whenever he’s unsure about a new food, I just mix it in with a bit of squash and he eats it right up. The mellow flavour and soft texture of squash make it perfect for mixing with other fruits and vegetables, and, like most other baby foods, it is super easy to make.

There are many varieties of winter squash, most of which you’re probably already familiar with. The most popular ones include pumpkin, butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash. The picture above is from a Kabocha squash, which looks like a flat, green pumpkin. I’ve tried most varieties as baby food (except for spaghetti squash), and they all make a delicious purée.

Like the sweet potato, the most time-intensive part of making winter squash as baby food is waiting for it to cook. You’ll want to make sure that you give it enough time so that it’s soft and easy to blend (usually about 30-60 min, depending on the size of the squash).

A standard disclaimer: I am not a doctor. You should check with your pediatrician before starting solids, and if you have any questions about what foods are appropriate for your baby, your health professional is the best resource. It is recommended that you only introduce new foods to your baby one at a time, and wait at least 3 or 4 days before introducing a new food. Check for allergies after introducing a new food: symptoms like diarrhea, rash, gas, or swelling of the lips should alert you to contact your medical professional right away.

Stage: First foods

Health Benefits: Winter squash are an excellent source of carotenes; the deeper the colour of the squash, the higher it is in nutrients. They are also a good source of vitamins C, B1, folic acid, potassium and fibre. Diets high in carotenes may offer protection against developing type 2 diabetes.

Try it mixed with: apples, carrots, chicken, pears, spinach, sweet potatoes. It blends well with almost everything! I haven’t found a combination yet that my baby doesn’t like.

Directions:

1 winter squash
1/4 –  1 cup water (depending on the size of your squash)

Cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and pulp, making sure the centre cavity is well cleaned. Place about 1/2″ of water in a shallow baking dish and place the cut squash face down in the water. Bake in a 400°F oven until soft all the way through, about 30-45 minutes.

Once cooked, scrape the soft flesh from the peel and add the flesh only to a food processor or blender, along with the desired amount of water to create the consistency that your baby likes. Blend until smooth.

Kabocha Squash

Kabocha Squash

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Baby Food: Green Peas

PeasGreen peas were the first solid food that we fed to baby P and he loved them immediately. They’re a pretty standard first food for babies. I like them because they’re sweet tasting yet high in protein, and they mix well with most other foods. Versatile and delicious!

For ease and convenience, I use frozen peas. I buy a bag of them and keep them in the freezer. That way, if it’s dinner time and I realize that I don’t have any fresh vegetables on hand, I can pop some peas on the stove and have a meal ready for the baby in minutes.

A standard disclaimer: I am not a doctor. You should check with your pediatrician before starting solids, and if you have any questions about what foods are appropriate for your baby, your health professional is the best resource. It is recommended that you only introduce new foods to your baby one at a time, and wait at least 3 or 4 days before introducing a new food. Check for allergies after introducing a new food: symptoms like diarrhea, rash, gas, or swelling of the lips should alert you to contact your medical professional right away.

Stage: First foods

Health Benefits:  Green peas are a good source of protein and carbohydrates, as well as vitamins C and K and carotenes.

Try them mixed with: asparagus, carrots, chicken, ham, pork, potatoes, spinach

Directions:

1 cup of peas
2-4 Tbsp. water

Put the frozen peas directly into the steaming basket and bring the water to a boil. Steam for 5-10 minutes, or until the peas are soft and cooked. Add to a food processor or blender, along with the desired amount of water to create the consistency that your baby likes. Peas have a thick skin, so blend well to avoid large chunks of skin in the purée.

peas

Baby Food: Banana

banana

Bananas are a favourite first baby food. They’re sweet and they mix well with almost everything. The best part is that they couldn’t be easier to prepare. You don’t have to cook them and you really don’t even have to blend them. So easy!

Once you mash or purée the banana, you’ll notice that it will start to turn brown almost immediately. After a couple of hours, it will have turned from a creamy yellow colour to a dark brown. This is fine. It’s simply the flesh of the fruit reacting to the oxygen in the air. It doesn’t mean that the food is rotten or unsafe to eat. I also noticed that the banana kind of separates once it’s been sitting for a while. I just stir it up a little before I serve it.

A standard disclaimer: I am not a doctor. You should check with your pediatrician before starting solids, and if you have any questions about what foods are appropriate for your baby, your health professional is the best resource. It is recommended that you only introduce new foods to your baby one at a time, and wait at least 3 or 4 days before introducing a new food. Check for allergies after introducing a new food: symptoms like diarrhea, rash, gas, or swelling of the lips should alert you to contact your medical professional right away.

Stage: First foods. The amount of water in the recipe below will create a banana purée as shown in the picture above. If you have an older baby, you can mash the banana and leave lumps in it, or cut it up and serve it as finger food.banana

Health Benefits: Bananas are an excellent source of potassium, which helps to regulate heart function and fluid balance. They are soothing to the stomach, and can help prevent both constipation and diarrhea.

Try it mixed with: Apricots, avocado, blueberries, dates, figs,  kiwi, mango, oatmeal, papaya, pineapple, rice cereal, sweet potatoes.

Directions:

1 ripe banana
2-4 Tbsp. water (for purée)

Peel the banana. Add to a food processor or blender, along with the desired amount of water to create the consistency that your baby likes. Blend until smooth. If you want a thicker texture, mash by hand or cut into bite-size pieces.

Baby Food: Chicken

chicken

We’ve been feeding baby P. solids for a few weeks now. There seemed to be a generally accepted order of introducing new foods, so we’ve stuck with low-allergen cooked vegetables and fruits. Imagine my surprise when I looked on the Canadian Paediatric Society website and found that they recommend introducing iron-rich foods like meats, beans, egg yolk, and lentils as some of baby’s first meals. They also don’t advocate delaying the introduction of any foods to avoid allergens. HealthLink BC makes similar recommendations.

I’m not super worried about baby P. getting enough iron because I know that his formula is iron-fortified, but as he starts eating more solids and consuming less formula it will be important. I decided to start him out with a bit of chicken.

Because of the bacteria that poultry contains, it is extremely important to work with clean hands and work surfaces and to not allow chickenanything that’s touched the raw chicken to cross-contaminate anything that your baby will touch.

You’ll also want to make sure that the chicken is cooked thoroughly. I cooked mine in a pan on the stove. I browned the outside, then braised it in about 1/2 cup of water.

A standard disclaimer: I am not a doctor. You should check with your pediatrician before starting solids, and if you have any questions about what foods are appropriate for your baby, your health professional is the best resource. It is recommended that you only introduce new foods to your baby one at a time, and wait at least 3 or 4 days before introducing a new food. Check for allergies after introducing a new food: symptoms like diarrhea, rash, gas, or swelling of the lips should alert you to contact your medical professional right away.

Stage: First foods. The amount of water in the recipe below will create a chicken purée, as pictured at the top of this post. If your baby is eating thicker textures, reduce the amount of water, or eliminate it altogether.

Health Benefits: Chicken is a source of protein and iron as well as niacin, selenium, and vitamin B6.

Try it mixed with: Apples, apricots, avocado, bananas, beans, carrots, cauliflower, celery root, chard, dates, figs, kale, mango, parsnips, peaches, pears, green peas, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, prunes, rice cereal, spinach, turnips.

Directions:

1 chicken breast or thigh, bone and skin removed
1/4 –  1/2 cup water

Bake, braise, roast, or grill the chicken until completely cooked through. Add to a food processor or blender, along with the desired amount of water to create the consistency that your baby likes. Blend until smooth.

Baby Food: Sweet Potato

sweet potatoSweet potatoes, or yams, are a popular first food for babies because they are soft when cooked, mild, and sweet. This root vegetable is available in a range of colours from white to orange. We often call the softer, orange variety of sweet potatoes “yams”, even though it’s quite rare that grocery stores in Canada or the US will carry actual yams. Real yams are quite different from sweet potatoes, and are usually only found in specialty markets.

There are a few different ways that you can cook a sweet potato. My favourite (and the easiest) way is to bake it. It takes a little while, especially if it’s big, but requires almost no prep work. Just pierce the skin of the potato a few times with a fork, place it on a cookie sheet, and bake in a 400°F oven until it’s soft all the way through. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour, depending on the size of the sweet potato. I like to cover the cookie sheet with aluminum foil before I place the sweet potato on top, as they will sometimes leak a syrupy fluid as they bake. Once the potato is baked, just cut it open and scoop out the flesh from inside the peel.

Alternative methods of cooking the sweet potato include boiling or steaming it. If you choose either of these methods, you’ll need to peel and chop the sweet potato first. Then boil or steam until soft.

A standard disclaimer: I am not a doctor. You should check with your pediatrician before starting solids, and if you have any questions about what foods are appropriate for your baby, your health professional is the best resource. It is recommended that you only introduce new foods to your baby one at a time, and wait at least 3 or 4 days before introducing a new food. Check for allergies after introducing a new food: symptoms like diarrhea, rash, gas, or swelling of the lips should alert you to contact your medical professional right away.

Stage: First foods

Health Benefits:  Sweet potatoes, especially the darker orange varieties, are an excellent source of carotene. They are also high in antioxidants, and contain vitamins C and B6, manganese, copper, biotin and fibre. In spite of their sweet taste, they are actually lower on the glycemic index than regular potatoes. Some studies show that sweet potatoes may be able to help stabilize blood sugar levels.

Try it mixed with: Apples, bananas, beans, chicken, dates, figs, kale, oatmeal, pears, pineapple, pork, white potatoes, winter squash.

Directions:

1 sweet potatosweet potato
1/4 –  1 cup water (depending on the size of your potato)

Steam, boil, or bake the sweet potato until it’s soft (for more information, see above). Add to a food processor or blender, along with the desired amount of water to create the consistency that your baby likes. Blend until smooth.

Baby Food: Zucchini

zucchiniZucchini is a summer squash that resembles a cucumber in appearance. It has a very high water content (95%), and so is less nutrient dense than winter squash, but its mild flavour and soft texture when cooked make it an excellent first food for babies!

On the advice of a friend, I didn’t add water to the cooked zucchini before blending, and I’m glad that I didn’t. These squash are very watery, so even without the added water the consistency comes out to a thin purée.

I debated about whether I should peel the zucchini or not. Since most of the nutrients and fibre are found in the skin, I decided to leave it on and see how it worked out. Once the zucchini is cooked, the skin gets very soft and blends right in with the rest of the squash, so all that you’re left with are tiny dark green flecks in the purée. So go ahead and leave on the skin! Less work for you, more nutrition for baby!

A standard disclaimer: I am not a doctor. You should check with your pediatrician before starting solids, and if you have any questions about what foods are appropriate for your baby, your health professional is the best resource. It is recommended that you only introduce new foods to your baby one at a time, and wait at least 3 or 4 days before introducing a new food. Check for allergies after introducing a new food: symptoms like diarrhea, rash, gas, or swelling of the lips should alert you to contact your medical professional right away.

Stage: First foods

Health Benefits:  Due to their high water content, zucchini are great during hot weather to help combat dehydration. They also contain potassium, carotenes, and vitamin C.

Try it mixed with: Chicken, eggplant, rice cereal, winter squash

Directions:

1 zucchini, chopped (discard the ends)

Steam or boil the zucchini until it’s soft. Add to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.

zucchini

Baby Food: Apples

apples2

Apples are a great first food for babies. They’re delicious and sweet and nutritious. There are many different types of apples to choose from, and I had no idea which would be best, so I bought a couple of Gala apples because they were on sale. I’ll experiment with something different next time.

I wanted to add a bit of cinnamon for some extra flavour, but there seem to be conflicting opinions on whether babies should eat spices or not. In some countries, babies eat spices from the time that they start solids, and breastfed babies will taste strongly spiced food through their mother’s breast milk, so it seems like it might be okay. But then there are warnings that food that is too spicy might upset baby’s sensitive tummy. Since Baby P. is just getting used to eating something other than formula, I decided to forgo the cinnamon this time. In a few months I’ll add a little to see if he likes it. I cook with a lot of spices so I really want him to get used to eating flavourful food.

Apples are considered one of the “dirty dozen” (foods that have the highest amount of pesticide residue), so purchasing organic in this case might be a good choice.

A standard disclaimer: I am not a doctor. You should check with your pediatrician before starting solids, and if you have any questions about what foods are appropriate for your baby, your health professional is the best resource. It is recommended that you only introduce new foods to your baby one at a time, and wait at least 3 or 4 days before introducing a new food. Check for allergies after introducing a new food: symptoms like diarrhea, rash, gas, or swelling of the lips should alert you to contact your medical professional right away.

Stage: First foods

Health Benefits:  Apples are high in vitamin C, fibre, and potassium. There is some evidence as well that people who eat apples on a regular basis may be at a reduced risk for asthma and heart disease. Apples contain both insoluble fibre and a form of soluble fibre called pectin, which can help promote bowel regularity.

Try it mixed with: Apricots, celery root, chicken, dates, eggplant, oatmeal, pears, pineapple, plums, pork, prunes, winter squash, rice cereal, sweet potatoes.

Directions:

1 apple, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2-4 Tbsp. water

Steam, boil, or bake the apple until it’s soft. Add to a food processor or blender, along with the desired amount of water to create the consistency that your baby likes. Blend until smooth.

apple

Baby Food: Avocado

avocado

I only recently became acquainted with the avocado. As a  young adult, I avoided it due to its colour and texture, and the fact that it was so high in fat. When I finally tried it, I was in love. Mild and creamy, it mixes well with so many other flavours. It also makes an easy and nutritious first food for babies.

The nice thing about the avocado is that it’s so easy to purée! You don’t even need to cook it first. One of my favourite meals to make my baby is avocado and banana blended together. It creates a thick, creamy, dessert-looking meal that takes about a minute to prepare.

If you decide to store your blended avocado for a day or two, you’ll probably notice that it starts to turn brown. That’s fine; it’s still okay to eat. It doesn’t mean that the fruit is going rotten, it’s just a reaction of the fruit’s flesh with the oxygen in the air.

A standard disclaimer: I am not a doctor. You should check with your pediatrician before starting solids, and if you have any questions about what foods are appropriate for your baby, your health professional is the best resource. It is recommended that you only introduce new foods to your baby one at a time, and wait at least 3 or 4 days before introducing a new food. Check for allergies after introducing a new food: symptoms like diarrhea, rash, gas, or swelling of the lips should alert you to contact your medical professional right away.

Stage: First foods

Health Benefits:  Avocados are high in potassium, fibre, and vitamins E and B. One avocado has the same amount of potassium as two bananas! Many people avoid the avocado because roughly 20% of its calories come from fat, but the fat that it contains is unsaturated, which can help lower total and LDL cholesterol.

Try it mixed with: Banana, chicken, mango

Directions: Avocados are one of the easiest baby foods to make because you don’t need to cook the fruit before you blend it.

1 avocado
4-6 Tbsp. water

Scoop the flesh of the avocado out of the skin, discarding the pit. Add to a food processor or blender, along with the desired amount of water to create the consistency that your baby likes. Blend until smooth.

avocado2