Saskia Sorrosa's two daughters, ages one and three, are lucky girls. Saskia made almost all of their own baby food, seeking out fresh ingredients from farms near their home in Westchester County, NY. The results were so positive--happy babies who gobbled up nearly every vegetable under the sun--that Saskia was inspired to share her baby food blends with other families.
Soon after, Saskia launched her own baby food line, Fresh Bellies. She continues to use seasonal, organic, and local ingredients for what she considers the best, most intense flavors. Fresh Bellies launched at local farmers' markets, but demand has blossomed, and local grocery stores carry the brand now too. Another indication of the uniqueness of Fresh Bellies: The purees are found in the freezer section of the grocery stores, since Saskia skips any sort of preservative.
I have personally sampled a few Fresh Bellies flavors, and they are truly delicious -- they taste exactly like the best version of the fruits and veggies they're made from. I also love Saskia's philosophy about feeding babies. She believes in encouraging babies to try all sorts of foods, including what many people would consider "challenging" vegetables. Her blends never mix fruits and vegetables, since she wants to help babies learn to like vegetables straight-up, a preference that will hopefully continue as children grown.
I asked Saskia to share her five best tips for encouraging babies to be adventurous eaters. Here is her advice:
1. Celebrate the savory
Humans are pre-wired to gravitate towards sweets. If we are constantly hiding vegetables under layers of fruit sugars, how will babies learn to enjoy the real flavor of veggies? One of the best ways to raise adventurous eaters is to celebrate the earthiness of vegetables and let fruit be fruit. Serve them separately, and save the masking for Halloween!
2. Serve the rainbow
Of vegetables, that is. There are so many bright and flavorful veggies out there, there's no need to stick to your usual suspects like sweet potato or carrots. Try bold flavors like Swiss chard, bell peppers, or beets. Remember, you're training your baby's palate to become accustomed to a variety of colors, flavors, and textures from the moment they start eating solids. The bolder the flavors, the more expansive their palates will become. When possible, try buying fresh ingredients. There is nothing like the flavor you get from produce that is in season, at its peak.
3. Spice it up
Why teach your baby to eat flavorless food? Short of using sugar or salt, you can liven up your baby food with many types of seasoning. Don't be afraid to use thyme, rosemary, basil, cumin, garlic, shallots, scallions and anything else you find in your kitchen that can healthfully flavor your baby's food. Drizzle some olive oil while you're at it. These are all nutrient-dense ingredients that will make your baby food taste like an explosion of flavors. Remember: real flavor = real food = adventurous eating.
4. Don't give up
Just because your baby spits out the turnips three times doesn't mean it's a failed mission. Many times babies need to taste new flavors several times to become accustomed to them. If the turnips end up on the floor on the first day, give it a few days and try again. Your baby will likely recognize the flavor on the second or third (or fourth!) try and realize it's just good food after all. Never force your baby to eat something she's rejecting, but don't give up on food or your baby, either. Food and babies are a delicate balance of exploration and palate formation.
5. Be adventurous!
Provided your baby is free of any severe food allergies, be as adventurous with flavors as you want your baby to be with food. Learning to love good food early on paves the way for healthy lifestyles. It sets the stage for a positive relationship with food and a deep understanding of its function in our life: enjoyable nutrition.
Saskia is hoping to bring Fresh Bellies products to stores around the country. To learn more about the company and see a video of Saskia sharing her vision for raising healthy, adventurous eaters, check out the brand's recently launched Kickstarter campaign.
Jenna Helwig is the food editor at Parents, and the author of Real Baby Food: Easy, All-Natural Meals for Your Baby and Toddler.