I’ve been making homemade high calorie baby food for almost a year for my extremely picky eater son – let me share my tips with you!
As always, please work with your doctor to determine what’s best for your baby instead of solely relying on information below. I am not an expert and I am writing this blog to share my experience. This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure.
If this is your first time here, you can read more about our story. But long story short, my son Elliot was not interested in table foods and for a while the only food we could get him to eat was pureed baby food.
Elliot has been struggling to stay on the growth chart (read more about his struggle with weight gain), so I’ve had to make sure that every bite of food he eats has as much nutrition and calories as possible.
I’ve been making homemade high-calorie baby food ever since Elliot started eating pureed baby food.
Why I make homemade baby food:
- There isn’t much variety in baby food available where we live (on Grand Bahama Island), and none of it comes in convenient pouches
- I like to cook and make our meals from scratch, so why not do the same for my son?
- I love using my blender
- I want my baby to eat the freshest foods possible
- I want to save money on baby food
and the biggest reason of all:
- Elliot needed more calories than store-bought baby food contains
It was always a challenge getting Elliot to eat a whole meal in one sitting, so we needed every bite of food he takes in to be as calorie-dense and nutrient-dense as possible.
So I made baby food by pureeing fruits and vegetables (and a few other ingredients) in my beloved Blendtec blender.
The homemade baby food I make has about twice the calories of store-bought baby food spoon-for-spoon. Most store-bought containers and pouches have about 50-100 calories. The baby food that I make typically has 125 – 200 calories per pouch.
This means that even if Elliot decided he was done with food halfway through his meal, he would still be getting substantial calories from those few spoonfuls. Follow that up with some Cheerios or Goldfish crackers, or a bottle of milk if we’re lucky, and I would consider that a successful meal.
What are the best ingredients for high calorie baby food?
The formula below makes about 10 ounces of baby food puree, or about two large pouches.
- Start with the base: banana. A medium-large banana has 100 calories in it. That’s a GREAT start.
- Add the calorie-bomb healthy fat: 1 tablespoon of canola oil (120 calories). Our doctor gave us the okay to add oil to his purees. Other great options are 1-2 tablespoons of almond butter or peanut butter. Both of the nut butters have almost 200 calories per two-tablespoon serving and they taste delicious when blended with banana!
- Add 2-4 tablespoons of baby oatmeal cereal. That’s 30-60 calories. Baby oatmeal tastes fairly neutral so it works great in any baby food recipe. Just remember that oatmeal thickens with time, so always make the puree a little more liquid than you would like – it will get thicker in a day or two.
- Add some more fruits or veggies – about a cup total – enough to make about 1 and a quarter cups of pureed baby food total. These ingredients don’t add many calories but they do add a lot of nutritional value. Some of the combinations that work well for us are:
- frozen cherries + steamed green beans (you can’t taste the green beans!)
- strawberries + kiwi (make sure your kid isn’t allergic to either, as it’s a fairly common fruit allergy)
- 1/2 apple + steamed carrots
- applesauce + few teaspoons of avocado
- peach + 1 teaspoon pea protein powder
- pear + steamed spinach (Elliot gets hives from raw spinach)
- mango + steamed broccoli (you really need two strong-tasting fruits to hide the broccoli flavor, so banana + mango work well)
- Other high-protein additions: I already mentioned the pea protein powder above. Sometimes I add a few tablespoons of cooked white beans, chickpeas, or even plain chicken breast. Yes, if you have a powerful enough blender, it will puree the chicken so that you won’t taste or feel it. I don’t always add these though.
- Optional: Add a few splashes or orange juice or soy milk (or any vegan milk substitute). If the puree seems a little too thick, I add a splash of orange juice or soy milk, depending on what else is in the puree. For example, orange juice works great with pineapple, papaya, apples, and pears. Soy milk works well with cherries, raspberries, peaches. The reason I say to use a vegan milk is that it doesn’t go bad as quickly, so the pouches don’t turn funky if it takes him 2-3 days to eat them. Also, Elliot has an allergy to cow’s milk.
- Optional: Honey. I admit, some of these combinations don’t sound that appealing. However, babies eat some weird stuff without getting grossed out. They don’t know that chicken and raspberries don’t go together. Elliot eats all of these combinations just fine, as long as everything is pureed super smooth. That said, if you feel like your concoction doesn’t taste that great, it’s nothing that a teaspoon of honey can’t fix. If your kid is older than 1, you can add a little honey to the baby food to make it sweeter and pulse it in the blender a few seconds. I’ve only had to do it once, when the banana and pear that I used just weren’t ripe enough.
Obviously, check with your pediatrician to make sure your baby is allowed to eat all of these ingredients.
Luckily Elliot likes the banana flavor! I try to rotate through the other fruit and vegetable ingredients so that he is exposed to different flavors all the time and is always getting a variety of nutrients.
I try to throw in a vegetable in there whenever I can. Spinach is pretty inoffensive and unnoticeable in flavor (babies don’t know that green = healthy!) so that’s a good one to put into baby food.
I add a teaspoon of pea protein powder whenever I feel like Elliot is not eating enough protein. That stuff does have a flavor, so I usually don’t put more than a teaspoon.
I also make pureed vegetable soup for Elliot that he (usually) loves – I’ll write a separate post about that, since this one is already getting so long!
How to make baby food:
Break the banana into 3-4 pieces and throw it in a blender. Add the other fruits and vegetables, and white beans, chickpeas, or chicken if you’re using them, and puree until smooth.
Then add the oil (or nut butter), oatmeal, and/or pea protein powder, if using. Gently pulse until the ingredients are incorporated (so that they don’t splatter all over the blender walls). Then process until everything is thoroughly mixed.
Add a splash or orange juice or soy milk (or any other vegan milk substitute) if the mixture seems too thick.
Divide the baby food puree between two pouches or 2-3 containers and keep refrigerated.
Storing homemade baby food:
I always puree enough fruits/vegetables to make 2 large baby food pouches. Any more and I risk the food going to waste because Elliot doesn’t finish it within 2-3 days.
I use these reusable pouches from ChooMee to store the homemade baby food in the fridge and I absolutely love them. They are easy to wash with the same bottle brushes that I use to wash Elliot’s bottles.
The reason I use pouches instead of containers is that the baby food stays fresh in the pouches for longer since it’s exposed to less air. Reusable pouches are perfect for baby food that contains bananas, pears, and apples – fruits that turn brown when exposed to air.
These pouches hold 5 oz of baby food – a bit more than store-bought food. At first, 5 oz was too much for Elliot, but now that he is a year and six months I can give him 5 oz of food at a time.
I also love using pouches because when Elliot decides to suck on the pouch he ends up eating more food faster. Usually he still prefers to be fed with a spoon and refuses to suck on the pouch, but the times that he does point to the pouch and open his mouth make for a really easy feeding. And I’ll take any help I can get!!
What you’ll need to make baby food:
- A high-power blender. If your kid is anything like my kid, they will not tolerate any kind of chunks or textures in their baby food purees. This means that everything has to be super smooth – seeds and peels need to be liquefied. I absolutely love my Blendtec blender for this. It’s pricey, but it’s high quality. And honestly, it has paid itself off by now, considering how much money I saved not buying baby food. Blendtec blenders go on sale often, so check back regularly and maybe you’ll be able to snag one at a good price!
- Set of measuring cups and spoons. You definitely need the spoons to measure out the oil and protein powder – you don’t want to go overboard with these! And the measuring cups help with making sure you don’t add too much – though you probably won’t even need them after you get a good feel for it. You don’t want to make too much baby food at once and have it go to waste if your baby is not devouring these pouches quickly. This is why I recommend making just enough for two pouches. Bonus: These make GREAT baby toys to keep the little ones busy while you’re making their food.
- Reusable pouches. As I said above, these ChooMee ones are great. They hold 5 oz of food, they’re easily washable, and they are freezable as well!
- Baby food containers. You can also use baby food containers, if you prefer. I just use regular 4 oz Rubbermaid containers. They are great because the lid fits tight and they are spill proof. Plus they are actually useful for other things too, like packing salad dressing to work or packing bits of table food for Elliot to eat.
- Silicone spatula. This is to make sure you scrape out every last bit of baby food from the blender. Hey, if I am painstakingly counting the calories I am adding to the blender, I better get all the baby food puree out of that blender!! By the way, these colorful ones also make great baby toys! Just make sure they don’t put the pointy end in their mouth. (That was never an issue for Elliot, who never put anything in his mouth haha).
- Optional: Kitchen scale. If you are obsessive with counting like me, you’ll want to know exactly how much of each ingredient you’re adding. When I first use a new ingredient, I typically weight it out so I can then google how many calories are in a 2-oz carrot, per se. I also use it all the time to measure out how much pasta to cook for Elliot, so I can keep track of his calorie intake. This one is nice and sleek, so it won’t take up too much precious kitchen space.
This baby food “recipe” has been working for us for almost a whole year now. That’s not to say that Elliot eats a full pouch every time. Sometimes we still struggle getting him to sit in his high chair, or we might have to put on Elmo’s World to distract him a little while eating.
But these homemade baby food purees are what helped Elliot gain weight. As he is growing and slowly trying new foods, he is eating less of them. But he still has one pouch per day, and it’s a large portion of his calorie intake.
Tell me: Do you make your own baby food? What do you put in it?? What’s your baby’s favorite food?? I want to hear it all! Let me know in a comment below.