All the talk between parents tends to get us more than a little neurotic as mommies. We imagine all kinds of evil contaminants coming into contact with our precious little bundles. We start out as ‘that mom‘ who gets her visitors to wash their hands before stepping into a 1km radius of the nursery and (although impossible to imagine in those early days) we soon evolve into the ‘other mom‘ who looks on unfazed by her child licking the dog’s bowl.
The truth is that we get to a stage where we can’t freak out about every unsavoury item entering our child’s mouth because some things are simply unavoidable (and will drive us crazy if we think about them incessantly). Other things, like safety in your kitchen, are things that you have in your power to control. Here are my top tips on what and how to keep things safe and clean:
Cooking & Preparation:
- Wash your hands thoroughly before handling any food for your little one. If their little mitts are dirty and you plan on giving them finger foods, then make sure you give their little fingers a wipe too.
- Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly, soaking where necessary to get the dirt off and even consider using vegetable cleaning brushes for getting stubborn dirt off root vegetables. Even if you have gone for organic options (or plan on removing the skin) be sure to give them a good rinse!
- Use separate utensils and cutting boards for preparing meat, chicken and seafood and wipe down surfaces thoroughly after doing so.
- Paper towel is generally the safer option to wipe surfaces down however cloths can be used too, provided they have been rinsed in boiling water thoroughly after use.
- Wash all feeding tools and utensils in the dishwasher or in very hot water to kill any harmful bacteria.
- Discard any bottles or jars with broken seals (always double check the seals before you buy them). The same goes for any canned foods that have been dented.
- Cook meat and chicken all the way through (until they are no longer pink inside).
- Cook eggs until solid all the way through (no runny yolks or egg white).
- Seafood should also be cooked all the way through.
- Never leave food standing for longer than 2 hours at room temperature.
- Reheat food only once.
Storing & Freezing:
- General rule of thumb is that cooked meat, poultry, fish and eggs that have been thawed beforehand should not be refrozen raw. If they have been thawed and then cooked from frozen, they can be refrozen (but only once).
- Cooked fruits and vegetables can last up to 6-8 months in the freezer. Meat/chicken or fish should be used within 3 months.
- Fruits and vegetables, which have either been cooked from raw or from frozen, can be refrozen.
- It is totally safe to freeze food to which formula or breast milk has been added, provided the milk had not been frozen previously.
- All homemade baby food (fruit/veg/meat etc.) can be kept in a refrigerator for up to 48 hours.
- For eggs, refrigerate what you will use within twenty four hours. Freeze any remainders.
- Freeze chicken, meat and seafood on the bottom rack of the freezer to prevent any drippings onto other food.
- Your refrigerator should be between 0°C and 5°C.
- Discard any left over food that your baby or toddler’s saliva has come into contact with (or your own saliva for that matter!) For this reason, rather decant the food you will be serving into a feeding bowl.
- Freeze food after a brief cooling period.
Although the above timeframes are what has been stipulated as safe, the sooner frozen foods are used the more nutritionally superior they will be. This is because over time the frozen food loses nutrient-containing liquid which forms little ice crystals that end up evaporating in the heating process. Often ice crystals can be mistaken for freezer burn, which unlike ice crystals appears greyish in colour. Freezer burn is totally safe albeit a sign that the quality of the frozen food has deteriorated over time, resulting in little dry patches on the food.
Get into a habit of labelling the food that goes into your freezer so that you can keep track of just how long something has been in there for. I find that keeping a record on my iPhone of how long food has been refrigerator or freezer, keeps me in check (and goes a long way in combatting prolonged ‘pretty brain‘). Do what works for you and when in doubt, throw it out!
Note: the above information should never replace the advice of your GP, doctor or nurse.