Cache Valley moms churning out own baby food

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 9:58 AM

Rachel Kenley Fry

LOGAN — If you buy a jar of banana baby food at the store, it may have interesting ingredients including citric acid, tuna oil, choline bitartrate, ascorbic acid, gelatin, alpha tocopheryl and acetate.

The banana baby food Danielle Schow feeds her daughter has one ingredient: bananas. That’s because she makes all her baby food herself.

Bananas are easy, since you can just mash them up with a fork. For other foods, Schow uses a BPA-free steamer, then blends them in a Baby Bullet small blender system that comes with baby food containers and recipe book.

Schow tells The Herald Journal she makes her own baby food because it’s more economical than purchasing it. She also likes knowing exactly what her daughter is eating, tracking potential allergens. And she isn’t alone — moms all over the United States are swapping Gerber for their own creations. Making baby food yourself doesn’t take special expertise or tools, just a bit of extra time.

Making baby food at home allows you to customize it to fit your needs and preferences. Said Enright wanted her children to eat the food that she and her husband ate: local and organic as much as possible. After some Internet research, she said, she realized it would be easy to make her own by pureeing food and freezing it right away. Enright had concerns about potential harm from plastic, so she packaged her baby food in glass jars.

For two summers, Enright made a tidy profit by selling her baby food creations at the Cache Valley Gardeners Market. Her creations varied from the simple (banana-mango) to the complex and mouthwatering (veggie risotto with brown rice, canellini beans, chard, carrots, celery and onions).

Enright said making her own baby food was really convenient — she would spend a Saturday making food in bulk and freezing it, and then be set for several weeks.

Schow sometimes makes large batches, but usually she just makes small batches during naptime to cover the next three days. Unless it’s frozen, fresh baby food can be kept for a few days in the refrigerator.

The fact that store bought baby food has a shelf-life of about three years was a turn-off for Schow.

“There has to be lots of preservatives and chemicals in it to keep it lasting so long,” she said. “I wanted to make sure I wasn’t giving her a bunch of preservatives when she hadn’t had anything.”

Both Enright and Schow said that making baby food from scratch saved them a lot of money. Schow bought baby food for her son, who is now 3 years old. She estimated she spent about $12 on jars of baby food, but when she makes baby food from sweet potatoes, she can make a week’s worth for $3.

The women also agreed that making their own baby food allowed them to raise babies who aren’t afraid to try new foods. If her daughter rejected a specific fruit or vegetable, Schow said, she would mix it with something she knew her daughter did like.

In contrast, Schow said she only bought jars of applesauce and sweet potatoes for her son, because she knew he liked them and would eat them. Now that her daughter is starting to eat solid foods, Schow has noticed she is not as picky as her son is.

For those interested in making their own baby food, the process is pretty simple. The Internet is a great resource, Enright said, for tips, tricks and recipes. A baby food system like the Baby Bullet can be helpful and convenient, but a household blender and some ice cube trays will do just about the same thing.

Schow said she definitely plans to make her own baby food for any of her future children, but noted there is one thing prospective baby-food makers should be aware of: If you start, you may not be able to stop.

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