We know that starting the weaning experience can be an exciting, but worrying time, especially when it comes to weaning food preparation, food hygiene and protecting delicate little tummies. How should food be prepared and stored? Is it safe to serve leftovers? What is the safest way to cook and serve food?
To help answer some of these questions and more, we have teamed up with Food Safety Mum, Jenna Brown (@foodsafetymum) to offer the best possible advice to help you with safe weaning food preparation and practices at home.
The Importance of Weaning Food Preparation & Food Safety
It is estimated that there are 2.4million cases of foodborne illness in the UK every year and as you start thinking about the exciting new world of weaning, it’s important not to forget that any food you serve needs to be safe. Babies and young children don’t have the same immune system as us adults (or even older children) so we need to make sure we’re extra careful with their little tummies with proper weaning food preparation!
Storing Your Food
The way you store food once you get it home from the supermarket will help you keep your family safe by reducing the risk of cross-contamination between raw and ready to eat foods, as well as helping you to reduce food wastage. When it comes to weaning food preparation, there are many ways that you can batch cook and store meals safely for your little one, but here are some great tips on how best to store foods:
- Check the temperature of your fridge! To reduce the risk of food poisoning, make sure your fridge is running between 1-5⁰C. If you’re not sure, it might be worth investing in a fridge thermometer (you can usually pick one of these up for less than £5).
- Organise your fridge to make sure you store raw meat and fish separately from ready to eat foods. The best place to store raw meat and raw fish is the bottom shelf – not only does this prevent cross-contamination of juices dripping onto other foods below, but is also the coldest part of the fridge… a win-win!
- Keep cooked and ready to eat foods higher up, saving the doors for condiments, jams and juices as the doors are most at risk of temperature fluctuations
- First in – First out: When returning from the supermarket, put new foods at the back so using older products first will come naturally!
Use By vs Best Before Dates
It’s important to know the difference between Use By and Best Before Dates when it comes to weaning food preparation and food safety and to never serve a baby food that has gone past its use by date. Put simply….
Use by dates are there for your safety and must not be ignored
Best before dates are about quality; which means food is safe to eat past its best before date, but just might not taste as good!
And don’t forget to keep an eye on packs that have been opened. Opening a product, such as ham or milk, will change the shelf life and usually mean it needs to be used within the next few days, so make sure you check the back of pack for this information!
When it comes to weaning food preparation, and food prep in general, it’s important to ensure that you’re preparing food on a clean surface, with clean hands and using clean equipment!
- Wash your hands – Always wash your hands thoroughly before preparing any food and after handling raw meat
- Clean work surfaces – Disinfect all food and weaning food preparation surfaces using a clean dishcloth before starting any food preparation. If you can, use a paper towel squirted with anti-bacterial spray to clean surfaces after preparing raw meat and poultry as this will help make sure that you don’t pick up food poisoning germs and spread them around the kitchen!
- Clean utensils – Make sure equipment is clean before you start using it and if you can, opt for colour coded equipment to reduce the risk of cross contamination between raw and ready to eat foods. Never prepare ready to eat food such as salad on a board that was previously used to prepare raw meat.
- Wash fruit and vegetables – They might be low risk foods, but bacteria can also be found on fruit and veggies too so don’t forget to wash these thoroughly under cold running water before serving to baby. If you’re using frozen veggies in baby’s food, make sure that these are cooked before serving to your baby according to the back of pack information.
Babies will naturally get messy when they are moving from milk to solid foods, especially if they are following BLW! As well as weaning food preparation, ensuring that your baby has a hygienic surface to eat from is just as important when it comes to keeping them safe and preventing any upset tummies.
The Tidy Tot Bib & Tray Kit uses a food-safe tray with a large surface area that they can use to explore and discover their food, especially when you are dining out or at friends or family. The tray is also easy to wipe down after each mealtime, keeping it clean for the next use, which I love!
Cooking For Baby
Cooking veggies by steaming/ boiling or roasting is pretty straightforward, but those first tastes don’t last for long and you’ll soon be branching out to more exciting foods for your baby to try, many of which may include meat or fish.
Regardless of how you serve meat to your little one, it’s important to make sure that it is thoroughly cooked before serving. If you’re wary about serving meat to your baby, it might be worth investing in a food thermometer to have as part of your weaning food preparation tool kit to make your prep easier.
What To Do With Leftovers
Babies have little tummies and a daily changing appetite. Because of this, when it comes to weaning food preparation, you might find that you want to make the most of any leftovers to make life easier!
- Make sure you cool any leftovers you want to keep as quickly as possible, but always within 2 hours of serving ( Follow @Foodsafetymum Instagram page for some tips on how to cool food quickly!)
- As a rule of thumb, leftovers can be kept in the fridge and used within 2 days (1 day for rice dishes) but if you want longer than this, then make sure you pop your leftovers in the freezer once cool!
- Remember though that foods can only be reheated once so make sure you divide your puree into baby-friendly portions before storing in the fridge or freezer!
Unless served cold straight from the fridge, leftover foods for baby should always be reheated until piping hot; which means steaming throughout. Don’t be tempted to just partially reheat food for your baby to avoid having to wait for it to cool! If you are using a microwave to reheat leftovers, remember that the heat doesn’t conduct equally, so take out halfway through and stir thoroughly to ensure it is heated throughout. When it comes to weaning food preparation, the reheating and storage of batch cooking and leftovers is important to overall food safety.
If you do defrost food, then avoid re-freezing again. The more times you cool and reheat food, the higher the risk of food poisoning. Bacteria can multiply when cooled too quickly or reheated in an improper way.
Hopefully, you find this blog useful in helping you prepare for the weaning journey with your little one! For more information, follow Jenna on Instagram @Foodsafetymum.