A Chat With Jenna Helwig, Author of Real Baby Food

What inspired you to write the book? I think everyone deserves to eat good, healthy food — especially babies and toddlers! I wanted to give parents the tools and inspiration to make homemade food a part of their lifestyle.

Tell us about the book and your focus on “real” baby food? Every parent I know wants their child to be an adventurous eater, but sometimes it’s tough to know where to start. One of the things I want to share with Real Baby Food is the fact that baby food doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, babies can really eat almost anything, as long as it’s prepared in the right way. I hope to encourage parents to give their babies chicken stew with Moroccan spices, beet puree with yogurt and dill, and roasted pears with rosemary and almond butter. The same goes for toddlers. If we only feed our kids chicken nuggets and plain pasta they’re probably just going to ask for chicken nuggets and plain pasta.

Why is flavor so important to introduce at an early age? I like to think of 6-12 months as a baby’s gastronomic golden age. Usually, with a little persistence babies will learn to enjoy most flavors. Get them liking broccoli, salmon, and beans now and chances are—even if they go through a choosy toddler stage—they’ll like those foods again when they’re older.

What advice would you give moms getting ready to introduce solids to their babies? I always tell moms not to stress out about how much solid food a baby eats. These first few months are more about exploration than nutrition. Also, don’t get discouraged if your baby doesn’t seem to like a certain food on the first go. Keep offering it; sometimes it takes a baby up to 10 tries to accept a new food!

Do you think eating habits in toddlers and older children are impacted by introducing flavors at an early age? If so, how? Absolutely. Studies have shown that the more flavors babies experience before age one, the more likely they are to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables when they’re older. Introducing a lot of flavors early isn’t a silver bullet, but it’s the closest thing we have.

Tell us about the foundation of your recipes? My recipes are all based on whole foods with bright, appealing flavors. The world is so delicious; I wanted babies and toddlers to be able to experience a variety of wonderful meals.

When you’re not making your own baby food, what do you use to supplement meals? For many parents it’s unrealistic to make 100% of their baby’s food, and I totally get that. When buying prepared baby food, parents should look for varieties with whole ingredients and no added sugar or salt. Foods made with organic ingredients are ideal if it works budget-wise.

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