How to choose vegetables and fruits for complementary foods

For the preparation of baby puree, you should choose the highest quality vegetables and fruits without spots, cracks and other flaws. Ideally, these fruits will be grown by you or people you trust.

It is best to use fresh fruits and vegetables as they contain the maximum amount of vitamins. However, in the winter-spring period, it is quite difficult to find high-quality fruits, so at this time it seems reasonable to use frozen products.Quick freezing is the most perfect way to store vegetables, fruits and berries, as it preserves not only essential nutrients, but also vitamins. When choosing frozen foods, you should pay attention to the date of packaging (vegetables and fruits frozen in the middle of winter are in doubt) and the expiration date. If possible, choose whole fruits (or at least cut into large pieces), since they retain the maximum of useful substances. It is also worth checking the quality of the product by touch: there should not be large pieces of ice inside, since their presence means repeated freezing.

If possible, the fruits can be frozen independently, but in this case it should be remembered that the shelf life of frozen root vegetables, asparagus, all types of cabbage, bell peppers, green peas and fruits is one year. At the same time, vegetables and fruits containing a large amount of water (such as green salad, cucumbers, pears, etc.) are unsuitable for deep-freezing.

Dried vegetables and fruits can also be included in the child’s diet (soups are made from vegetables, compotes and additives to cereals are made from fruits). Dried fruits contain significantly less vitamins than fresh or frozen ones, but some dried fruits (raisins, dried apricots, prunes, figs, apples, dates) are rich in minerals (in particular, iron and potassium).

Preparing to prepare  vegetables and fruits for complementary foods

In the process of preparing complementary foods for a baby, it is necessary to comply with sanitary and hygienic standards:

– the room must be clean, the presence of pets is not allowed;

– the hands and clothes of the cook should also be clean, hair removed;

– all utensils for preparing complementary foods must be perfectly clean. If the child is prone to allergic reactions, it is better to allocate separate dishes for him, which will not come into contact with potential allergens;

– vegetables and fruits should be washed with cold running water, if necessary, peel, remove seeds and wash again;

The dishes used in the preparation of complementary foods, as well as the products themselves, should be washed only with  0+ detergent designed specifically for washing baby dishes, vegetables and fruits.

To minimize the loss of nutrients, vegetables and fruits should be washed, peeled and chopped immediately before cooking and feeding the baby.

Frozen vegetables should not be thawed before cooking for the same reason – vitamins are lost.

I often find a recommendation to soak vegetables before cooking in water for 1-2 hours to remove nitrates, and in the case of potatoes – up to 24 hours to remove starch. It should be noted that along with hypothetical nitrates, vegetables also lose real vitamins. The resulting complementary food will differ little from industrial (canned) food.

In this case, you should look at the situation – how much you are confused by the products purchased for the preparation of complementary foods. It is also necessary to take into account how prone the baby is to negative reactions from the gastrointestinal tract, since vegetables saturated with vitamins, fiber and starch are more difficult for the body to absorb, and soaking the vegetables for the first few days often facilitates the adaptation process.

If you are still afraid of nitrates, remember that their content in different parts of the plant is significantly different. Basically, they accumulate in the stalk (cabbage), peel (zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, melons, watermelons, etc.), stem (dill, parsley, lettuce, celery), core (carrots).

As for the water used for washing food and preparing complementary foods, you should also look at the situation: how acceptable is the consumption of tap water. Sometimes it makes sense to purchase a special filter or at least pre-defend water with a high chlorine content.

How to combine vegetables and fruits

In the diet of children of the first year of life, it is better not to use vegetables and fruits with a high content of nitrates (cabbage, beets, spinach, green onions, lettuce, watermelon, melon).

Only one-component purees (made from one product) are suitable for the first feeding. After it is established that there is no negative reaction to such mashed potatoes, vegetables and fruits begin to mix. Moreover, the combinations of vegetables with fruits are very tasty (for example, an apple with a squash, a pumpkin with a pear, etc.).

It is also recommended to mix sour fruits and berries with sweet fruits already introduced (for example, blueberries go well with an apple, black currants with a banana or pear). It is not worth introducing such products separately, since the baby is unlikely to approve of sour puree, in addition, high acidity can negatively affect the digestive tract of the little one.

Methods for preparing vegetables and fruits for complementary foods

Since the main task of complementary foods is to provide the growing body with all the necessary vitamins, minerals and other useful substances, when choosing a method for preparing vegetables and fruits, you should give preference to steaming and baking.

The easiest way to steam is using a steamer, multicooker or microwave with steamer function. However, do not despair in the absence of these devices in the house – you can always build a “steamer” from improvised means, namely: you need to take a saucepan of a suitable size, fill it with water (about 1/4, but not less than 250 ml), put it on fire and boil water. Then a metal colander (or sieve) is placed on the pan, in which the products ready for heat treatment lie (while the water should not cover them). The entire structure is covered with a lid, the fire is reduced to low, vegetables or fruits are cooked until tender.

If you nevertheless decide to cook vegetables or fruits in water, put the ingredients in boiling water. And the less it is, the better.

The fruits should be boiled until soft, but they should not be digested, since this will lose a large amount of vitamins, as well as taste (and one of the main goals of complementary foods is to get acquainted with new tastes).

Spices and other additives

When getting acquainted with vegetables and fruits, nothing should be added to them (except for the broth in which they were prepared or ordinary water) – the baby should taste the original taste.

If the vegetable or fruit has not received approval from the toddler, you can add a little breast milk or a familiar mixture – this will give the dish a familiar flavor. Vegetables should not be salted, since babies do not have salt receptors, this taste is forced. Fruit puree is also not sweetened with sugar or honey – the later the child tastes sugar, the better.

After the portion of vegetables reaches 100-125 gr. you can start adding some vegetable oil to them.

Preparing to serve

Prepared vegetables and fruits must be chopped before serving. A blender is ideal for this task. Its advantage also lies in the fact that as the child develops chewing skills, the puree can be gradually made thicker, reducing the operating time of the apparatus. In the absence of a blender, vegetables and fruits can be grated through a sieve (at first even twice or three times) or use the finest grater.

After crushing, the puree is brought to the consistency of fat milk or kefir by adding water or broth in which the corresponding fruits were prepared (you can also use breast milk or a mixture familiar to the baby, but in this case the taste of the new product will be smeared). A homogeneous structure is also necessary due to the fact that at the time of the introduction of complementary foods, chewing skills are still poorly developed, and enzyme systems still do not allow full digestion of thick fibrous food – mashed potatoes will come out in their original form, overloading the digestive tract. In addition, the toddler himself may refuse thick mashed potatoes or mashed potatoes with chunks, since this form is unusual for him.

Chewing skills begin to develop actively at the age of 8-9 months. During this period, you can make mashed potatoes thicker, gradually moving from grinding with a blender (through a sieve or grater) to softening with a crush or fork.

Storing ready-made vegetable and fruit puree 

Ideally, the cooked puree should be consumed within 2-3 hours, since the maximum amount of vitamins is retained during this period.

The cooled mashed potatoes from boiled products can be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly closed container for 24 hours or frozen in portions (mashed potatoes can be stored in the freezer for 1-3 months). The classic container used for freezing the first complementary foods is an ice tray covered with cling film (then you can use silicone molds for muffins, and for large portions – ordinary containers for storing food).

It is worth noting that you should not dilute mashed potatoes with  breast milk or formula before  freezing or normal storage in the refrigerator. In general, thick mashed potatoes are better suited for freezing, and after thawing and heating, you can add the indicated ingredients or plain water to it.

The mashed potatoes should be defrosted in the refrigerator (this usually takes at least 4 hours, therefore, you should take care of this in advance). After defrosting, it must be heated in a water bath or in the microwave (it is not necessary to reheat fruit puree), diluted with liquid to the desired consistency and mixed thoroughly. It is better to use this puree immediately, since freezing nevertheless destroys food fibers, and it deteriorates faster than freshly cooked.

How to cook vegetables and fruits for feeding babies. Part 2 (features)

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